HALI magazine is the leading publication in the world of antique carpets, rugs, textiles and Islamic art. Hali magazine has served the needs of dealers, collectors and art lovers for over 20 years. HALI covers the textile arts of all cultures and periods in an eclectic mixture of articles which range from sumptuously illustrated original scholarly features to lively, provocative reviews.
David Sorgato’s current gallery exhibition in Milan, 16 May-15 June, focuses on Chinese rugs and mats, a topical show given the recent interest for high-quality Chinese material in the market. Among the exhibits is a Ningxia meditation mat of circa 1800, with a lotus design in which some of the fugitive red colour of early Chinese rugs is preserved.
Detail of a Ningxia meditation mat, circa 1800
On the heels of this exhibition, Sorgato will present rugs and textiles from his collection at HALI London. Twenty of the best international dealers will offer a wide range of vintage and antique textile art, from important collectors’ pieces to more affordable decorative objects at the HALI Fair, 27-30 June. You don’t need a ticket to join the HALI Fair at the Mall Galleries. The HALI Fair is open to the public 27-30 June 2019. View HALI Fair opening times.
An exhibition of ikats will take place at the Musée Bargoin in Clermont-Ferrand, France, from 18 May to 22 September, 2019. ‘IKATS, Cloths of life – A journey from the East to the West’ displays ikats produced by many different cultures, from Asia to Europe, from the ethnic groups of Indonesia to France and Spain, including Japan, India and Central Asia.
Detail of a pua kumbu batang limau senaman, Malaysia, Sarawak, Rumah Gare, Iban ethnic group, 2016. Cotton; warp ikat. Ritual fabric.
Displaying a hundred pieces, mostly collected by Monique and Rémy Prin between 1985 and 2018, this exhibition reveals exceptional fabrics that are emblematic of a fascinating craftsmanship of which history and origins have been subjected to many hypotheses. It is about showing the diversity of ikats but also about explaining the evolution of their role and perception within the cultures that created them, from the sacred fabrics related to founding myths to cloth made for mass diffusion in the Western world. Browsing through the history and territories of ikat leads us to understand the position assigned to the textile in cultures around the world and to question its future.
The word ‘ikat’ refers to a dyeing technique that, in order to pattern textiles, employs resist dyeing on the yarns prior to weaving the fabric. This complex process creates, by the crossing of the warp and the weft threads, patterns with a vibrant aspect. Many cultures around the world have generated, through this technique, an aesthetic richness that was often at the heart of their traditions and beliefs.
Drawn from Dallas Museum of Art’s collection and currently on show, ‘Asian Textiles: Art and Trade Along the Silk Road’ has been extended until 18 August 2019. It showcases fine examples of garments and ornamental hangings from India, Central Asia, China, and Japan.
‘Asian Textiles: Art and Trade Along the Silk Road’ highlights the passage of luxury goods along the Silk Road between eastern Asia, India, and other countries including Uzbekistan. This historical trade route led to an interchange of arts and crafts from the Mediterranean to India and the Far East. The garments on show range from a Japanese fireman’s coat to an Indian sari and a Chinese dragon robe.
Detail of a Coat (chapan), early 20th century, silk and cotton, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Sally R. and William C. Estes, 2005.70
Detail of a commemorative hanging, mid 19th century, silk, metal wrapped yarns, Dallas Museum of Art, anonymous gift in honor of Joe B. Blakey, 1982.78
Detail of a short coat: dragons and auspicious symbols, late 19th century, silk and metal-wrapped yarn, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Betty Ann Walter and Ruth Walter Benedict in memory of Ethyl Walter and Gladys Walter, 1993.70
Detail of a sleeved garment, 1930–1950, cotton, silk, satin, Dallas Museum of Art, lent by Carolyn Williams Marks, Harriet Williams Peavy, and Suzanne Williams Nash, 18.2011.18
Also on display are masterworks of Islamic art from the Keir Collection, currently on long-term loan to the Dallas Museum of Art. Ranking among the finest private collections of Islamic art in the world, the collection includes important textiles and carpets. A new rotation of Keir Collection pieces was installed on 30 March 2019. On view now are the earliest known surviving medieval playing cards, a selection of works with representations of dragons and phoenixes, and a section of drawings of dervishes from Iran. There is also a section on Qur’an manuscripts that focuses on patronage, calligraphy and the layout of the qur’anic text, alongside a selection of rare Iranian carpet fragments, and a new display of Safavid-era ceramics from Iran.
Every four months, the Keir Collection presentation is refreshed with a new selection of rare manuscripts, book paintings, textiles, carpets, and other organic materials.
Detail of a quilt (kantha): tree of life, c. 1910–1920, cotton, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Alta Brenner in memory of her daughter Andrea Bernice Brenner-McMullen, 1996.177
‘JAPON & JOUY / Dialogues between Sarasa and Indiennes’ at the Musée de la Toile de Jouy—an exhibition of Japanese textiles belonging to the private collection of Ana Berger—has been extended until 19 May 2019. The final guided tour of the exhibition will take place on Saturday 18 May at 8pm, then the show will be formally concluded on Sunday 19 May with ‘Textiles of Japan’ at 2.30 pm: a talk by the collector exploring the richness of diversity on display.
Detail of Kimono, Katazome on Basho, Meiji. JAPON & JOUY / Dialogues between Sarasa and Indiennes. Musée de la Toile de Jouy.
Detail of Sodenashi with Tsutsugaki patterns, Meiji. JAPON & JOUY / Dialogues between Sarasa and Indiennes. Musée de la Toile de Jouy.
Detail of Japanese sarasa with hollandese peopel and animals. JAPON & JOUY / Dialogues between Sarasa and Indiennes. Musée de la Toile de Jouy.
Detail of Jinbaori Edo on Furoshiki and Futon Tetxie, Edo & Meiji, Katazome on Cotton. JAPON & JOUY / Dialogues between Sarasa and Indiennes. Musée de la Toile de Jouy.
Detail of Kimono Aïgata, Okinawa, Edo. JAPON & JOUY / Dialogues between Sarasa and Indiennes. Musée de la Toile de Jouy.
Detail of Kimono for Bon Odori, in Tsutsugaki, Tsushima island, Meiji. JAPON & JOUY / Dialogues between Sarasa and Indiennes. Musée de la Toile de Jouy.
Detail of textile with Iris from Jouy. JAPON & JOUY / Dialogues between Sarasa and Indiennes. Musée de la Toile de Jouy.
Detail of Textiles for Kimono or Obi, Edo, Meiji and Taisho. Cotton and Hemp. JAPON & JOUY / Dialogues between Sarasa and Indiennes. Musée de la Toile de Jouy.
Detail of Tsutsugaki on Sodenashi, Meiji & Edokomon on Silk Kimono. JAPON & JOUY / Dialogues between Sarasa and Indiennes. Musée de la Toile de Jouy.
Detail of Yogi in Hemp with Katazome pattern, Meiji. JAPON & JOUY / Dialogues between Sarasa and Indiennes. Musée de la Toile de Jouy.
On Saturday 11 May 2019, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) will present a one-day symposium exploring Central Asian ikat textiles, the evolution of pattern design within a cultural context, and its production from the 19th-century through to the present day. The Seventh R.L. Shep Triennial Symposium on Textiles and Dress will be held in conjunction with the exhibition ‘Power of Pattern: Central Asian Ikats from the David and Elizabeth Reisbord Collection’, on view in the Resnick Pavilion at LACMA until 11 August 2019.
‘Power of Pattern: Central Asian Ikats from the David and Elizabeth Reisbord Collection’, on display at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art until 28 July 2019.
Lecture titles and speakers at the Seventh R.L. Shep Triennial Symposium on Textiles and Dress will include: ‘All of a Piece: Ikat and the Central Asian Aesthetic,’ Andrew Hale, Director of Anahita Gallery; ‘Beauty and Purpose: Central Asian Ikat Garments,’ Sumru Belger Krody, Senior Curator of The Textile Museum; ‘Ikat and Politics, Ikat and Creativity: Uzbek Textiles in the Soviet and Post-Soviet Periods,’ Irina Bogoslovskaya, Independent Scholar (Samarkand and Tashkent, Uzbekistan); and ‘Wearing the World: A Look Inside Central Asian Ikat Robes’, Annie Carlano, Senior Curator of Craft, Design, and Fashion at The Mint Museum. Also participating will be David Reisbord, in conversation with Clarissa M. Esguerra, LACMA’s Associate Curator of Costume and Textiles, on the subject of ‘A Collector’s Eye’.
Silk ikat garments and hangings in ‘Power of Pattern: Central Asian Ikats from the David and Elizabeth Reisbord Collection’, on display at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art until 28 July 2019.
‘Power of Pattern’ features more than 60 Central Asian silk ikat robes and panels drawn exclusively from a visually dynamic collection that has just been generously gifted to LACMA. The donors are local textile collectors David and Elizabeth Reisbord, who are a familiar sight at many a textile art event, resplendently clad in ikat coats and robes from their fine collection. Curated by LACMA’s associate curator of costume and textiles Clarissa M. Esguerra, the display is organised by motif and examines how, in the 19th and early 20th-centuries, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan’s urban and village designers, dyers and weavers used improvisation and abstraction to create their characteristic colourful, eye-dazzling textiles.
Silk ikat garments and hangings in ‘Power of Pattern: Central Asian Ikats from the David and Elizabeth Reisbord Collection’, on display at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art until 28 July 2019.
Members of a migrant-volunteer programme in Oxford are behind a new display of textiles at the Pitt Rivers Museum. ‘Multaka: Connecting Threads’, which launched on Friday 5 April 2019, has been co-curated by a team of volunteers with Multaka-Oxford a two-year project, pioneered in Berlin, in which the Pitt Rivers Museum and the History of Science Museum are partnering with local community organisations to create volunteering opportunities for forced migrants.
Museum staff work with volunteers on mounting the textiles for the final display. Photograph by Ian Wallman.
Dr Jenny Balfour-Paul–a collector of worldwide textiles and a renowned expert in indigo dye–donated a collection of textiles from the Middle East and North Africa to the museum, which by a lucky confluence was used to seek the grant that has enabled the Multaka project to take place. A small selection of Jenny’s collection is currently on show at the exhibition, and there may be a bigger exhibition of her collection in future. Don’t miss out on a talk by Jenny at HALI London on 28 June 2019.
Volunteer Hussein and curator Andrew work on mounting a silk scarf from Damascus. Photograph by Ian Wallman.
The five volunteers have been working with museum collections and exhibitions staff to research the collection and offer new perspectives using personal stories and observations.
Volunteer Nav lays out a dress from Saraqib in Syria. Photograph by Ian Wallman.
The display comprises textiles from the collection, supplemented with personal items and photos. A series of captions provide personal insights into the objects and narrate the personal histories of the volunteers. The different narratives serve to bring new perspectives to the collection and reveal the common threads that link us all.
Volunteer Nav lays out a dress from Saraqib in Syria. Photograph by Ian Wallman.
For the volunteers, the opportunity to co-curate the display has enabled them to share their perspectives, expertise and memories as well as learn new skills. Hussein Ahmed, who worked in a textile factory in Syria to pay for his law studies, provided a photo of himself as an embroidery machinist to help illustrate the embroidery on a dress from Saraqib in Syria, which forms the centrepiece of the display.
A silk scarf from Damascus lent by volunteer Niran Altahhan. Photograph by Ian Wallman.
The ‘Multaka: Connecting Threads’ display runs in the Lower Gallery of the Pitt Rivers Museum until 30 September 2019. Visit as part of the HALI Tour, ‘Great British Collections’, 30 June – 7 July 2019.
Volunteers Niran and Hussein look at a scarf from Damascus owned by Niran. Photograph by Ian Wallman.
HALI contributor, Dr Susan Scollay has curated a study series outlining the importance of textiles in the ancient world at The Johnston Collection Museum in Melbourne. An art historian with special expertise and experience in a wide range of historic textiles, Dr Susan Scollay is the main lecturer for the lecture series which starts in April 2019, and will continue in 2020.
Key stages in the history of textiles in both western and non-western societies will be the focus. The evolution of various weaving and decorative techniques which underpin the appearance of cloth and clothing, as well as the social and economic impact of textiles and their role in international trade and artistic exchange, will be discussed.
If this is not enough to whet your appetite, HALI magazine is on the lecture reading list and our HALI 200, summer 2019 will be a raffle prize!
If you would like to attend the ‘Fabricating the world’ study series, we advise booking your space as soon as possible to avoid disappointment as some of the lectures are already sold out.
Fabricating the world | Ancient textiles and the evolution of technique with Susan Scollay
Wednesday 3 April 2019, 10:00 AM – 11:30 AM
Woven cloth is arguably mankind’s most significant product of human workmanship. This lecture traces the evolution of the earliest textiles, made from plants about 28,000 years ago to the development of looms, animal fibres, tapestry making, embroidery and dyes. Recent advances in archaeology have produced evidence in Peru of one of the oldest known cotton textiles, more than 6,000 years old. While in southern China, there is evidence of looms, more than 2,000 years old, used to produce the patterned silks once traded along the Silk Roads from China to the eastern Mediterranean.
Fabricating the world | Mary spins the scarlet and purple: Textiles in in Biblical Texts and Greek Mythology with Natasha Amendola
Wednesday 10 April 2019 | 10.00-11.30 am
In this lecture Natasha Amendola will demonstrate the ongoing influence of at least one 2nd century text on the representation of the Virgin Mary as a spinner. Although not common in the West, Mary is frequently shown with a drop spindle when visited by the Archangel Gabriel at the Annunciation in Eastern Orthodox images. Despite being decreed as Apocryphal and therefore supplementary to religious needs in the 6th century, second-century texts maintained an important and ongoing influence on the reception of the Virgin Mary.
Fabricating the world | Coptic textiles and flat weaves of the east with Susan Scollay
Wednesday 17 April 2019, 10:00 AM – 11:30 AM
Detail of a Coptic Textile, 6th century AD, Egypt, Google Art Project, Wikimedia Common.
One of the most fascinating groups of ancient textiles available for study by modern-day scholars, are the tapestry-woven fragments of the Coptic Period in Egypt, from the late 3rd to the mid 7th centuries. This era–after the Pharaohs and before the Muslim rulers–saw an explosion of figurative designs and portraits, characterised by the intense gaze and large eyes of those represented. At the same time, non-Christian weavers in Egypt were linked to their Mediterranean and near-Eastern neighbours in their production of colourful and highly decorative flat-woven covers and rugs.
Fabricating the world |Tapestries from France and Flanders | From Medieval to Modern with Cresside Collette
Wednesday 7 August 2019 | 10.00-11.30 am
Ateliers de la Marche, detail from Millefleurs à la Licorne , Aubusson region, France, 15th century (Thought to be the first woven unicorn).
In this illustrated lecture Cresside Collette will explore the history of tapestry weaving in these European centres over the centuries, and discuss the major suites of tapestries such as the 14th century ‘Apocalypse of Angers’ and the 15th century ‘Lady and the Unicorn’ that exist to this day. With attention to both history and technique, she will demonstrate the ways in which technical and visual convention has both informed recent developments in French tapestry weaving and enabled the recent emergence of new and innovative style and content.
Fabricating the world | The invasion of colour: Textiles in Early Modern Europe with Susan Scollay
Living in the 21st century, we choose our clothing and soft furnishings from a variety of colourful fabrics, enabled by 19th century advances in synthetic dyes and man-made fibres. Until then, cloth was coloured with natural dyes and, until the 16th century, most Europeans wore clothing in muted shades of grey, brown and blue. Brighter colours were expensive to produce and even then, luxurious black remained a favoured hue. Expansion of the global sea trade in the second half of the 16th century brought about an explosion of colour in the worldwide production of textiles and figures such as Henry VIII and his Tudor court assisted in promoting the new fashion.
Fabricating the world | Lace: a textile that conceals and reveals with Margot Yeomans
Wednesday 21 Aug 2019 | 10.00-11.30 am
Detail of lace-maker with armour, Pieter Jacobsz Duyfhuijsen (Dutch, 1608–1677), The Netherlands, circa 1675, oil on panel, 0.34 x 0.26 m, Private Collection, image courtesy of Sotheby’s, London, 1995.
The history of lace-making goes back more than four hundred years. At its height of popularity in the 17th century, it was a commodity of enormous value, coveted by both men and women. As many paintings of the 17th century attest, lace-makers were a favourite subject for artists. Most of the young women in these paintings are anonymous, but each painting can tell a story that conceals or reveals the life the young lace-maker may have led. In this talk Margot Yeomans will discuss the history of lace and the lives of the young women who made it.
Object Lessons | William Johnston: His Residence & Collection exhibition-house tour
18 February – 25 June 2019
On display at Object Lessons is this mid-19th century chair with a frame made of stag’s antlers, and arm terminals of gilt brass lion heads. One of the several pieces that William Johnston purchased from the Maharaja of Cossimbazar.
Known for many centuries as the source of fine cotton and silk textiles, India has produced some of the world’s most innovative textile traditions. Currently on show at The Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell University, ‘Traded Treasure: Indian Textiles for Global Markets’ spans five hundred years of the history of India’s thriving commerce to Southeast Asia, Europe and Japan, revealing why Indian textiles were in demand the world over. Drawn from the collection of Banoo and Jeevak Parpia, the exhibition and catalogue are accompanied by a symposium at the museum on 19 April 2019.
Maa’ ceremonial cloth with design of trees (detail), Possibly 17th century, India, Gujarat, made for the eastern Indonesian market (Toraja). Cotton (plain weave), hand-painted mordant-dyed and resist-dyed, 1.40 x 2.08 m. Collection of Banoo and Jeevak Parpia
Some of the earliest surviving Indian textiles are printed and painted cotton fragments found in Indonesia. Along with silk double-ikat patola, these were used for ceremonial purposes and treasured in Indonesia as heirlooms. The maritime trade that relied on supplying Indian textiles to Southeast Asian markets in exchange for spices was first conducted by Arab, Persian, and Indian merchants but was later dominated by Portuguese, Dutch, and British traders, which expanded the demand for Indian chintz and embroideries in Asia and Europe.
Fragment of a maa’ with design of women holding parrots and flowers (detail). India, Gujarat, made for the eastern Indonesian market (Toraja), 16th century. Cotton (plain weave), hand-painted mordant-dyed and resist-dyed, 0.96 x 1.30 m. Collection of Banoo and Jeevak Parpia.
The textiles presented tell a story of global commerce and the ingenious ways that Indian artisans designed and produced goods of astonishing beauty and technical sophistication, while also revealing how cross-cultural interchange contributed to global aesthetic developments.
Maa’ ceremonial cloth (detail), India, Gujarat, made for the eastern Indonesian market (Toraja), 17th or 18th century. Cotton (plain weave), block-printed mordant-dyed; block-printed and hand-painted resist-dyed, 2.44 x 1.32 m. Collection of Banoo and Jeevak Parpia.
The exhibition was curated by the Johnson Museum’s chief curator and curator of Asian Art, Ellen Avril, and is supported by a generous gift endowed in memory of Elizabeth Miller Francis. A fully illustrated forthcoming catalogue, with essays by leading experts Ruth Barnes, Kaja McGowan, and Sylvia Houghteling, elucidates the history of the Indian textile trade.
Patola with geometric design (detail), 18th century, India, Gujarat, made for the Indonesian market. Silk, double-ikat, resist-dyed, 2.21 x 0.89 m. Collection of Banoo and Jeevak Parpia.
On Friday 19 April the Johnson will host a daylong symposium that will explore the use of Indian textiles in Southeast Asia, the ingenious ways that Indian artisans designed and produced cloths of astonishing beauty and technical sophistication, and how cross-cultural interchange through trade contributed to global aesthetic developments.
Patolu with design of four large elephants (detail), 19th century or earlier, India, Gujarat, made for the Indonesian market. Silk, double-ikat, resist-dyed, 1.02 x 3.95 m. Collection of Banoo and Jeevak Parpia.
Presentations will be delivered by Ruth Barnes, the Thomas Jaffe Curator of Indo-Pacific Art, Yale University Art Gallery; Kaja McGowan, Associate Professor, Department of the History of Art and Visual Studies, Cornell University; Cynthia Cort, independent textile historian and retired librarian, Denison University; Alexandra Dalferro, PhD student, Socio-Cultural Anthropology, Cornell University; and Sylvia Houghteling, Assistant Professor of the History of Art, Bryn Mawr College; with moderators Nancy Um (Professor and Chair, Art History, Binghamton University) and Durba Ghosh (Professor, Department of History, Cornell University).
Registration is free; contact Elizabeth Saggese at firstname.lastname@example.org or 607 254-4642 to reserve a space by Friday, April 12.
Patolu ceremonial cloth with design of tigers (detail), 19th century, India, Gujarat, made for the Indonesian market. Silk, double-ikat, resist-dyed, 0.78 x 1.47 m. Collection of Banoo and Jeevak Parpia.
Half of a canopy or wrapping cloth (detail), 15th to 17th century, India, Deccan, made for the Indonesian market. Fine hand-spun cotton (plain weave), hand-painted mordant-dyed and resist-dyed, with hand-applied dye, 0.93 x 2.57 m. Collection of Banoo and Jeevak Parpia.
(Java) Canopy or ceremonial hanging with patchwork design (detail), 18th century, India, Coromandel Coast, made for the Indonesian market. Cotton (plain weave), hand-painted mordant-dyed and resist-dyed, with hand-applied dyes, 2.14 x 3.76 m. Collection of Banoo and Jeevak Parpia.
Dodot ceremonial skirt cloth (detail), 18th or 19th century, India, Coromandel Coast, made for the Indonesian market. Cotton (plain weave), hand-painted mordant-dyed and resist-dyed, 3.01 x 2.03 m. Collection of Banoo and Jeevak Parpia.
Maa’ ceremonial cloth with battle scene from the Ramayana (detail), 18th century, India, Coromandel Coast, made for the Indonesian market. Cotton, hand-painted mordant-dyed, with hand-applied dye, 0.98 x 4.49 m. Collection of Banoo and Jeevak Parpia.
Fragment of a chintz palampore (detail), late 17th or early 18th century, India, Coromandel Coast, made for the European market. Cotton (plain weave), hand-painted mordant-dyed and resist-dyed, and with hand-applied dyes, 1.19 x 0.75 m. Collection of Banoo and Jeevak Parpia.
Fragment of a Pha nung skirt cloth with design of celestial worshippers (detail), 18th century, India, Coromandel Coast, made for the Thai market. Cotton (plain weave), hand-painted mordant-dyed and resist-dyed, 0.50 x 0.98 m. Collection of Banoo and Jeevak Parpia.
Visiting Anglo-Canadian collector Bob Bell at his home in the Cotswolds, Aaron Nejad finds a passionate, experienced and well-informed man who lives surrounded by an eclectic array of rugs, and who, despite the demands of a busy professional career, always finds time to enjoy and share. There will be an opportunity to see select pieces from Bell’s collection at HALI London. Limited places are available for the Special Guests: Show and Tell on Friday 28 June. Be sure to book your place on HALI London Events of your choice by adding them as ‘Additional Items’ on the Eventbrite booking form. The following is an abridged article from HALI 199 – coming soon!
Baluch namazlik prayer rug with the so-called ‘scorpion boteh tree of life’ design (detail), Timuri tribe, Yacoub Khani sub tribe, northwest Afghanistan, late 19th century. Note the unusual centipedes flanking the botehs towards the bottom of the base of the tree. 0.85 x 1.68 m (2′ 9″ x 5′ 6″)
One of the most enduring myths around the antique carpet community is that there is a distinction between collecting and decorating, that collecting requires knowledge and connoisseurship whereas decorating requires taste and style. But nestled in the Cotswolds there is a household which has managed to combine these skills.
Arabachi Turkmen chuval (detail), Turkmenistan, second half 19th century. 0.70 x 1.43 m ( 2′ 4″ x 4′ 8″)
Robert (‘Bob’) Bell and his wife Patty have been collecting and decorating their homes for over 40 years. He is a familiar figure on the rug scene across North America, Europe and the Middle East, known for his passionate appreciation of rugs and textiles, and his very large and eclectic collection of items stretching from Europe to East Asia. Rugs have always been a part of his life.
Very fine Farahan silk pushti (detail), central west Persia, mid 19th century. 0.46 x 0.53 m (1′ 6″ x 1′ 9″)
Bob Bell was born in Lebanon to a British-Jewish father and a Lebanese mother. He recalls that as a child growing up in Lebanon and Canada, many rugs were scattered around the home, including an old Baluch rug which lay on his bedroom floor and which he still owns. He bought his first rug around the age of 30 and has collected consistently ever since. He trained as an engineer and as his career developed he travelled extensively. In 1973, he married Canadian-born Patty, and in 1981 they moved to London where Bob became vice president of a company involved in hospital planning, development and construction in the UK, Europe and worldwide. They lived in Holland Park until 1985 after which they returned to Toronto. By that time, according to Bell, he had become a ‘rug collector’. Back in Canada, he became increasingly involved in the rug collecting community, and was elected President of the Oriental Rug Society in Canada between 1998 and 2004.
Baluch ruzini (saddle cover) (detail), Salar Khani tribe, Khorasan province, northeast Persia, last quarter 19th century. 0.66 x 1.22 m (2′ 2″ x 4′ 0″). Published by Brian MacDonald in Tribal Rugs, Treasures of the Black Tent, 2010, p.128
Bell household guest bedroom: on the wall, Yomut Turkmen 12-gül torba, Turkmenistan, 19th century, 0.43 x 1.22 m (1′ 5″ x 4′ 0″); on the bed, Yomut Turkmen pentagonal ‘tree’ asmalyk, Turkmenistan, 19th century, 0.79 x 1.13 m (2′ 8″ x 3′ 8″)
Arriving at the house in Broadway, I could tell immediately that I was in for a feast of rug and textile art. There were beautiful pieces everywhere, on the floors and walls, over the banisters, on furniture. During coffee, I admired a fine and extremely elegant early 20th-century Central Persian carpet with a ‘Shah Abbas’ design on the floor. My eye kept roving but came back to an exquisite silk Farahan pushti with a wonderful aquamarine field, truly a woven gem, draped over the back of a chair. The handle was fine and supple, with a texture like velvet. Above it hung a beautiful late 19th-century Melas rug, one of the few Anatolian pieces in the collection. It augured well for the rest of the day. I was given the tour of the rest of the house. I liked a dated white-ground Shirvan prayer rug which took pride of place on the wall in the dining room, and as we wandered from room to room, I would catch a glimpse of a little gem, such as a Turkmen bagface or Persian pushti, lying tastefully on a cabinet or side table. Bell is an affable and charming host, and was clearly enjoying presenting his pieces and discussing them. There was often a story associated with how a piece was acquired.
Baluch double-sided chanteh (detail), Khorasan province, northeast Persia, late 19th century. 0.25 x 0.48 m (10″ x 1′ 5″)
Sehna horse saddle rug, west Persia, 19th century. 1.04 x 1.07 m (3′ 5″ x 3′ 6″)
Why and how did Bell mutate into a collector? He talked about his early days in Canada where he became close to rug dealers such as Yeremian and Aliman. He educated himself, and also travelled to London regularly for work, where he came into contact with the likes of Raymond Bernadout, Julian Homer, David Black and Clive Loveless who were actively developing the appreciation of tribal rugs and textiles through exhibitions. At the time his main interest was in Persian tribal weavings, especially Baluch and southwest Persian rugs and bags, Turkmen weavings, and of course fine Persian pushtis.
Large Baluch bag face with central ‘snowflake’ medallion and silk highlights, Khorasan province, northeast Persia, late 19th century. 0.92 x 0.97 m (3′ 0″ x 3′ 2″)
Bell is extremely engaging and has many opinions about origins and dating, but is generally conservative in his dating, and rarely didactic. When he expresses an opinion, it is spoken with authority and based on sound understanding. This is particularly the case with his exquisite collection of silk embroidered purses and slippers from Lebanon, many of which were found on his regular overseas trips. He is fluent in both Arabic and French, which came in useful during these adventures, and discovered the precise locations where these items had been woven, namely the workshops of Zouk Mikael, Mount Lebanon. He even knew the actual silk factory in a small village called Bsous where there is now a private silk museum. These items would then be sent to the markets in Istanbul and Aleppo for finishing.
Uncut embroidery for slippers, Ottoman era, Zouk Mikael silk looms, Mount Lebanon, late 19th century. 27 x 30.5 cm (11″ x 12″)
Double-sided silk purse, Mount Lebanon, Ottoman era, late 19th century. 12.5 x 14 cm (5″ x 6″). Inscribed Jabal Lubnan (Mount Lebanon) in Arabic script
Although passionate about many pieces, it is clear that the process of collecting—searching, discussing, comparing, negotiating and finally acquiring an item—excites him. Asked which are his favourites, he is reluctant to commit. There are so many good pieces to choose from. But the items hanging in his study are perhaps a clue to the ones he prizes most. There is an early white-ground Qashqa’i bagface with archaic drawing and a highly unusual border behind his desk,as well as a beautiful fine Sehna saddle cover with two ‘Lions and Suns’, the national emblem during the Qajar period, and a symbol of Iranian identity. I admired a smart pair of 19th-century Baluch ‘Bird’ bags, but the room is dominated by an extremely rare and striking early 20th-century Baluch piled saddle rug, which he attributes to the Salar Khani.
Karadashli (Yomut ) Turkmen torba or chuval, Turkmenistan, early 19th century. 0.46 x 0.89 m (1′ 6″..
Historic textile mills and grand buildings are testament to Manchester’s might during the industrial revolution, and one of the most important collections of antique textiles in Britain can be found at The Whitworth Museum. A special exhibition of ancient Andean textiles will be on show at The Whitworth from 29 March-15 September 2019.
Tunic (Cushma) (detail), Wari culture, Southern Andes, alpaca wool, c800 AD, 2.51 x 1.55 m. Paul Hughes Collection
‘Ancient Textiles from the Andes’ presents a rare opportunity to see a large number of outstanding Andean textiles in the UK. Through a major loan from the collector Paul Hughes, alongside pieces from The Whitworth, textiles from circa 300 BC to circa 1400 AD will be on display. As well as celebrating achievements in textile technique and design, this show explores the complexities of their transition from local ritual to a wider international stage. Vitally, acknowledging the human origins of these objects (from tombs and often from bodies themselves) they are part of a programme of debate about ethics, how objects are contextualised and the impact of conservation on how we understand them.