In 1925 Arthur Upham Pope wrote a stinging condemnation of rug studies in the United States. In fact, any honest reading of Popes words shows they would still quite easily outdo even some of those RK has written here on RugKazbah.com.
The article we reference appeared in The Art Bulletin: An Illustrated Quarterly published by the College Art Association of America in their September issue of that year.
Lets remember at this time period Pope was one of the leading academics and scholars, if not the preeminent one, concerned with historic Oriental rugs, as well as with other areas of Islamic art.
Although Pope was, unlike RK, an accepted member of the hierarchy of Oriental Rug researchers and connoisseurs he, too, knew something was dreadfully wrong with the level of academic scholarship in this field. But, regardless of his being in the community, Pope was, just like RK, not afraid to stand up and publicly declare something was rotten in Rugdom. And again like us Pope did so regardless of the consequences he would face.
The article we republish below only came to our attention because a faithful reader and friend of ours, Dennis Marquand, sent us a copy of the 1925 Art Bulletin with this note attached:
Jack U.S. rug scholarship circa 1925. The more things change
Wed like to take this opportunity to first thank Dennis, who is by the way the best source for new and also out of print rug books, for bringing Popes critique to our attention and, second, to recommend him and his website (http://rugbooks.com) to our readers.
During the 1920s and 30s The Art Bulletin was perhaps the leading Art magazine and its $2.00 per issue price was quite expensive as we are sure our readers know.
Popes opening sentence was a potent salvo decrying the poor level of scholarship present in America and, quite frankly, it still is very applicable today:
One reason why studies in Muhammadam Art make such negligible progress in America while important contributions are appearing continually abroad is because of the total absence here of genuine criticism.
Yesshhh, dont Popes words ring loud and clear here on RugKazbah even though they were written much more than a half a century ago?
And yes, Dennis Marquand was right on when he said the more things change. the more they remain the same.
Obviously, this is no laughing matter and anyone who thinks it is deserves to wear a permanent dunce cap.
Popes next sentences likewise continues to prove things havent changed very much:
Books are not reviewed with frankness or knowledge, serious errors go unchallenged, methods are no where discussed or standards enforced. Of healthy controversial literature, the mark of growth and vitality, there is little trace. This situation is to no ones advantage and is a reproach to American scholarship. Those who believe Muhammadan Art is really important should see that every sincere contribution in this field meets not only an open-minded welcome but, what is quite as important, the same sort of searching criticism which is as a matter of course accorded to contributions in other departments in the history of art where scholarly standards have been long established and more strictly maintained.
RK would like to rhetorically ask, once more for the umpteenth time, why such standards have never been established or even contemplated for rug studies?
Popes next sentence is as fiery as his first:
Such cooperation between scholars for good-tempered criticism is always that is especially needed for the clarification of the obscure and complicated, yet important, problems of carpets.
These introductory comments by Pope are actually more of a preamble for his critical assault on M.S. Dimands brief study of early Persian medallion carpets published the year before in this same journal that follows them and was the ostensible reason for his ire.
RK has republished Popes article in its entirety and trusts interested readers will peruse his critique and rebuttal of Dimands thoughts on these carpets.
We also illustrate just below the piece Pope chose to use as an example in his discussion of Dimands errors and mistakes:
Were Pope alive today we are sure he would join with us to decry the pathetic state of academics in rug studies.
However, more significantly, we believe he would not sit idle or silent in regards to the travesty of the Los Angeles County Art Museum(LACMA) being conned by dennis dodds into purchasing a mediocre late genre copy as a mid-16th century masterpiece Turkish Village rug.
Nor does RK believe Pope would not have raised his critical voice against acor and hali presenting that miserable group of late, if not contemporary fake, Ottoman embroideries a novice and fool like gerard pacquin has tried to convince rugdom are anything but that.
Calling the dodds/LAMCA rug mid-16th or even mid-17th is as ridiculous as calling pacquins bogus embroideries 17th/18th cenury or even Ottoman for that matter.
When grievous errors like these are not only made but then go unchallenged into being accepted as truth, well, what could be worse or more prove in spades the prophetic nature of Popes words?
Its time those individuals, who as Pope so eloquently described them as believing Muhammadan Art is important, stand up and start to complain about the regrettable present tense in rug studies and not just sit by quietly awaiting the next fiasco.
RK is also pretty positive Pope would, like RK has done, rebuke both the icoc and acor committees for their abject disregard of genuine academics and their acceptance of the mediocrity and status quo politics that are epidemic in these conferences.
It is also pretty clear a free-thinker like Pope would not be a supporter of professor clowns internet rug romper room nor would he stand mute to many of the other rug world debacles RK has decried.
We could go on but feel reading the words Pope wrote a little more than 75 years ago prove RKs position rugdom needs some serious house cleaning if not total demolition.