This remarkable album bears testament to what Arthur Upham Pope described as “the finest collection of Persian carpets owned by a private individual in modern times” (Arthur Upham Pope, Catalogue of a Loan Exhibition of Early Oriental Carpets, Chicago, 1926, p.120). The collection of Charles T. Yerkes comprised thirty carpets, twenty-two of which are now in major institutions, three in private collections, and five whose whereabouts are unknown. Notably, the album includes an illustration of a ‘Polonaise’ carpet which sold as part of the Corcoran collection, Sotheby’s, New York, 5 June 2013, lot 7, the pair to the magnificent Adolphe de Rothschild ‘Polonaise’ in the present sale, see lot 174. Although the condition of the Yerkes 'Polonaise' carpet had significantly deteriorated by the time of its sale, the watercolour illustration showcases the remarkable condition it remained in whilst in Yerkes collection.
Yerkes himself was a philanthropist and entrepreneur who, like other wealthy figures in America at that time, established an important collection of paintings, sculpture and carpets. As was typical of the 19th and early 20th century, Yerkes commissioned a catalogue to be produced of his collection and the present volume was conceived, almost as remarkable as the carpets themselves, both to stimulate envy in others and solidify his reputation as a man of considerable cultivation and wealth.
He originally intended to have eleven watercolour albums made depicting each of his favourite carpets in the collection; one volume for his personal collection and the others to be distributed among major museums. In 1900, he commissioned a selection of female artists at the New York School of Applied Design for the task, however, after five years only the present volume of seventeen carpets had been completed before his death in December 1905, and his collection was subsequently sold in 1910. Although little is known of the artists producing these watercolours, the quality of the paintings is impressive both in their detail and in the intensity of texture. Given their quality and accuracy, the watercolours in the present volume were used to illustrate the auction catalogue, along with hand-coloured photographs. The auction of the Yerkes collection in 1910 has been credited with elevating the tastes of American carpet collectors of the early twentieth century, compelling them to view carpets as an art form (Thomas J. Farnham, ‘The Yerkes Collection’, in HALI, no.101, 1998, p.86.)
The illustrations include magnificent and renowned carpets held in museum collections today such as a Safavid animal carpet now in the MET (acc.no. 10.61.2, see also lot 201 in the present sale for a PETAG carpet inspired by this Safavid original), along with the Getty Ardebil carpet, now held in the LACMA (inv.no. 53.50.2). For a further discussion of Charles T. Yerkes and his collection, see the note for lot 174 in the present sale and T. J. Farnham, op.cit, pp.74-87.