Home > Rug, Kelim, Soumak, Textile Post Archive >Engsi: Secular Door-cover or Cult Object 4
Tue, Nov 27th, 2018 04:27:16 AM
Topic: Engsi: Secular Door-cover or Cult Object 4

Detail early engsi with archetypal single so-called eagle motif, and uniquely patterned quartered field; RK collection

The somewhat ubitquous motif that crowns this engsi often leads those who are less than expert to believe it is no earlier than the middle of the 19th century.

How wrong this opinion is, as every aspect of the eagle motifs detailed articulation, and those of the entire engsi itself, beg the validity of that judgment.

There is no doubt this engsi is at least a century or possibly even earlier. The fantastic tonanities of the varied color palette; the crisp, chiseled drawing; the unique iconography of the small indescribable icon carefully placed in exact diagonal rows of contrasting coloration in the four box field; the majestic and imposingly large singleeagle icon; the vertical side borders large combs with kotchak tops, and other notable designwork well support this conclusion.

The lower elem panel houses additional unique iconography that can be interpreted as animistic. Pairs of large skeletal animals back-to-back create a pair of gol ID ashik that flank each of the five rather thick vertical bars that contain three simple multi-colored prehistoric anthropomorphic effigy/idol representations.

Detail of the lower elem panel repeating pair of large, skeletal animals that form the two halves of a gol ID on each side of the thick vertical bars that contain three multi-colored anthropomorphic prehistoic effigy representations.

The supreme level of wool quality, one of the aspects that allowed such brilliant coloration, is notable -- particularly the long staple, glisteningly slippery, white sheep wool warps.

Unraveling the provenance of an engsi like this is impossible today based on the limited information that exists. Perhaps involved scientific wool and dye examination will help but so far initiating this type of research remains as elusive as determining its exact origin or those of the other early engsi in the presentation below.

Author: jc
Thu, Apr 26th, 2018 02:25:37 AM


No we did not buy or even know about the 'early engsi' Michael Hawes was selling.

Do you have a photo? If so please send it to us by email.

You can send it to jc at wamri dot org. Thanks

Author: jc
Thu, Apr 26th, 2018 02:18:01 AM

Greetings Michael:

This definitely is a curious engsi, mainly because of the so-called eagle motif that crowns the vertical bar located between the four box field arrangement all engsi display.

But even though we feel this engsi has good age, ie pre-1800, RK is not so sure this motif has much age past that time. That said we date this engsi middle 18th century based on a number of factors, some of which are discussed above.

However, and since we know and own much earlier engsi this one in comparsion is not nearly as early.

So calling it an "archetype" might be exaggerating its position in the engsi pantheon. One thing is sure it is the earliest engsi we know with the eagle motif.

BTW: The dyes are superior. So is the wool quality and other technical details.

Just to push this discussion a little further here is a detail from another engsi in our collection we feel might show where and how this eagle motif developed.

Detail: Symmetric knotted engsi with perhaps the prototype iconography of the eagle motif; pre-1750; RK collection

This weaving also has features that are not easily understood within the usual ones that provenance an engsi to a particular Turkmen group.

The most obvious is the Tekke type treament in the panel just above the field. This row arangement of aina type gol -- a interior box with bi-colored red and blue isosceles triangles laid on a white field within a parallelogram at their interior -- is rarely seen in other group's engsi. There are other features as well that defy an easy classification for this engsi.

We mention it solely for its large very prominent kotchak that very conceivably can be the source for the eagle-motif.

One piece of solid evidence leading to this assumption is its aforementioned earliest known appearance at the top of the vertical bar, just like the kotchak in the detail above, and not as the eagle motif is far more frequently seen in the elem panel below the field in later engsi.

Early Turkmen weavings, especially engsi, break all the rules. That's of course not to say there are any governing these fascinating early weavings of the Turkmen.

Author: Michael Raysson
email: [email protected]
Wed, Apr 25th, 2018 10:30:31 PM

Speak of archetypal!

Author: Michael Raysson
email: [email protected]
Wed, Apr 25th, 2018 06:08:13 PM

This morning in between asking a price for an ancient ensi and then a couple of minutes later, making an offer (to Michael Hawes)in those two minutes someone else was able to buy it before me. Was that you?

Author: jc
Sat, Mar 17th, 2018 04:09:12 AM

Howdy there 'Whistler':

First never forget RK enjoys being theatrical and provocative in our writing. So our 'infinite/finite' paradigm while based on actual fact -- witness the aforementioned half- and quarter-gol style as well as other indications the weavers of early Turkmen and Anatolian rugs knew of the concept -- is like everything in carpet research and collecting not a hard and fast rule.

Seems the weavings shown in Timurid miniatures provide the earliest examples of a field design that carries through and past the border.

Borders are boundaries and there should be little doubt the weavers of the earliest Turkmen rugs lived in a world, basically, without boundaries. Their cult carpet and woven art work is evidence of this theory.

As for the question 'wonderer' posed concerning the integrity of this border amulet's representation over time -- be it one century, we would opine several -- it appears it did not undergo much change. But again it is not a complex icon and this featurelessness surely is likely responsible for its cohesive longevity.

For us, however, there is a far more important question 'wonderer's' post raised -- his trying to base judgment about the age of that engsi because it has this amulet in the minor border.

We called his implying the engsi was later than our estimation inconsequential.

So if you or he want to try and substantiate this inference we'd enjoy seeing what evidence you can offer to support that claim.

We have already presented some of ours and can muster some additional support should it be necessary.

We can confidently state the engsi colors, inconography and materials belie it being 19th century. Remember, the fact no other similar one exists is a quite strong point that favors our date guesstimate.

Author: Whistler Fri, Mar 16th, 2018 05:57:20 PM

The question was whether you think that design element was well preserved from very early to later Yomut weavings. For the most part, I think it has been, with perhaps some minor degeneration, as you pointed out. I've seen some rather late pieces with very similar drawing to yours, including the "painted tips".I'm not persuaded by the finite / infinite hypothesis. Most late weavings with that design for the border or elem omit the bars, so are they living in the "infinite".Anyway, nice engsi and interesting material. Thanks for sharing.

Author: jc
Fri, Mar 16th, 2018 12:54:48 PM

One last but not least comment on this border comparison.

The fact the weaver of the Broido/rippon-boswell engsi placed each of the border amulets into a box created by adding a brown and white dash-dash line above and below each of them is a very important point.

Comparison showing our engsi on the left where there are no white and brown dash-dash lines separating each border amulet and the Broido engsi on the right where those dash-dash lines have been added.

In fact, this is the most important one we can mention, and this is why we are doing it as a postscript.

The psychology of the Turkmen and their weaving culture is unknown to us, we can only guess at certain ideas that might have been present and influential.

One of the most supportable, logical and noteworthy is the idea of the infinite/eternal universe of design.

This concept often appears in the earliest examples of Turkmen and Anatolian weaving where the sacrosanctity of a field design goes beyond the confines of the borders.

The half-gol and quartered-gol iconography seen in some weavings is likewise part of this concept.

So by encasing each of the border amulets in question within these upper and lower white and brown dash-dash perimeters the weaver is demonstrating she lived in a finite universe.

Whereas the weaver of our engsi did not do this. She understood the concept and was living conceptually in an infinite universe she expressed through the infinite nature of her work.

It's a very small and hypothetical point but a very large one. Do not doubt it.

Lastly, it's beyond very curious the weaver of the Broido engsi omitted adding the dash-dash lines where the side border joins the upper and lower ones. Even more so is the omission between the first few border amulets on the top right, as this close-up shows.

Was the weaver trying to say something?

It surely seems like she was, as this was just too methodically done to have been chance or coincidence.

Author: jc
Fri, Mar 16th, 2018 12:50:24 PM

Greetings 'wonderer' and thanks for your continued interest in discussing your minor border question by referencing an engsi sold at rippon-boswell in May of 2012.

However before we comment, and we are not denigrating your view, picking out only one aspect of the engsi we published, and a most minor one at that, and extrapolating from it the engsi is not as early as we have suggested is in our view inconsequential.

Granted we have said in the past all aspects of early, pre-1750, weavings, particularly Turkmen and Anatolian, are distinguishable from the later copies.

Sometimes the differences are in your face and blatant, other times very subtle and very hard to differentiate.

This instance, the minor border you pointed out, falls into the latter category, and while we will attempt to show it is not the same as what appears in the Broido/rippon-boswell engsi we can promise were you to view both in the flesh you would more than likely see what we are talking about.

Incidently that engsi, lot 2 in the rippon-boewell sale 80 (80/2), made an appearance here on RugKazbah.com in our RugKazbah.com review shortly after the sale.

Here is the thread in which we discussed it and several others lots in that sale.


So before we deal with your border question let's republish what we wrote about this engsi back in June of 2012.


From several reader's reports, some who attended the sale and others who didnt, we have been able to put together a pretty good picture of what happened at rippon-boswells major spring auction. It was a success although much of the mediocre material that predominated, and selling for low to mediocre prices, will never return much real profit or eyeball enjoyment for the buyers.

Afterall, does owning a closet full of mediocre second rate examples of Turkmen weaving give anything other than a type of gluttonous satisfaction.

The story of lot 2, the ex-broido engsi, is a perfect example. We discuss its price degeneration below, here we mention a far less obvious but far more salient point.

Lot 2, a Yomud family engsi recently sold at the Doctor jonathan broido sale at Nagel, lot 10, March 22, 2011.

The past forty year history of the market for antique, collectible, oriental rugs is a pyramid, which is getting progressively smaller at the top.

Regardless of the prices for certain exemplary and very early examples, which is an inverted pyramid with a top that is getting larger, the audience is shrinking. This is fact and anyone who disagrees is either an idiot or in denial.

We are not going to try to explain why this has happened, nor why we believe this trend will continue.

We will unequivocally state it is going to get harder and harder to sell mediocre and second-rate Turkmen and other oriental rugs, so whatever success one wants to herald from recent boswell, and grogan, sales RK sees this as only hype.

The story of lot 2, the ex-broido engsi tells it all.

Do we need also mention ten years ago many of the lots in the boswell sale would have brought (significantly) higher prices?

The reason is the aging demographic of collectors, the inability of those who are in charge of rugDUMB to generate significant sizzle to get a new and younger audience interested, and the inherent cronyism, deception, and yes deceit, visible to anyone with good eyes who might consider venturing into rugDUMB.

To continue: As we wrote the estimated prices were all over the board, but most pitched at rock bottom.

We certainly do not know who the consignors were but either maltzahn brow-beat them into submission to get such low prices or they were desperate as a ship-wrecked and out to sea in a dinghy for two months sailor is for a canteen of water .

Again, this is another very visible result of the shrinking market.

That said most of the material deserved the low prices, and considering the shape of the rug market even more so.

However, there were some prices for equally mediocre and barely collectible merch in the sale pitched at old time (for boswell) high estimates.

Apparently, and not surprisingly, the audience of buyers was willing to pay more for some of the far too cheaply placed lots, ignore others and do the same for the minority carrying far healthier price expectations.

RK has repeatedly maintained there is no real market in the truest sense of the word for antique oriental rugs, and if we are wrong(but we are not) that market is definitely shrinking. Once more this sale, and almost very other one we have ever witnessed, prove it admirably.

So lets take a look at the few lots we previewed, and a couple of others but remember the official prices have not been published so what follows has been gleaned from the reports of several trusted and reliable sources.

The first lot we discussed, lot 2 the ex-broido collection engsi, made 1500 euro, more than we expected but definitely not enough to cover its original cost let alone profit for the dealer who purchased it, were he the consignor.

Its not a bad example; its good in a loose meaning of the term, but its far from great. Considering its wacked condition, lack of outstanding color or iconography we are rather at a loss why someone would want it at 1500 plus commission..

Being a rather common type, along with the deficiencies noted above, it demonstrates there is a market for older Turkmen pieces (remember we never said there wasnt), albeit at quite distressed prices.

The fact it sold at Nagels broido sale not so long ago for 1700 euro and then appeared at boswell selling for a bit less shows the difficulty in selling pieces like this anywhere but what we call a hand-holding auction venue(the underbidder being the hand-holder).

As we said after purchasing it at Nagel the dealer who purchased it (michael craycraft) tried hard to sell it and whether or not he actually did, and at what price remains unknown to us. The engsi then appearing at rippon-boswell and selling for less surely bodes poorly for its alleged virtues and any real market for it.

OK enough on this uninteresting engsi and on to others.


Dated mid-19th century in the rippon-boswell catalog -- we were not able to find out what it was dated at the Nagel sale -- is, we believe, rather too conservative and calling it circa 1800 far more correct and plausible.

Regardless, it is not as early as the engsi we published, that's for sure.

Nor does it have any of the features -- materials, color, iconography -- that support dating the one from our collection circa 1700.

OK enough beating around the bush. Let's try to explain what we see as essential to prove our point and disprove 'wonderer's'.

Yomud engsi; ex-Broido/craycraft/rippon-boswell; and detail of the top right section showing the in question minor border.

Now here is a side-by-side comparison of the minor borders on it and ours.

Naturally the first comment has to do with the age of the Broido engsi surely being notably earlier than late 19th century.

Let's all remember, 'wonderer', you set up this discussion by stating it looks the same as in late 19th century weavings.

Moving past that, overall the coloration of the Broido engsi is not in any way as strikingly rich and crisp as our engsi.

This pertains to the way the border in question is depicted.

Also the proportions of this amulet on the Broido engsi are somewhat elongated, ours are a visibly less so. But the less dynamic depiction of the amulet, especially its reciprocal/negtive space iconography, is definitely worth mention.

Frankly, these are rather nit-picking when any comparison of the two engsi -- the Broido and ours -- cannot help but conclude the latter is the unmistakably earlier.

So it appears it's back to the drawing board for you, 'wonderer', to go find this border amulet on a late 19th century Turkmen weaving, as you initially set this up.

In the final analysis and in fact we think your position is rather pointless, as this border amulet is far too nondescript and simply articulated to base any age guessing of the weaving(s) in which it appears.

And BTW: Our comments written back in 2012 about the state of the rug market and its future were right on. It was not hard to forcast, and actually since the early 2000's RK made it clear to everyone this is what was going to happen.

Author: Wanderer Fri, Mar 16th, 2018 05:30:26 AM

That's Rippon Boswell A80/2.You can probably find it.

Author: Wanderer Fri, Mar 16th, 2018 03:57:45 AM

How about this one?https://www.rippon-boswell-wiesbaden.de/en/home/?lot=24437

Author: jc
Tue, Mar 13th, 2018 12:09:09 PM

In reply to 'wonderers' question about the design in the outer border and inner border that separates the four boxes in the field we can agree with him that there is little difference on a cursory glance in the way it is depicted here and its appearance in later engsi.

However, when closely examined and compared to any later copy size, proportions, small details of articulation, and especially its and the border's coloration separates this engsi version from any of the later appearances 'wonderer' cites.

Details of the engsi outer vertical border and top right corner

Remember readers when studying Turkmen rugs the subtle clues hidden in the smallest details often are the most salient determinants that separate early examples from later copies and confections.

We think 'wonderer' or anyone else will be hard pressed, in fact we believe it impossible, to find a 19th century Turkmen weaving, engsi or not, with a comparable rendition of this motif.

So go ahead, 'wonderer' and try to find one. And if you do email it to us and we will have our webmaster put it online in a post you can place here in this thread.

But be sure to study these two details of that border before you think you have found its equal. You will save us all alot of time by doing so.

Author: Wonderer Tue, Mar 13th, 2018 09:15:58 AM

Interesting series on engsis. I've enjoyed them.This is an interesting engsi, with unusual design features, as you've noted.I am wondering about the repeated motif in the outer border and within the vertical column that separates the field. It is quite common in Yomut weaving, and the rendition here looks very similar to late weavings. I've seen more archaic versions on Turkmen weavings, as I'm sure you have. Do you think that is a very well-preserved design motif through the generations, or might this engsi be a bit later than you have postulated?

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