Blue, Blue, Blue


Rölakan rug by Ingrid Dessau, initials ID lower right and MHF lower left, 18’x 9’6 (594 x289 cm), sold 2014 by Nazmiyal, New York, Object #46898.

The fantastic colors and geometry of this rug were what started me on my Swedish rug research. I loved the checkerboard quality of the graphics, the balance between the different blues and the chestnut brown, and the little pennant-like strips of color and white. What I didn’t understand were what the initals in each lower corner represented. Until I began to do research, I didn’t know that “ID” was the signature of an important mid-century weaver, Ingrid Dessau.

In telling the story of Swedish mid-century rugs, Ingrid Dessau is a key figure. Her career spanned the transition from rugs made by hand in the craft tradition by small studios in cities throughout Sweden to industrialized rug production. She was trained at Sweden’s most prestigious art and design school in Stockholm, called Konstfack, graduating in 1945. She worked for several years with the network of national craft studios, called hemslöjd, or home-craft associations, designing a number of rugs for them to weave. She designed for the Kristianstad läns hemslöjd, Boras läns hemslöjd, Jönköping läns hemslöjd and Östergötlands läns hemslöjd. I will look more at Dessau’s work for these and for industry in future posts. After graduating she also had an internship at Märta Måås Fjetterström’s renowned craft atelier in Bastad, on the southwestern coast.

The rug shown above is the largest of the examples I know, and the most elegant. All three of the examples I’m looking at here appear to have been woven to the same proportions, though not on the same warp; they are all 7 squares wide. This one is 13 squares long, and is characterized by a complete pattern, that is, it has lighter bands at both top and bottom and a clearly-defined center. The pennant-like vertical stripes (here shown horizontally) are a rich range of chestnut tones and white, shifting to chestnut and blue in the top and bottom bands. All of the design elements are in balance: three chestnut checked squares and three blue checked ones on each side; groups of four dark-toned squares broken up with lighter bands, but a still lighter band marking the middle of the carpet. And the ends are finished with a rich brown border, which includes narrow light blue stripes. Dessau was a perfectionist when it came to color. She is reputed to have pulled a hair from her head when looking for a particular tone, and asked to find a match for that. It would be interesting to know how many blue tones were used in the composition of this rug.

Wright 230_1_scandinavian_design_november_2011_marta_maas_fjetterstrom_carpet__wright_auction
Rölakan by Ingrid Dessau. Initials ID lower right; MHF lower left. Sold by Wright Auction House Chicago, 11/17/2011.

The other two versions of this rug were sold on the same day in November, 2011 in both New York and Chicago. Both are shorter versions, and have only one real pattern “end” band. And there is a fundamental difference  in pattern between these two and the one shown above.  After the border end, they have just one dark square, and then a light one, rather than two dark squares. This also means these rugs, if they were carried to their full lengths, would terminate differently than the one at the top of the page.  Both also have the pennant stripe made of light blue and white, rather than the chestnut and white in the first rug above. In these two smaller rugs, a darker blue replaces the white of the pennant strip at the single pattern ends. The version sold in Chicago was 11’7″x 9’3/4″ (353 x 276 cm) and is nine squares long; the one from New York was 10’3″x 9’2″ (312.5 x279.5 cm) and is eight squares long. The widths are close enough to make one wonder if these were woven on the same warp, and if there was a mismeasurement somewhere.

Color change in “pennant-strip” on smaller of these rugs.

One of my next posts will look at a question raised by the initials on these 3 rugs.


Gustafson-Seife, Inger, Ingrid Dessau Textil Designer, Boras Textile Museum, 2008.

Wright Auction house, Chicago. Catalog for auction November 17, 2011, object #230.

Sotheby’s Auction house, New York. Catalog for auction November 17, 2011.

Please Reference as follows:

Whidden, Anne, “Blue,Blue,Blue” theswedishrugblog (September 10, 2015);
http://; accessed (month/day/year)

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