Skinner’s December 6 Auction

By Yonathan Bard (forthcoming in the New England Rug Society Newsletter, of which the author is the editor)

A full house of rug aficionados gathered in Skinner’s Boston gallery for its December 6, 1991 auction. With significant help from the constantly humming telephones, they snapped up 70 percent of the 269 offered lots.


At the time of the September auctions I had posted a comment on the discussion board, noting the dearth of interesting Turkoman pieces. This has proven to be a passing condition: For the December sales, Skinner - as well as Sotheby’s and Christie’s - had substantial offerings in this area.

Skinner’s most ambitious entry (lot 119) - a velvety Beshir prayer rug in immaculate condition - failed to sell.

The telephone bidder gave up at $25,000, short of the $30,000-35,000 estimate. Admittedly, the rug was somewhat stiff in design and did not appear to be of great age.

Another Beshir prayer rug of unusual design (lot 118) sold at the lower end of its $7,000-9,000 (all quoted prices exclude the 15% commission.) This one had a coarse texture, but possessed more charm than its pricier mate. A Yomud tree asmalyk with largely intact tassels but mediocre color (lot 45) fetched $2,700 on a $700-900 estimate.


Among other tribal weavings, pride of place was taken by a Shahsavan soumak bagface (lot 106) similar to Wendel Swan’s exquisite exemplar (Atlantic Collections no. 98.)

Lot 106

The Swan Piece

Lot 106 fetched $5,500 on a $2,000-3,000 estimate despite its somewhat damaged condition.


Notable among Caucasian pieces was a Kuba with sunburst design (lot 113) estimated at $3,000-4,000.

It sold for $5,000.

An interesting “eagle’ Karabagh (lot 112) with a horizontal bars between the two medallions as well as at the top and bottom of the field brought $9,000, somewhat below the $10,000-12,000 estimate, and a cute miniature Marasali prayer rug (lot 125, depicted below) sold for $7,500 on a $3,000-3,500 estimate.

Top lots in this category were a double prayer rug of good age (lot 126), estimated at $15,000-18,000 and sold for $16,000, and a yellow-ground Daghestan-style prayer rug (lot 148), estimated at $8,000-10,000 and bringing $13,000.


The only interesting Turkish entry, a colorful Karapinar prayer rug with a series of stepped mihrabs one on top of the other (lot 132), failed to reach its $9,000-10,000 estimate.


There was not much excitement for Baluchophiles; a nice bagface (lot 25) with staggered rows of hooked diamonds sold for $1,200, exceeding the $600-800 estimate.


The honors among decorative carpets went to a sleeper - a rather damaged Bakshaish (lot 89) whose beauties, however, did not escape the notice of sharp-eyed bidders who drove its price up to $18,000, far in excess of the 4,000-6,000 estimate.

Fans of circular rugs made the best of a rare opportunity and bid a Kashan mat (lot 122) up to $850, far above the $100-200 estimate.

As usual, books and magazines performed better than rugs. Of the ten offered lots, six exceeded the top estimates. On the other hand, of 13 non-ruggy textiles, eleven did not even reach the low estimates. Ikat panels performed poorly: did the Goldman exhibition fail to arouse interest in this genre, or did it teach collectors to spurn all but the greatest examples?

The Stats

Some time ago I compiled statistics on the accuracy of estimated prices at rug auctions (see New Boston Rug Society Newsletter, 1/5/94). The data showed that for the period from mid 1992 to the end of 1993, 56% of the Skinner lots failed to sell or sold below the bottom estimate; 26% sold within the estimated range, and 18% sold above the top estimate. Remarkably, the figures for the present sale are 53, 27, and 20%, respectively! The figures for Sotheby’s and Christie’s at the time were also very similar. Did all the estimators graduate from the same school?

You may comment on this review, by e-mailing Yon Bard, or Steve Price.

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