Home > Hot Button Issues >Beautiful but lacks soul 2:sotheby 33 million
Sun, Jul 14th, 2013 11:05:29 AM
Topic: Beautiful but lacks soul 2:sotheby 33 million

That rag halis article on the sickle leaf carpet begins by quoting A.U. Popes essay in An Introduction to Persian Art that was published in 1930.

Here one of the worlds greatest connoisseurs of Persian art refers to the best carpets of the high Safavid age as expressing the essential spirit of the countrys art and representing the supremest efforts of which the craft was capable.

Had we the chance RK would definitely have a bone to pick with Pope concerning this statement.

But we were born to late for that, so we will pick it with those at that rag hali instead.

Why, might readers ask?

Simply put, quoting Pope on what the supremest achievement of the high Safavid age of Persian woven art might be like quoting Hitler on how to run a country.

Pope, like franses, thompson, Denny and a host of other living and now passed on rug experts, connoisseurs and poseurs, completely disregards weaving made outside the confines of royal, or wanna be, ateliers and workshops.

The art of peasants as elitists like pope and the rest we named and could name would call these people, ie those who lived in villages, encampments and khan circles, is completely ignored.

Lets all remember during the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries, when the masterpieces of supreme Persian art Pope refers were woven, Turkmen groups in Persia were weaving equally supreme carpets and trappings.

The only difference is those Turkmen weavings were far rarer than the multitudes of classical Persian carpets that were produced, and their less than royal birth relegated them far from the eyes and, yes, commercial instincts of traders, merchants and their clientel.

There is no doubt this is the case, and one does not need c14 dating to prove some very few of the surviving early Turkmen weavings are equal in age to oldest Safavid ones.

RK has been championing this reality for decades now, and finally there is some light at the end of the tunnel.

However, those twits at that rag hali and the franseses, thompsons, Dennys et.al. will, we promise you, be the last of the Mohicans to acknowledge it.

Popes statement is old school, not because it is from 1930, but because he was prejudiced just as franses, thompson, Denny et.al remain today.

And while the surface brilliance of a vase carpet like the Corcoran sickle-leaf cant help but impress, does it say anything?

Is the geometry evocative or just pushy?

Does it move the mind to explore the cognitive subtleties and underlying mathematic mystery a great Turkmen weaving does?

Or does it just attempt to?

Sorry RK has to say it doesnt do any of the above, and while we are equally sure the majority of ruggies and, yes, Turkmen rug collectors have never seen in person, let alone lived with, a 500 year or older Turkmen weaving, RK has.

RK is not dissing Pope, or our contemporary classical carpet-honcho groupies.

No, we are just informing them, and you, there is another side to the equation a side you will never read in that rag hali or any of the books those contemporaries of ours have, or will, author.

OK, enough of this, lets take a few shots at that rag halis sickle-leaf publicity, errrrhh, article.

First off, they call it 16th century in the caption to the picture on page 47, while just about everybody agrees it is 17th century.

Why did they do this and provide no supporting argument? Dont ask us, go ask them.

what we see in the Clark (sickle-leaf) carpet is mastery of a host of contributing elements that form a harmonious whole: colour balance, design control, material perfection, and exquisite proportions.

Is this the case? Or is it just hype?

To our eyes there is a grossness to the drawing, some elements too small and others too big. This creates exactly the opposite of a harmonious whole.

Rather, the sickle-leaf overpowers the viewer with its manageable overall small size, something the 28 feet and more large main carpets can never achieve unless the viewers is looking down from a second floor. And then, the details are lost.

This, its small viewer friendly size, is the Clark/Corcoran sickle leaf carpets greatest attribute, and the one the ultimate buyer will pay through the nose to acquire.

Period, end of discussion.

It is also one that goes ignored in the article.

From all the pictures we have seen there is little abrash, an almost monochromatic use of colors -- reds and blues all of the same hue.

Whereas masterly use of abrash is one of the most important factors that take a carpet to the highest visual level.

This, the sickle-leaf lacks, though it does try to make up by cramming a whole basket full of floral elements in close juxtaposition.

Race fans, this aint the same thing.

The thrill of the design that rag hali announces lies in its muscular energy and natural vitality

This is nothing but more hype and worthless blah blah.

In fact the sickle leaf carpet is quite feminine, and there is far from anything natural about the universe of diverse floral forms that have been, granted, artfully thrown together.

It is in the best of the vase carpets they go on to say that the colour sense particular to Persian art finds its most deft expression.

Really? What about all the other types of earlier Safavid carpets with their far more complex designs and color palettes.

Frankly this article reads like a sellers argument to prove his carpet is the best.

Why does that rag halis article come off like this?

Heres the answer, race fans: although michael franses, who is that rag hali final arbiter of what gets said, has no skin in the game directly, he sure does indirectly.

Fanning the fires of desire in the small group of possible bidders is his agenda, and what could be a better way to do that than to praise the sickle-leaf carpet to the max.

We have already published the commentary from The Eastern Carpet in the Western World exhibition catalog, a publication franses in theory helped to write, and while it surely doesnt dismiss the Corcorans sickle-leaf carpet it definitely doesnt praise it to the heights that rag hali does.

For all RK knows, and suspects, we would not be surprised if franses will be a bidder representing the museum authority in Doha who employs him, for someone else under cover, or directly for himself, or through an agent, or through membership in a cartel that will purchase it and then divide the spoils of its resale.

The article claims The placement of the colors, whether lying next to each other or at different places throughout the whole, helps to draw the eye through the design, introducing rhythm, establishing balance and creating emphasis.


If anything these optical manifestations are due totally to the grossly oversized and exaggerated sickle-leaves, and not the rather monotonous uses of basically red, blue and white colors or any other elements of the design.

To prove this notice the subservient image the central cypress trees are relegated to, one can hardly make them out.

This is far from great art, where every element is distinct and clearly defined.

That rag halis analysis smacks of an amateurish attempt to prove itself intellectual, which is far from the case and only imagined by an author who vainly tries to impress those he knows do not know the difference between reality and his fantastical assertions.

Compare this with what the far more truthful, and should we say, expert writers who wrote The Eastern Carpet in the Western World commentary of the Clark/Corcoran sickle-leaf carpet.

That rag halis first:

In the field, the overlaying of three planes of scrolling floral design requires each to have a set and defined function; each spiraling vine is allowed to flow, contort, and intersect but also to fully resolve and terminate in a sickle-leaf or plump palmette.

Now the 1983 Eastern Carpet in the Western World catalog:

This exquisite rug has the same technical characteristics as the vase rugs and its field and border designs are closely related to the earliest examples of that class. But the swelling blossoms of the vase rugs are here reduced and the energy of the design has been transferred into the pairs of sickle-leaf leavesThe present design lacks the severe internal logic of the vase designand is a sophisticated hybridizationthe main stems bearing the sickle-leaves and large blossoms meander inconsequentially, intersecting with a variety of trees and shrubs depicted on a much smaller scale, as if the garden landscape were glimpsed through a tangle of briars.

Whose version do you think is more correct?

We also disagree with this positively dumb statement that rag hali makes:

Extraordinary skill is required the create the complexity and density of this composition within the relative small size of this carpet and within the limitations of the so-called Vase carpet weaving technique.

First off, the smaller the carpet the easier it is to plot the swirling tendrils; and, second, the fact the Vase carpet weaving technique produces a smaller more compact knot-end allows a far finer mosaic of design to be delineated.

The fact franses has spent, and now spends, the majority of his time talking at people who know nothing about carpets, and believe he does, has allowed him to think he can say anything and get away with it.

And this is definitely the case as we have pointed out before on RugKazbah.com.

This is the reason the article in question makes these rug 101.

Saving the best for last franses, who is sure to be the author of this hyperbolic eulogy for the Clark/Corcoran sickle leaf carpets death as a part of an American museum and its afterlife somewhere else, states the following as his final words:

Whether collectors of today appreciate the finest carpets as art, to the extent they were revered in the courts of 16th century Iran, will be seen in New York on 5 June 2013.

Written with true smug, holier than thou pomposity franses and that rag hali attempt to both prod and, yes, cow any possible buyer who is stupid enough to waste time reading something as pedestrian and disingenuous as this article. One the seller, sotheby New York, might wish they could put in their catalog.

In closing were we a buyer, and we surely could never compete even for a tenth of the opening bid, we would be insulted a pip-squeek like michael franses would attempt to slap us with such a meaningless challenge.

The reason franses is so foolish to offer such a ploy undoubtedly rests in his lack of any education beyond grade school.

Education surely doesnt teach anyone how to act properly, but the lack of it often most assuredly doesn't.

And you're right if you notice RK dislikes franses and all he stands for.

But this does not change the fact what we write about him, and his opinions concerning the Clark/Corcoran sickle leaf carpet, are true.

Facts also demonstrate he was only able to succeed in a business where knowledge is a detriment to making money; a business where lies pass for truth; a business where an aging demographic and no new blood is choking any possibilities for advancement; a business where no one has the nerve or honesty to call franses or any of the other pseudo-luminaries out for their mistakes and trangressions; etc, etc.

Author: Barry OConnell
email: [email protected]
Thu, Jun 27th, 2013 11:11:18 AM


Greetings Barry:

Well, RK really can't argue the point with you. But we we'd wager it is not 16th. Your Khorasan guess is a good one, as good as Kerman and a bit better.

As for mr franses, the scholar or rug peddler extraordinaire?

I think if you knew the whole story you would not credit him with either.

PS: And note his bio reads "independent scholar". nuff said for now


Hi Jack, The rug is 16th century. It is of the Sanguzko group and it is from Khorasan. My best guess is south of Mashhad in the Qanat region. Most say 17th C because they want to attribute it to Kerman. That old chestnut comes from an error by Dr. Mae Beattie.

The Sanguzko group is older and better and clearly Court Art. The bulk of the "Vase carpets" are derivative of court art and not equal to the worst Sanguzko rug.

There are three of these and the Clark rug is the only red field one and it is in good condition the other two are blue field and not quite as attractive and in worse condition. I know you do not care for Court Art but at lease we can demand they call it right or get called on it.

I think it is harsh to judge Frances as a scholar when he is a darn good salesman of old rugs.

Author: jc
Sat, May 18th, 2013 11:59:56 AM

Just so there is no doubt where RK stands on the price the sickle leaf carpet will make on race day.

We are already on record saying we will not be surprised to see it eclipse the 5-7 million US dollar estimate and now let's be even more clear and say we expect it to run double those figures, 10-15 million usd.

Watch and see...

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