Ten years ago the passion for antiques in this country was so strong that people seemed to love them for their imperfections rather than for their perfections. The worm-holes in antique furniture thrilled them with sentiment. The dents in old silver and pewter were so many beauty spots. The frayed fringes and worn-down naps and ragged holes in antique rugs were more to be cherished than fine gold.
Already the point of view is more sensible. While an antique may be highly valued in spite of its imperfections, the antiques that are really competed for are those whose old age is hale and hearty. At the Heber Bishop sale several years ago I trembled lest enthusiasts might strive to outbid each other for a silk Samarcand, once noble, but through neglect and abuse now ragged and threadbare. I was happily disappointed. The rug, which is 12 feet 7 by 6 feet 4, sold for only $ 225 - and is hardly worth even that. Of the seven Chinese rugs sold that day the one that brought the highest price - $ 2,800, in size 16 feet 8 by 11 feet 3 - deserved the preeminence in every way. The detached figures of the field were wonderfully delicate and displayed the Chinese mastery of conventional design in its highest form, while across the rug, near the upper end, ran an abrash two feet wide, whose paleness beautifully accentuated the deeper tones of the rest.
Rugs should be so placed in the room as to put the best front forward, or, rather, the one that suits the environment best. Of course, everybody knows that the nap of an Oriental rug slants down, like the fur on an animal, and that when you look against the nap of a rug the colors are darker. Ordinarily, in viewing a rug, one stands back to the light and looks against the nap, the darker side being considered the more beautiful. But as first impressions count most and as the rug in a reception-room is most often seen as one enters from the hall, it is usually desirable to let the best face of the rug be seen from there.
However, the color scheme of the room sometimes makes the lighter coloring the one to bring forward. There is one man of exquisite taste and fine discrimination who not long ago, being shown an antique Herez silk rug fourteen feet square for $7,000, had it sent to his house and placed in the room where it was to have its home. But it was no sooner placed than he saw that it was too dark for the draperies and upholstery. He was about to send it back when the thought occurred to turn the rug around so that the lighter side would be the one most observed. The result was harmony.
While people should be praised rather than blamed for exercising their own taste - when they have any - they should make the effort to acquire familiarity with objects of art before posing as connoisseurs or investing large sums on their own judgment. It was a young man of considerable decorative experience who rejected positively the rug that the salesman recommended for the reception-room of his own home - and his wife was just as positive in the rejection as he. To suit them was difficult. For twelve months they came in to look whenever a fine Persian about 7 x 18 arrived. At the end of the year the salesman one day showed them the identical rug that he had first recommended. The experience of the year had done its work. They had seen so many rugs as to be capable of forming an intelligent opinion for themselves. The rug was a Kerman that had been carefully washed, and they paid $800 for it. It suited its Louis XV environment perfectly.