Welcome to Cynthia Shaver Asian Art Appraiser Newsletter February 2020,
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Over the last few weeks I have been working on a charitable contribution appraisal for two textile fragments.
One textile is a Sasanian 5th century silk pearled roundel of two griffins facing one another and the other textile is a Chinese fragment of an animal pile carpet with camel and goat hair and colors of red and blue.
I have to thank the owner of these two textiles, he has allowed me to use my skill set and research these two valuable textiles.
My challenge was to figure out the quality elements of each textile and then to discern the value characteristics of each textile.
Value characteristics of this is Sassanian fifth century textile fragment were age and rarity. The samite fragment was older than most on market and none on market had the royal iconography of the griffin.
I researched auction records, they are public. Then I compared clients fragment with others from the marketplace. The clients textile had three pearled roundels as opposed to partial, one or two, and was one of the oldest. The carbon dating the client had done in Zurich was a surprise, 200-300 years older than thought.
I also looked at images of early samite textiles, none with griffins on market. I found mention of griffins, or more correctly called senmurv in this case, in Friedrich Spuhler’s book Pre-Islamic Carpets and Textiles From Eastern Lands, 2014, of the Al-Sabah Collection, mentioning the motif was not just royal but only for the King. The example most similar was a fragment sold at Christie’s in Oct 6, 2011, Sale 7987, Lot 6. London, fragment consisting of two roundels with Winged Horses. (desirable motif) for $209,000
The second textile, an animal pile carpet, consists of three fragments, rather large in the field of animal carpets from the 3rd-4th century. The published existing examples, such as those shown in the above referenced book by Spuhler, are small.
I have learned the quality elements of early pile carpets are age, size and condition. There is disagreement as to origin of the fragments, N. Afghanistan or Xinjiang, China. The value characteristics are the fragmentary nature, figural drawing present or not and size.
I’m still working on this second property. I find ‘the more I know, the more I know I don’t know’ is a blinking neon sign to me with this assignment. Again, it has used my skill set and I appreciate the trust given to me.