Schmutzler: Altorientalische Teppiche in Siebenbürgen

Altorientalische Teppiche in Siebenbürgen. Download the borochure.

Emil Schmutzler (1889 – 1952) and the rugs in Transylvaniaby Dr. Jens Kröger

In 1933 the monumental work Altorientalische Teppiche in Siebenbürgen, written and financed by Emil Schmutzler, was published in Leipzig by the Karl W. Hiersemann publishing house. This well known firm had already published other masterpieces of the rug literature, such as the foundational Altorientalische Teppiche by Friedrich Sarre and Hermann Trenkwald from 1926 and Rudolf Neugebauer and Siegfried Troll’s Handbuch der orientalischen Teppichkunde, the chief reference work of its day.

At a time of great uncertainty and in conditions of great economic hardship, Schmutzler’s work was produced in an edition of just 325 numbered copies.

Schmutzler’s book is to be seen in the tradition of the European rug literature and remained of fundamental importance for the research of the rugs in Transylvania and will always be regarded as one of the classical books about rugs in the first half of the 20th century. For the last 70 years, Schmutzler’s book has been quoted in the rug literature, having remained over the years a unique work regarding the Transylvanian rug heritage and most of the information given, including dating and attributions, are more or less still valid in the rug literature. Thus, Altorientalische Teppiche in Siebenbürgen has been served as the basis for all the research concerning small Turkish rugs and continues to be an indispensable tool in this field.

Schmutzler’s book was reviewed in Germany by Otto von Falke, the former director of the Kunstgewerbemuseum (Museum of Applied Arts) in Berlin, in the reputable art magazine Pantheon. Falke pointed out that the rugs in question were rugs of common use from the 16th -18th century, originating in Asia Minor, which had received less attention than deserved. Moreover, he considered the ‘Transylvanian’ rugs as a most useful teaching aid for the rug and carpet industry of his time, so that he conferred the status of a model to the book, in the meaning of the 19th century. Moreover, he stated, with good reason, that the art history of the oriental rugs would be enriched by the wealth of ornamental forms of the ‘Transylvanian’ rugs and also that the inscriptions on many rugs might be an important means for dating such group of Ottoman rugs. As Schmutzler had not dealt with the design elements, Falke initiated investigations regarding the history of the ornaments in oriental rugs.

The book was reviewed for the English readers by the textile expert A.F. Kendrick from the Victoria & Albert Museum and by Arthur Upham Pope. Kendrick praised the concision of the text, valued the coloured illustrations and suggested that both the design and the colouring could inspire contemporary artists, an idea that Falke had already expressed.

Because of the small print run and the destruction of numerous copies during the Second World War, of Schmutzler’s edition became soon a work much in demand, for which rug collectors and antiquarians paid considerable sums.

Drawn from the article:

Emil Schmutzler (1889 – 1952) and the rugs in Transylvania”, by Dr. Jens Kröger, published in the catalogue of the exhibition Ottoman Rugs in Transylvania. Download the article.

Museum of Islamic Art, Berlin (28 October 2006 – 7 January 2007)