In the 1890 Anti-Semitism reared its ugly head in France.
French intelligence gained evidence of German spying. And evidence was presented that pinned the blame on an Alsatian Jewish Army Captain Louis Dreyfus. The evidence indicated Dreyfus was a possible suspect and he was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment on Devil’s Island. The prison was considered one of the worst in the world. It was a barbaric place on an island in the Îles du Salut islands off the coast of French Guiana.
A Bezalel Carpet from www.metropolitancarpet.com
The fate of one obscure Army Captain would not be of such great consequence except it erupted into a cause célèbre with mobs marching in the streets of Paris crying “Death to the Jews”.
This vicious flare of anti-Semitism moved Theodor Herzl, the Paris correspondent of the Neue Freie Presse (a liberal Vienna newspaper) to publish Der Judenstaat. A Judenstaat or Jewish State could have been almost anywhere. There was discussion of Kenya and later on the Communists created a state in Birobidzhan in Siberia where the Russians created the Jewish Autonomous Oblast of Russia.
But Herzl wanted ancient Israel the Ottoman province of Palestine. The idea of Palestine was not well received as the new Jewish State when Herzl proposed it but Herzl set out to lay the ground work.
With the help of Theodor Herzl, Boris Schatz founded The Bezalel School in 1906.
Schatz saw himself as the father of a new art movement creating a fusion of Jewish art with Middle Eastern and European art. Schatz wanted Painting and Sculpture the bedrock of Fine Art. But Herzl saw Bezalel as his jobs program and insisted on more practical low art including basketry, rug making, silversmithing, leatherwork, woodwork, brass and fabric.
Herzl realized that the Judenstaat had to incorporate a wide range of Jews from the intelligentsia of Europe to simpler folks from around the world. So his plan allowed for the Intelligentsia but still create a home for Jews from places like Yemen or Ethiopia. In fact Yemen was vital for many things. The silver smith course at Bezalel was taught by Yemeni instructors using the same technique used by the Jewish craftsmen in Yemen since the time of the Prophet King Solomon. Even their families were put to work as artists models for the painting and sketching classes.
The Bezalel shop circa 1910. Notice the name in English and in Hebrew
One other point that was important to Herzl and the Zionist movement was language. How could he found a nation/state if everyone spoke their native language? So at Bezalel one mandatory class was Hebrew. One thing that caught my eye over the years is that Bezalel often signed with Hebrew and with English.
The Nazmiyal Bezalel Rug
Jason Nazmiyal has been involved in the Academy of Oriental Rugs since the beginning. He is New York City’s top antique Oriental Rug Dealer and has assembled the best collection of Bezalel rugs of which I know.
Judging by the structure of the rugs it appears that it is likely that Bezalel got its weaving instructors from the greater Hamadan area in Persia. Hamadan is of course Ecbatana of the Old Testament.
First and foremost Bezalel was a school and its students graduated and continued their artistic efforts on their own. Many of the greatest artists in Israel graduated from Bezalel and went on to excel at their craft.
Marvadia Carpet British Palestine carpet 1930
Circa 1930, the center with a Star of David; inscribed ‘Marvadia Jerusalem’ with a camel insignia,
In 1920, a number of designers and weavers from the Bezalel School opened an independent commercial workshop in Jerusalem named Marvadia. Until its closure in 1931, the workshop produced carpets and rugs with Art Nouveau influences, also re-interpreting well-known Oriental carpet patterns and utilising the designs of ancient mosaics with Judaic motifs that had been excavated in the region at the beginning of the 20th century.”
The Marvadia workshop basically took the Bezalel style and then sought inspiration in the ancient art of Jerusalem. They tend to emphasis recognizable motifs to the worldwide Jewish market. For instance the Marvadia Carpet British Palestine 1930 above combines the ancient art of a Jerusalem mosaic with a highly recognizable and marketable motif.
A Marvadia Rug, Jerusalem, The 1920’s
9083. A Marvadia Rug, Jerusalem, The 1920’s Dimensions 80 x 66 cm Provenance: Private collection, Tel Aviv. Literature: Anton Felton, Jewish Carpets, London, 1977, p. 103.
Details: The center depicting the Tower of David, titled in Hebrew: ‘Migdal David’, the border decorated with inscription in Hebrew translated: “If I forget thee O Jerusalem, let my right hand wither. If I do not set Jerusalem above my highest joy” (Psalm 137:5). Signed ‘Marvadia Yerushalem’.
Condition: Good Here in this Marvadia scenic rug above is where they have mixed a recognizable Jerusalem scene as the main element and then added Menorah around the top of the arch, I had to include at least one piece of Bezalel silver. It is one of my goals in life to own an Etrog Box. But also I hope it helps to explain Bezalel. By blending art with crafts Bezalel helped to foster the rebuilding a Jewish Society that in 1948 became the nation/state of Israel.
A PALESTINIAN SILVER ETROG BOX
MARK OF BEZALEL, JERUSALEM, STAMPED IN ENGLISH AND HEBREW, CIRCA 1925
Price Realized: £3,500 ($5,089)
Estimate: £1,500 – £2,000 ($2,300 – $3,000)
Sale Information: SALE 5922 — CHRISTIE’S INTERIORS – STYLE & SPIRIT 24 February 2009 London, South Kensington
Lot Description: A PALESTINIAN SILVER ETROG BOX. MARK OF BEZALEL, JERUSALEM, STAMPED IN ENGLISH AND HEBREW, CIRCA 1925. 4½ in. (11.5 cm.) long 8 oz. (248 gr.)
The major consideration is that these are treasures of historical importance.
Bezalel rugs ceased to be made in 1929 and Marvadia rugs stopped in 1931. I cannot in good conscience use these rugs in particularly high traffic or areas with pets.
In a survey the Academy Of Oriental Rugs sponsored a few years ago, 87% of all rugs brought in for cleaning were a result of primarily pet contamination, urine, feces, vomitus, and blood in that order. So if you cannot control your pets then consider hanging these rugs on a wall.
Still even with great caution these rugs may need care at times.
Preserving the rug should be the primary consideration. Obviously no automated cleaning plants and absolutely no chlorinated Tub washers. Both of these are far too aggressive.
Carpet Cleaners use machines mounted on trucks that we call Truckmounts which should never be used – and even more of a concern Carpet Cleaners normally use chemicals balanced for manmade fibers.
As I write this the youngest Bezalel rug is 87 years old and most are much older. The wool is old, dry, and brittle. An amino acid and keratin wool infusion is well justified. Then when it is cleaned the least aggressive method suitable for the cleaning conditions should be used.
Insects infestation especially moths are a concern. Personally I use and recommend a Magnesium salt treatment that makes the rug inedible to insects. In case of an active infestation of moths I recommend a pyrethrum based cleaner. Pyrethrum is a naturally occurring substance in Chrysanthemum flowers but most products use the synthetic formula. An option for someone seeking to avoid the essence of flowers is to have the rug professionally frozen.
Over time rugs begin to wear out. It is important to have the rug maintained and repaired as needed. A small problem can quickly become an expensive repair if ignored.
Finding the right cleaner can be tough. They all claim to be good.
So years ago the leaders in the study of Oriental Rugs formed the Academy of Oriental Rugs.
Only the very best dealers and cleaners are invited to join. In Canada only one man has been elevated to the top level, Senior Fellow and that man is Dusty Roberts of Luv-A-Rug in Victoria BC. There is no expert anywhere I would trust more than Dusty Roberts.
Everyday we get all kinds of rugs pouring in through our door to be cleaned.
Sometimes they’re little rugs from a bedside.
Or a large Oriental masterpieces you rarely ever see.
Other times they are simple entrance rugs used to catch the soil from our shoes so it doesn’t get tracked all over the house.
But no matter what kind of area rug cleaning is needed we treat all the rugs the same – with great care, respect and love they deserve.
So when we hear people think we give prompt, friendly service – it makes us really happy. Because it means we’re doing our job and no matter how busy we get and all our customers feel they get treated well and never neglected.
The Holy city of Qum is home to almost magical Persian Rugs.
Here is a beautiful Qum 6 Meter Rug I had the chance to appraise in a wonderfully idyllic spot called Nanaimo which is on Vancouver Island up island from Victoria BC and due west from the city of Vancouver BC across Salish Sea.
Qum was a sleepy little town in the early part of the 20th century.
It made nice rugs but not in great numbers and the quality was good but not exceptional. The economic spark-plug of the area was the Hawza ‘Ilmiyya Qom an important Shia seminary. Then Iran went from being a Constitutional Monarchy to a Theocracy. The key difference is that as the Ayatollah Khomeini grew in power so did Qum. 80 years ago it was a town of 80,000 people but after the revolution the population increased to over 1 million people by the 2011 census.
A recent rug from the Master Workshop of Rashtizadeh, “Koomehi” a Silk Qum Rug
Both rugs above are wonderful but if you expand the pictures you will see how much the state of the art has changed in the last 75 years.
One big difference is in the field. The early rug is more subdued. The new rug emphasizes the field pattern as art with no repetition of pattern in the design. This is important. Because there is no repetition of pattern then the whole field is drawn by a master artist in one piece and as such the art to make the rug is far more expensive. Which makes the rug that much more valuable.
As Qum became the second city of Iran in terms of money and power the rugs became more and more elegant and elaborate.
The Hawza ‘Ilmiyya Qom grew from a modest school near the site of the holy and beloved shrine of Fatima Mæ’sume, sister of the great Imam Reza (789–816 AD) to a broad group of maybe 200 interrelated schools. But besides the schools in a theocracy the clergy control the government and the Waqfs (Muslim Charitable trusts) control much of the major banks and businesses. The money flowed into Qum and deeply influenced the rugs of Qum
The economy of Iran created the change in Qum rugs.
When Qum was a small unimportant city they made much simpler rugs. Wool rugs at about 326 knots per square inch were the general rule. During the second half of the twentieth century silk came into wide spread usage.
Then came the revolution.
The new social order enveloped Iran and caused massive changes. Under the Shah the wealth and power were in the hands of a small elite group who controlled the banks and industries. They were forced out of the country and stripped of their tangible assets. These people left Iran in 1979 and into the early eighties. Many of them came out with great wealth but the hard tangible assets stayed.
The Islamic revolution now had control of an economy that they had to maintain.
The Islamic theocracy was based on the Shia understanding of the Koran, the Hadiths, and the Ulema as interpreted by the Ayatollah Khomeini. Islam is founded on the Koran which is said to be divinely inspired and given to Mohammed (PBUH) for the good of mankind. Then the Hadiths are the recorded history of Mohammed’s life. They are comparable in some respect to the Christian New Testament since the Hadiths fills in and clarifies the Koran. Then there are the Ulema. This was the judges and scholars. After the revolution the economic wealth of Iran changed hands. It was almost predictable that control of the wealth shifted from the Shah’s elite to the Shia elite. Once the wealth was handed to the Waqfs much like CEOs of major western corporations the Religious scholars and leaders of Qum suddenly controlled huge wealth.
A great Qum rug seen in a collection in Victoria BC
Before World War II the rugs appealed to a mostly Persian group of connoisseurs. They were more formal than many city rugs but the art was not elegant and well executed as the leading rug cities such as Isfahan and Tabriz.
The rug above is a 1930 to 1940 Silk Qum Rug that came up for sale at Woolley and Wallis almost 20 years ago. It measured 7ft.7in. x 4ft.8in ( 2.31m. x 1.42m). The estimate was £250-350 and the Hammer Price was £440. If this were for sale in a shop today I would not be shocked by $12,543 Cad to $17,560 Cad.
The fantastic increases in price seem unrealistic but they are very real. In the last 4 years I have seen the wholesale price on Qum rugs triple. The market is driven by the Iranians and the rugs sell for more in Iran than in the US or Canada.
A few years ago I got called in as a consultant on a severely damaged older Qum rug.
A homeowner in Southern California threw a party and by the end of the night her Qum rug had a red wine stain. Red wine stains are serious problem but an expert rug washer can do it safely. Unfortunately they took it to the big name old line established rug washer. The old fashioned rug washer used dangerous chemicals and reckless methods and caused $9,000 worth of damage to a rug smaller than four foot by six foot. They caused the blue dye in the field to become unstable and it bled into the silk end finishes and fringe of the rug. Fortunately she was insured and we were able to get her paid.
I saw another case recently where homeowners near New Orleans sent a large Qum rug to a Tub Washer.
These are people who use aggressive methods and dangerous chemicals to wash multiple rugs in a large tank of water that does not get flushed every time it is used. In fact they pride themselves on how little water they use even though many of the rugs are stained with urine, feces, blood, and vomitus. To deal with the sewage and biological hazards in their wash water they ad Swimming Pool Shock in the water.
The homeowner paid $6000 for their rug but as I explained the replacement cost is now $47,000.00 (by the way do you have a current appraisal on each of your rugs?).
I realize that New Orleans is a far distance from Victoria British Columbia but I mention this because a rug washer in Victoria who uses the same aggressive equipment and dangerous methods.
These are a few of the many reasons why in Western Canada I recommend Dusty Roberts at Luv-A-Rug. Dusty has been accepted as a Senior Fellow in the Academy of Oriental Rugs and the ranking member in Canada.
The Academy of Oriental Rugs is by invitation only and we only accept the very best cleaners.
Our cleaners do not use reckless methods and dangerous chemicals. How do I know? I am the Senior of the Academy and if someone does I with throw them out. It has been a number of years since we had to expel a member. After one the rest got the message.
A point worth mentioning is that two of the master repair people at Luv-A-Rug are from Qum.
The great thing about are loose carpet (aka area rugs) is they can last for generations.
That’s why so many end up being bought used either at garage sales or 2nd hand stores. Often the owner has gotten tired of the carpet and just want to get rid of it even though there is nothing wrong with it.
One man’s trash is another man’s treasure as they say.
So when it comes to 2nd hand wool carpets, if you find one that you like it’s usually worth buying. As long as there is nothing structurally wrong with the rug, Luv-A-Rug can clean it up and make it look like you brought it brand new.
Here is what one Luv-A-Rug customer said about her carpet cleaning here in Victoria BC: