circulated in the German media. The auctioneers were accused of massive
incompetence,despite having consulted with local experts.The carpet is
said to have been purchased by a Hamburg dealer,who however failed to
show up at the trial.
On the day of the sale,the consignor at Christies was said by Hali
Online to have been a very senior international dealer,who had acquired
the piece inexpensively at a small auction in Augsburg.
There are conflicting reports in the press concerning Herbert
Steinhausen.The Welt Online report infers that he acquired the carpet in
1987,and yet a few paragraphs later his housekeeper is said to have died
in the mid-eighties.How could either of these two woman have known about
the auction in Monaco? And why did Frau N not supply this information to
the auctioneers in Augsburg beforehand? It seems only to have occurred
to her after the Christies sale in London.
For in fact there were no carpets on offer at the Monaco Auction in 1987.
Indeed,there is no real evidence that the carpet ever belonged to the
Comtesse de Béhague,beyond Arthur Pope`s assertion.The Comtesse died in
1939.The "Survey of Persian Art"(carpets) was published in 1939.Thus the
Comtesse could not have contested ownership.There is neither written
proof nor confirmation from the family.No one can remember this large
carpet,even though it is said to have "possibly"lain in the Comtesse`s
The Comtesse is mentioned ten times in Pope`s Survey(although not once
in the authoritative biography of Pope and Ackermann ,"Surveyors of
Persian Art")He published three carpets,one silk Keshan kilim,two
paintings and one persian velvet.Amongst the carpets was the Sanguszko
now in the Thyssen Collection,which Pope claimed to have examined
personally.According to Friedrich Spuhler,the carpet changed hands
sometime before 1930,so Pope`s information in 1939 was out of date.The
other carpet was a sickle-leaf lattice vase carpet,a fragment of which evidently appeared in Martin,fig.184.The keshan silk metal
tapestry has a medallion design.Neither of them seem to have been
Kurt Erdmann wrote an extended review of Pope`s"Art of Carpet Making",a
major work in its own right.He criticised Pope for his weak
selection of sickle-leaf lattice carpets(including the second Béhague carpet)
Erdmann is at a loss to say quite where the Augsburg-Christies carpet
fits in,but he does find it"interesting".The placing of the Augsburg
carpet in Pope`s Survey could be construed as a kind of discrete
To sum up,we have a carpet whose provenance rests solely on information
supplied by Arthur Upham Pope,a scholar/dealer whose relationship to the
truth was at times strategic(the Rayy textiles scandal)We have a dead
German carpet dealer whose merchandise was basically new,but who managed
to acquire an obviously valuable antique carpet at an auction where no
carpets were on sale;his housekeeper who was the recipient of said
carpet,and her loyal friend who inherited it along with the story.
It is said that the Christies agents subsequently visited Frau N´s
house.There were no other carpets of value.
|Martine de Behague|