Detail central medallion; Soumak khorjin; published Kelim Soumak Carpet and Cloth: Classic Weaving of the Caucasus; RK collection
The latest issue, summer 2017, of that rag hali is hot off the press, and although RK cannot be bothered to read every word we read enough to note there is nothing new, avant garde, or exciting in the 130 pages it encompasses.
As the so-called self-titled bible of the rug collecting world it used to be, that rag hali has for the past decade and a half at least reached a level too far below that to prevent one from being unjust in calling it major mediocre.
There is no pazzzaz, no sizzile, no excitement. It is as if those who produce it are just going through the motions pretending they are anything but know-little hacks quite content to remain stuck in their deepening rut.
We are not going to offer commentary on much, as there was little of interest for us and please never forget RK publishes RugKazbah.com for our pleasure, not anyone elses.
That is not to say we are not intersted in our readers as we surely are. But we are not interested in providing the extensive coverage we formerly didit is too much work with no reward.
This situation is obvious to our readers and we appreciate the occassional emails of praise we receive. Please know your compliments are much appreciated. Were there more we might be inclined to up the ante and provide more commentary but we think we have found a happy medium, one this post and other recent ones exemplify.
The most interesting bit in this issue is the announcement rugs and carpets from the Christopher Alexander Collection will be offered by sothebys rug department this coming November.
Chris Alexander is a world famous architect, who began collecting carpets in the 1960s. RK met him in 1974 and had a good friendship with Chris, even after he moved to England where he remains.
Christies already had a sale with a number of Alexnders lesser rugs and from the hype sotheby is pumping their sale will have the best of the rest. This will surely, if true, be the type of sale that could eclipse the Vok collection and others, like the robert pinner and kurt munkasci affairs.
Like Vok, and unlike pinner and munkasci, Alexamders collection was primarily Anatolian but he did not collect flat weaves, only pile rugs.
RK looks forward seeing if sotheby hype will be fulfilled, and perhaps we will do a good after sale commentary as we no longer dispense our opinions pre-sale. If you want to know what RK thinks before the hammer falls pay us and our expertise is yours.
Speaking of expertise, well really the lack of it, there is a long article written by Ted Mast, a long time hajji babaite who is much to his misfortune under the wing and spell of dennis the cheat, liar and thief, dodds.
Mast has written this article about the design on a yastik formerly in the collection of jim Shanbo burns.
Central Anatolian yastık, 18th century. Warp: ivory wool, Z2S, no depression; weft: tan-grey, 2 strands lightly twisted, 2-3 shoots; knots: SY, 7H x 9V = ca. 975/dm2; pile: wool, Z2S. o.60 x 1.12 m (1' 12" x 3' 8"). Formerly James D. Burns Collection, private collection, USA(caption verbatim from Masts article)
Called the folk process this long-winded unilluminating exercise hajji Mast authored and that rag hali published typifies the depths of meaninglessness this magazine is now delving.
We say meaningless because Masts whole approach and modus operandi misses hitting not only the bull-eyes but the entire target.
The article begins with this introduction The development and diffusion of designs have long been contentious topics among rug scholars and collectors, especially in regard of early Anatolian material. Theodore Mast examines the lineage of a rare and appealing design that at times has confounded even the experts.
The first part of this is clearly true, as few scholars or collectors have enough experience and perspective to be able to see sources and connect them to the objects of their interest. As for the second part the fact the design of this yastik has confounded even the experts is not so true as one expert, yours truly, is not confounded at all.
Here is the source of the yastiks main and many of its secondary motifs.
Soumak khorjin detail of which is illustrated above
The main motif is of course the medallion and comparing the two demonstrates how the prototype desgin of the soumak became diluted and transformed into the later, descendant, medallion on the yastik.
Mast does not date the yastik and we have no idea how jim burns, a serial overdater, dated it. However, we would date it second quarter 19th century and the soumak khorjin a century earlier.
Putting these two medallion side by side aptly illustrates their undeniable design relationship and their age difference.
Medallion comparison: Left: Soumak khorjin; Right: Anatolian yastik
It seems more than chance the khorjins four animals with the over sized fan-tails (are they peacocks) have been transformed by the yastik weaver into the two skeletal tree-like figures with their wavy branches/arms. Just as the two different zoomorphic figures in the soumaks medallion, the four abstract horse and rider and four large beetles, have become the yastics eigth highly codified Turkmen minor gul type motifs in the same position. Interesting to note the two Turkmen football gol placed above and below the central Darynak inspired motif on the blue ground in the center center of the yastik.
This Darynak style motif being a replacement for the far more involved and intriguing chem-che in the sumaks center cetner red gound medallion. These obvious Turkmen references point a well placed finger at the weaver of the yastics having roots in that tradition, not an Anatolian one.
If comparing the khorjin and yastic appear farfetched notice the quite rare and unusual dodecahedron outline shape of the soumaks red and blue ground medallions has been reproduced by the yastiks weaver. This, too, is no coincidence.
Another analog they share is khorjins north-south-east-west beetle or bug-like zoomorphic figures in its blue ground medallion. The yastik weaver did not forget them, something the pair of overspized codified ones that appear above and below the red ground hexagon outer medallion prove.
RK cannot as positively tell where the four checkerboard squares placed in each corner of the yastics yellow field came from other than to suggest they are the vestigeal remains of the black and white barber-pole outlines of the inner and outter soumak medallions.
Mast wastes pages and pages making pointless analogies to various khorjin and rugs that are basically as old as the yastik, some even younger. How could they possibly be a source for its design?
Mast seems to sense this, and at the very end of his article, we quote It is too close in time to the dated pair (and the Burns yastık itself) to represent a revival or replication, but distant enough to have outlived its own tradition..
An amateurish article like this belongs on turk0.com rather than a magazine that bills itself as the antique carpet worlds scholarly organ.
Once it was, now it aint; and anyone reading our take on Masts article we believe will have to come to the same conclusion.
From our perspective there is nothing else interesting or worth our time to report in the latest issue. Were we interested in some additional raining down on their yurts we would pick apart ben aka jimmy olsen evans thoughtless and banal editorial.
But why bother, even though someone close to him tells us he is a loyal reader, his reading us has not helped him at all.
Hes still no rug superboy, forget his ever becoming a rug superman.
This issue will quickly join the others gathering dust on your book shelves.