Clark Sickle-Leaf Carpet – The intricately woven carpet of red and blue and green, using its asymmetrical pattern of sickle-shaped leaves and floral profusion, was made by an unknown artist in Persia, for an individual important, probably the shah, in the first half of the 1600s to embellish the dais of his throne.
Later, it fell in to the hands of the dealer in Paris, where a blustery billionaire industrialist-turned-senator from Montana fancied it. William Clark probably hung it for the wall of his Fifth Avenue mansion in New York within the early 1900s. Upon his death in 1925, his will bequeathed the rug, regarding his other art, to the Corcoran Gallery of Art. Highly acclaimed — yet rarely seen except in art books — carpeting spent almost all of the next 88 years in delicate storage.
(Corcoran Gallery of Art) – The Clark Sickle-Leaf Carpet could sell at auction for as much as $7 million, and it is the flashy star of the auction of 25 fine rugs and carpets the Corcoran Gallery of Art is auctioning.
Now the so-called Clark Sickle-Leaf Carpet is valued at $5 million to $7 million, and it is the showy star of 25 fine rugs and carpets how the Corcoran is providing for auction June 5 with Sotheby’s in New York. The auction house calls the Sickle-Leaf “one in the most iconic and important carpets ever to look at auction.”
“It’s a rug that has for ages been revered by carpet people,” said Mary Jo Otsea, senior consultant for rugs and carpets at Sotheby’s. Yet, “It’s one particular beautiful works that really transcends categories.”
The Corcoran is expected to reap a minimum of $6.7 million at auction, the tally in the estimated minimum value in the 25 pieces.
All proceeds will be dedicated to acquiring works that better fit the gallery’s focus on American and contemporary art, said Harry Hopper, chairman of the Corcoran’s board of trustees. The money will never be diverted to operating expenses or other purposes in the financially struggling gallery, said Hopper, citing the Corcoran’s deaccession policy, which adheres to accepted museum standards.
“The deaccession and sale of such carpets will keep alive Sen. Clark’s generous legacy by enabling us to grow our core collections and earn dynamic acquisition choices,” Philip Brookman, chief curator and head of research in the Corcoran, said in the statement.
Clark’s original bequest included 200 paintings and drawings, and numerous other kinds of work, including rugs, a favored acquiring industrialists on the time. The bequest expanded the scope from the Corcoran’s collection so much that his widow and daughters — such as the mysterious Huguette Clark, who died next year — financed the Clark wing to display a fraction of it. But Clark’s omnivorous artistic taste didn’t mesh easily with a coherent museum collection.
The timing with the auction announcement is merely indirectly related for the Corcoran’s ongoing effort to craft an agenda to make institution financially viable, Hopper said. Corcoran trustees are meeting weekly to fulfill a self-imposed deadline of sometime in March to unveil a new vision to the gallery and also the Corcoran College of Art and Design.
“We’re taking a look at everything we can easily do to create the institution more vibrant, inside them for hours funds for brand spanking new works is certainly one element of that,” Hopper said.
The Corcoran, like many museums, often deaccessions redundant or off-topic works, including 15 rugs last year, said Hopper, who noted William Clark’s descendants have supported sales.
The auction will probably be a significant event within the world of rug collectors, especially with the presence with the Clark Sickle-Leaf Carpet, Otsea said. Buyers will probably dial in from the Middle East, Asia, Europe as well as the United States — plus live bidders in New York. That was the situation when Sotheby’s recently sold a 17th-century Persian carpet for almost $2 million, Otsea said.
Other choice rugs available include the Lafoes Carpet (44 feet long), which Clark put around the floor of his painting gallery in their Fifth Avenue mansion; it is worth $800,000 to $1.2 million. A circular Ottoman Cairene carpet that belonged to a Italian duke before Clark acquired it is worth $80,000 to $120,000.
But the Sickle-Leaf surpasses the remaining in value and excellence. It is about 8 feet, 4 inches by 6 feet, 3 inches. The warp is beige cotton along with the weft is red silk. In a 2001 catalogue, Corcoran curator Laura Coyle compared it to “a bird’s eye view of a wooded landscape.”
It is distinguished for the crispness of imagery and vibrancy of colors, Otsea said. The work gained international renown in a seminal 1939 study of Persian art.
With the exception of an few shows, including in 2003 with the Sackler Gallery, the rug has rarely been appreciated in public. The Corcoran displayed it infrequently, partly because it didn’t exactly belong with all the museum’s other work, and in part to protect it.
Otsea referred to it as a career highlight to work with the Sickle-Leaf Carpet. “I’ve been considering carpets for 3 decades, and I’ve loved this carpet for 30 years,” she said.
Those with neither the cash to buy a hair piece, nor a gallery in which to display it, can see the 25 pieces on exhibit starting June 1 at Sotheby’s, 1334 York Ave., New York.