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Rugs from years gone by…

By December 29, 2017 Antique rugs 5 Comments

It’s been a while since we’ve looked at rugs from years past, so today let’s look at a few antique rugs I have come across – a good way to finish out the “old year” of 2017. Above is a very charming pictorial that will be sold at a Feb. 10 sale at Fontaine’s Auction Gallery in Pittsfield, MA. It is Lot 83, “Handmade Scenic Hooked Rug”. Here is the catalog description:

“Country landscape scene with a road along the right side, farm fence and large tree to the left and a red home in the background. Has some fraying along the edges…”. The estimated price is $250-$400.

My immediate reaction to seeing this rug was “how wonderfully wonky the whole thing is!”. Not sure if you know what I mean by “wonky”, but I was reacting to how the house in particular doesn’t really have a truely square corner anywhere, and yet this slightly-off rendition gives the entire rug a lot of charm.

One chimney is set at a quite different angle than the other. And that road just disappears over the lip of the hill. The ground is green and there are flowers here and there, but no leaves at all on the trees. Strange, but lovely!
And the sky and clouds are quite well done:

This next rug is Lot 977: FINE PICTORIAL HOOKED RUG, PROBABLY NEW ENGLAND, 1892 at the Jan. 20 (10 am) auction at Sotheby’s in New York:

Hmmm..again we have flowers in the garden but no leaves on the trees! Here is the catalog description: “Worked in brown, red, blue and green and depicting three houses within a landscape setting with flowering bushes centering the date 1892; now mounted on a stretcher. Provenance: Elliot and Grace Snyder Antiques, South Egremont, Mass.”

This rug’s estimated price is $5,000-$8,000. These houses are all trim and square, and while this might be a more valuable and older antique rug, I personally like the “wonky” rug a lot better.

Finally, here is another very old rug, which will come up for sale at the same Jan. 20th auction at Sotheby’. It is Lot 1016: RARE HOOKED RUG, NANCY SHIPPEE (1813-1903), BENNINGTON, VERMONT, CIRCA 1851:

“Description: worked in wool threads on a woven plaid wool ground; signed along the bottom, Nancy Shippee, Aged 38 1851.” The estimated price is $5,000-$7,000.

So Nancy Shippee of Bennington, VT hooked this traditional flower basket design, with an intricate border of diamonds and crosses, and flowers in each corner, about 166 years ago. She was middle-aged during the Civil War, and lived to the age of 90. And because she hooked rugs as we do, we can feel a connection to her, through time, just by looking at her rug.

Photos are courtesy of the auction houses. Fontaine’s is online at fontainesauction.com, and Sotheby’s is online at sothebys.com.

As we turn from 2017 to 2018, may your houses, straight or wonky, bring you happiness, may your trees, leafy or bare, bring you satisfaction, and may your borders, plain or fancy, continue to please!


  • Love this post! Makes me want to hook my entire name into my rugs instead of just a label. I, too, love the first rug. Very fun! Happy New Year to you and yours!

  • jeni says:

    Interesting post, Mary Jane.
    Such a difference in prices, huh? I don’t think it’s the hooking or the design, as much as other things that are affecting the estimates.
    My first thought was Sotheby’s gets higher prices – sometimes just because they are Sothebys. My next thought was the 2nd and 3rd rugs have the date hooked and the 3rd, also the name and age of the hooker. Dates and names usually bring significantly higher prices. Also, the 2nd rug is mounted on a stretcher. Antique shows always place a premium on mounted rugs. So, people, that is one reason you should hook your name or initials and the date in your rug. Putting a label on the back is OK, but they can wear or be taken off. With that being said, I really don’t think it is necessary to hook our age. Just my opinion.

  • Jan Whitlock says:

    The Shippee rug is yarn sewn onto a wool plaid blanket, similar to the bed rugs of the late 18th century

  • Naomi Duval says:

    Wonderful blog. Wonderful rugs. Thank you so much.

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