view of rugs at Boston auction, the engsi in question is in front of the desk and the Amu darya MC on the grass on the left
RK has attended 1000s of estate auctions over the years and must admit we have seen many rugs at these sales sell for too much or too little.
So we are not unaccustomed to observing ignorant and inexpert oriental rug buyers throwing away their money, or missing huge bargains, and such was the case on Monday when we attended the preview of a sale held outside Boston, Mass.
The auctioneer published some photos of the antique oriental rugs he was going to be selling and after looking at them, RK decided it might be worth a drive to check-out the sale even tho we did not hold much chance the engsi and Amu Darya MC on offer would in fact interest us enough to acquire them.
Another picture from the auctioneer showing the engsi, notice how the auctioneer hid the elem on the other end, which had RK known we'd have never gone
The sale was at 6pm with a preview that began at noon, so we figured 4 pm was early enough to get a good look at the goods on offer without having to rub elbows, or dodge them, later when t he auction room would be full of prospective buyers.
Here the elem panel is visible but there was no picture showing the whole rug -- did the auctioneer know, did the consignor tell him to do it this way, or was it coincidence?
After quckly looking at the engsi and Amu Darya MC, the rest of the rugs were even of more unmentionable quality, we headed for our car, turned the AC back on and headed south.
We were then somewhat surprised to hear the following from a rug-buddy of ours who is in the loop of New England and called us earlier today.
Hey", he said "What happened to you?
Wadda ya mean, we answered.
Well, he said Everyone at that auction was talking about you. Youre the great white shark and they all were scared and didnt know what to do.
Again we said What are you talking about?
"You were seen at the preview and the rug guys were all expecting you to come back and buy the engsi. he answered.
That piece of crap we said are you joking?
If we would have had a good picture, instead of the blurry ones in the brouchure, wed never have gone.
Mr XXXX(names will be changed to protect the ignorant) bought it for $450.00 and he then told me he showed it to Mr Y(names changed to protect the inexpert expurt) who told him it was the buy of the year worth tens of thousands.
Really we said As far as we are concerned Mr X knows next to nothing about Turkmen rugs so we are not surprised he bought it but Mr Y, who does know more but is surely not expert in RKs opinion, totally missed the boat on this one."
We then called Mr Y who told us how much he liked and valued it, though his opinion did seem to progressively sink like a brick in a barrel of honey when we told him we had seen it and thought it nothing important. Fact is we told him wed be hard pressed to buy it for 100 dollars.
This is typical for rugDUMB, the know-littles who think they are know-a-lots often get their knickers in a twist over less than important Turkmen rugs, as well those from other locales.
This leads us into the discussion we are aiming at: What is an engsi and what isnt?
The old saying if it walks, squawks, looks and smells like a duck then its duck, but if it dont then it aint is applicable here.
All engsi, at least those RK calls an engsi, have several indelible characteristics; three of which are four-panel fields, a certain outer minor border, and two elem or skirts at the bottom of the engsi.
There are naturally other criteria but all of them are not universal, however, those three are non-negotiable if they aint present it aint an engsi.
For comparison here are two somewhat similar engsi.
lot 8, Sotheby, New York, Dec.04, sold for 4,800 including buyers premium
The first has, like the one in question, two skirts one above and one below-, no engsi outer border and therefore it is a small format rug and not an engsi according to us.
The second, which has a similar but later rendition of the field the engsi in Boston had, also lacks that special outer border, has an upper and lower elem and a non-quartered field.
Yomud Rug/Engsi(?), Central Asia,19th century, 4' 3" x 5' 11";An interesting rug from Central Asia, a type of which there are very few examples. If this IS an engsi, the overall pattern with the absence of the quarted(sic) field format would be very unusual.
This is the caption a semi-literate ruggie, who is smart enough to question an engsi attribution, put under this rug when he published it on his website.
This late 19th century example is a later editon of the Boston engsi, which is undoubtedly early 19th.
Both are, in our opinion, ugly derivative weavings, though we will readily admit the Boston auction example is far the better.
As most of you know RK does not value the condition of any historic weaving as being an important point, but in later periods it is a significant one and the Boston engsi was in such deplorable condition, besides the fact it is late and not really an engsi, whatever virtues it once had are now long gone and only a memory.
Its easy to get all excited over old rugs but knowing which ones are worth excitement and which are worth only a yawn takes a considerable amount of connoisseurship and expertise something that is sorely deficient in most rug buyers.
PS: RK is surely not despondent over this lack of expertise, in fact it is something we can almost always count on like a sailor does with a good strong wind at his back.
It is also the main reason we have stopped disseminating our rug knowledge, after all those rug buyers who are our competition are not stupid, they just know next to nothing about rare historic oriental rugs or even how to learn about them something which always brings a smile to our face.
So good luck to Mr. X in peddling his engsi and we will not be further surprised if some moke Turkmen collector shells out 10 times or more to own Mr Xs treasure.
Let us remind you all of olP.T. Barnums theory Theres a sucker born every minute.
Hey maybe P.T. should have given up the circus and become a rug dealer, he sure understood RugDumb, now didnt he..