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The sales, organised by June Barrett and Ian Bennett have actually reversed the other trend of provincial auctions – the difficulty of bringing in goods to sell.

“We have increased our carpet and textile turnover by about 50 per cent in the last year and a half,” said Ian Bennett as he looked towards five or even six such sales this year instead of the usual four.

Not only is Salisbury offering more material – a fact Mr Bennett attributes to a growing reluctance at the main London houses to sell lower-value middle-range carpets – but the selling rate has risen from around 50 to 70 per cent.

“The increase been noticeable in the last two sales,” he said. Bidding may have become more consistent but the quality of consignments can vary. “We have to take the rough with the smooth,” said Mr Bennett.

The biggest money at the February sale came for a northwest Persian Bakhshaish carpet, 12ft 9in by 9ft 11in (3.89 x 3.02m), in poor condition with overall low pile and a heavily damaged bottom right corner.

In good condition it may have brought £12,000-15,000 but nevertheless still fetched a healthy £5000 against £2000-2500 expectations. While this attractively-pitched estimate encouraged bidding, the ambitious vendor-led £7000-9000 guideline on a Persian-taste Benlian Tabriz carpet, c.1930-50, signed by Mahmud Ghalicheh Baf, 11ft 11in by 10ft 7in (3.63 x 3.23m), did little to generate trade interest. It was secured after the sale at a more realistic £4500.

More of a surprise was the £3600 bid for a south central Persian Kerman carpet, late 19th century, 20ft 4in by 10ft 8in (6.20 x 3.25m), signed in a cartouche Milani. In poor condition (it had been backed and had low overall pile), it was expected to bring £2800-3200, but was pursued by a private buyer bent on securing a carpet by the great late 19th century Kermani craftsman.

Two private collections were also of note, 22 textiles from the residual collection of Professor Mark Whiting – a renowned expert in carpet dyes – and a 12-lot collection of Scandinavian textiles.

The best pieces from Professor Whiting’s collection were sold at the end of last year in an exhibition by textile dealer Richard Purdun and of those offered at Woolley & Wallis only half found buyers. The top seller was a Chodor Turkmen carpet that sold on its £2000 reserve.

There were fewer casualties for
the fresh-to-the-market collection of Scandinavian textiles. Most were in good condition with a late 18th century Swedish or Norwegian cushion cover decorated in a rose and grapevine pattern leading the way at £950. All bar two works sold.
Tribal rugs rely on private buyers to fuel bidding. “If you don’t reach collectors, they can be difficult to sell because the trade are not interested in damaged tribal pieces,” said Mr Bennett.

A case in point was the fragment of an early 19th century Turkmenistan carpet by Saryk Turkmen, 2ft 5in by 3ft 8in (74cm x 1.12m), that was taken to £420 against £150-250 expectations, while the striking design of an Ikat silk velvet panel, probably Bokhara, second half of the 19th century, made £700.

Woolley & Wallis, Salisbury,
February 14
Number of lots offered: 655
Number of lots sold: 73 per cent
Sale total: £113,600
Buyer’s premium: 15/10 per cent