The Carpet and the Connoisseur

The Saint Louis Art Museum featured an exhibit in April that was right up our alley – “The Carpet and the Connoisseur” featured the James F. Ballard collection of oriental rugs, and our Rug Care Center team used this as a great opportunity to learn more about area rugs from a collector’s perspective!

Our Rug Care Center Operations Manager, Scott, took two of his team members, Nick, and Patrick, to see the exhibit. The group started their visit with a lecture presented by Walter B. Denny, guest-curator of The Carpet and The Connoisseur. We learned that James F. Ballard was a St. Louis businessman who is recognized as being one of the country’s top collectors of Oriental rugs during the early 20th-century. At the time, many collectors were mainly interested in Persian or Indian rugs, however, Ballard was more interested in collecting Anatolian rugs in Turkey. Today, Ballard is celebrated for his unique collection. After covering the history of Ballard’s life, Denny then went into more detail about the collection. He compared various Oriental rugs and explained why the organizers of the collection chose to include each specific rug in the collection. In addition, Denny educated our team on how certain rugs were made.

Ballard divided up his collection of Oriental rugs between The Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1922 and the Saint Louis Art Museum in 1929. In 1972, his daughter, Nellie Ballard White, donated an additional 45 rugs to the collection at the Saint Louis Art Museum. The Saint Louis Art Museum has one of the most significant collections in the world. Our team had the opportunity to view 51 rugs and two 19th-century pleasure tents from the Ballard collection in the exhibition.

Our team had a wonderful time at this exhibit and picked up several new tidbits of rug history!

Our Rug Master, Scott, also recently attended the Association of Rug Specialists, an annual conference, where he was able to see the rest of the James Ballard collection.