The Carpet Index was expecting to produce a simple reference piece dealing with Calder's woven work, however, the subject appeared to be much larger that at first thought and will therefore now cover three editions of the Index magazine. The topics will be presented as follows: Vol 1 - The Hand Knotted Rugs; Vol 2 - The Tapestries; Vol 3 - The Nicaraguan Manguey Rug Project.
Calder's woven work is a large project that even the Calder Foundation has not attempted before. The volumes should appear over the next few months.
In the meantime, it might be a good idea to introduce the first volume by commenting on one of the three hand knotted rugs produced by Marie Cuttoli derived from a Calder painting. The rug itself was sold in Paris by Piasa on March 29 2009 (Lot 31).
The rug was called Mobile but was also known as Cercle Jaune. It measures 155cm x 200cm and was part of the collection put together in the 1960s by Marie Cuttoli and the Galerie du Pont des Arts. The entire collection toured Europe and North America in the 1960s using museum and art gallery venues like the Galerie Beyeler in Basel and the Charles E Slatkin gallery in New York. The rugs were also available for purchase.
They remained in the Tapis de Maitre catalogue of the Galerie Lucie Weill-Seligman into the 1980s. This particular design seems to have been the last of the three to be produced. It clearly shows the influence of Joan Miro, as do the other rugs produced by Cuttoli.
Cuttoli was a good friend of Calder, and it seems that the original work, from which the rug derives, was purchased by Cuttoli either during her stay in the US in the Second World War, or perhaps later in the 1950s.
The rugs were hand knotted in India and ordered in quantities of one size only. They have no fringes and the name of the artist is woven into the kilim on the underside. The quality of the knotting is fairly coarse which gave the rug a certain amount of rigidity and texture. The standard of the dying is good even though the wool itself is of medium quality.
Very often auction catalogues mention that rugs of this type were produced in limited numbers of between eight to ten. This is often the case with lesser known artists, but someone of Calder's standing and reputation would not have fallen into that category. Calder's work was still shown in the catalogue during the 1990s.
The Parisian art gallery was contacted for details of transactions but unfortunately no archives remain. However, as Calder's work was popular and fairly easy to sell, it can be estimated that as many as forty pieces were woven during the 1960s and 1970s.
Because of their relatively small size, the rugs could be used on the floor or hung as tapestries. This ambiguity between carpet and tapestry was a feature of the woven work of Calder.