About 20 years ago I was in New York on a rug hunt for fine older carpet. I did the usual rounds and ended my day on 31st street with my friend Mike from Apadana. He had the typical old rug business in mid-town Manhattan and the rugs were folded and piled almost to the ceiling on a plethora of pallets. I had learned how to scan a pile, so I politely refused any assistance. I started examining my 8th stack from the ceiling to the floor and stopped at the fourth rug from the bottom.
Mike and his men uncovered the rug for me and unfolded a textile that, to this day, to me, has no equivalent.
It was not beauty but, rather, mystery that captured me. I was looking at a repeat pattern of Chinese/Egyptian-like boats, all carrying men with Asian features. It was an ancient regatta in wool! The sails were brightly colored as you can see from the picture and the rug was in reasonably good condition. Mike could not identify its provenance and I was, as well, at sea with its origins.
Needless to say, I walked away with the rug and protected it, shielding it from view and showing it only as a textile of interest – never for sale.
In the age of social media, I became a member of several Facebook groups of rug enthusiasts. The Weftkickers and Warp and Weft are two groups in which experts and amateurs alike from around the world can post pictures of and expostulate on rugs of interest, rarity or beauty. I decided to post my little gem offering up vantage shots and zoom-ins of the back, ends and edges.
A huge conversation world-wide began. Speculation and offers came from Turkey, Iran, India Germany and parts of Asia. The rug was a Senneh, a Bidjar, a Feraghan, a Hereke: the list was endless. The weave was parsed, the colors posed as evidence, but, in the end, there was no consensus. A US dealer summed it up beautifully. “Wow. This must be the universal rug. If nothing else, Rosalind Rustigian, you win the prize for mystery rug of the year and longest fascinating discussion over a single rug.”
Postscript: I sold the rug this year to an eclectic and wholly appreciative collector.