Sunday, 10 May 2009

A Ruhlmann or Follot Carpet. The Problem With 'False Friend' Rugs

Very often in the study of art and design, it is tempting to classify the works of an artist, a workshop or a designer, by it's style. In carpet design, this can be attempted, but with regard to the specific Art Deco period, the classification of rugs by style quickly shows the limit of this type of classification. The reason being, that many designers produced carpets in relation to the market trends and individual consumers wishes and demands. A designer could also be inspired by another's work, or carpets would sometimes appear with similar design work even though produced by different artists, because they were produced in the 'spirit of the time'.

This was a common and accepted practice and many artists were involved. The result being that today it is often hard to attribute a rug with a specific artist as they have often lost or never had their label, signature, monogram, invoice or certificate. This makes it extremely difficult and time consuming to trace the origin of the rug.

I call these types of rug 'Faux Amis' (False Friends). The rugs belonging to this group are not copies, but are original pieces in which elements of the composition, the colours, or the patterns are borrowed, or recall the style of another designer.

Sometimes you are able to find documentation that will help to identify the rug. That is the case with the small black and white advertisement illustrated below.

Paul Follot carpet, Decor d'Aujourd'hui, 1937. The Carpet Index Library

The design with 'worms' or vermicular motifs, in the centre of a circular rug recall the style of Ruhlmann. The general composition, with a large multi-linear border could also confirm this statement. Ruhlmann Atelier's carpets were generally woven in Aubusson by Braquenie until 1933, which was the year of Ruhlmann's death. This particular carpet is dated 1920 and reproduced in colour on p55 of Susan Day's book Art Deco and Modernist Carpets, which is by far the best available on the subject and my personal bedside book!

However, the advertisement shown here attributes the rug to Paul Follot and states that it was produced by Tapis France-Orient in the Zaret workshop, in the suburbs of Paris. It also states that the carpet was exhibited at the 1937 International Show and made for the office of the U.C.A.F chairman. The advertisement was published in an issue of Decor d'Aujourd'hui magazine of 1937 (No. 24) and also in two issues from 1938 (No. 27 and 28).

However, in this period Paul Follot was no longer working for Pomone of the Bon Marche and had lost much of his influence due to the creation of the U.A.M association, which had sponsored a completely new direction for the decorative arts since the beginning of the 1930s. The manufacturer mentioned in the advertisement is almost unknown.

From this, you can perhaps understand why a carpet documentalist's profession can drive them crazy ... sometimes.

Post written by Jean Manuel de Noronha

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My name is Jeremy Clive and I have been working within the carpet industry for the last 48 years. I personally had an interest in both of the Francis Bacon Carpets as they had been authenticated and are both rare pieces of works from the late great designer. In relation to your comment involving the carpets being withdrawn, I feel that it would have been unethical for the owner of the carpets to have left the lots within the auction without a reserve. Evidently taking into account how exceptional theses works are, I would reason in saying that they are priceless..