The Carpet and the Connoisseur: The James F. Ballard Collection of Oriental Rugs
Friday, March 18, 2016
Friday, March 18, 2016
The Carpet and the Connoisseur: The James F. Ballard Collection of Oriental Rugs opened at the Saint Louis Art Museum on March 6, 2016 in the Main Exhibition Galleries. This exhibition, which will be up until May 8, 2016, was curated by Walter B. Denny in collaboration with SLAM associate curator Philip Hu and textile conservator Zoe Perkins.
During the early 20th 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 Saint Louis Art Museum amassed a collection of Oriental rugs recognized 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-15th and 16th centuries. Ballard also acquired two 19th-century Persian pleasure tents that were used for outdoor gatherings, both of which are also featured in the exhibition.
Professor Denny also gave a free public lecture on March 4, 2016, that served as an introduction to the exhibition.
Walter B. Denny joined the faculty of the UM/A Art History Program in 1970. He did undergraduate work at Robert College (Istanbul), Grinnell College, the State University of Iowa, and received his BA cum laude from Oberlin College in 1964. After graduate study at Harvard University and Istanbul Technical University on a Fulbright Fellowship, he received his PhD in Fine Arts from Harvard in 1970. His primary field of teaching and research is the art and architecture of the Islamic world, in particular the artistic traditions of the Ottoman Turks, Islamic carpets and textiles, Islamic imagery in European art, and issues of economics and patronage in Islamic art. Current projects include catalogues for two major collections of Islamic art, a monograph on the history of Islamic carpets, and a number of articles on Ottoman art and orientalism. His chapter on Islamic art in the 7th edition of Janson's History of Art appeared in early 2006. He is an active photographer, and scans of about 13,000 of his color slides of Islamic art are available through ArtStor, a project of the Mellon Foundation. His new digital archive of high-resolution images of art and architecture in many different geographical and chronological areas, started in 2008, now numbers over fifty thousand images.