Saturday, 3 March 2012


Treasure chests sometimes wash up on the shores of the Internet.Two carpet groups,which appeared in the last few years,were amongst the driftwood.



Many people could mistake this for a Tekke or Arabatchi ensi.True,the insikush look wilted,and there are no bovrek fingers clutching the central spine.There are no camel trains or opulent curled leaf borders.But the panelled inner borders have been taken from the Arabatchi,used on their ensis as well as on a small proportion of chovals.However,the border has been further simplified,when compared to the original.In this group it is usually an hour-glass form with diamond appendages.Sometimes the soynak border encompasses the entire field,as in this example.This is never the case with Tekke or Arabatchi ensis,where the elem play a crucial role.Here the elems are always of the standard Tekke-type.

A subgroup utilises a shield design,which is basically a mirrored ensi or keyhole form.


The chroma is mostly pastel,although some have stronger colours.They employ the simplest of natural dyes,and an attempt has often been made to mimic the madder exhaust pinks which feature on arabatchi ensis.Green and yellow are unknown.Along with a rough Baluch-type weave,this imparts them a dessicated look.

None appear older than 1900,with a taq around 1940.Their first appearance seems to have been at Mangisch`s Auction on 16 September 1989(lot 1127,labelled Kirghiz),although there may be others lurking in older publications.


Is it is possible that we are looking at the remnants of a long-lost tribe?`s more likely that a group of dealers commisioned them to replenish stocks of diminishing Turkmen ensis,which were in demand as export items.They are all quite varied and skillfully made,which would indicate a routine work environment where small rugs could be run up in a short time,with the simplest of materials and labour.They have a scurrilous quality,like pulling the leg of the Turkmen,for whom the Baluchis often worked as shepherds,and who treated them like dogs.


Roughly contemporary,and also from N.E Persia,is a group of bagfaces with an 8 pointed star,or Khatam,as central Logo.Persian dealers call them "Mumluke" 


They have also been described as Afshar,Nishapour,Qashgai,Teleghan...the consensus seems to fall to the Afshar,but those groups living in Khorasan.The earliest appearance is in Engelhardt,1976,pl.560.Again,more examples may come to light in older publications.

5-Engelhardt 1976
The quaint misnomer"Mumluke"is not entirely inaccurate as the design appears on at least two very early Mamluke carpets(both in the V & A).These are the Mounsey carpet,where it features centrally,and the famous "anatolian " style fragment,employed as a corner piece.The khatam,or"seal of the prophet,Seal of Solomon,etc"is an ancient design found frequently in Mamluke marquetry,and even earlier on Nasrid textiles.One carpet maker thought so highly of it that he created a legend around this one design-the so-called "chessboard" rugs were born.


The pieces are uniformly well made with glossy wool,tight weave,and excellent,varied colouration.A faded red has been observed,probably dyed with Bakkam.Knotted middle pieces with an allover pattern are common,as well as Turkish rosettes placed in all four corners.The Khatam is often placed in a larger medallion outlined in white,giving them a typical "Baluchi" look.

It`s unlikely that they are a group of mis-placed Mamlukes.Like the Ensi Group,they are probably more the products of commerce than of custom.Design- poaching has been a constant in carpet production through the ages.In this sense dealers and pickers are more like archaeologists,digging up the remains of what their predecessors once instigated.

The two carpet types described here can hardly be found in the carpet literature.Without the Internet they would not have surfaced as a group,being too insignificant for the major auction houses.It is noteworthy that unknown types of carpet are still emerging.Let us hope this trend continues.


Monday, 27 February 2012

A good year for the roses

Turkmen pulses in Europe were racing this week as two exceptional pieces came up for sale.

Important main carpets rarely appear at auction,but such was the case at Aponem/Druot Paris on February 22.Artfully arranged in a disorderly moving-house fashion,the catalogue photo nonetheless exuded an archaic magnificence.Carpets of this type,christened by Hali the”multiple-göl” group,are characterised by a mixture of Kepse and C-Göls,whereby the Kepse Göl is customarily  formed from two white crenellations.The major example of this is the Hecksher/De Young example(published in Hali 130/80)However the Druot piece was a real contender for second place,with a more interesting border,but lacking the visual clout of the SF piece due to a simplistic repetition of the C-Gul motif within the guls.It sold in the room for 24,000 euro after a pitched battle between two determined bidders.Unconfirmed reports are that the Hecksher carpet was sold for 160,000 dollars.

2-Archaic Kepse
Most of the pieces in this group employ the aforementioned kepse/C Gul formation.A piece in the Wher collection sports two Kepse and two C-Gul variations.Its unusual Kepse form is shared by a rug sold at Sothebys in October 1998,and another example in Munich(ex-Woger Collection)The famous Ballard rug(published Turkmen,Thompson,nr.62)is almost an outlier,albeit with the archaic kepse,and a combination of old Turkic forms and a Harshang design crashing discordantly together.
 More examples

As if that were not enough,underbidders got another chance to have at it via the good services of Historia Auctions in Berlin,when an Arabatchi Choval came up on the block.

Dated as "1920",bidding started at a derisory 50 euro and rocketed up to 13,000.Worn to the bone,lacking its sides, but with just enough elem to reveal a classical Halo-Tree design,this was nevertheless a harmonious piece with the poise found only in the best of type.Confident execution and an excellent relation between ground and inner gul colour helped to undermine this.No geeky orange colours or squashed guls,no über-decoration or "protuberances",but an austere Turkmen work of art.Voila!

In best ebay manner,both lots were treated in a negligent manner by their vendors,who knew they were onto a good thing.This would hardly be possible with classical carpets,but with Turkmens it still seems to work.There is nowhere to hide,on the internet.


Sunday, 26 February 2012

A Countess in Augsburg


A German Court has wisely decided against the plaintiff  in the case of
the Safavid carpet which later went on to a huge career at Christies
London.Any other decision would have severely infringed upon dealer
activity at auction.The legal complaint is so absurd that it was
actually taken seriously by the authorities,who eventually threw it out
on the 27th of January 2012.The battle may or may not be continued
before the Bavarian High Court.

It is almost as if someone had read the Hali commentary on the Béhague
Carpet,and decided to sue for damages.

The carpet was apparently in the possession of German carpet dealer
Herbert Steinhausen,who subsequently gave it as a present to his
housekeeper.He is said to have purchased it in 1987,at the Sotheby`s
auction in Monaco of the Countess de Béhague/Marquis de Ganay
collection.The Marquis de Ganay was Martine Béhague`s nephew,who
inherited her estate(not her husband,as stated by Christies and Hali)

Herbert Steinhausen was a Munich carpet dealer with a Showroom on the
Brienner Strasse.He seems to have dealt principally in new carpets,with
virtually no goods before 1920.After his death in the 80`s,his wife
continued the business for a while before closing.

His housekeeper was a close friend of the plaintiff,who subsequently
inherited the Béhague carpet,along with some other rugs from the
Steinhausen estate.It`s unclear why any rug dealer would give a carpet
of this stature to an employee living in a terraced house(a Hereke mat
might have been more appropriate) As the plaintiff moved house after the
death of her husband,she was obliged to downsize,and called in Georg
Rehm,the unfortunate auctioneer from Augsburg.What happened afterwards
is well known:the carpet,estimated at 900 euro finally sold for 19,700.

Six months later it sold for 7,2 million euro at Christies London.

2.Six years later,another carpet with the same design appeared at Christies,in the sale of carpets from the Alice de Rothschild Collection.A shortened version,it sold for 962,500 GBP(Sothebys 19.4.2016,lot 101)

The consignor,Frau N, was understandably upset.The story was widely
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

4.A PETAG carpet,circa 1920.Christies 27.4.2017(197)The PETAG carpets were the brainchild of  a conglomerate of German carpet dealers.Founded in 1911,they replicated classic Persian designs,in particular Vase carpets.But they also created their own designs by blending the Safavid styles.Although their rugs are usually Turkish knotted(because mostly woven in Tabriz)there is no ruling out the production of Persian-knotted carpets.Interestingly,a thorough technical analysis of the Behague/Rothschild Vase carpet seems not to exist.In the 2010 Christies catalogue there is no technical info at all,and although the 2016 catalogue makes an effort in this direction,it fails to confirm that the carpet is Persian knotted.Hence,there is no evidence that either of the two carpets has a Persian knot.

The PETAG Factory,Tabriz