The carpet world is, in miniature, a faithful reflection of the larger human tide: scoundrels and geniuses, dilettantes and schemers, aesthetes and hoarders. This observation was relevant upon a recent appearance in the N.Y. trade of what hopefully, and erroneously was thought to be an important period carpet.
First in a poor, perspective cell phone photo, then shortly afterward in the flesh, the rug superficially appeared to be a 16th-17th century piece of Persian Safavid or Indian Mughal origin. What it was, however, was a not so clever interpretive copy, now raised to the dubious level of a fake.
About 6 1/2′ x 10′ in size, a quick look at the back revealed a very uniform, very worn look. The latter could only be produced by a careful sandful of the exposed knot nodes of the almost wholly depressed warp weave. The shortcut fringe had a high ply count, very uniform and India late 19c looking. It did not look Persian of the 16th century.
The border was giveaway: pairs of Peris (Persian angels) on a blue ground. It was a direct copy of the Safavid silk hunting carpet in Vienna. Made for shah Tahmasp about 1535 (before 1546 certainly) in Kashan and possibly designed by the esteemed miniaturist Sultan Muhammed No other period carpet from anywhere has this border. The prototype was first published in 1892 and hence, this piece cannot be earlier. Probably slightly later.
The red filled displays a jungle and animal scene in a Mughal style of c.1595. The ground color was not deeply corroded as one would find on a lac dyed Mughal genuine piece. The pattern overall was a pastiche, a (not so) clever combination of authentic earlier designs.
The old and genuine repairs may have misled the vendor, but probably his imagination got the best of him. The price was reasonable, all too reasonable if the rug was authentic, but confiscatory for a not too attractive late 19th century Indo in rough shape. Probably British manufacturer, it was a pre-O.C.M creation. The carpet had been sent to a well known and knowledgeable collector who promptly recognized its true nature and returned it. The piece later appeared uptown with a major carpet gallery and the proprietor was enthusiastic when showing it off to the author. He had to be gently deflated. It needs to be sold as a decorative rug in period style for an inappropriate price: a red and blue old looking rug to be used and used up.
Who in the cast of characters are the vendor,the collector, the potential buyer, other shadowy enablers?