Home > dr jon thompson >What is jon thompson?
Guru or fakir, Parts 1&2
Tue, Dec 8th, 2009 12:36:36 AM
Topic: What is jon thompson?
Guru or fakir, Parts 1&2

RugDUMB did not exist when jon thompson became interested in old oriental rugs.

Yes, there were other rug collectors but, at that time circa 1959, there were no rug societies, organizations or clubs, nor were there many books on the subject.

Well, alot has changed in those 50 years but as great as those changes in rugDUMB are, even greater ones can be seen in who and what jon thompson has become.

But before RK goes further in dissecting the veil of "myth" thompson the imposter has drawn around himself, and of course allowed others to do so as well, RK needs to explain our first-hand knowledge of, and personal perspective on, this person a former colleague of his recently described as "America's rug guru.

RK first met thompson in New York City sometime in the mid-1970's, sorry we cannot be more precise.

At that time RK had been interested in, and collecting, antique oriental rugs since the fall of 1966 -- we purchased our first old rug to furnish our dorm room as a university sophomore.

During the early and middle 1970's many English and German dealers came to NY to find and buy antique rugs and when we met thompson it was one of his initial, or even his first, foray to the colonies to find pieces for his collection.

Now thompson was not a dealer but, as he states in the preamble he wrote in the beginning of the 1993 sales catalog of his "collection", a London dealer loaned him money to pay for his first trips to USA to buy rugs:

" Mr. Gumuchdjian...became sort of an uncle...he even lent me money to travel to the United States..."

He then continues about that first trip:

it was "...the first of a number of trips visiting public and private collections throughout the country. These trips introduced me to the open-hearted generosity so characteristic of Americans and laid the ground-work which made it possible to recommend the inclusion of a number of pieces in the Turkmen exhibition held at the Textile Museum, Washington in 1980."

Frankly this look at who, or should we say what, jon thompson is could stop right here, as the following translation makes it clear just how far in over-drive thompson's myth making machine is operating.

For anyone who knows the psychology of business, or that of an insecure, uptight poseur like a jon thompson, the situation he so carefully describes raises a number of questions thompson has even more carefully left unanswered.

First is why would Gumuchdjian "lend" thompson money to go to America to meet collectors and view public collections?

As an aside here let RK state that we, too, knew and were on very warm and friendly terms with Mr Gumuchdjian, having met him on our first trip to London to buy rugs in 1976.

Mr. Gumudjian had a small two or three room basement shop around the corner, in an alley, from Phillips main London salesroom in the west end.

Mr G, as RK immediately started to call him, was truly a kindly old soul who loved antique oriental rugs -- he also loved making money.

However he, unlike thompson, did not worship and hunger for money. More about this later...

Anyway and until his death RK spent many pleasant hours talking and kibitizing with the generous Mr G on our many trips to London.

In fact when we once asked him if he could help us acquire a copy of the original catalog made for the 1970 Turkmen exhibition in Hamburg, Germany he got up out of his chair, went over to his bookcase, and pulled out his copy.

He then quite unceremoniously handed it to us as a present.

We still have it, and as an aside Mr G told us "I am sorry, and hope you don't mind, but this catalog was partially burned in a fire in my old shop".

So RK knows Mr G was a very generous man but we also know enough about him, and his business acumen, to realize if he lent thompson money to go to America he expected more than just getting it back.

RK is sure thompson did not wish to cast himself as a dealer, or a dealers representative, in his brief auction catalog autobiography, as doing so would not only be truthful but it would not lend itself to the myth thompson has been spinning since the late 1970s.

In fact, the auction catalog rug-autobiography thompson penned has holes large enough to drive a loaded semi-truck and trailer through, omissions that have been meticulously and carefully discarded to build that myth.

As RK understands it, the doctor part of thompsons name is related to his schooling and work as an internist but, aside from one gratuitous mention which we will get to later, any reader would not know that and be led to believe thompson has a doctorate in some other field that was art related.

There are so many fractured fairy-tales in the mythological personal history thompson recounts anyone, like RK, who knows the truth can only laugh at this mans burning desire to present not only his best face but one thats not even his.

But back to thompsons early days of rug collecting, or should we say his purposely twisted hindsight about them.

While describing the mentor role Mr G played in his rug collecting thompson explains:

My interest at this stage became focussed(sic) on Turkmen weavings

He also explains, and RK can verify this as one of the few statements he makes that ring 100 percent true:

I bought a number of excellent pieces from him including the old Chaudur trapping (lot 37).

Lot 37, thompson sale, 1993

He saw my interest in these Turkmen bits and pieces as rather strange. 'How many people are there in London', he said. I dont know, about 10 million I replied. Well, youre the only person I know looking for such things, he told me. Nevertheless he was tolerant of my odd taste and always tried to help when he could see I wanted to buy something but had no money. If you like it take it, and pay me something when you can, he would say.

This also rings true as a bell from what we know about thompson (he had no money) and Mr. G (he was a very generous man).

However, it also demonstrates Mr. Gs generosity had bounds he did not give the pieces to thompson as gifts but rather extended him a payment plan so that he could make a sale.

RK mentions this to put into perspective thompsons spin concerning the money Mr. G lent him to go to America.

Forgetting about what we know about thompson and Mr G from personal contact, any alert reader might also suspect the money Mr G lent thompson had a simple and obvious string attached to it and that string was for thompson to find pieces for Mr G to sell in his shop.

After all America was and still is, like England, a place where antique oriental rugs of all persuasions could be found and bought and RK is sure this fact was not unknown to the ever alert and shrewd, as thompson himself characterized, Mr G.

Now, readers, why would thompson not fess-up and admit to this fact?

Simple, it would not fit in the myth of his life thompson is so diligently working to create.

While he does admit, he had no money at this time, thompson knew well such an admission was not a demerit but rather built the impression of character, especially since by 1993 when he wrote it thompson had already said good bye to his former penuriousness and was now actually quite wealthy in comparison. More about how this came about later

Of course, after the sale of the 81 pieces and myth making in the catalog, thompson was quite a bit more than a million dollars richer.

End of Part 1

Author: jc
Sun, Dec 6th, 2009 01:22:08 PM

Actually what RK wrote in Part 1 was surely enough to sink any ship flying the flag jon thompson is what he and rugDUMB claim an expert and the leading researcher.

However, RK well knows how deeply ingrained the thompson myth is and in this series of posts, of which this is part 2, we intend to bust that myth into tiny shreds and send them off into oblivion.

In that exercise there are so many aspects we can discuss frankly we hardly know where to now retake up our myth busting.

Perhaps we should explain how thompson went from a highly motivated collector and lover of Turkmen rugs that as he himself says in the sale catalog of his collection autobiography says:

My purchases were not appreciated by my friends, in fact they were something of an embarrassment

to the Turkmen weaving denigrator he is today.

As amazing as the following statement may sound it is, like all of RKs writing, 100 percent factual and correct.

RK was until 1980 quite friendly with thompson, and we spent much time with him when he visited NY and also when RK was in London.

In fact, we visited thompson at his old flat on 36 Great Percy Street, London WC1 more times than we can remember, at least 10 times.

Each time we visited thompson would show us 5 or 6 pieces from his collection.

He did this because our friendship was a two-way street in the sense that thompson was not the expert and RK the student, but rather we were equals who exchanged ideas and information about Turkmen rugs and rug collecting in general.

RK always enjoyed talking with thompson and from the energy he put into our friendship it is clear he did also.

But by 1980 things had changed, and in one of the succeeding parts of this look at dr jon thompson we will explain how that happened.

But for now lets examine why thompsons entire outlook on Turkmen rugs radically changed.

During those discussions and times thompson and RK spent together, which were please remember pre-1980, we can affirmatively state thompson believed, and was not shy to state, there were extant Turkmen rugs dating to the 18th and even 17th century.

Of course, this is still fact today fact that there are such early examples and RK is not the only researcher to hold such a position.

However, thompsons position on this has changed, and changed like night and day.

For instance, in the sales catalog of his collection there are 61 Turkmen pieces but only one is dated 18th century and a mere 7 dated 18th or 19th century.

This is absurd, and not only does RK disagree with thompsons under-dating but we disagree with a number of the pieces he over-dated too early as well.

Since this series of posts is about the thompson myth as a Turkmen and oriental rug expert, and not about dating of Turkmen rugs, RK will only supply two examples of thompsons idiotic dating in his sales catalog.

The first, dated by thompson as 18th or 19th century is a good early Tekke main carpet RK would date no earlier than the first quarter of the 19th at best surely not 18th century.

lot 12, thompson sale, 12/16/1993

Not to get into a long discussion, the multiplicity of designs in the main border is not at all in keeping with the simple and elegant main borders found on Tekke mains RK dates pre-1800.

Also the regularity and repetition of depiction of the minor gol is, likewise, not part and parcel of Tekke mains that pre-date 1800.

There is no doubt lot 12 is an early Tekke main, its just not in the earliest, ie pre-1800, group.

Our next example of this easily questionable and foolish dating is this amazing old and interesting large format torba fragment:

lot 51, thompson sale, 12/16/1993

This diamond gol torba fragment, and the group to which it belongs, remains unidentified.

What is not unidentifiable is the ridiculous 19th century date thompson hangs on it.

It is, by the way, the only piece RK would have purchased from the sale had we wished to participate.

But that was not the case and we can only state that the buyer, who paid a measly $9,000 for it, was quite astute to buy it, and also quite fortunate RK chose not to participate had we the price would have been much higher, guaranteed.

The thompson fragment is much better, and earlier, than all but one the very few other published analogous examples, and it and most of them surely pre-date 1800.

In fact, it is the earliest Turkmen weaving in the catalog and thompsons failing to notice this, or even date it pre-1800 demonstrates the absurdity of his dating chronology.

It also is one other sign thompsons reputation as a Turkmen rug expert might have at one time been true but today is nothing but the myth RK, and a few others by the way, are not afraid to voice.

Since this is not an examination of the pieces in the thompson collection, but rather his ideas and opinions about them we would just like to mention the archetype of the group to which lot 51 belongs is illustrated in the Kulture der Turkmen book authored by Rautenstengle and Azadi; plate 26, page 97.

Plate 26, "Kulture Der Turkmen, Rautenstengle and Azadi

As a short aside let RK mention briefly our story about it.

When we were in Vienna, in 1986 some days before the icoc, we visited the shop of a well-known dealer in Austria and saw it hanging there. We asked the price, did a little bargaining, and stuck a deal with the owner.

He wanted to be paid in cash, and since we did not have enough to pay him in our wallet we arranged to see him in two days and return with the money.

When we did return with the cash the piece was GONE, the dealer sold it to someone else and then, sheepishly, said he was sorry.

Needless to say that was the last time we ever spoke to him.

RK has never forgotten that bit of dishonesty.

This episode and our lack of desire to own something of thompsons combined to keep us from going after lot 51.

Lets end this with a simple statement: thompsons calling lot 51 19th century is about as stupid a move as thompson has ever made even dumber than the Imreli debacle.

Why? Well since there was a Turkmen group known as Imreli thompsons error at least had some factual basis but under-dating his lot 51 has no basis at all.

From the few examples above, and the many more RK can cite, it should be clear to all but the most ardent thompson fans his alleged expertise as an expert of Turkmen rugs is nothing but myth.

And after all, everyone should remember thompsons reputation in the world of oriental rugs is based entirely on his work with Turkmen rugs, much of which has been now proven to be clearly over-rated and questionable, if not totally fallacious.

As far as RK is concerned the first and most highly visible example of thompsons decline from a honest and forthright researcher came in October of 1981 when, at a highly publicized carpet sale in NewYork, he purchased the following asmalyk:

Lot 175, Sotheby, October 1981

RK previewed the sale, looked at lot 175 very carefully(in fact we took it outside to see it in daylight), and then at the sale watched thompson buy it much to our surprise, as it sold for almost $50,000.

But what was even more remarkable was the fact RK believed it to be a revival/reproduction then and we still do.

Not a fake but, like dodds bellini, the thompson asmalyk appears to us to be a later piece masquerading as a classic produced at a much earlier time.

Had anyone else but thompson bought it RK is sure there would have been yards, no miles, of discussion about it and its authenticity.

However, because the thompson myth implies to all but a few his invincibility no discussion was ever mounted.

By the way it is illustrated in Carpet Magic the book thompson organized, authored and produced. RK has written about that book and thompsons role and perhaps in one of the next parts we will revisit the facts and not the fable of that effort.

From October 1981 onwards the myth and legend of dr. jon Thompson as the leading expert of oriental rugs grew by leaps and bounds, while at the same time any genuine and visible basis for this was not only hard to see it soon became invisible.

What we have written so far should be enough to sink the H.M.S. thompson the great rug expert ship but since RK knows rugDUMB is never wont to accept fact that flies in the face of its own myths we will continue to torpedo thompsons fake and phony reputation with more truth and example.

End of Part 2.

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