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Why Should We Acquire Antique Carpets?

In the broadest sense, the term ‘antique’ refers to artifacts that are at least one hundred years old, although this concept has a deeper meaning - something venerable, a standard of quality and authenticity from another era that no longer exists. In the world of rugs and carpets, however, the simple chronological definition has by now outlived its usefulness, and it will only become less useful as time passes. By the 1920’s, rug production had already been adversely affected by modern technology that had developed synthetic, non-vegetal dyes that were either garish in appearance or would fade on exposure to light or run when washed. It was also affected by mass-production, machine spun wool which increased reliance on lower quality, readily available grades of wool. By this point in time, enormous cultural changes had taken place as well - changes that replaced the traditional cultures that developed the traditional creativity, design, and standards of craftsmanship of antique rug weaving. Consequently, most of the later ‘antique’ rugs available today may qualify as such in the technical sense of the definition, but they have little or none of the qualities for which antique rugs are truly prized and appreciated.

But when we turn to older pieces produced before these changes occurred, we enter a different world. Such genuinely antique rugs and carpets, whether large or small, present us with a dazzling impression. Their designs spring from an aesthetic visual sensibility that goes back centuries, involving an instinctive use of line and form that immediately strikes discerning modern viewers as something extraordinarily different from their own experience. We encounter a quality of color in variegated shades imparting space and depth to the composition, and in tones that have acquired a delicate patinated quality that only time can confer. The sense of harmony or balance among the colors entirely complements the harmony of form and line that governs and bounds the color to achieve a degree of artistic unity very much the product of its own time, a time very much distinct from our own.

For those who discern, appreciate, and enjoy such qualities, there can be no substitute for an antique rug or carpet in traditional design. Modern rug production has learned to recreate the vegetal dyes, and even their variegated tonalities. It has zeroed in on high quality antique exemplars as models to copy, even approximating hand spun wool and weaving techniques. But such modern approximations are never more than that – just copies. They can never attain or recreate the spontaneous artistic impulse that produced the originals, which so affects and pleases us today. The antique weavers wove from their own authentic, lived cultural experience to produce the rugs we so enjoy today, something that no copyist can ever manage to do. Because of this, antique rugs and carpets remain without peer. Despite their relative rarity and the cost that rarity dictates, they remain the goal of the discerning buyer who seeks the experience that only a genuinely antique piece can provide.

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