Home > The Beat Goes On >More of RK's jon thompson obituary
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Tue, Feb 11th, 2020 03:17:23 PM
Topic: More of RK's jon thompson obituary

As we wrote rugDUMB will not now or probably in our lifetimes acknowledge the major failures embedded in dr john thompson's work on oriental carpets.

The obituary that rag hali published on the interent bears witness to this observation. That obit is reprinted below with comments from RK in bold type.

It is with great sadness and regret that we have to advise readers of the death on 23 January 2020 of the UK Islamic carpet and textile scholar Dr Jon Thompson, who has been one of the most influential contributors to the study of Islamic carpets since the 1970s.

There is no doubt thompson was considered by many to have been "influential". But any honest appraisal of his work cannot help but admit no one except RK has published the truth about him.

Let us add some additional facts to that, as well as correct the prejudical and highly tainted picture that rag hali's obit paints.

A Cambridge-educated physician who abandoned medicine in favour of carpets and collateral areas of Islamic art, Thompson was a compelling lecturer at major international conferences and symposia, as well as at a wide variety of rug society meetings, and an admirable teacher of rug and carpet courses at SOAS, the British Museum, Oxford University and through Sothebys.

A physician who never discarded the "Dr." title in his oriental rug world pursuits and publications makes it quite obvious thompson was not shy about presenting himself as something he wasn't. The fact it might not be dishonest is debatable, but it is definitely unethical.

Notable for the intellectual clarity of his carefully thought-out presentations, he first came to attention during through the annotated publication by the Crosby Press of an English edition of A.A. Bogolyubovs seminal 1906 work 'Carpets of Central Asia' (1973) in which Thompson defined the so called S-group of previously unclassified Salor Turkmen weavings, as well as through important 1970s and early 1980s essays in Lefevre auction catalogues and in David Black and Clive Lovelesss 'Rugs of the Wandering Baluchi' exhibition catalogue (1974).

Fact of the matter is "S" group was first discovered and identified by siawosh azadi, NOT jon thompson. They were, at this time, close friends and when azadi told thompson about his research that uncovered the "S" group label, technical characteristics which set these Turkmen rugs apart from all others, and plans to publish this information thompson went behind azadi's back and published azadis information in his Bogolyubov annotation and rushed to get it printed before azadi. He gave no acknowledgement to azadi as well.

This is both dishonest and unethical. RK learned of this during our 10 year association with azadi during which time we saved his gallery and arranged for a number of his best Turkmen rugs to eventually enter the deYoung Museum's collection. But that is secondary to our now exposing thompson's revolting theft of azadi's intellectual property.

According to azadi, and we have no doubt he spoke truth, thompson did identify the group of Turkmen rugs now known as proto-Chodor but the far more significant identification of the "S" group was azadi's and not thompson's.

He was the primary co-author and co-curator (with Louise Mackie) of the 1980 Washington Textile Museum ICOC exhibition and catalogue 'Turkmen', which rapidly became a standard work on the subject,

That rag hali's not mentioning the fiasco thompson unleashed by his bogus identification of group of Turkmen rugs supposedly woven by the "Imreli" demonstrates the blind eye this magazine and rugDUMB casts on jon thompson. His theory was flawed from the get-go. The illustrations in that catalog he claimed were "Imreli" did not even have the share the same technical characteristics, or any others besides thompson's pronouncements they were related. Numerous people called him out, including myself. At first thompson ignored his critics, then he tried to cover up his statements, and finally said it was all a big joke. If this is not totally opposite from "Notable for the intellectual clarity of his carefully thought-out presentation(s)" we do not know what might be. "Imreli" and the cover up was a huge professional and personal failure, and there is no way around that fact.

and in 1983, for the London ICOC, he curated and wrote the catalogue for the 'Carpet Magic' exhibition at the Barbican Centre, which, subtitled 'Carpets from the Tents, Cottages and Workshops of Asia', remains one of the best books ever written about the appeal of antique Islamic rugs.

A little known fact about that publication is that every rug illustrated cost the owner 300 pounds. So the selection was not based on merit or any other quality but solely on the owner's payment of that fee. Not dishonest but rather unethical, and surely not very nice.

From 2001 to 2007, Thompson held the position of May Beattie Fellow in Carpet Studies at the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology and the Khalili Research Centre at Oxford University. While there, he organised the highly successful 2003 international symposium devoted to 'Carpets and Textiles of the Iranian World 1300'.

Also while there, and unmentioned by that rag hali, is when Turkmen rug fanatic and fancier jon thompson turned his back on Turkmen weavings and became a 'classical carpet' promoter and lackey. For several decades thompson had heralded the importance of the Turkmen rug and acknowledged they were not all 19th century, as the old beliefs touted, but rather some of the earliest examples were 18th and even 17th century. But as soon as thompson became a recognized "islamic" scholar he completely did an about face. Another little known fact is the descriptions for all the lots in the auction sale of his Turkmen rug collection at sothebys in 1993 were written by thompson. It's fantastically interesting to see the dating he gave them, where only one, lot 43 which also was the cover illustration, was dated 18th century. By the way it did not sell. And only a scant few of the 81 lots in the sale, many of which were older than the ubitquitous and worthless 19th century dating, had the 18th or 19th century dating label attached to them.

This same disregard for the importance of Turkmen rugs is apparent in comments thompson made in some of his publications, as well as public talks and private conversations.

The real reason thompson jumped ship and became a Turkmen rug distractor was his fear not doing so would ruin his chances to become appreciated and recognized islamic art scholar. It is telling that michael franses did the same thing and abandonded buying, selling and promoting Turkmen and other non-classical rugs in favor of classical ones.

Again what thompson did is intellectually dishonest and in our opinion also personally dishonest.

In 2008, he received the Washington Textile Museums George Hewitt Myers Award in recognition of his significant contributions to the field of textile arts.

That award is a worthless, meritless, piece of gold plated tin after being awarded to a number of rug world flunkies like dennis dodds and wendel swan. Joke to think otherwise.

Most recently, in June 2019, he was one of the featured lecturers at the National Gallery in London during HALIs anniversary celebrations, where he gave a lucid and memorable talk on colour perception in eastern rugs. Busy and active until the last, his death leaves much important work unfinished. He will be greatly missed by friends and colleagues.

RK and azadi are not the only ones not to miss jon thompson. Lets make public another instance of his acting like the grifter and dishonest creep he was. Early on in his career in rugDUMB Eberhart Herrmann hired him to write the essays in his first few catalogs. During the course of his work Herrmann introduced thompson to many of his clients. What do you think thompson did? He went behind Herrmanns back and started selling rugs to those clients he met under his wing.

Eventually Herrmann found out and this is when any associations with thompson stopped. True and fact like everything else we have written and published about jon thompson.

His publications include 'Silk, Carpets and The Silk Road' (1988), 'The Nomadic Peoples of Iran' with Richard Tapper (2002), 'Silk: Treasures from the Museum of Islamic Art, Qatar and Hunt for the Sun: The Court Arts of Safavid Persia' (2004), 'Milestones in the History of Carpets' (2006) and 'Tibet to Timbuktu: Exotic Rugs and Textiles from New York Collectors' (2008).

Parading thompson as a "scholar" is a hollow as awarding dennis dodds an award for his contributions to oriental carpets. Of thompson's publications the only one to stand worthy of being called scholarship was the reprint of Bogolyubov with thompson's annotations.

His text for Moshe Tabibnia gallery's "Milestones in the History of Carpets", which was basically a fancy sales catalog, is flawed throughout, as our extensive review proves beyond shadows of any doubt.

It can be found here:


Much more thompson critique can be found by entering his name in the seach box on our homepage.

The belief: Of the dead, let nothing but good be said, or speak no ill/evil of the dead, comes from the Latin adage "de mortuis nil nisi bonum dicendum est". RK agrees with this, however, there is a big difference between truth and ill or evil words. The dead cannot defend themselves against ill or evil words but what defense is there against truth and fact?

There is none, and those in rugDUMB who believe their so-called carpet gods, like jon thompson, are beyond critique and truthful assessment are as incorrect as those who believe what RK has written is blasphemy and insulting to what they believe is a great man.

Sorry but jon thompson was no great man. He was sniveling prat, and all and more of the grifter and charlatan we have portrayed him as being, regardless of the fact he had a facile and glib writing style and driving ambition to transcend his impecunious station in life prior to Eberhart Herrmann paving the way up and out for him.

RK will not miss jon thompson and neither should anyone else with brains enough to weight his reputation against fact.

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