December 2014: This topic was originally published in March of 2007 and RK thinks it deserves to finally be highlighted here in the Best of RK category.
(ed. This series of posts was written several years ago and has been reposted here because one of the prayer rugs it mentions is the subject of a post we wrote today.)
The majority of antique oriental rugs are copies.
Of course, that does not imply reproduction, in the sense of fakery a topic that has recently come to the fore, as more and more blatant contemporary fakes enter the marketplace as antiques.
This is not the meaning the opening sentence of this post is intended to convey.
The copying mentioned above refers to the practice of most weavers to use an existing, i.e. older, example as a model for their work.
This convention exists in all art areas. For instance in paintings and sculpture school of and after are the descriptive terms used to describe this practice.
In dealing with carpets, unlike paintings and sculpture which are signed and dated by artists, the pervasive anonymity precludes an easy road to understand the age relationship similar examples maintain.
As readers of RK.com know, there are a number of complaints and pet-peeves with way the rug world revolves that have been voiced in my writing and while some, like professor steev price=clown might chose to characterize as personally directed at certain individuals and trivial, they surely are not.
One of the most disturbing is something I have characterized as over-dating. For those readers who might not understand this, you can read more about this topic in a series of posts entitled Over-dating A Good or Bad Practice which also appears here in JCs Corner.
The over-dating described therein deals with one particular aspect the use of over-dating as a sales tool. In theory the older a carpet is the more valuable. In theory is something no-one would deny.
However, falsification of age determination, which is rampant in the rug world, is not the issue The Tail of Two Prayer Rugs is meant to address.
In tandem with purposeful over-dating another types also exists. This we can call, for lack of a better term, over-dating by ignorance. Whether through lack of expertise or just plain ignorance, it is all the same in the end.
Ok, lets now look at these two prayer rugs:
Both these prayer rugs (the one on the left from the east Berlin Museum for Islamic Art and the other from the Ballard Collection/Met Museum in N.Y.), and a number of other with the re-entrant design, appeared in an article written by John Mills, which appeared in hali #58. What is remarkable is that he dates both of them to the first half of the 16th century.
While Mr. Millss insight and knowledge about carpets in paintings is well proven, his ability to determine their age is surely not.
One of these is, in my opinion, much older than the other. How much? Well that impossible for me or anyone else to positively state but be assured these two pieces are separated by more than a generation. In my estimation at least 100-150 years.
In part two of this discussion we will look at some of the reasons for my assessment. Tune in then.