Material culture rolls out beautiful carpet discs


First Central Anatolian kilim, 17th or 18th century, sold for the incredible sum of $187,500 ($10/20,000).

Review by ZG Burnett, Photos courtesy of Material Culture

PHILADELPHIA — On June 26, Material Culture held an auction of fine rugs, kilims and textiles, featuring the collection of Jack Cassin, who died in 2021. An expert in the field of Oriental rugs, Cassin wrote several books on the subject, especially Image, Idol, Symbol; Ancient Anatolian Kilims (1989). The rare two-volume set focuses on nine carpet plates from Cassin’s personal collection, which he never sold during his lifetime. Seven of these nine copies were offered in this sale.

Cassin’s notoriety in the field and the superior quality of the land guaranteed interest; bidders came from Italy and Turkey, and there was phone activity from Switzerland, Germany and France, among other US and international bidders. “[Fine carpets are] a small world; there was a lot of attention from rug collectors,” said George Jevremovic, founder and senior auctioneer of Material Culture. “Social media sites were all lit before and after.” The sale had impressive results and even broke a few records, reaching a total of $1.3 million.

The first four batches were kilims, which are distinguished from other rugs by their flat, pileless tapestry weave, and originated in the Anatolia region of Turkey. They are made by interweaving different colors of wefts and warps, often woven with the split weave technique to create intricate geometric patterns. Each of the kilims far exceeded their estimates, which were all $10/20,000 and offered without reserve. In 2018, a kilim sold for $49,232 (converted to euros), which was an international record for rugs of this type, and many lots from this sale multiplied that price.

Moving to the northwest of Turkey, the next kilim was an 18th century example from Balıkesir, located in the Marmara region. Also late from the Cassin collection, it was plate 3 of his book, Image, idol, symbol. The kilim sold for $87,500.

The highest price was achieved by an antique Central Anatolian kilim from the 17th or 18th century which stunned at $187,500 and set a new record for a kilim. The rug is shown as plate 5 in Cassin’s Image, idol, symbol. Kilims like this and others offered for sale a “deeply rooted tradition in Turkey, even more so than rugs,” Jevremovic said. “Their designs represent archetypal, spiritual or even pagan beliefs that date back thousands of years, even to rock drawings. People who study kilims look for the purest examples combined with age. This and kilims that have followed were the definition of the two attributes.

A carpet fragment from Central Anatolia of the same age as the previous lot followed in the highest prices, but it came from the city of Konya. Unlike kilims, this fragment had a wool pile as well as a warp and weft; it reached $64,000.

Also from the Cassin collection was an early 19th century Shahsevan Transcaucasus double satchel, or khorjin, bagface which sold for $36,250. The face features a sumac or soumak weave, which resembles the flat weave of a kilim but thicker, with a smooth front face and a shaggy reverse.

The last of the best lots, this time from the Leigh Marsh collection, was another Shahsevan tribe khorjin bag face, dating from the early to mid-19th century. The central geometric design is similar to many examples from this period. This khorjin bag face carried $32,000; this and the other saddle bag face from the sale are believed to be among the highest prices paid for bag faces at auction.

Prices shown include the buyer’s premium as reported by the auction house. Material Culture’s live auction from the showroom, The World Is Flat; A Kilim By Any Name will take place on August 11. For more information, www.materialculture.com or 215-438-4700.

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