Home > Rug, Kelim, Soumak, Textile Post Archive >Christie London Million Dollar Flatweave Blunder
Tue, May 5th, 2015 01:25:29 AM
Topic: Christie London Million Dollar Flatweave Blunder

The catalog for the Christie spring oriental rug sale on April 21th has been released. The online copy can be viewed on their website: http://www.christies.com.

It is decidedly better sale in all regards than Nagels and skinners with far better quality across the board.

It is also an extremely good looking and stylish catalog aimed squarely at Christie's clientele that sits more at 'decorative' end of the antique rug market than the 'collectible'.

This stated there are some interesting collector pieces, many carrying attractively low estimates RK is sure will be eclipsed on sale day, particularly those from the Caucasus region.

The cover lot, and big nuke, is a supposed Moghol tapestry. We say supposed on account of theres nothing like it that we have ever seen or read about. And neither has anyone else.

Lot 100 flatwoven carpet supposed to be from Central Asia or China late 13th/ first half 14th century

And while something like this is surely not in line with our interests we cannot help commenting on its ungainly proportions, somewhat inharmonious color balance and two dimensional floral and bird design. Not to mention the shot in the dark provenance and dating.

The border looks like a poor rendition of one seen on a certain group of early Melas area village, western Anatolian, rugs.

All in all this, and the long winded "it looks like this piece from this museum and that piece from another" left us questioning the supposed provenance and million one hundred thousand dollar high estimate.

Nowhere in that description is one fact, or even factoid, to attach the alleged Mongol provenance to this weaving.

We even question Christies calling it a 'kilim', as that word implies slit-tapestry construction and lot 100 is woven with dove-tailed wefting, not slits.

More proper and correct would have been to call it a 'tapestry' and not a 'kilim'.

Also not having any c14 dating, though readers know RK is no fan of this test for old weavings on account of the decontamination issues as well as the lack of reliability for post 1400AD objects, seems specious.

Did Christies do a c14 test and get a result they didn't like?

There are just far too many questions surrounding this tapestry to make any story believable.

Detail lot 100. Were this weaving actually what the Christie catalog states the level of technical weaving expertise would in our opinion have to have been higher than this weaving displays. The catalog refers to the weavings bent wefts, which again fails to recognize the proper terminology "eccentric wefting. This technique was utilized by highly skilled weavers to create the curved lines that endow a flat-weave with naturalistic outlines, something that is impossible to create with wefts laid purely on the horizontal. But the weaver(s) of Lot 100 appear to have either been unfamiliar with the use of this technique or inept and amateurish in their ability to create those naturalistic curvilinear articulations. For instance: Notice the gloppy outlines of the pearl disks in the border, the dark blue on lighter blue leaves of the large peony in the detail, and the crude red outlines the far too large and equally crude three orange pips in the center of the peony. This is not refined weaving or expert use of eccentric wefting, it is nothing but sloppily inexpert tapestry work. There is nothing refined and artistic about this weaving and RK sincerely suggests Christies rug department withdraw the lot for further research and study. Clearly they should have done this before presenting such a mishmash of blabber to try and provenance this weaving to all the far more historic and significant weavings listed in the three page catalog blah-de-blah.

Author: Barry OConnell
email: [email protected]
Mon, May 4th, 2015 07:24:56 AM

RK Replies

Greetings Barry:

To be precise -- a quality rug collecting, research and scholarship desperately needs -- the term "kilim", or "kelim" as RK prefers to spell it, refers only to a discontinuous plain weave where the weft color changes are done on adjacent warps, and therefore a 'slit' is created.

The terms "slit tapestry" and kilim, or kelim, are therefore interchangeable.

But when the weft threads join on the same warp thread, as can clearly be seen in some areas of the supposed "Mongol" kelim at Christie, this type of weave, often called single interlocking tapestry or just tapestry, can not properly be called kilim, or kelim.

Same and more goes the incorrect use of kilim, or kelim, to describe double interlock tapestry, which is the weave structure loom woven Kashmir shawls use.

This double interlock, in the case of Kashmir shawls, is most properly described as 2x2 tapestry twill, the numbers describing the two warp threads each weft passes over and then back to start the next forward movement.

So RK trusts you now understand the proper terminology and will use it in the future.


Interesting article. I think Christie's was appropriate in this write-up. I regularly use Kilim for slit weave, single interlock and double interlock tapestry. As for Jeremy Pine and Michael Frances I cannot speak.Hope you are having a good day,Barry

Author: jc
Tue, Apr 21st, 2015 02:32:35 PM

Estimated to sell for 500,000 - 700,000 english pounds ($747,000 - 1,045,000) this questionable item sold for 602,500 english pounds ($900,135).

Clearly a price that more than suggests hardly anyone believed the bogus spiel printed in the catalog.

Perhaps it was purchased by the Islamic Museum in Doha, in which case RK might suggest the buyers do some research to find out if their "advisor expert" michael franses was, in any way, involved in the consignment to Christies.

Frankly, RK is amazed this questionable weaving sold at all. But this just goes to show the gullibility and ignorance of the carpet buying public at the top end of the market.

The old saying "it all comes out in the wash" is quite pertinent here and we are sure this is not the last we all will here about this supposed "only survivor weaving of the Mongol Empire".

Yeah right, and pigs can fly...

Author: jc
Thu, Apr 2nd, 2015 05:25:41 AM

Thanks to an astute reader of RugKazbah.com RK was tipped off to the appearance of an old advertisement for the alleged "Mongol" flatweave in that rag hali issue 35, july/august/september 1987.

Sure enough on page 19 we saw the following:

Page 19, that rag hali issue 35, june/july/august 1987, showing Christie's Lot 100 supposed "Mongol" flat weave

Most of you will probably not know the person behind "Silk Road Textiles" was none other than jeremy pine, an American "asian art" dealer, entrepreneur and huckster who was the source for a number of very early textiles and a few rugs, most notably the supposed "chess board" carpet of Shah Jahan.

RK met jeremy pine in 1981 in Kathmandu long before he became the conduit for these questionably sourced weavings and quite honestly at that time pine appeared to us to be a low-level charlatan whose paranoia was only exceeded by the doubtfulness of his morals and ethics.

Needless to say we steered clear and never had any contact with him.

However several years later, and this is a fact, when pine began to show up in London hawking the first group of those questionably sourced weavings michael franses grabbed onto him like a sinking Titanic passenger would a life raft and the two of them proceeded to do much business together.

This advertisement is but one of pine's that appeared in that rag hali and locating it has only made us more certain that michael franses is somehow involved in the appearance of the supposed "Mongol" flatweave in the latest Christie rug catalog.

We did not mention the catalog entry reads like typical franses work, citations galore but their veracity and relationship to the subject at hand is typical franses blur and innuendo.

By the way, jeremy pine is long gone from Kathmandu, his "Silk Road Gallery" folded up like a circus tent barker's, and his whereabouts unknown to anyone we have queried.

By the way, this advertisement raises a number of questions not the least of which is the advertised 14th century C14 date. Why, might one ask, did Christies not include this in their longwinded catalog description?

Author: jc
Mon, Mar 30th, 2015 03:19:00 PM

In certain circles gossip and rumor continues to circulate about this flat weave.

Perhaps the most repeated that it "belongs" to michael franses who has used a surrogate to get it into the sale so franses can then "recommend" it to his employers in Doha for purchase.

RK has no idea if this is fact or fiction, but from what we do know about michael franses we would not be surprised if it were the case.

The other suprising fact, one we have already pointed out, is the lack of a c14 date.

Rereading the catalog's description several times RK saw citings of supposed comparable weavings which lack c14 dates the cataloguer mentions would be interesting to see preformed.

Well then, would not it figure more and be most interesting to c14 date lot 100 to see how it might fare?And as far as those comparables cited in the catalog?

Not one of them has enough material support to render it even having the proverbial shadow of a doubt evidence.

Fact is the Christie's spiel holds about as much water as their flat weave could -- i.e. none.

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