Sunday 25 July 2021

Chicago 1947


During the 1931 London Exhibition,Arthur Upham Pope was accused of financial misconduct by Maurice Dimand.At an enquiry held by the London Exhibition board,Pope was cleared of all charges and Dimand withdrew his accusations in an embarassing display of public back-pedalling.The two men knew each other well: Dimand had mentored Pope during his start in the rug trade.Dimand was one of a group of carpet mercenaries who could be called on to act as an academic flagpost when quick-and- dirty solutions were necessary.Thomas Hoving described him as"the very stereotype of a Middle Eastern rug merchant-short,dark,slightly oily,with deep-socketed eyes that seemed like slits with dark gray smudges around them and a raspy,accented voice" Born in Austria in 1892,he authored a serious monograph on Coptic Textiles  at the start of his career(1924),and in 1930 he organised a show of Polonaise carpets,with catalogue,at the MET;then five years later a general exhibition of carpets.In the same year published his "Handbook of Mohammedan Decorative Arts",a standard work for many years.His frequent publications via  the MET culminated in the catalogue raisonnĂ© of the MET`s rug holdings in 1973 where he became assistant curator of decorative arts,and finally Curator Emeritus.Thus Dimand was no flashing camelia and his word carried weight in academic circles.Just why he chose to organise a carpet exhibition in Chicago in 1947 is impossible to say,but perhaps it was also a side-swipe at Arthur Pope who in 1926 masterminded a phenomenal show in the same town.Chicago 1926Another factor may have been the closing of all Near Eastern Galleries at the MET between 1947 and 1949.Be that as it may,the old gang re-appeared with Messrs Kevorkian,Kelekian and Karekin Beshir trundling out their wares,plus organisational sponsoring from Nahigian Brothers and Marshall Field.The museum staff and catalogue authors were Charles Fabens Kelley and Margaret O.Gentles,but it`s clear that Dimand was the gray eminence.The event ran from February 6 through March 16 1947 at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Catalogue download here: Chicago 1947

Presumably Margaret O. Gentles speaking

a weaver from Nahigian was the center of interest

114 carpets were exhibited;60 have been traced,but some are informed guesses.




1) Although not of Imperial Grade,this carpet performed well when it appeared at Sothebys in 1981,selling for $104,500.It apparently went to Kuwait,although its fate,post-Sadam ,remains unclear.More elegant than the larger group with geometric cusped medallion compartments,the smaller secondaries formed here recall an Imperial Grade carpet in the Gulbenkian Collection,which also  employs a single poppy-head instead of the complete shrub forms usually encountered. It has been described as having cotton and silk wefts,or lately,as having an all-cotton structure.Another fragment of the same carpet was in the London trade in the 1990`s,and went unsold at Christies in 2007 against an estimate of $31-40,000.Yet six years later at Bonhams it re-surfaced and sold for an astonishing $78,900(1A).The larger carpet fragment has been recorded twice as cut vertically,and twice as horizontally.However,a vertical cut combined with the smaller fragment would result in a carpet wider than long.Lent by P.W French & Co.


2A-Right:the Graf Carpet

2) Like Plate 1,this Dragon carpet was also exhibited at the deYoung`s Islamic exhibition of 1937 curated by Mehmet Aga-Oglu.It is the only other example which parallels the development seen in the Berlin "Graf" carpet.More Dragon carpet info here: and here:
Lent by Joseph McMullan.



 4) "Floral Rug From Jaipur Palace"-the paltry description of a loan from Kevorkian suggests two carpets:an example with a large pattern design,once published by Martin,later with Quill Jones, Kevorkian and finally at the MET;and a second small pattern shrub carpet,at Sothebys Park-Bernet in 1962 and later at the Kevorkian Sale in 1970,which was purchased by Vigo Sternberg for  $3600,and seems to have disappeared.




5) "Pair of Floral Fountain Rugs from Jaipur"-in this case identification is a straightforward matter,as these carpets were bought by J.P Getty and sold at his eponymous sale in 1990,for $297,000 each.They could later be seen at Doris Duke`s Shangri-La estate on Honolulu."Fountain Rugs" in its ingenuousness sounds like "bath mats"Contrary to subsequent erroneous statements,the author has conducted the most extensive review of such shaped carpets:
Lent by Kevorkian. 


6) The Baltimore Vase carpet,pair to the missing Berlin piece,was sold at Christies in 1990 for $82,500.It is discussed here,plates 252-255:
Lent by The Baltimore Museum of Art.



7) One of a group of blue-ground Cairene carpets.From the group with large Saz leaves and a 4-and-1 medallion design.Now in the Bruschettini Collection.Very few blue-ground Cairene carpets are known;of note are the Medallion carpet in the Louvre with large Saz-leaves; a carpet in Berlin,now lost,which is the mother of all NW Persian "Kebab" rugs see:; a square carpet once with Paulette Godard which was offered at Sothebys London in 1976,and later re-appeared with Herrmann in 1992;and the Khalili prayer rug.More info on Cairene carpets:
Lent by French & Co.







8&9) The Coronation Carpet and the second of the two Ardabils were J.P Getty`s pride and joy,and had been both exhibited at the 1931 London Exhibition.Whilst still with the collector Mackay,the Ardabil was shown at the deYoung exhibition in 1937.The two carpets were an enormous leap in quality for the whole show,lent no doubt due to Dimand`s persuasive powers.Such carpets are like old generals,decorated after each successful battle with rows of medals.In this case the battles were prestigious exhibitions. 






10) Joseph McMullan`s Safavid medallion carpet is one of three known with a snakeband field and joined cartouche border,the others being the Yerkes/Blumenthal carpet in the MET(center),and the Valdagno e Castelvecchio(right) which went unsold at Christies in 1982 after a great deal of unfounded gossip about its condition made the rounds.It is the weakest of the three,and the giant Blumenthal the finest.A fragment from the missing upper section of the McMullan made a very strong $48,875 at Sothebys in 1999,depite worn condition.An alternative field design with Timurid-style split palmettes and spiralling vines was sold twice, at Christies in 1999 for $20,340,and again at Sothebys London in 2020 for $22,050.That fragment had once belonged to F.R Martin and had very beautiful colour and draughtsmanship.(10,right)
Lent by McMullan,now in the Art Institute of Chicago.


11B-Dikran Kelekian

11) The rare and imposing Kelekian blue-ground Red-Ground floral carpet which later passed to McMullan and is now in the MET.A direct descendent of the Emperor`Carpets,with swooping birds,ornate Lotus patterns and a white-ground border with complex interlace in two colours-most examples have the strapwork in one colour only.
Emperor`s Carpets:








13) A rare all-silk carpet once with Doris Duke in Newport,the Rainey Rogers Polonaise with its intricate arabesques has been a frequent record-breaker through the years,fetching $506,00 at Sothebys in 1990,and $4,450,000 at Christies New York in 2008.Lent by Kevorkian.More Polonaise info:




 14) Once with the Duke of Rutland,Peter Widener purchased this carpet from Duveen in 1909 and exhibited it at the 1910 MET show.It has been frequently documented as a remarkable specimen.Actually an Animal-Medallion carpet,the center  medallion has been replaced by a Mahout driving his elephant.Acceleration is achieved by extending the bodies of pursuing animals,and in the playful Indian style not too much blood has been shed.Outstanding is the green crocodile in the upper half,and below the center a wicked dragon.The camel fight is derived from Bihzad`s 15th century miniature,widely admired and copied in its day.The cartouche border contains gargoyles in apotropaic manner,and the  ton-sur-ton ground can also seen on a white-ground Indian carpet in Berlin.

In his review of Pope`s 1926 show Dimand bemoaned the lack of Indian carpets.In 1947 he included 7 examples.

All of the carpets donated by the Wideners to the National Gallery in Washington are of outstanding quality. Alas,two of the Widener family perished with the Titanic.Their family residence,Lynewwood Park,stands empty and forlorn today:








15) A noble Persian silk rug, with an exquisitely drawn medallion and topsy-turvy format:the borders of repeating field medallion pendants,and a field with border cartouches.Nothing is more static than a circle in a square combined with absolute symmetry,but here through perfect proportions and placement that has been avoided.A carpet which also paves the way for many 19th century Persian and Caucasian rugs.Two comparable,but lesser rugs are known:one in a Swiss collection,the other in the MET.Widener Collection,National Gallery of Art,Washington.








16) Kelekian`s Vase Carpet was also shown at the 1926 Chicago exhibition,and is a rug which inspired many later versions.Now in the MET through a Joseph McMullan donation.




16B-Sothebys 2002-McMullan-Burns

17) One of a pair(the other is in Doha,and was exhibited at the 1910 Munich exhibition)Said to have come from Ardabil,although there is no substantial proof of this.The MET`s carpet was sold by Vincent Robinson to the Yerkes Collection,and was acquired at its 1910 sale by the museum.It apppeared in the New York exhibition of 1910(plate 25 thread brocading,colour and weave are said to align this pair with the Salting carpets.Lent by the MET.





18) The Walters Cairene prayer rug,now in Baltimore, is the only other of its type which can be compared  directly to the iconic prayer rug in Vienna,although its divergent border is less successful.
Cairene carpet primer:





19) The Smith-Cochran Safavid Animal-Medallion rug,lent by the MET,is in such bad shape that it has been illustrated here by its twin,the Capponi-Yerkes.The medallion reveals the convivial side to Safavid court life,and was presumably woven before Shah Tahmasp got the old-time religion,although such things may have been woven and enjoyed surreptitiously.Note the poignant depiction of young men holding lambs(for slaughter?)Also shown at the 1910 New York exhibition.
Further info:plate 32:





20) The second action-packed Indian rug in miniaturist style features an elephant Kylin trampling a herd of black elefants,a leopard   on a dhurrie being reprimanded with a fly-whisk and scenes of palace life.The apotropaic gargoyles appear again in the border and animal pursuit scenes clearly relate this item to the Widener carpet in plate 14.Museum of Fine Arts,Boston.


21) Previously shown at the 1931 Persian Art Exhibition in London,Edsel Ford`s silk Kashan carpet has surely deserved a more fitting reproduction.There are four known examples with animal combat scenes;another two with medallion and animals.Lent by the Detroit Institute of Arts. 



22) Another Widener rug,this time a kind of Emperor`s carpet with medallion.It is closest in manner to a more elaborate carpet once in a Swiss collection,and a fragment now in the TM from Kelekian.






23) A Mamluk carpet from the Ballard Collection.This type has elems with a cogwheel design.







24 )Lent by French &Co,and now in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.Full of classical motifs but quite simply executed.Dated in the catalogue to the 15th century,but probably 17th.All wool structure.





26) First seen at the Tabbagh Sale in 1936,this carpet is presumably the item which Kelekian sold to the TM in 1951.It has the most fluently drawn of all Mamluk medallions.5-colour group.


27) A Mamluke carpet with elongated proportions.With Benguiat in 1926,it is now the TM`s R 16.2.4.With Star-Cogwheel elems.


29) Certainly a highlight,this fragment of late antique looped-knot carpet has a blocky West-Anatolian style and a design probably taken from mosaics.102 x 117 cms.Lent by the MET.



32) Fragment of a Cairene carpet,of which another piece was once on the German market.Use of white cotton is typical for this  design group. 




33) Unfortunately no photo exists in the catalogue.The description is a perfunctory "Floral Rug,Isfahan type"These two pieces with Palmette and Sickle-leaf were both once with Kelekian.Either could be a candidate.





34) The Stemmrich Vase carpet is now in the Chicago Art Institute as a gift from Lt.Col Deering Howe.Also exhibited in Munich,1910.





37) A Sickle-Leaf carpet from Khorasan,together with a similar carpet  which was at Christies in 1977.Contributed by Nahigian Brothers.


38)A small squarish Polonaise carpet,loaned by the MET.Ex-Fletcher Collection.

Polonaise Index:


40) The Bliss Safavid silk tapestry,now in the MET.Also exhibited at the 1926 Chicago event.There is a vaguely Chinese look about it,as if its makers had seen the Lyons example,or more likely a velvet carpet.In fact,the Persian silk kilims may have been inspired as a genre by Chinese Kesi.Lent by French & Co.



41) One of two pairs of Polonaise rugs with the Rockefellers,both of which are now in the MET. Originally from the Marchioness of Graham.A very similar carpet was at the Benguiat sale in 1926(plate 79,sold to Parish Watson for $ 68,000)


41A-The Rockefeller pair at the MET

41B-Benguiat 1926

42) Shown at the 1926 Chicago Exhibition,and acquired by Myers from Benheimer shortly afterwards.The group as such has been discussed here,plate 27:


44) Purchased by Kevorkian from Rothschild in Paris,this Polonaise rug was sold at the Kevorkian auction in 1969 for $ 15,840.It was purchased by  J.P Getty and  later sold in 1990 for $440,000.It has a twin in Cleveland since 1926,which was once with the Chorherrenstift,Voran, Austria.Lent by Kevorkian.



45) A very unusual carpet,perhaps the most exciting discovery from the 1947 exhibition.Its criss-crossed arms on a largely repiled lac-red field echo the Dragon carpets and their soumak descendents.Either Khorasan or India.530 x 220 cms.Lent by Kelekian,now Cincinnati Art Museum 1966.1182.



48) Shown at the 1926 Chicago Exhibition,this item is now in the Nelson Atkins Museum in Kansas City.See :





49) A Polonaise carpet,already in the Chicago host museum at the time as a gift of the Mrs McCormick and Danielson.Formerly with French & Co and Charles Deering.It has a companion at Hardwick Hall.



50) An Indian carpet with an interesting variation of the Millefleurs design,lent by Arthur Dilley.It later appeared at Sothebys in 1982.



54) Joseph McMullan`s Star Ushak,once with Benguiat,seems like an early edition,and is now the MET`s 58.63.A Ushak catalogue can be viewed here:







59) A Holbein carpet from the Textile Museum,but which one?There are two possibilities:a classic example with Kufi border on a green ground,which seems never to have been published in colour;or an unusual carpet with "knotted"border,again on plain ground,of which a number of fakes exist,notably one in Calgary.A Holbein Primer can be viewed here:



61) Kelekian`s large Lotto carpet in the Anatolian style was claimed to have been sold at the 1926 exhibition,and yet here it is again.It passed to the Chicago Art Institute,where it remains to this day,poorly photographed and with what appears to be massive re-piling. Lotto Primer:


62) An early Holbein carpet on plain ground,once with Ballard.Lent by the City Art Museum,St.Louis.


64) One of the many examples of product-placement:Marshall Field`s Dragon Sumakh carpet,which later appeared with Peter Bausback in Mannheim.A rare design,if one can use the term:the Dragon Sumakhs are more of a controlled explosion.


65) A Verneh,lent by Nahigian.Such designs were also employed in bagfaces.They appear to be a simplification of the much nobler variety which graced the cover of Joseph McMullan`s catalogue.


68) Described as a"Dragon Carpet" in the catalogue,but surely this piece is  meant.Donated in 1926 to the Chicago Institute by the eccentric Emily Chadbourne,a member of the Gertude Stein circle.Emily gave a number of interesting pieces to the museum,including the notorious  "Ak-Koyunlu " lions carpet.The Caucasian Medallion-Leaf carpet is one of a small group on blue grounds,four of which are shown here.




68C-Emily Chadbourne

70) Although Joseph McMullan is not known for his adventures into flatweaves,this is nevertheless an excellent Central or East Anatolian prayer kilim,now in the MET. 


71) This almost 3 x 9 meter carpet was acquired at the Kevorkian Sale in 1969,and has been in Berlin ever since.It`s likely that the destruction of another two Garden Carpets in WWII prompted the purchase;one fragment was a particularly painful loss.The pair to the Berlin carpet sold in 1993 at Sothebys for $109,500,after a long Odyssey through the auction rooms.The two pieces are shown here for the first time in tandem.




72) At The Lamm sale of 1923,this garden carpet was purchased by Ballard who donated it to the MET.There are two other pieces in this group,which is characterised by a square central medallion, trees in the waterway instead of fishes,a trefoil border and quartered corners.




 72A) Left: gift of Mrs.McMullan to the Brooklyn Museum;right:Berlin,destroyed in WWII.


73) The third Garden carpet in the exhibition was lent by Karekin Beshir and later acquired by Russ Pickering,who donated it to the MET.It is in the classic "Kurdish" style,a smaller version of the Berlin example.


74) Sold at the Yerkes sale in 1910 for $2000 when it was purchased by Dikran Kelekian,this piece later passed to Joseph McMullan who eventually donated it to the MET.Similar in layout to the Paravicini rug,without breathing such rarified air.Lent by Kelekian.


74A-the Paravicini

79) A Ferahan carpet with standard Herati design.Another large group of these mass-produced carpets has small corner-pieces. More bread-and-butter from Marshall Field, which would have considerably weakened the show`s impact.


81) A Melas prayer rug,again from Marshall Field.This re-surfaced at Sothebys in 2014.


92) A Kula prayer rug with Ghiordes border.Such "prayer machines" were still de rigeur in 1947;no doubt the public awaited them,and may even have had suchlike at home.The three-flower border later went on to a career in NW-Persia(92B)Lent by Karekin Beshir.




93) Ballard`s Pandirma Salting,complete with calligraphy,mosque lamp and candleholders(which take the place of foot-markings)is the best of a rough bunch.



98) A typical 19th century Ghiordes prayer rug,but with a rare border.Lent by K.Beshir.


99 & 103)Two Turkish prayer rugs from two preeminent collectors.The white-ground Ballard rug ,and the red-ground piece from McMullan belong to one of the most enigmatic of carpet types.After a protracted restoration session on Schmutzler`s red-ground example in London,1978(103A)the American painter Rhoda Edwards asked "Who will step through that door?"
More info:







London 1978