5.8.2013, Michael Bischof

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Why learning to judge natural dyes might be important...

Correct dating is an important task for all people, who are engaged with early carpets and kilims. Some even appear to believe it is the most important task. Dealers and collectors tend to evaluate items according to aspects of rarity and age rather than to their inherent artistic quality, which is independant from age and rarity.  

Approaches, that are common with research focussing on European paintings, which are much more valuable objects, do not occur in textile art research. It is upon time.
An art historian, specialized on Dutch Golden Age paintings, tries to study such paintings at first hand in suitable light. Examining such a painting at an art historian research institute, contributed by a private person for a determination of its authenticity, attributed to the 17th century, he got the impression, a kind of vague feeling, that this particular painting would be a later replica. The restaurators there and their partners, specialized on art technology, rejected this “feeling“.

Later he got to know that a minute particle of the paintings blue dye had been taken for a proper analysis.

The result: the blue pigment was Prussian Blue (mentioned first in 1708), a pigment said not to occur in nature (which is ultimately not correct, Annotation 1). Therefore the painting in question could not be dated to the 17th century. Later it was found out that it was a copy of a painting of Frans van Mieris the Elder, the original dating to circa 1660, in the Eremitage.

In other terms: single dye lakes (“pigments“) have a certain recognizeable „face“ for the trained eye, similar to the painting as an entity of its own, whose evaluation and attribution is done following different criteria.
In textile art studies the training of the eyes to be able to jugde dyes is even more indispensible as it is much easier to copy a textile amounting to perfection - restricted to its technical terms excluding the dye qualities. With textiles one does not recognize such things as the individual style of a painter. The element that was variable in time was the art of the dyer and their supplies with different raw materials.

  1. Under certain restricted conditions such a pigment can be formed under natural conditions as well: at the boundary of reduced and oxidized areas from organic materials (vivianit) or when reducing conditions prevail at the boundary of already formed mineral materials (anierit). The problem is: has this theoretically possible solution ever been used in paintings?- In case there is demand I would be able to treat this problem with some more depth. - M.B., 28.8.2013
  2. A recent example: at Rippon & Boswell a so called Tuduc carpet was auctioneered on 29.11.2013. Its design resembles that of Western Anatolian “Lotto” rugs close to a perfect mimicry. It is said that so called experts had big troubles in recognizing such Tuduc fakes for many decades. Who is seriously learning how to judge dyes has trouble to find out where the trouble is. At a first glance one would see that the colour regime of this particular piece (synthetic dyes of the 30s in the 20th century) has nothing to do with the dye lakes and Indigo nuances of real“Lotto” rugs. Therefore after some seconds the diagnosis would be: it is some carpet in the style of “Lotto” rugs. Where it was made? How old is it? Questions that remain open. But a “Lotto” rug is something different.

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