Recently this Tekke ‘animal tree’ ensi sold in an internet Ebay auction for $4,050.oo, a price RK feels demonstrates the rug world’s fallibility and confusion.
While this sale surely cannot be characterized as the worst example, or even one of the worst examples, of this situation (i.e. the fact no real market or solid price structure exists in rugdom), it does show how “a little knowledge is dangerous”.
It also shows how the venue, rather than the merchandise, is often the strongest determinant in the selling price.
Here is a close-up detail of the ensi:
RK has never seen a Tekke ensi with the so-called ‘animal tree’ design we feel is early (pre-1800) and this example surely has not broken that mold. We do also know some of them have made high prices at auction and private sales.
In fact, market-wise, $4,000 would be a very reasonable price to pay for one, regardless of our opinion they’re all relatively late and basically airport art.
However, we believe this rug has undergone a heavy chemical wash that has destroyed any of the vibrancy and magic coloration even many mediocre, post 1860, Tekke weavings exhibit.
No color, less than stellar drawing and poor condition do not spell even 4K in our book.
Nor do we think this rug if found in any New York or major European auction sale would make $4,000, no more like $1,000 - $1,500 dollars.
We have seen this phenomenon many times while out at country auctions when rugs sell for too much because buyers think they can take it into a major arena, like NY, etc, and do a lot better.
This surely works sometimes but not with an object like this Tekke ‘animal tree’ ensi or any of the other pieces we mention.
OK then, why then do we say this since all other “writers” seem to bestow ‘import’ to these ensi? It’s clear, we trust, RK does not go along with this benediction, right?
First and foremost because the ‘animal tree’ is a later addition to the iconography we identify as Tekke, or even Tukmen -- nothing more and nothing less.
Sorry, we don’t feel this is the time or the place to discuss our understanding of the ‘animal tree’ concept, however, we will provide our readers with a peep or two inside.
Depiction of animals in pre-19th century Turkmen weaving was very rarely attempted.
The only group we know about and can attest are ‘important’ would be the historic, pre-1800, ‘bird’ asmalyk.
The later group of somewhat similar asmalyk, known as ‘animal tree’, can’t compare with ‘bird’ asmalyk.
So just as all 'animal tree' asmalyk were copies using the leaf-lozenge layout of ‘bird’ asmalyk -- substituting the cutesy little animals and tree for the big ‘bird’ -- the elem panels decorated with this same pseudo-iconography these Tekke ensi have were likewise copied:
RK owns some very old Turkmen weavings and that is a detail from one.
It is likely the ‘animal tree’ design was generated using, once again like the leaf-lozenge of the ‘bird’ asmalyk, a real icon (see photo with arrows below)as a base and then adding the facing cutesy animals and far more diminutive tree.
Paired front-facing animals, often with a tree or plant form between them, are well known in all types of Central Asian art, making the use in these late ensi and asmalyk quite explainable and likely.
Note bene: The fact there are no historic, pre-1800 examples of the 'animal tree' is another reason for our dismissing any relevance it has to the tradition Turkmen weaving expresses.
And, for those of you who don’t know, and we guess there are quite a few, let us clue you in to the fact this detail comes from a weaving we believe is 300 or more years old.