We made some photos of the walls of rugs the rugnik displayed and here is the first of those photos:
Of these three pieces, the weakest in our estimation was the small format yellow rug with four ascending and contiguous medallions.
We can appreciate the wool and dye quality the best rugs of this period (1840-1860) display but, because they are quite removed from the historic cultural and weaving traditions of the Caucasus, they hold little interest for us at this point in our rug studies.
Granted this yellow rug has style but those two pair of oversized quadrupeds placed between the bottom and next up medallion, the typical Saychour “running dog” outer border and the other almost as typical “red” inner one strike us as too rote and common to be interesting.
Additionally the strong geometric designing that fills the medallions lacks any trace of the ‘early’ iconography that always accelerates RK’s admiration and respect.
We commented on that pseudo-earlyish look or ‘veneer’ many of the rugnik pieces display and this little yellow rug has some of that quality as well.
For instance the octagon in the bottom medallion, the unusual (but meaningless) in-fill the others have, two equally wide borders, the green and yellow fine trefoils separating those borders from the field and the well proportioned and articulated ‘hooks’ that surround each of the medallions. Also, the proportions of all aspects of this rug’s design are well set out and organized.
But, like many on view at acor, this one and others hanging in the rugnik’s basement dungeon, they lack any real connection to the older far more interesting and historic ‘1700-1800 period’ – at time when most of the really great rugs were produced in the Caucasus.
The piece to the left, a Genje/Kazak area rug, from the rugnik “collection” looks to be slightly earlier than a similar one in Schurmann’s seminal publication “Caucasian Rugs” illustrated on the right.
Both these examples, a number of others from the rugnik “collection”, as well as many from
Schurmann’s book, have that formulaic appearance and early “veneer” mentioned earlier.
We carry the notion the Schurmann rug was made as a prayer rug and might agree the rugnik piece could also have had that purpose in mind when it was created.
There can be little doubt these two rugs are brothers, or sisters if you like, and, in fact, they may be even be twins.
The almost exact repetition of very unique rug designs like we see here not only occurred in the 1830-1860 period when these two rugs were undoubtedly produced.
We can spot other examples of earlier rugs that are far less formulaic yet as closely related in design as weave as these two.
The following two earlier Kazaks show a good example of this:
The example on the left is from the rugnik “collection” and the fragmented one on the right has belonged to us since 1974 and is illustrated in our “Kelim Soumak Carpet and Cloth: Classic Weaving of the Caucasus” book.
We must say we were quite surprised to see almost an exact replica of our medallion Kazak rug hanging in the rugnik show. Naturally we examined it pretty carefully and found it to be, weave and color wise, the veritable twin to our piece.
However, because ours has larger chunky medallions and fewer rows of them, five in the rugnik and four in ours (originally it had four rows before it was cut down into the large fragment that remains)we might believe it might have been the model for the other.
Also while the border articulation appears to be almost exact, there are some subtle but telling differences that can be noted by inspecting this detail of our piece:
We did not make a good enough photo of the rugnik example to show it in detail, however, it does show a strong reduction in detail, particularly the side borders as the top and bottom are more closely allied.
Also, the repetition of certain design elements in the field of the rugnik piece as compared to the more whimsical hand that drew the other, implies theirs was made afterwards. Plus its failure to include some other icons present in ours draws the same conclusion.
Were these two rugs with the same very unique design made by the same weaver? Or were the materials used to weave it produced in the same locations?
Also, were the two related pieces (the rugnik and Schurmann examples) we illustrate above also both made in the same circumstances and/or location?
We surely can not answer questions like this now but if/when the forensic analysis program we envision for the Weaving Art Museum gears up we believe the data we will collect can/will enable us to draw finite conclusions required to answer such questions.
One final note: We can not prove the Kazak on the right is somewhat earlier than the one on the left, though our ideas about why we feel it is certainly are more than just conjecture or the “my rug is better than yours” psychology so rampant in rugdom.
We’d like to cite another rug that took us down memory lane --this Moghan design Kuba area long rug:
We bought this rug in the middle 1970’s
in England and held onto to it for a while as the candy-cane coloration and great proportions were powerfully attractive.
They still are but as our taste moved into earlier, more iconographic weavings, we grew tired of pretty rugs like this and sold it in the early 1980’s.
Frankly, we do not remember to whom we sold this rather wonderful example of the type.
The last piece we’ll take a look at in this installment is a prayer rug from a very rare and important group:
There are only a few, genuinely old, examples of this group and the rugnik piece is, for us, just on the dividing line between those and the few later and far inferior ones.
The best of this early group are silk wefted, possess incredibly wonderful coloration, amazing fine weave and great articulation of design.
The later group lacks the silk weft and brilliant colors, as well as turning the archaic design into one that is only a reflection of the former.
The rugnik piece demonstrates this and while we wanted to illustrate one of the great ones of this type we cannot find the reference.
Many long years ago we remember buying one with berdj andonian from dennis dodds – and what a struggle we had dealing with dodds over the purchase.
Regardless, we got it and RK wishes we could find the photo of it to post here – it was a pisser of a rug that makes the one the rugnik’s collected look rather anemic and life-less by comparison.
Their piece is not a bad one but it is not well done enough to make RK laud it.
Actually, we hold that feeling for most of the rugnik pieces and although their “collection” does shine compared to the Caucasian Rugs generally seen on the market, it pales badly compared to the great ones that only very seldom come along.
In closing, as we are a collector, too we know the problem of deciding when and what to buy. And while buying is fun and makes any collector feel like they are actually “doing” something, we have grown to believe it is best to keep one’s power dry until something really noteworthy comes into one grasp.
For us it is clear the rugniks followed too closely the route gourmandise in their pursuit of a "collection".
They are not alone here, as most collectors also fall prey too often to temptation, either through unbridled exuberance or lack of real expertise, and buy too much or end up with rugs that are not good enough.
However, on the other hand and as our readership knows, RK's chosen path is committed to the far more difficult to travel route de gourmet.
Less is definitely more and that lesson is but another we feel the rugniks need to internalize and practice before their “collection” will reach the heights they believe they already have scaled.