Home > Rug, Kelim, Soumak, Textile Post Archive >Birth of a Design Part II
Mon, Jul 9th, 2007 10:10:45 AM
Topic: Birth of a Design Part II

In Part II of this discussion we will take a look at kaffels write-up of his soumak bag, which we have re-pictured here again for ease of discussion:

RK.com has added comments, which appear in bold type following kaffels.

Published: Rippon Boswell 11/16/96, lot #114; Hali 91, p.157 1'6 x 1'5, c. 1860-70, Southeast Caucasus

Obviously kaffel bought this bag at rippon in 96 where it was estimated for 4500DM. It ended up selling for 4400DM, which at the time equaled $6,600 as the DM was at that time 1.5 per $. In my opinion this was a high price to pay for a bag like this but noting the price kaffel paid is not germane to this discussion but it is germane to the modus operandi that kaffel and other collectors follow. This type of collector, which kaffel epitomizes, buys exclusively or almost exclusively at auction. Would kaffel have paid a dealer $6600 for this bag? RK.com knows kaffel long enough and well enough to be willing to conclusively state NO to this question. But all this is moot concerning the rarity and value of the soumak so lets get back to the discussion.

While this motif frequently appears on cargo bags, it is relatively rare in saddle bags.

While it is to kaffels credit to be observant enough to realize this, the fact that the real reason for this was lost on him isnt.
Clearly kaffel equates this motifs : : appearance on this bag as something important and valuable, even though he doesnt state it outright, it is implied. Unfortunately kaffel reasoning is faulty. This motif, as Part I suggests, is a later rendition of a much older more complex one and the fact it appears on cargo bags, i.e. mafrash, and not other soumak bags well supports this conclusion. There have been some other discussions here on RugKazbah.com dealing with the mafrash/khorjin questions and for further explanation we hope readers will search them out in the FLATWEAVES Topic Area if they are not already familiar with them.

A blue ground pair (piled) was offered by Woolley and Wallis on 7/2/03, lot #46.

Many collectors, like kafffel, predicate their buying on past performance (i.e. auction records, past sales or publications) and while this methodology works for certain types of art objects it is totally fallacious for others like Oriental rugs. Why? Because rugs, unlike stamps, coins, etc, are individual not multiple works of art and on top of that there is no recognized official grading system to universalize the condition aspect. RugKazbah.com recognizes the value of knowing what sold where and for what price. But when it comes to deciding how much a weaving is worth their incalculable variables negate using any relationship to their past sales performance as a "judge" of value. In any event in this instance we are sure kaffels incorrect assumptions about the rarity quotient of this motif drove him to buy it.

A reverse-soumak khorjin was offered by Sloan's 9/26/00, lot # 219 (Kabul Antique Rugs, Hali 104, p.136).

This exercise of noting other pieces might be fun and games for kaffel to play but for RugKazbah.com, especially since the pieces he notes are not even similar save for the use of the motif, it is just another wasted exercise - fact is there is absolutely NO relationship between the soumak in question and the pile bag, reverse-soumak one or any others kaffel cites.

A rare Qashq'ai bagface was published in A Skein Through Time (1996), pl.36.

Keep going, mr kaffel, but in the final analysis what does a Kashgai bag have to do with your soumak??

Werner Weber displayed a worn, old bagface at the Dealer's Fair at ICOC 9 (Milan).

How prescient of kaffel to have even noticed but with the dismissive tone he uses to characterize it, i.e worn old bagface, one wonders why he even bothered.

Sotheby's NY 9/17/92, lot #96, offered a reverse soumak bag; an almost identical bag is plate 6B in Persian Flatweaves . Parviz Tanavoli, in Shahsavan , attributes cargo bags with this motif to Hashtrud, as well as to Khamseh/Bijar areas.

Too bad kaffel cant reason about the motif as well as he can cite worthless references for it.

Our piece is notable for its colors and fine weave.

RK hasnt seen kaffels bag in the flesh but we are willing to wager it is not as fine as real old and rare soumak bags are. As for the coloration? Again well wager kaffels bags dyeing is not nearly as remarkable as it could/should be and, in fact, RugKazbah.com believes his bags coloration is limited, boring and monotonous.

The border pattern is more typically Caucasian than Persian.

This border, in this form, is exclusively found on soumak bags and kaffels piece exhibits the last grasp and gasp of this pattern. Notice the differences between it and the old version as it appears on the other bag, from the Weaving Art Museum exhibition, in this comparison. Here they both are:

Rest assured if seen in the flesh kaffels piece cannot compete, it would be like looking at a fine art print next to the original oil painting. There is no comparison and only the most dead-eyed observer wouldnt agree. The origins of this border pattern are unknown but for any readers interested in some speculation following this link might be interesting:http://www.weavingartmuseum.org/wamri/plate4-5-6-7.htm

No other red-ground soumak bag with this motif is known to me.

This , in common with the rest of kaffels citations and explanations, provides little of value in trying to assess what this motif is all about. And what could possibly be so significant about its appearance on a red-ground?

Quite a rare piece.

Perhaps it is in kaffels mind but after reading RugKazbah.coms comments how many readers would now agree?

Buying antique oriental rugs is a hard job there should be not doubts about this. There are a number of buyers, like kaffel, whose reliance on past performance often leads them astray. Too bad for them sensing the importance/value of any weaving is far more than adding the sum of its parts. The kaffel collection, like some others we could name, proves this maxim and, sadly for them, shows the fallacy of this approach.

Author: jc
Fri, Jul 16th, 2004 07:12:11 AM

I find it amazing a "collector" like ralph kaffel has remained mute in this situation. Obviously he believes his soumak bag is something special - his purchase and then his bringing along with his other "treasures" surely affirms this perception. So why then doesn't he express his views?

Clearly there are several easily conceived reasons for his reticence but it appears the most likely one is that kaffel has nothing to say to support his belief other than a "I like the piece."

This type of thinking is surely not assailable, however, in the "Art World" "liking" a piece of art is never equated with any implication of importance, beauty or relevance. Sure "likes" are always personal and who's to say what I like is better than what you like?

This question (who likes what), therefore, is the very reason for the necessity of having both scientific and art historical criteria to judge "Art". They remove any of the "personal" and replace them with verifiable and provable justifications of support.

The world of antique rugs has never been able to raise the bar high enough to accomplish this(the installation of science and art history rather than personal "feelings") and numerous "collectors" like kaffel remain deaf to the necessity of finally realizing this goal.

Many, perhaps even most, antique oriental rugs (those made prior to the development of synthetic dyes and the introduction of factory processed and manufactured materials) raise the question of what is "Art" and what is "Craft" and this definition is also incredibly important. Science is rather useless in making this determination but utilizing an art historical approach provides both a logical and substantive rational to warrant a "work" being called "Art" or "Craft."

I, or anyone else experienced in this idiom, surely could/would not disagree with calling kaffel's bag great "Craft" but trying to call it "Art" is way beyond the limits of good reason.

This is not intended to be a condemnation of kaffel but rather the rational he and countless other "ruggies" are motivated by.

It's high time they realized "liking" a piece means nothing in the real world and until they can provide science and art history to support their "likes" the rug world will remain the bastard of the art world.

Author: jc
Wed, Jun 30th, 2004 12:54:21 PM

RK.com just received an brief email from mr kaffel and yes we goofed and 4400DM should be divided by 1.5 and not multiplied. This means the soumak sold for $2,900 and not 6600.

That does make it quite a bit better of a buy but it still doesn't change anything we have written (as the price kaffel paid was not really part of our commentary) nor does it change our opinion about the piece. Regardless of the price paid the piece is mediocre and late.

RK.com is aware kaffel is a reader of what appears here and we would welcome his comments should he have any concerns about what we have written about his "show and tell" at acor or any other topic.

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