(ed. We thought it pertinent to move this from the Archive to a position on the board where it will noticed and far more accessible.
The timing is especially apropos, as the deYoung Museum of San Francisco has recently installed an exhibition of Turkmen carpets from their collection into the new Textile Galleries.
This review of the collection was published in hali, and while the reviewer does have knowledge of the subject, we felt it was not enough to enable him to properly comment on the deYoungs magnificient Turkmen holdings.
We sincerely believe our "review" of his review clearly demonstrates the contention hali would have been wiser to chose someone else who had a broader and far more expert command of historic Turkmen weaving traditions.)
There’s no doubt the deYoung Museum has an outstanding Turkmen pile weaving collection with major masterpieces from many of the known Turkmen groups.
However, one might not get that idea so easily after reading a recent ‘review’ of the collection written by someone, who also happens to collect them.
Peter Poullada’s careful and measured approach in surveying the collection for his recent hali article can’t really be faulted but neither can it be cheered.
He’s apparently a collector of the types of Turkmen rugs that have lately become categorized as Amu Darya and his interests in these eastern Turkmen pieces comes to the forefront from the very beginning.
As one reads on, this predilection overpowers his effort. In our opinion, it diminishes the value and breath of the review he is tasked with concerning the deYoung’s Turkmen collection, the majority of which has been acquired through several major recent donations.
RK agrees the ex-phillips Ersari main carpet is a significant and beautiful example of its type but there are numerous other main carpets in the Museum’s collection that are far better in every respect. We would have preferred opening with one of them, rather than this well known and often published gulli-gol carpet.
Since Poullada’s personal interests are centered in this area we were quite surprised to read his comments about another piece:
“Amu Darya Turkmen namazlyks (prayer rugs) are not that rare, but they are seldom as harmoniously beautiful as (2)….Its provenance is uncertain, although there is a small label sewn on the back which says “Avigdor Gallery’….”
Hello, hello -- earth to Poullada – when did provenance ever get answered by a label sewn on the back of anything?
Plus, Peter, since the real provenance is unknown for any historic Turkmen pile weaving why shouldn’t the quite well-defined and cohesive Beshir Prayer Rug group of rugs McCoy’s prayer rug clearly belongs to not be accepted here?
The review then launches into a swirling account of some of the better examples but somehow manages to miss the best ones, like the outstanding one in Schurmann’s “Central Asian” classic work on Turkmen Rugs.
Another error Poullada makes is believing the main border on this kejebe panel is rare.
This assumption can be easily disproved, as can his myopic “…kejebe…show very little variation, whether they are made by the Salor, Saryk, Chodor or one of the Amu Darya tribes…”
There are many differences but they are subtle and require careful examination, something RK would have supposed someone like Poullada should be up to understanding but evidently isn’t.
Plus his describing this ‘S’ group kejebe panel as:
“While it may not stand out as an example of Salor luxury weaving, it offers a more humane, intimate view of the world of Turkmen dowry and wedding ceremonies.”
we find misleading and downright incorrect.
If Poullada knew more about Turkmen pile weaving so would he.
We can easily gloss over his next two or three choices -- all from the Amu Darya – but the treatment this other, somewhat later end of the period, ‘S’ group small torba received from either Poullada or the deYoung’s label writer is tragicly flawed and deserves mention.
Phuleeezze, it’s not Arabatchi, it’s stone cold ‘S’ group.
Besides for the “attribution puzzle” he somehow got tangled up in, Poullada also should not have begun its mention by calling it “charming”. That adjective would have been better for describing his in-laws than this excellent example of an admittedly later type of “S” group torba.
By the way RK finds none of these so-called ‘schlemle’ torba very interesting but this example is one of the best we have seen and deserves better than what Poullada has done to describe it.
Also in dunceville was his confidence in ascribing this Ersari/Beshir long torba as having been wrapped around some bride’s wedding litter.
Was that a ouijji board bit of clairvoyance, if so what happened to that measured diligence we saw earlier?
We won’t slug it out with Poullada on this point other than to say the conventional interpretation of these long, large torba (not necessarily those made by “Amu Dary-ities”) has them being storage bags, as some show evidence of having had or still having a back.
So much for visions of the bridal litter for Poullada.
We’d also like to inform him this chuval, from the McCoy Jones collection, like all the best ‘Amu Darya’ examples should have “…an aesthetic that seems foreign to the western Turkmen tradition…”.
The more standard banner gol chuval woven by Amu Darya tribes rarely reach the high level these more anomalously patterned chuval can demonstrate.
These chuval are one of the few types of ‘Amu Darya’ weavings RK respects (along with early ‘Beshir’ Prayer Rugs) and we’d have expected Poullada to have expounded on their historical significance and beauty instead of briefly tripping through, as he does, Turkmen ethnography to nowhere as pertinent a destination.
We include a detail of another atypical Amu Darya chuval to show how a more archaic example compares to the later one in the deYoung Museum collection.
This detail comes from the well known and often visited Turkmen exhibition online at the Weaving Art Museum website, which by the way should be not be a stranger to any well-motivated RK.com reader (weavingartmuseum.org/ex3_trappings.htm)
Poullada’s worst pitfall comes when he mentions this large torba and it is here that he gets mired in muck way over his head.
It’s not a mafrash and no matter what the deYoung’s records say someone with Poullada’s reputation should have corrected this error.
But Tekke is as good a guess as any and one we’d easily believe, since we are the one who attached it to this historic masterpiece when we sold it to the deYoung’s generous donor some years ago.
Therefore, we happen to know this piece quite well and it is not early 19th century, either.
Try 17th century, because that’s where RK dates it without any reservations.
We also recognize it could possibly be a very archaic example of some known/unknown Yomut weaving group, but, regardless, it is head and shoulders above anything yet illustrated or discussed.
In fact, it is one of the best Turkmen weavings in the deYoung’s collection or any other collection, public or private, RK knows about.
Poullada’s fumbling around with his cut-and-paste version of Turkmen rug weaving commentary over this piece, and some of the others when he tries to dissect them, is quite amateurish and doesn’t belong in such a report.
We also can’t see how anyone could pick this Saryk main carpet when there are so many better, more beautiful and important other main carpets from other Turkmen groups in the deYoung collection.
Guess those big minor gols with their central stars and pseudo-Memling gol outlines were too seductive for Poullada to resist.
Ending his ‘survey’ with the well-worn and terribly tired “All of them have a story to tell….” line actually tells readers more about the reviewer than the rugs he tries so diligently to survey.
In the end it’s too much for us and while we recognize Poullada’s ‘A’ for effort we can’t see giving him honors for what he has written.
In some ways it reminds us of the disappointing job robert pinner and Murry Eiland did with the text for the Weisdersperg catalog but that’s one we need not get started on, again.