Exhibition: The Carpet and the Connoisseur – The James F. Ballard Collection of Oriental Rugs

SLAM - The Carpet and the Connoisseur

Exhibition dates: 6 March – 8 May 2016

During the early twentieth century, St Louis businessman James F. Ballard became one of the country’s top collectors of oriental carpets. An unlikely collector, he was celebrated for his approach to collecting Anatolian carpets from provincial centers in Turkey at a time when most other rug connoisseurs were acquiring classical Persian and Indian carpets. In addition to his passion for collecting, Ballard was also a patient teacher, inveterate traveler, and, above all, the first oriental carpet enthusiast to acknowledge the importance of Turkish influence on the history of the pile carpet.

Ballard ultimately divided his collection of carpets between the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1922 and the Saint Louis Art Museum in 1929. Another group of carpets were added to the St Louis collection through a later donation by his daughter, Nellie Ballard White, in 1972. As a result of these two gifts, the museum has amassed a collection of oriental rugs recognised as one of the most significant collections in the world.

‘The Carpet and the Connoisseur’ highlights 51 carpets from the Ballard collection, including three Cairene rugs, a Spanish rug, and examples of ‘Lotto’ and small-pattern ‘Holbein’ carpets, all important examples of works from the late fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Ballard also acquired two nineteenth-century Persian pleasure tents that were used for outdoor gatherings. These are also featured in the exhibition.

‘The Carpet and the Connoisseur’ is guest-curated by Walter B. Denny, University of Massachusetts distinguished professor in Islamic Arts in collaboration with Philip Hu, associate curator of Asian art, and textile conservator Zoe Perkins.

For more information, visit the website of the Saint Louis Art Museum, USA.

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