Home > Rug, Kelim, Soumak, Textile Post Archive >December, 2007 Sales
Mon, Nov 30th, -0001 12:00:00 AM
Topic: December, 2007 Sales

Just like the Thanksgiving Turkey and jingle bells Old Saint Nick, it has become traditional for sotheby and Christies New York salesrooms, and grogan of Boston, to hold their rug sales at this time of year.

We must say: So far a lot of loose-lipped palaver has been expended about the grogan sale.

We have heard a number of comments, all of them braying grogan's sale is better than sothebys.

Well, yesterday, RK took a look at both catalogs for the first time and we do not agree.

Sure, grogan has a pant-full of good condition, mid-later 19th century "collector" Caucasian rugs on offer.

In fact, we'd surmise some big player investor is unloading and a wise move that is as rugs of this ilk, and the check-book wielding buyer who hunger for them, are soon going to be eclipsed by both market-factors and the results of the ever increasing levels of discernment all areas of antique oriental rug collecting have experienced in the past 10-15 years.

While RK's taste in 19th century Caucasian pile rugs is a number of levels higher than what grogan has on offer, we can see how a number of journeymen/woman collectors, especially a few from the New England region, might be getting their knickers in a twist over them.

However, and at least in RK's opinion, none are truly representative of the best, championship material this area of collecting can ever so occasionally demonstrate.

And, again, like all other types of 19th century oriental rugs, there are only a very, very few examples of this category able to be truly called masterpieces -- and grogan has not managed to offer one of those. Well at least not in our opinion.

While the grogan sale is top heavy in the aforementioned Caucasian "collector" rug category and other Caucasian weavings as well, the rest of the assembled 160 plus lots are, by and large, not worth much mention.

We did, however, note an interesting and quite rare Khotan saf and a quirky, circa 1800 unique Bergama rug.

Perhaps, before switching over to the sotheby sale, we should mention we are not spellbound, as apparently many are, by star lot, the yellow field prayer rug(lot 62) grogan has estimated $20-40,000.

We should also mention hearing gossip, that has it, the rug will sell for much more, maybe even $100,000.

This is pure nonsense, and while we will not be surprised if it sells for a multiple of the already sufficient estimate, or even 100K, that doesnt make it any less so.

Lets remember a couple of years ago grogan did get a few absurdly high prices -- for that engsi and that Borjalu Kazak.

Of course its now 2007 with the US dollar being 30% less valuable against the euro and other currencies, and that, more than any other reason, might be responsible for kiting the result up to such a lofty plateau.

Theres also the cabin fever many of the easy chair, checkbook wielding, auction trophy collectors, who go after rugs like this, feel when they get their only twice a year chance at a rug fix from the major auction house rug catalogs.

Before we comment on the Sotheby rug sale wed like to mention this wonderful pre-historic marble sculpture:

And speaking of high estimates, this little lion carries a $14,000,000 18,000,000 ticket.

So much for star lots at sotheby, something unfortunately their rug sale is bereft of, however, there are a few enviable pieces on offer.

We will, as time permits, continue to comment on some other lots in both the grogan and Sotheby sales.

But before we put this intro online we should mention the complete lack of any interesting Turkmen pieces in either of these two sales.

This is nothing new and, as far as RK is concerned pre-commercial period and even earlier Turkmen rugs are by far the most rare commodity at any oriental rug auction.

Such Turkmen rugs are far more rare than any Caucasian prayer rug, or any other type of Caucasian pile rug save, perhaps, the earliest of the Dragon, Blossom or Shield rug groups.

And while the market values the easy to understand virtues of 19th century Caucasian pile rugs, their derivative designs and often wonderfully colorful faces, these weavings are only very occasionally able to rise above their decorative value.

Conversely to the same often untrained eyes that light up when seeing a rug like gorgans yellow prayer rug, the less obvious but inherently deeper, more spiritual, less adulterated and derivative Turkmen weaving iconographies are often lost and unseen.

But things are changing and have been for some time. So much so, as to push a consignor, like the one who gave all those 19th century collector Caucasian rugs to grogan for sale, to do it now.

RK would have to say that was a good move but a better one would have been to say goodbye to them a couple of years earlier.

Anyway, time will tell what happens. But, in that regard, lets just say RK has learned never to underestimate the stupidity, greed, and gullibility in the antique collector segment of the rug market; neither should you.

So stay tuned, there will be more to come on the grogan and sotheby sales.

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Tue, Dec 11th, 2007 02:27:50 PM

We still intend on now post-sale commenting about a few more lots at grogans.

For now, though, we will mention the fact two pieces we already have discussed -- the "yellow" prayer rug and the blue field "shirvan" -- each sold for 70,000$.

Quite a pant-full of dollars, even the "cheap" ones of today's exchange rates, in our estimation.

Are rugs of this ilk really worth those prices?

RK says no, but this is only in comparison to what examples from other rug genre bring.

Of course, there are always price inequities, however, the ones that exist between auction room prices and those in hand-to-hand trading are just too divergent to demonstrate anything other than the fact few buyers in rugdom have enough confidence or knowledge to spend big $'s outside a situation where the powerful scent of underbidding is non-existent.

Author: JEB
Sat, Dec 8th, 2007 10:21:53 PM

RK Replies:

Greetings JEB:

We planned to have completed our preview of the grogan and sotheby sales by now but, as we explained, time is not on our side.

So answering your email will give us an opportunity to picture and comment on the three pieces you mention.

The first, the "yellow" prayer rug has already been discussed here and we agree completely with your assessment.

As for the other two pieces we also concur and, although we did not attend the preview to see them in person, we'd venture to say lot 79c would be our choice, were we contemplating adding any high-class mid-century Caucasian rugs to our collection of earlier ones.

Lot 55

Lot 79c

Some long years ago at sotheby New York, a prayer rug with a similar field pattern to lot 79c sold for around $50,000. We did attend that preview and sale which gave us the opportunity to see it in the flesh.

We believe that prayer rug was superior, and earlier, than any of these three pieces grogan is trying to kite to similar heights.

Frankly, we do not really like any of them, and though we do respect their craft and decorative qualities none of these rugs are able to reach that third dimension all great weavings demonstrate.

We are also sure were the four pieces hung on a wall next to each other, the three from the grogan sale and the prayer rug sold at sotheby years ago, you and other seasoned viewers would agree.

Naturally, if the "yellow" prayer rug sells for the fifty thousand the sotheby prayer rug made, one has to consider the value of the dollar, which is in sad shape compared to where it was valued when the sotheby piece sold.

All in all, and because of the paucity of good condition pre-commercial period Caucasian rugs on the market, pieces like these at grogan are easily over-valued by sellers and bought by collectors for what RK sees as way too high prices.

Will rugs like these at grogans be considered, years from now the Ghiordes prayer rugs of our time?

Let's remember the hype and ridiculous valuations these rugs elicited during the 1920's and 30's are now viewed quite differently than they were way back then, and RK will not be surprised to see the same situation develop around hi-flying Caucasian rugs like these grogan is presently pimping.


I agree that the star lot seems somewhat uninspired. I don't know if you've gotten a chance to see the preview, but I'd say this piece was the third best one on the wall where it was hanging. Nearby were two nicer pieces: 55 and 79c, a pair of mid-century Shirvans. Both were far more impressive than lot 62 (unless you happen to like yellow--a lot).

Author: jc
Wed, Dec 5th, 2007 10:19:38 PM

We just noticed the ancient little marble lion flexing his muscles sold for a whopping 57.2 million dollars.

Author: jc
Thu, Nov 22nd, 2007 05:06:24 PM

Today is Thanksgiving Day, a traditional holiday in America.

Well, even though Thanksgiving has been celebrated since the beginning of America, its true meaning and purpose, just like Christmas, has been turned upside down into a holiday of gluttony, selfishness and disregard for humanity.

Sure, sure, the poor, at least those who stand outside shelter doors in the cold morning waiting for them to open, get their token turkey leg and canned cranberry sauce but what about the rest of the year?

Not to bore you all with such thoughts, we should just say it is necessary for all of us to realize commercialism and gluttony are not what Thanksgiving, and Christmas, are really all about.

Leaving holiday season behind, lets take a look at a couple, actually, three lots in the grogan sale that caught our eye.

Maybe grogan is expecting lightning to strike twice in the same place? Lot 58, a Borjalu Kazak is somewhat similar to one grogan sold in his acor-sale, however, it does not appear to have the same over-the-top hydrogen bomb coloration, which catapulted that one into the high stratosphere price wise.

That former Borjalu Kazak was purchased by ebberhard hermann, the disgraced former German dealer who now operates out of Switzerland to avoid facing the music for his midnight departure from Munich, with his inventory, and many rugs not belonging to him, in tow.

There are a number of stories about that grogan Kazak purchase, as well as those surrounding the Tekke engsi he also paid a pant full for at the same sale.

RK has written about both these rugs and for those of you who missed out, here is the URL where you can bone-up on these purchases:


Here is the Kazak grogan will sell this time around:

Lot 58: BORJALOU KAZAK; Caucasus ca. 1800; 7 feet x 4 feet 10 inches; A boldly designed yet softly colored early Kazak rarity.

The auctioneer, michael grogan, fancies himself a rug expert, as he began his career in the rug and auction world in sothebys carpet department.

However, grogan, in our estimation, has a lot to still learn if he really wants to consider himself expert in this field.

Boldly designed yet softly colored?

Sorry, mr grogan, but your references here are as screwy as the mile-wide 10,000 20,000 dollar estimate you have hung on this rug.

It is a good one no doubt, in fact RK likes it. But surely its virtues are severely hampered by not only its distressed condition but, more so, by the fact a Borjalu Kazak rug like this is not really a rarity, well not in any sense that word is commonly used to describe.

Lot 58 is a good rug but to exclaim its virtues with such a dopey, and rather contradictory label, implies both the cataloguers words, those are mr grogans lets remember, and the rug itself are being hyped beyond acceptable limits.

Now before we leave this lot, lets all realize even if the rug sells within grogans high flying estimate or even more, that does not make it worth that price in the real world. Nor does it mean another similar rug would then be worth such a price.

Auctions, are like casinos, much goes on behind a dark non-transparent curtain.

For example, the former Borjalu Kazak and Tekke engsi hermann, the former German, bought at grogans are, as we have heard it, still with hermann, unsold.

RK can easily surmise that casino curtain we just referred to also might have been hanging up there as well when they were sold during the acor Boston event.

The second piece we chose for discussion is lot 65:

Lot 65: RARE PERSIAN GARDEN CARPET, dated 1221(1806); 19 feet 5 inches x 7 feet. This exceedingly rare classical carpet was recently rediscovered in the Dining Room of the Back Bay townhouse of the late Byzantine Art scholar, Carroll Wales. ; Estimate: $30,000 - $50,000.

Here, grogans description is closer to fact, however, this example of a Kurdish garden rug, can not overcome its rather late date and worn state of condition.

There are a number of earlier 18th century, and older, far more championship rugs of this type that make this one look not so brilliant.

That said it is still a remarkably wonderful piece of weaving and we would not be surprised, regardless of its condition, if the rug makes more than the high estimate.

Its not really a rarity, again like the Borjalu, in any terms other than compared to what generally appears on the market these days.

Before leaving this point, lets be clear here we respect and admire both rugs but we do not agree with grogans making them into being the greatest thing since sliced bread. They are surely not that at all when compared to the best of the published examples.

Auction fever always brings out certain types (might we say this description fits the majority of high profile wealthy rug buyers), who throw caution to the winds in the heated competition an auction sale can stimulate.

But are the results from these sales anything that one can take to the bank?

Surely they are not, and that is our point here.

Lot 72 a fragmented Yomud group chuval, probably Karadashli, is no newcomer to the marketplace.

LOT 72 : YOMUD CHUVAL PANEL; 1st half 19th century; 2 feet 9 inches x 3 feet; A stunning example; Estimate $3,000-$4,000.

We have seen this piece on offer several times before and why grogan does not mention this is rather questionable.

Its an OK chuval that we would date circa 1850 and not as early as grogan has.

Why, well for starters it has that derivative and too far spaced out look of certain mid-century revival Turkmen pieces we have spoken about previously.

The border, which we are sure most ruggies are mucho impressed with says nothing to us, other than the fact it is what we call pastiche.

Here is a detail of an archetypal Amu Darya region chuval, probably Beshir, where a truly archaic, and genuine, version of this amulet-derived design appears:

Frankly, we rather own a small detail like this than a far larger fragment like grogans chuval.

The migration of archaic designs, like this amulet found in the field of a Beshir chuval and then decades later in the border of a Yomud group chuval, is nothing usual, it happened frequently.

What is unusual is recognizing the source, as RK has done here.

More to come on grogans sale, stay tuned.

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