The best things in life are shared. My trip to Kykuit.

One of a very limited edition, there were less than 20 made. This Fernand Leger design, known as ‘Blanc’ was most likely made and sold during the 1960s American tour of Marie Cuttoli’s textile exhibit and in collaboration with Galerie Lucie Weill. *photo credit J Federici

One of a very limited edition, there were less than 20 made. This Fernand Leger design, known as ‘Blanc’ was most likely made and sold during the 1960s American tour of Marie Cuttoli’s textile exhibit and in collaboration with Galerie Lucie Weill. *photo credit J Federici

It was just about a year ago when I won a gorgeous piece of history and started researching it.  I learned a lot about wool, moths and fine rugs.  The piece was multifaceted with history and part of a very limited edition of hand knotted rugs. The artist whose work was featured, Fernand Leger, was commissioned to create the maquette or cartoon used in the design. The woman who orchestrated this project has just as fascinating history.  Marie Cuttoli, originally the wife of a French Senator, had a vision of reviving the tapestry arts in the 1920’s.  She spent time in her Algerian mansion and appreciated the artisans there.  She worked with a group of women who learned to weave and create works of art from the cartoons.  

These pieces generally took 8 months to weave and thus most seem to have been ordered and shipped from Paris. I was able to find our a little about a few of the owners of these pieces scouring auction comps from Christie’s, Sotheby’s and other high end auction houses.  Some notable former owners include Vera G List, socialite, philanthropist and notable art collector.  I read a transcript from an interview with her in 1973 available from the Archives of American Art which explored her thoughts on collecting and her involvement in the organizations she supported.  Another collector/owner was Robert and Andriene (Andrea) Bollt.  Andrea was also known as an avid modern art collector and philanthropist.  

It was at some point after I listed my piece in my online markets that I was contacted by a curatorial assistant with Kykuit, the Rockefeller family estate.  They held a few pieces from the Cuttoli series in their collection and wanted to find out more about them.  I agreed to share my research, sources and comps with them and planned on making the drive to Tarrytown, NY to tour the estate. 

Enjoying the Grand Tour at Kykuit, the Rockefeller Estate in Tarrytown, New York.  *photo credit J Federici

Enjoying the Grand Tour at Kykuit, the Rockefeller Estate in Tarrytown, New York.  *photo credit J Federici

I grabbed a friend and scheduled my appointment and Grand tour, as advised by the Curator.  She mentioned that only the 2 longer tours take you into the basement art galleries where the rugs are on display.  Also note that there are many beautiful Calder tapestries on display and any modern art fan would not want to miss this!  

The estate was absolutely amazing! From the gorgeous gardens to the amazing home and antiques, the tour guide was great and really gave us a lot of history on the family and how life was in that compound.  Heavily Asian influenced, the decor was elegant and scattered with Nelson’s modern tastes. It all worked well together.  

After the final stop on the tour at the coach house (filled with buggies that would make my Mennonite friends jealous!), I sat and chatted with the curator and showed her my catalogs and references, presented her with a written summary of comps and info and discussed theories on the origins of the pieces held in our collections. She was lovely and it was so refreshing to discuss this with a like minded individual.  Having to piece together the series of circumstances with these items really makes me appreciate the organizations that preserve this history.  I have used many of them and give back to support them when I can.  

Today I am traveling to Philadelphia to visit the Athenaeum to peruse a Harvey Probber catalog to see if I can authenticate a table I have that is attributed to him.  Another day, another fun expedition.  I will report on that next week.  In the mean time, I will leave you with a few of my shots in the gardens at Kykuit.  Have a great week!  

XO Malissa

 

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Beautiful views of the Hudson River from this perch!  

Beautiful views of the Hudson River from this perch!  

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Adventures to come!

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I have been keeping this secret since I have had other things to talk about but this week’s update will fill you in!  In my business life, many things happen that just seem to materialize and I just cannot explain why I was so lucky to be at the right place at the right time with the right instincts for everything to happen.  Finding the awesome Fernand Leger rug was one of those moments.  Although I am blessed to have it in my possession, I knew early on that it came with some issues I had to tend to like the cleaning (a $250 investment) and then there is the restoration work to replace the knots that were chewed by some hungry moths which is quoted but out of my budget without a buyer in the wings. I have spent a lot of time researching it and have purchased materials useful in my quest.  You see, the woman who is responsible for this awesome piece was responsible for bringing back the tapestry arts in the 1920’s in addition to being a patron of the fabulous artists she honored.  Her Paris fashion house, Maison Myrbor, also turned out haute couture clothing which is found in museums around the globe.  The tapestry arts were never a booming industry but she exhibited over the years and info can be found.  

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Back to how I fit in here.  I was contacted by a woman who works for a prominent estate, now museum of the family’s collection and he has my rug in her collection along with another in the series.  They have no info on them and are hoping I will share my research  with them. Of course!  I will be taking time to write my notes out for her and will be visiting the estate when they open for the season this spring to meet with her.  I cannot wait and will be sharing my experience with you all when I get back. I have one local stone to unturn on this research as the traveling exhibit where the rugs in my series where sold in the 60s came to Allentown so the museum is on my list to contact to see if they have info or perhaps staff or volunteers I can reach out to.  This whole adventure will help me build provenance with the rug as well as myself.  Overall a fun adventure!  Such a special piece of art and textiles with only 20 or less ever made.  A super rare collectible!  

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On another note I am running a sale on most furnishings in honor of my birthday month just in the Etsy shop.  If you are looking to add something to your home, reach out now to secure the price.  Many items leave me with little profit at that price but I need to move some big items so trying to entice the people with them in their carts to commit.  Subject to end at my whim.  I also have a set on hold that will be delivered next month to New Hampshire.  Reach out if you see something and are near or could meet me during that trip.  If it fits with the set I would meet for a fee way less than the cost of shipping. 

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Don’t forget I have an album of new gift appropriate items pinned to the top of my Facebook.com/madformodmalissa page where you can claim items, fill a box and I will pack and ship to you.  These are all priced at wholesale! With spring holidays on the way, take a look and claim some goodies!  I will need your email and will send you a PayPal invoice. If you are local to me I can get your items delivered.

Thanks for following! Lots more fun to come soon!  

Xo Malissa 

Take A Magic Carpet Ride

I hope you enjoyed the vacation blog. I figured it would be a nice change of the usual stuff and if you are outdoorsy, might help you plan a trip.   I always hope that you find my posts informative and useful and try to share my experiences sourcing, cleaning and evaluating. If I can help just one person I feel like it was a worthy post! I understand that most of us get slammed with junk mail all day (the Gap sends me no less than two emails per day) and I always wonder if my one a week or so emails annoy people. If anyone has any complaints, critiques, please comment!  

Anyway, Just before I left for vacation I won some things at auction. I am only now going through them, cleaning and evaluating and listing things. There is a great set of teak nesting tables by Bent Silberg Mobler which I will be tending to shortly. I also picked up 3 fabulous rugs.  

Just listed! https://www.etsy.com/listing/541370161/on-sale-antique-persian-hand-knotted

Just listed! https://www.etsy.com/listing/541370161/on-sale-antique-persian-hand-knotted

I have been researching my finds. Rugs is one thing I have interest in but is new territory for me so each purchase is really a means to learning more.  I know enough about textiles growing up with a mother who sews, quilts and does alterations. This knowledge is super helpful when seeking vintage textiles. It really honed my ability to quickly identify quality workmanship and materials. I have a special love of wools and natural fibers so rugs just seem like another place I wanted to be.  I have been doing some auctions online without seeing the goods in person. It can be risky. Always assume the dealer is not an expert and has not disclosed everything!  If you keep that in mind and have the know how, resources and determination, you can usually repair most of them.  The little mat above has many issues but in the cases of antique rugs, they are best kept with their flaws and wear intact, it is personal preference to the user, but patina on a rug is not a bad thing at all.  Finding a 60+ year old piece with no issues will not happen often.  I delve into researching. This rug is definitely a hand knotted rug.  I find some sources online telling me how to spot machine made rugs like Karastan over hand woven and study up.  Then I think the size may lend to being a prayer mat. I research religions and although I thought some Jewish sects used prayer mats, my research showed Muslims are the only religion which would consistently use one. The wear on this one, to me, could be from kneeling.  Having dealt with an estate in the past that I knew the man had lived in Israel for some years and was a rug collector.....I mean he had rugs on top of rugs and although I only took one textile home, i did take an acid etched piece home that was from an Iranian artist, Bijan.  So right away, I am thinking Iran. They are known for rugs.  My searching showed me that most Muslim prayer mats have a definite top and bottom in the design. Many are similar to the shape of a Mosque, like a key hole. This rug depicted flowers and not other typical patterns that were on prayer mats. Not that is was not one, but I found no florals without a center medallion like most of the oriental rugs depict. Iranian rugs were the closest to what I had but to date it, or even confirm that is just pretty hard for a novice.  Rugs from the region in which Iran is located typically are referred to as Persian so I knew that is what I had but I also knew there was more to the story.  Turns out that I have a colleague who is a rug specialist and without me asking, he told me I had a Sarouk rug (which is a region in IRAN!) and he dated it to the 1930's. It is a real treasure! The quality of rugs in this sale was good. I could tell by viewing the lots that these were fabulous antiques. It is always nice to get validation that my hunch was correct! This beauty is listed and ready to ship. I would definitely keep her in a low traffic area to prevent further age related issues. I will discuss care in a bit.

Next win was a slightly larger Turkish flat weave kilim rug.  These rugs have no pile like a knotted rug. They are more similar to the style of weaving you learn as a kid in art class, but a lot more intricate. This rug is also wool. Unlike the thicker knotted rugs, these are very pliable. I have a few throw pillows that were made from cut up rugs and they are so fabulous, the never got listed. This look is very boho, tribal and honestly looks great in all decor. It is classic and sophisticated. Investing in an old rug is very much like investing in quality original art. They can hang on walls, used as room accents interspersed with furnishings and repurposed into pillows, not that I ever recommend cutting up a rug.  Sometimes the damage involved may warrant it. This rug does have some holes but it generally is in pretty good shape.  I cannot determine age but I would guess that it came from the same home as the others which could be 30s-50s era. Shabby rugs are trending right now too!

Beautiful Turkish Flat Weave Kilim https://www.etsy.com/listing/527579136/on-sale-turkish-wool-flat-weave-kilim

Beautiful Turkish Flat Weave Kilim https://www.etsy.com/listing/527579136/on-sale-turkish-wool-flat-weave-kilim

The final rug I bought that day makes me feel like I won the vintage lottery! There was a picasso rug that got higher than I could spend so I concentrated on one signed Leger. It reminded me of 80s pop art. I won it. Fernand Leger was a French cubist who pretty much inspired the 80s pop art movement and so many other artists we know and love. His style was so cutting edge, it was in the 1930's when he was doing this stuff! He died in 1955, by the way so his stuff is pre mid century. Some great reading on Leger can be found here, a preview to an exhibit that was showing his work at the Philly Art Museum. He was involved in early television and his art pieces sometimes were referred to as cartoons.  It's fascinating. https://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/museums/leger-modern-art-and-the-metropolis-at-the-philadelphia-museum-of-art/2013/11/14/0faa43f4-4c87-11e3-ac54-aa84301ced81_story.html?utm_term=.6888ca2d8627 As awesome as he is, I found out more on my rug that is equally as awesome! Meet Marie Cutillo, an Algerian who spent her life reviving a waning Algerian art of rug making! She purchased original art from the great cubists and had her newly trained rug makers replicate their designs in textile form. She collected the original art and eventually donated her entire collection including many Picasso's to the largest art museum in France. Her fashion house, Maison Myrbor, was who sold the rugs in Paris and the clothes and rugs: haute couture. Art collectors world wide were purchasing them for their collections. I could go on but I am still learning things. The research continues!

My rug does have some issues. I am doing some cleaning today. Delicate stain work using a watered down dis solution. I suspect there was moth activity although I found nothing to lead me to believe there is an active infestation. Moth larvae does horrible things to rugs. I plan on taking this to a rug cleaner and restorer in Philadelphia in the coming weeks. I have found comps ranging from $7500-35000 for this design. So definitely with investing into. I also am considering adding casings to wall hang. I am worried that the  damage has weakened the structure that it would not be feasible to use in a floor situation. The other concern is always preservation.  I am hoping to get some quotes in a few weeks for cleaning, restoration work and possible casings, but I think I can do that myself. There is a book on Marie Cutillo, however it is in French. I may pick it up though. My boss is fluent. ✌️Here's a pic of this lovely piece. I will share more as I work through getting it ready to sell. This piece is definitely a collector piece and I am so lucky I could obtain it! It is a pleasure to be able to help it connect to a new home where it will be preserved! 

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Shadow from deck rails and a plant but you get the idea. I am getting ready to steam it.  Steam will kill any moth activity and eggs. Leaving in a hot car for a few days will help as well. this is just one more reason to trust your dealer. Insects can be a problem with vintage goods.  Bedbugs, moths, etc. I am very careful to inspect and clean everything that I sell. I spray all wool and non washable fibers with Cedarcide, a natural insecticide. I will invest in a pro cleaning on this piece after it is professionally evaluated.

Hope you enjoyed leaning about rugs!

xo Malissa