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Sotheby's New York to offer important carpets from The Collection of William A. Clark
The Laf§es Carpet, Isphahan carpet, Central Persia, 17th century, approximately 44ft. 3in. by 14ft. 2in. (13.49 by 4.32m.). Est. $800,000/1.2 million. Photo: Sotheby’s

NEW YORK, NY.- On 5 June 2013, Sotheby’s will offer Important Carpets from the Collection of William A. Clark on behalf of the Corcoran Gallery of Art in a dedicated auction in New York. Comprising 25 rugs and carpets from the 16th and 17th centuries, the group includes one of the most important and revered carpets in the world, The Clark Sickle-Leaf Carpet, as well as one of the most majestic, The Laf§es Carpet. Both epitomize the pinnacle of weaving attained during the Safavid dynasty in Persia (1501–1722) and are extraordinarily beautiful works of art. William A. Clark (1839–1925), an American industrialist and later U.S. Senator from the state of Montana, bequeathed much of his collection to the Corcoran Gallery of Art in 1926, including these rugs and carpets, which have remained at the museum ever since. The offering is estimated to bring in excess of $6.7 million, and proceeds will benefit future acquisitions. Highlights will be on view at Sotheby’s during the Asia Week sales in March, and the complete exhibition will open on 1 June 2013 at our York Avenue galleries.

“It is exceedingly rare for a collection of carpets of this importance to appear on the market,” noted Mary Jo Otsea, Senior Consultant, Rugs & Carpets at Sotheby’s. “The June auction recalls the landmark sales held by our predecessor firm, the American Art Association, in the 1920s from the Collections of Vitall & Leopold Benguiat, sources for many of Senator Clark's carpet purchases. It is a privilege and a highlight of my 30-year career to handle The Clark Sickle-Leaf Carpet in particular, which is without question one of the most iconic and important carpets ever to appear at auction. With masterworks such as The Sickle-Leaf and Laf§es Carpets, the offering is certain to appeal to collectors at the highest level across numerous categories.”

Philip Brookman, Chief Curator and Head of Research at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, commented, “The deaccession and sale of these carpets will keep alive Senator Clark’s generous legacy by enabling us to grow our core collections and make dynamic acquisition choices that will enrich and inform the Corcoran’s community for decades to come. We are also pleased that these remarkable carpets, which have been exhibited infrequently at the Corcoran and lie far outside the scope of our current mission, may now enter more appropriate collections through this sale.”

The Clark Sickle-Leaf Carpet (est. $5/7 million) is one of the benchmarks by which Persian weavings of the 17th century are measured. This finely woven carpet displays a rare design which is beautifully executed and features plum blossoms, vines and cypress trees, all punctuated by elongated, curving sickle-leaves. The carpet was lauded and published in the seminal A Survey of Persian Art by Arthur Upham Pope and Phyllis Ackerman in 1939, as well as illustrated in Oriental Rugs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art by Maurice Dimand and Jean Mailey, published in 1973. It has been included in several important exhibitions including Carpets of Central Persia held in Sheffield and Birmingham, U.K. as part of the World of Islam Festival in 1976 and published in the accompanying catalogue written by renowned scholar May H. Beattie. It was also exhibited at the Hayward Gallery in London during the fourth International Conference on Oriental Carpets in 1983. More recently, this carpet, the Laf§es Carpet, and four others included in the auction were exhibited at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Washington, D.C., in conjunction with the tenth International Conference on Oriental Carpets held there in 2003.

The Laf§es Carpet, the largest piece in the collection, is an Isphahan carpet measuring 44 feet in length, giving true meaning to the term “palace carpet” (est. $800,000/1.2 million). Its design is comprised of palmettes and curling leaves that fill the carpet in a balanced and harmonious fashion. This carpet was in the hands of nobility, having previously been in the collection of Duke Don Gaetano de Braganza (1856–1927), before passing through the hands of Vitall Benguiat and being acquired by William A. Clark. It was featured on the floor of a large painting gallery in Senator Clark’s New York mansion.

Other highlights in the collection include a round Ottoman Cairene carpet (est. $80/120,000) once in the collection of the Duke of Sforza, Milan, as well as three luxurious silk “Polonaise” rugs and a pristine condition Isphahan carpet from the mid-17th century (est. $150/200,000) that was in the possession of American financier, philanthropist and collector Henry G. Marquand until 1903, when it was purchased by Clark at auction.

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