I always enjoy a good research project. The Leger rug has become this summer's mission. My first stop was Ward's Oriental Rugs in Allentown, PA. I am always concerned about pieces I bring into my home and having this professionally cleaned was at the top of my list. I also wanted to talk restoration.
My family did not have heirloom rugs so care and maintenance was not something I was familiar with. I am skilled enough in textiles to recognize the moth damage and know that a textile such as this needs regular maintenance and care to survive generations. The first thing I learned about care is regular vacuuming is essential to keeping your wool carpets from degrading. Embedded dirt wrecks the fibers. Also on the agenda should be regular washing by a professional rug cleaner. In low traffic areas, this should be done every 3 years. A rug in a high traffic zone can be done yearly.
Moths are attracted to dirty wool. Rolling up a rug to store that is not clean is pretty much an invitation for moth activity. They move in and work quickly at ruining woolens. The larvae actually eat the knots so the piling just falls right out. But most modern rugs like my wall to wall modern carpets, are not something they would go for....that was a relief to hear! I learned that freezing the rug will actually explode the moth eggs. Good to know when you are bringing in new pieces all the time. If they are small enough to get in my freezers, I am good to go. Wards has a large freezer so step one for them was to keep my piece in it for 3 days. Then they would do a thorough wash, protecting the dyed yarn from bleeding and I already knew it was not colorfast. Once clean and all of the damage was exposed, I would receive a quote for reweaving the areas of missing pile. This is done by a skilled weaver who will match wool to the rest of the piece. In most cases, a restoration adds value to a rug and unlike some antiques where repairs are not recommended, this does not detract at all from the value of a rug.
Ward's Oriental Rugs has a fabulous showroom in Allentown, PA. If you are in the area, they have a fine selection of new and used carpets and are extremely knowledgable about them. It was a pleasure to work with them and I look forward to finishing this restoration! Due to the slow time of year and my cash flow, I am holding off the the reweaving until I can fund it but hopefully it will be complete in the next few months.
In the mean time, I have been researching this rug like crazy. I spent a day reviewing some catalogs at the Philadelphia Art Museum and ordered a 1960's catalog from a tour of Marie Cuttilo's works, of which the Maquette or working sketch for this piece was included. The rug in the tour was larger than mine and slightly different coloring, so I really want to make sure that this rug was not copied by another maker. I am certain that everything on this piece follows suit with what she made, however, but the only way to be sure is to find the proof. I have a magazine coming that has an article about her tour so hoping that helps as well. She had this tour in the 60s to sell more rugs and although that did not go as well as she had liked, I suspect that this rug was one of those she sold. I have some good comps on it that all provide a little more info and provided those galleries did their research thoroughly, I am still convinced this is her piece albeit a mid century produced piece and not from her beginnings in the 20s and 30s. Regardless, I do believe this was a very small series of about 20 so it is definitely not going to be something that pops up a lot for collectors and that makes it very special. Whether a fan of the artist Leger or a fan of the amazing woman who attempted to bring back the art of tapestry by translating fine art into fiber art, this rug is just an amazing representation of a time when both worlds collided.
I will update more if I discover more about this piece or start to proceed on the restoration work!