Thursday 28 May 2015

Lineage II : Iran,17th Century

82-The Tucker RGF,reverse side with lazy lines

How the commercialisation of the Emperor`s Carpets began is a mystery,but it was probably initiated from on high.A date at some point between 1550 and 1600 can be assumed.The spiritual grandeur of the animal carpets was never to be repeated,but production with aristocratic bearing was still within range.A group of carpets on silk warps and depicting golden pheasants is an immediate indication of quality,but even in later years work of the highest order was produced with humbler materials.

Sadly disfigured by old repairs,the Enzenberg carpet has an interesting 1&1/2 repeat design.Very elegant Fenghuang inhabit the fields,but the borders are strangely awkward.It is one of a group with metal brocading,gold and silver:the light areas in the palmettes are worn and tarnished metal-thread,which,combined with a great deal of corroded black,give the carpet its disturbing chroma.It was first published in the catalogue to the Vienna exhibition.



A carpet fragment in the V&A also contains metal brocading(like a Polonaise),indicating a closeness to Isfahan.The Castellani carpet is a much more professional quality,as the photomontage reveals

85-V&A 721-1884


Another piece of this carpet may be in store at the Benaki Museum

87-Erdmann-Viale review

Exhibited at the great Chicago Exhibition of 1926(then with Duveen),the following was advertised by Herbert Ostler on the cover of Weltkunst in 1974.It is said to have belonged to the Habsburgs,and also features silver thread brocading.

88-Weltkunst,1 October 1974

Sold at the Calatchi sale in 2000 for $97,440,this large fragment later appeared with the Textile Gallery.Described in Hali 120(125) as "cruder and messier"than the V&A piece,it nevertheless has the untrammelled quality of an early Safavid production.

89-Sothebys 4 October 2000(79)

90-Textile Gallery,Hali 143-111

A fragment from the Burns Collection(once with Kelekian)was sold at Christies in 2001 for $8225.It uses metal thread and cotton for some white areas,but the colour appears faded.Often the metal thread in such luxury items has fallen out,although one rug-legend has it that the silver and gold was extracted to mint coins!

91-Christies 18 October 2001(257)

Sold for $1,930,500 at Sothebys on 1 February 2013,the following has an illustrious provenance and is probably the finest example of an RGF with standard border.A Rothschild carpet,it had previously been sighted with Colnagi,Cittone,The Textile Gallery,and the unfortunate Roberto Calvi.It has been auctioned three times in the last twenty years,always increasing dramatically in value until finally almost reaching the 2 million dollar mark,indeed,why didn`t it?A full review can be read in Hali 175(129)A perfectly balanced design with excellent colour and condition.





A small group with strapwork border includes one blue ground rug,late of McMullan and previously Kelekian,with a scimitar like border perhaps superior to the Bacri carpets.Birds abound in the field.The carpet is ruined,with areas of bled repainting,but still magnificent.


97-MET,New York

Less agressive is the border on a carpet in the Gulbenkian Collection,Lisbon,one of the rare examples with a repeat design and no focal point



The Dearborn carpet,née Ford Collection.Auctioned twice,at Sothebys in 1992,and Christies in 2013,it managed to fall through both times,however was apparently purchased after sale in 1992 by Yves Mikaelov.On silk warp with birds in the field,it would have been originally at least eight metres long but is now reduced to the half(see montage)

100-The Dearborn


A Ballard rug in the Metropolitan(22.100.77)with pretty colouring features a simplified version of the Bacri border,and appears to have been cut.


103-MET 22.100.77

Acquired in 1921,the V&A`s small format piece on white silk warps exhibits a rare yellow ground border

104-Victoria and Albert museum T140-1921

The epitome of the classic Red Ground Floral style is without doubt the Wildenstein-Ojjeh carpet,now in the Islamic Museum Qatar.Once with the Wildenstein family,it was purchased by the Saudi businessman Akkram Ojjeh to furnish his ocean-going liner,the France.Ojjeh had actually acquired the entire Wildenstein Collection,but relinquished it at a monumental sale in Monte Carlo at the Sporting d`Hiver on 25-26 June 1979.Depending on one`s mood,the Wildenstein Qatar carpet could be seen as the equal of the Rothschild piece,birds or no.It has the same inner border as the McMullan blueground carpet.Sold for $1,530,014 at Christies London on 16 April 2007(100)



The Getty Sale in 1990 produced three RGF carpets.Most outstanding was a carpet which had sold previously at Parke Bernet in New York for $20,000.Ex Rockefeller,by way of Judge Gary and Duveen, this spindly old giant sold much above estimate at $99,000 and created the"Getty effect" which was to haunt salesrooms for years.The ethereal quality of a well-worn RGF with provenance would subsequently prove irresistible.

107-Sothebys NY 8 December 1990(6)

Despite having been reduced by 50% and with extensive repair,the following sold at the Clark/Corcoran sale for $209,000 to an unknown connoiseur.A photomontage shows the impeccable beauty of this carpet.

108-Sothebys 5 June 2013(3)


Two carpets chosen by Senator Clark with classic layout but varying treatment raise the questions:different time or place?They appear contemporary,but are less carefully worked than the previous example.

110-Corcoran sale Sothebys 5 June 2013(4)

111-Corcoran sale Sothebys 5 June 2013(5)

Sold at the Walters auction in 1941 with an especially complex vine-scroll border  and a very relaxed upper half 

112-Walters Sale 1941(1329)


First auctioned at Christies London on 19 October 1995 for £18,400 ,this well-drawn item took a dive at Bonhams in 2004 for £12,547,perhaps due to massive re-piling


Even more wraith-like was the carpet from Christies Elveden Hall sale


A later(?)but attractive piece from the Duke of Buccleuch,in a static "Karadja" style


Published by Erdmann,from the Heinrich Wulf Collection in Denmark,the following fragment as a photomontage

117-Wulf Collection

No complete and adequate reproduction exists of the MET`s Tucker Collection carpet,but it is a fastidious example with first rate draughtmanship

118-MET 51.177.1

The carpets in the previous section employ  a standard reversing Palmette border,which is the most common.Whatever the size,the number of palmettes across the width is alway five,interspersed with various other palmettes or minor ornaments.These carpets invariably begin and end with a halved-palmette at the field`s edge.However,a number of other borders eventually came into use.

1) The Arabesque Loop border.


2) Lotus border,often combined with the standard ragged-palmette.


3) The Lotus Palmette.This is the Palmette form often seen on Vase Carpets.


4) The Palmette with Cross.This is formed by a four and one design between Palmettes.


5) The Ragged Palmette.The most frequently occuring,in many variations.Also used on Large Medallion Ushaks.




The remaining border designs all feature leaf motifs.

6) Palmette and Curved Saz.The most common.



7) Overlapping Saz Leaf.



8) Straight Saz Leaf.


A group with more densely packed design incorporates some important pieces.

Sold at the Loges sale in 1994 the following noble wreck follows its own dramatic logic to a wild and unruly denoument.$55,890 at Sothebys 19 October 1994(239)


The Burnay Collection RGF in Lisbon is crammed with sinuous cloudbands, acanthus (or lotus) leaves and enterprising Palmettes.An uncommon bluegreen ground with red border and unattributed coat of arms.


Once with Cittone,and now in Qatar,the following was sold at Christies London for $189,540 in 1997.The APG in Hali 93(127)compared it unfavourably to the Rothschild example,but its star had risen somewhat when it came to be reviewed again in Hali 175(129)Silk warp and white cotton filling.

133-Christies 24 April 1997(530)

Similarity and diversity are demonstrated by the following three pieces from the Clark Collection,no doubt chosen by the Senator for their decorative harmony and sold at the warm-up Corcoran auction by Christies on 24 November 2009.

134-Lot 29-$134,500(now Farjam Coillection)

135-Lot 202-$50,000

136-Lot 130-$254,500

Published by Pope in 1939,from the Loewe Collection,with inner green and orange border


Finally,from the Barbara Johnson Collection,with incisive vinescrolls

138-Sothebys 15 October 2003(42)

Exquisite pieces were also produced in smaller sizes.The most beautiful of all is probably the Coimbra rug in Lisbon


A second carpet in Lisbon is more reticent with softer colour


Elegant,but with harder contours is a piece from the Kevorkian Collection sold at Sothebys in 1977


A little known,very pretty carpet from the Ralph Dudley Collection is in store at the MET


Featuring a cartouche central medallion and most elegant Lotus palmette border,the following sold at Christies London in 1999 for $48,050,and was later with Tabibnia in Milan


Chunky but squeezed a carpet from Kevorkian now in Tehran


The two following pieces were both sold at the Wildenstein-Ojjeh auction in 1979.The second was later advertised by Emir.



A perfectly drawn out and executed carpet from the Sothebys Corcoran Sale sold for $62,500

147-Corcoran sale 18

Finally an unusual piece from the Musee des Arts decoratifs with metal brocading


At least three large carpets are known with white or yellowground borders


The Eskenazi example was once in the Imperial Collection, Vienna and was auctioned after the first World War to pay for reparations.It originally had a brown-ground border,said   to have corroded,but it has probably been completely removed in the later photo.


One major border not described above is the Cartouche or Tabula Ansata design,actually a category to itself.A number of RGFs are known with this design but they are too diverse to really form a group.The classic octafoil and half-cartouche form is a tri-partite design.It can be varied into unrecognition such as on the now missing Cassirer carpet,once in Berlin,which integrates large arabesque elements

150-Pope 1178

With a similar border of horizontally placed cartouches,and much favoured by Hali`s editorial team,was a rug sold at Christies in 1994


A rug at Williamsburg replaces the ornate arabesques with simple cloudbands and metal-thread highlights


Shown in Hamburg,perhaps with a cut border.


Sold at Lefevre in 1979 and again at Rippon Boswell`s in 1979 for $95,160 the following reconfigured carpet once in the Proehl Collection,and on a silk warp, has a simplified "Ardabil" type border


A small carpet in Coimbra features a central medallion forged from Split -Palmettes and mirrored in the border


Actually quite rare are two RGF carpets with almost identical design


Presumably much cut down the item from the Keir Collection with elaborate vinescrolls seems early


Yerkes XI is now in Tehran


Published in 1908 by von Scala,an item from the Tucher Collection later surfaced after the war in Amsterdam

159-von Scala,1908


Naturally Senator Clark also owned such a carpet,in a simpler style,sold at Sothebys Corcoran auction for $137,000


One last piece  resides in the MAK as a fragment


A further important group features a streamlining of design. The carpets become lighter and airier.Typical are three examples once with the Italian dealer Cittone,the king of RGFs.The borders also change dramatically from the old ragged palmette.


Also in this style is a fragment in the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection


Two similar items were sold respectively at Christies in 2007( $148,00;previously sold for $159,080 in April 2000)and at the Corcoran Sale in 2013 for $281,000


An example in the Farjam Collection can be compared to a more densely patterned carpet in Lyons


A cut and joined example from the Dirksen Collection sale of 1931 features an arabesque loop border


Thick vinescroll bracketing dominates the field of a carpet from the Lees William Collection in Philadelphia


The field of a carpet from the duPont Collection published by Pope is more densely packed,and one half is squeezed into the field


A carpet from Danny Ghigo is dominated by stiff scrolling vines concentrated around the focal point


A carpet in the Poldi Pezzoli compared with a piece in the Philadelphia Museum of Art,attributed by Ellis to Agra but with 4-ply warp;many of these carpets form a central medallion "by inference"-


The author is still uncertain as to whether the following two pieces are similar,or the same!


A carpet in the Thyssen-Bornemisza collection echoes nicely the "Emperor`s" investiture Palmettes,but large Saz leaves suddenly make an appearance


It seems the group as a whole was swept up in "Sazmania"


A further development employs thick outlining,pastel colour,and much Saz and cloudband.The following example from the Clark Collection sale fetched $437,000, and was once in the Collection of Henry Marquand


An auction recidivist and classic of type is the "Maldonado" carpet sold at St.Cyr in 1982 with re-sales at Sothebys in 1989 and a last triumph in New York in 1998 where it brought a top-lot $112,000


177-Sothebys 15 April 1998(230)

Another repeat offender has been auctioned at least three times since 1993.So enamoured of it was the Hali Editorial team that it was reviewed each time.It fetched succesively 101,500(1993)$107,550(2002)and$122,500(2010),showing true investment value.

178-Sothebys 1993 and 2002,Christies 22 October 2010

From the Ojjeh sale and later Ambassador Aita,the following with a "Crossed" Palmette border and thick pastel outlines fetched $ 52,880 at Christies London on 29 April 2004


A carpet from the MET`s Robert Lehman Collection


And a pair of very similar Wildenstein-Ojjeh`s


Some of the most elegant smaller pieces were made in a simpler style


Three pieces were once with Vitali Benguiat


A piece sold at Christies can be compared to a rug in the Boston Fine Arts Museum


Or a carpet at Coimbra lined up against a simpler model from Sothebys


Two close relatives at the Clark Sale featured exquisite Lotus Palmettes obviously influenced by the LaFoes Carpet


But two rugs from the Ballard and Keir Collections appear "wrong" respectively


A number of medallion carpets are known,starting with a large piece in the Gulbenkian Museum


Sold at Sothebys on 11 October 2004(68)the following hithertoo unknown carpet contained metal-thread brocading,alas poorly repaired,but still managed a hefty $111,000



Another rug with metal-thread(and cotton highlights)was sold at Christies in 2014 from the estate of Barbara Johnson,and represents a kind of RGF-Polonaise hybrid($139,025)


The crossover also worked in reverse,with some silk Polonaise carpets imitating the RGFs


An unusual carpet with allover medallion and Saz from the Getty Museum,and later with Yves Mikaeloff,was sold for $77,000 at Sothebys in September 1991,but fell through at Christies in 2013.Perhaps it was too worn out?Such carpets should rarely be wet-cleaned.

194-Christies 8 October 2013(127)

A frequently illustrated carpet from the Thyssen collection has exceptionally symmetrical drawing,perhaps too even to be a really old piece.The medallion formed with split palmettes and two curious"fat parrots" at the start of the field.


An old face at the auctions is Sothebys 2004 fragment


A few examples exist with rounded medallions.Starting with the best of the Lehman Collection,a carpet illustrated by Pope when it was with French & Co.


Sold at Christies London in 1988 for $49,368, a rare near perfect condition rug with an early looking medallion;and a very small(86 x 107 cms) Indian influenced ruglet which brought $34,500 at Sothebys New York in 1998(after its apparent pair had fetched just 1000 pounds at a small London sale!)


One group of carpets has received extensive attention far beyond their actual occurence.They feature acanthus leaves and saz and stem from a standardised model.Perhaps the earliest of thee carpets still retains its chinese cloudbands,and has been a frequent visitor to the salesrooms over the years,starting in 1903 at the Marquand Sale,then at the Benguiats Auction of 1925.In our time at Sothebys London in 1976(30.000 pounds),then from the British rail pension Fund(!),Sothebys 1996(133,500 pounds)and finally at Christies London in 2007 where it brought 180,000 pounds($357,480)

199-The Marquand 

A classic example in the simpler style is the Altman carpet in the MET.


One of two Getty carpets with this design features an arabesque loop border and was once in the Mortimer Schiff Collection.Sold at Sothebys New York on 8 December 1990(5) for $ 82,500.


A pair to this carpet was offered at Sothebys in 1976

202-Sothebys 4 April 1976(54)

A second Getty carpet was sold for $121,000 at Sothebys in 1990.Carpets withis design were likely to have been the forerunners of the "Herati" design. See:


A carpet from the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection.


Three further examples.

205-AAA 1914(303)

206-Lefevre 16 May 1975(10)

207-Christies 3 May 2001(121)

A last example with cartouche border,the Holms Hepburn,was used a number of times at Coronations.Sold for $134,555 at Lyon & Turnbull in 2014.Unsold at Sothebys in 2015.


A last coherent group in Saz style begins with the swashbuckling LaFoes carpet of Senator Clark,sold at the  Corcoran Sale for $4,645,00 on 5 June 2013 in New York.

209-Corcoran 19





Since the Corcoran/Clark sale the Duke of Braganza has become a household name in rug circles.He must have had a vast collection!At least according to Vitali Benguiat,from whom the following carpets issued,one to Thyssen,the other to Edsel Ford.



A denser style was in evidence at the 2009 Corcoran/Clarks sale,to which can also be added a carpet once belonging to Lady Dudley(also via Benguiat)and now in Tehran

216-Christies 24.11.2009(129)-$254,500

217-Christies 24.11.2009(205)-$158,500

218-Christies 24.11.2009(31)$170,500

219-M `Lady Dudley

A finer and denser style was achieved in three pieces.A carpet once with Judge Gary and now in Tehran


The Tabbagh carpet which went to Moshe Tabibnia in Milan via C.John

221-Milestones 21

And a virtually unknown piece in the Victoria and Albert Museum London

222-V&A 12-1886

A group of large carpet with a ragged palmette and straight Saz border are said by some to be Indian.There are two types:an overall Saz design,and a multi-quatrefoil medallion.

Two carpets are very similar.The Bausback Carpet is said to be from our old friend the Duke of Braganza,the other belonged to Sir Herbert Wernher,and was the settlement of a gambling debt.(sold Sothebys London 11 October 1990-735- for $32,175)


A carpet in the Met`s Lehman Collection includes curved Saz in the borders.

224-Lehman Collection  

Another carpet from Luton Hoo was sold at Christies London on 26 April 1990(106)

225-Christies 1990

The best three carpets with allover medallion are as follows.


227-Farjam Collection

228-Johnson Collection Sothebys 15 March 2003(40)

As ever,cut and reduced items make excellent furnishing items,beloved of decorators for their handy sizes,invariably recycled for their beauty and poise

229-Rippon Boswell 20 May 2000(156)

230-Christies 8 October 2013(98)-12,500 pounds

231-Artcurial 20 June 2012(341)-$109,550

232-Fletcher Collection,MET

233-Corcoran/Clark Sothebys 5 June 2013-$28,125

234-Alex Zadah

A group of individually designed carpets concludes this review.They are all in the large kelleh format,chiefly with arabesque designs,and seem not to have been collated.Their closest relatives are the carpets with strapwork fields,such as at Jaipur,and indeed an example sold at the 2009 Christies/Corcoran for $122,500.

235-Christies 24 November 2009(133)

Another splendid example is in the MET,ex Kevorkian.

236-MET 69.244

An example at Boughton House.


A fragment in Montreal.


The  fabulous Widener carpet


A fragment from the David Sylvester Collection with the same border

240-Sylvester Sale(85)

A medallion carpet sold at Christies in 1993 for $30,430,with a very similar piece from Martin,1908(published in Hendley)

241-Christies 1993


A Vienna war casualty burnt in 1945; published in Sarre-Trenkwald.


A marvellous carpet in the Gulbenkian Museum in Lisbon.


Of which another two fragmented examples are recorded.

245-Benguiat 1925


Three fragments conclude this part of the survey, a shard from a vaporised Berlin carpet,and an item once belonging to Kelekian.

247-Berlin,note grinning skull


At the time of writing an interesting fragment appeared at auction,with blue ground,which surely belongs here.

248a-Rippon Boswell 13 June 2015(75)

249-Ferdinand Bol