ANTIQUES: Out From the Shadows

HEIRLOOM RUGS

by Eve M. Kahn
September 2009

The gene for collecting sometimes persists in families for several generations before petering out. Which is how Jan David Winitz, a rug dealer in Oakland, Calif., just acquired several households’ stashes of 19th-century rugs from one unidentified family that has shuttled among homes in Manhattan, Long Island and Cape Cod.

Between the 1910s and the 1980s, two generations of the family’s forebears collected Near Eastern and Central Asian rugs and maintained a rug storeroom at each home. The current heirs, Mr. Winitz said, ”kept enough rugs to furnish their own places” and sold him about 150 others. He declined to disclose the price: ”You can say it’s an eight-figure transaction,” he said.

On Wednesday his store, Claremont Rug Company, will post images of the collection on its website. From Sept. 12 through late November, the rugs, which cost from $20,000 to $400,000 each, will be displayed at a Claremont exhibition called ”Artistic Visions of the Refined to the Elemental.” That enigmatic title is meant to convey the rug collecting family’s taste for formal, realistically floral wool weavings called ”court carpets,” as well as tribal rugs with images of livestock, sunbursts and trees, sometimes roughly knotted from camelhair.

Mr. Winitz said the rugs were in ”floor-worthy” condition, with repairs and patches that ”either show minimally or don’t show at all.” That is, although the heirs did not much study the collection, they kept it from being ravaged by exposure to piano legs or foot traffic en route to refrigerators.

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