Home > Archive >When's A star not a Star? Part III
Thu, Oct 13th, 2005 01:54:26 PM
Topic: When's A star not a Star? Part III

It’s been a long “’til the end of the week” and, for reasons of our own, the hiatus occurred and has now ended.

For those you who have forgotten what we wrote, or even our premise for examining the Star Kazak grading system, we’d suggest re-reading Parts I and II.

Basically we disagree with the now widespread conclusions drawn from the over 25-year-old classification done by pinner and little lord franses.

While we agree using design, particularly main borders as the basis to divide Star Kazaks into four groups, is valid we do not, however, agree that Type A’s are inherently better.

In fact, we do not see any group as being the penultimate.

Each individual example, regardless of type, must first be judged against the others of its type and then compared to the best examples of the other groups.

Only in this manner can any Star Kazak be rightly assessed.

Furthermore, we’d grant the Abadjian piece, illustrated at the beginning of Part II, is rightly considered the best of type for all Type A examples because of its extraordinary state of preservation. But we can not countenance its having assumed the mantle of Best of Type for all Star Kazaks.

Condition aside, there are some others that have, in our opinion, more to offer and we will illustrate them for analysis, one in particular as our choice for, at least, sharing that best of type recognition with the Abajian piece.

The corundum of how the Star Kazak design developed is one we have some thoughts about but this is not the place we are going to breech them. We will state for the record we do not believe it is a very old design (not more than say 250 years) but we do believe it is based on, and extrapolated, from a design that is archaic. For everyone’s information that design is not a pile rug design but one that appears in certain flatweaves. More than that we are not going to divulge and for all you ace rug-sleuths out there that clue should be enough to begin your own search.

OK then let’s get into the meat of the matter: What makes a Star(Kazak) a Star? Beauty is said to be in the eye of the beholder but most times the eyes of those who are experts almost universally agree on what is beautiful.

That the Abadjian Star Kazak is beautiful we wholeheartedly agree. But RK is equally interested in connection to historic roots of weaving traditions and the depiction of archetypal iconography as much as we are in surface ‘beauty’. Therefore, the overwhelming aspect of color, Color, COLOR a rug like the Abadjian Star Kazak assaults the eye with always takes, for us, second seat to an intrinsic wealth of historic connection and iconography.

Just a word about historic connection and iconography. The former is often hard to prove beyond a reasonable doubt but, at this stage of Oriental Carpet Studies, it should be a given to recognize the ancient, and even pre-historic connections, some carpet and textile designs maintain.

Potent, veritable iconography is a bit easier to demonstrate but often many of the most archaic iconographic references are hidden, in reciprocal drawing for instance, or disjointed, like cubistic painting where parts of a pattern are split up and depicted out of their proper position.

Articulation and proportion also plays key roles here. Additionally they are the two major criteria we have to determine the chronological sequencing, or origination, of all Oriental Rug Patterns.

There is no doubt these factors, and others unnamed, influenced how a particular weaver represented a design.

So in our estimation, the best Star Kazak will need to demonstrate viable historic connection as much as it will have to be beautiful.

Based on our criteria, the Abadjian Kazak is on par with several others we know, not better than them, but equal.

Also we do not in any way agree with the now accepted broad conclusion many have drawn from pinner/franses’s effort: Type A is the best and the other Types are inherently inferior.

To begin to explain our view here is what we feel is the best place to start:

This thin but excellent paper catalog was published in 1971 and, believe it or not, RK can still remember the first time we saw it in late’71 or 1972 and immediately purchased it in Weyhe’s Bookshop formerly located on Madison Ave. in NYC.

It is an excellent little catalog that presented for that time period the cutting edge of rug studies and the author, Raoul Tschebull, should be proud of it.

It is too bad raoul left the bank he worked for some long years after Kazak was published to become a full-time rug-dealer. Since then he, like freddy spuhler another former rug academic turned dealer, became infected with that obnoxious, greedy, pseudo-expert rug ‘disease’ many so-called dealers suffer.

To say the Kazak catalog is the best thing raoul tschebull has ever done in the rug world is fact and in our opinion it will be the best thing he ever does.

And, though, he has not been shy about writing on rugs since, RK suggests he re-assess himself by going back to compare what he did then to what has produced since.

But back to Stars.

Why did tschebull put this Star Kazak, which by the way is in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, ex-Ballard Collection, on the cover of his catalog? Surely there are a number of other Stars illustrated within the catalog he could rightfully have chosen, although there is no other Star Kazak among the 40 plates.

We’d venture to say the Met’s Star Kazak was chosen because it was, in the author’s opinion, the best of the lot. We’d have to agree but there are a number of other really good Kazaks there as well.

In our view only one other is capable of giving the Met’s Star Kazak a run for the money: Plate 7 a quirky, seemingly earlier, distant cousin in the collection of the Textile Museum. By the way, there is an earlier, probably the prototype, of the TM’s rug that we know about. Perhaps someday we will take up the issue of the development of the Star Kazak design here on RK.com and will then illustrate both those rugs, as they are, as we have just stated, both distant cousins.

To explain our ideas on the When is a Star A Star question we have decided to illustrate the top left hand quarter of a few of the best Star Kazaks we know.

We felt by taking the same segment, in the identical position, from each of these rugs it would reduce any unwarranted subjectivity to a minimum and present a clear playing field for comparison.

Initially, we’ll need address the “border issue” that was the primary criteria pinner/franses used to formulate their categorization.

We likewise must mention in their thesis there is no direct language stating Type A examples are the best, something the rug world has since somewhat falsely interpreted and, as of this date, seemingly written in stone. There is, however, an underlying, implied bias in pinner/franses for Type A, not the least of which is calling them the A group as well as making them the first group discussed.

“The [Type A border] design” pinner/franses write “can be seen as a simplified version of a familiar early Caucasian carpet border.” But then in typical fashion for these authors, they do not illustrate or even bother to describe what that border looks like.

We feel we should at this juncture declare our unabashed preference for Type D Star Kazaks and our companion belief they, and not Type A, are closest to the Star Kazak archetypal origin, best representing the original root design all other types of Star Kazaks seek to emulate.

Of course we are speaking of comparing only the best, most archaic examples of all types to arrive at this conclusion.

It is interesting to note, in their analysis of main border designs, pinner/franses avoided the obvious conclusion the Type D border style is far more archaic and iconographicly potent than any of the other types, especially Type A’s

If we had to base our preference for and conclusion Type D is the archetype, we’d use the border issue as it is the most visible and demonstrable factor. Through careful comparative analysis the Type A, B and C main border designs can be shown to be derivative of the more complex Type D one.

Were it not for lack of time and desire, we’d gladly demonstrate that here but since we would rather flesh out some other, less obvious points, we will leave it to you astute readers to prove this for yourselves should you not be willing to take our word for it.

Leaving the border issue aside so we can examine others, here are the quartered Abajian and Met examples side by side to begin our comparison, the Abadjian on the left and the Met’s on the right:

We need to end this Part III and will leave you all to digest what’s above and to cogitate on these two photos.

Stay tuned for Part IV and more about Star Kazaks.

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