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Sun, May 29th, 2011 04:31:15 AM
Topic: Pope's Prophetic Words

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.

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Author: jc
Sun, May 29th, 2011 04:31:15 AM

Every so often RK thinks it is necessary to point out to our readership what Pope wrote 86 years ago and how it is still 100 percent applicable for rugDUMB today.

Author: jc
Mon, Jan 3rd, 2011 02:10:42 AM

Today is Jan 3, 2011 and regardless it is a New Year rugDUMb will, unlike the calendar, not change.

We have moved Pope's prophetic words back into the spotlight for several reasons, not the least of which is our continued disgust with the lack of intelligent conversation about the issues of the day, as well as ones of day's past.

Our critical review of both the Richardson , ie Beshir, prayer rug sold at sotheby NY last month and our declaration the Marby rug is a reproduction and not a 14th century rug are provocative, as well as, well documented.

But even if they weren't and we were just shooting arrows in the air aimlessly rugDUMB's silent as lambs sheeple would not comment.


This is a good question and one an astute reader should have asked Pope in a letter to the editor of the magazine, who thought fit and rightly so to publish his condemnation.

RK could enumerate several reasons the situation remains the same today but why bother as none of you apparently deaf, and might we say dumb, readers care to take the effort to actively engage these and many other issues that in any other art-collecting field would elicit comment.

It is sad but true few of you have any real knowledge or experience, nor are you trying to get it. Apparently you are content to wallow in semi-ignorance, happy to be able to utter words like Yomut, Shirvan, Safavid and Kazak, and to religiously read, errrrrr we mean look at the pictures in, your new copy of that rag hali.

You can talk the talk but can you walk the walk?

Hell no, is the only proper and true answer.

So in the spirit of trying to better yourselves, to which we are sure you all would subscribe, go read, or re-read, what Pope wrote 3/4 of a century ago.

Maybe his words, forget RK's, might stimulate even a tiny percentage of you to get involved ... and that means doing far more than renewing your subscription to that rag hali or signing up for the next no better than the last icoc in Stockholm.

Author: jc
email: [email protected]
Sat, Jul 4th, 2009 12:55:19 PM

This expression by Pope is just as significant as it was when we previously posted it several years ago or when Arthur Upham Pope wrote it in 1925.

We hope all readers will carefully read Pope's words and, more importantly, think about them and what they portend for today's rugDUMB.

Author: jc
Thu, Apr 10th, 2008 04:19:08 AM

Still as relevant as it was several years ago when we first republished it, or half a century and more earlier when Pope penned it, moving it here lends, we hope, some powerful perspective to RK's generally anti-establishment position.

Author: jc
email: [email protected]
Thu, Jul 27th, 2006 01:08:19 PM

We find it quite amazing not one of the hundreds of reads this post has stimulated resulted in anyone's reply.

We know most, if not all readers, realized the truth of Pope's words back then, and now as well.

The simple fact not one reader bothered to reply sends the message confirming the tsumani of indifference this art area suffers.

We also know Pope would not have stood silent when faced with the two highest profile debacles rugdom has ever witnessed -- the dodds/LACMA purchase and the paquin embroidery problem.

Pope was no fool but those today, who might in their dreams aspire to believe they are equal to him in stature, surely are.

The jon thompsons, the little lord franseses, and all the other credited in name only expurts like them, have proven both how little expertise they have, or are willing to apply to any issue that doesn't benefit them, as well as demonstrating their true lack of any personal honesty or integrity.

In a nut-shell, they all stink as far as we are concerned.

RK has been accused by others, besides that rug-idiot clowning professor, of being far too anti-establishment and caustic in our approach.

But face facts and wake up and smell the rotten flowers that litter rugdom, folks, Pope's vision then, and RK's now, are both 20/20.

Often when a situation is as screwed-up and disgusting as that faced by rugdom is, the only solution is to destroy the status quo.

Although effecting this revolution might conjure up doomday visions in the little-minds of many of those who claim to be supporters, RK believes anything, even nothing, would be better than what we have presently.

The sad commentary of hali's failure to respond to either, let alone both, of the issues we mention, added to the dwindling quality of their reportage and on top of the equally complicit icoc and acor board of idiots who likewise refuse to believe anything besides their own pie-in-the-sky, holier than thou stances, goes the distance to prove our position.

Some might remark "Love it or leave it" to RK but it this, too, is quite obviously just more of the same.

It's time for change and, like Pope whose words clearly fell on deaf ears, RK knows the talking time is over and action is what is needed.

Who among our readers is brave, honest and expert enough to join?

Heavens knows realizing the sorrowful state rugdom is, and has been, mired in for a decade or more doesn't require much but doing something: Now that's a different story, ain't it...

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