Actually what RK wrote in Part 1 was surely enough to sink any ship flying the flag jon thompson is what he and rugDUMB claim – an expert and the leading researcher.
However, RK well knows how deeply ingrained the thompson myth is and in this series of posts, of which this is part 2, we intend to bust that myth into tiny shreds and send them off into oblivion.
In that exercise there are so many aspects we can discuss frankly we hardly know where to now retake up our myth busting.
Perhaps we should explain how thompson went from a highly motivated collector and lover of Turkmen rugs that as he himself says in the sale catalog of his collection autobiography says:
“My purchases were not appreciated by my friends, in fact they were something of an embarrassment ”
to the Turkmen weaving denigrator he is today.
As amazing as the following statement may sound it is, like all of RK’s writing, 100 percent factual and correct.
RK was until 1980 quite friendly with thompson, and we spent much time with him when he visited NY and also when RK was in London.
In fact, we visited thompson at his old flat on 36 Great Percy Street, London WC1 more times than we can remember, at least 10 times.
Each time we visited thompson would show us 5 or 6 pieces from his collection.
He did this because our ‘friendship’ was a two-way street in the sense that thompson was not the expert and RK the student, but rather we were “equals” who exchanged ideas and information about Turkmen rugs and rug collecting in general.
RK always enjoyed talking with thompson and from the energy he put into our ‘friendship’ it is clear he did also.
But by 1980 things had changed, and in one of the succeeding parts of this look at dr jon thompson we will explain how that happened.
But for now let’s examine why thompson’s entire outlook on Turkmen rugs radically changed.
During those discussions and times thompson and RK spent together, which were please remember pre-1980, we can affirmatively state thompson believed, and was not shy to state, there were extant Turkmen rugs dating to the 18th and even 17th century.
Of course, this is still fact today – fact that there are such early examples and RK is not the only researcher to hold such a position.
However, thompson’s position on this has changed, and changed like night and day.
For instance, in the sales catalog of his collection there are 61 Turkmen pieces but only one is dated “18th century” and a mere 7 dated “18th or 19th” century.
This is absurd, and not only does RK disagree with thompson’s under-dating but we disagree with a number of the pieces he over-dated too early as well.
Since this series of posts is about the thompson “myth” as a Turkmen and oriental rug expert, and not about dating of Turkmen rugs, RK will only supply two examples of thompson’s idiotic dating in his sales catalog.
The first, dated by thompson as “18th or 19th century” is a good early Tekke main carpet RK would date no earlier than the first quarter of the 19th at best – surely not 18th century.
lot 12, thompson sale, 12/16/1993
Not to get into a long discussion, the multiplicity of designs in the main border is not at all in keeping with the simple and elegant main borders found on Tekke mains RK dates pre-1800.
Also the regularity and repetition of depiction of the minor gol is, likewise, not part and parcel of Tekke mains that pre-date 1800.
There is no doubt lot 12 is an early Tekke main, it’s just not in the earliest, ie pre-1800, group.
Our next example of this easily questionable and foolish dating is this amazing old and interesting large format torba fragment:
lot 51, thompson sale, 12/16/1993
This ‘diamond gol’ torba fragment, and the group to which it belongs, remains unidentified.
What is not unidentifiable is the ridiculous “19th century” date thompson hangs on it.
It is, by the way, the only piece RK would have purchased from the sale had we wished to participate.
But that was not the case and we can only state that the buyer, who paid a measly $9,000 for it, was quite astute to buy it, and also quite fortunate RK chose not to participate – had we the price would have been much higher, guaranteed.
The thompson fragment is much better, and earlier, than all but one the very few other published analogous examples, and it and most of them surely pre-date 1800.
In fact, it is the earliest Turkmen weaving in the catalog and thompson’s failing to notice this, or even date it pre-1800 demonstrates the absurdity of his dating chronology.
It also is one other sign thompson’s reputation as a Turkmen rug expert might have at one time been true but today is nothing but the myth RK, and a few others by the way, are not afraid to voice.
Since this is not an examination of the pieces in the thompson collection, but rather his ideas and opinions about them we would just like to mention the archetype of the group to which lot 51 belongs is illustrated in the “Kulture der Turkmen” book authored by Rautenstengle and Azadi; plate 26, page 97.
Plate 26, "Kulture Der Turkmen, Rautenstengle and Azadi
As a short aside let RK mention briefly our story about it.
When we were in Vienna, in 1986 some days before the icoc, we visited the shop of a well-known dealer in Austria and saw it hanging there. We asked the price, did a little bargaining, and stuck a deal with the owner.
He wanted to be paid in cash, and since we did not have enough to pay him in our wallet we arranged to see him in two days and return with the money.
When we did return with the cash the piece was GONE, the dealer sold it to someone else and then, sheepishly, said he was “sorry”.
Needless to say that was the last time we ever spoke to him.
RK has never forgotten that bit of dishonesty.
This episode and our lack of desire to own something of thompson’s combined to keep us from going after lot 51.
Let’s end this with a simple statement: thompson’s calling lot 51 “19th century” is about as stupid a move as thompson has ever made – even dumber than the Imreli debacle.
Why? Well since there was a Turkmen group known as Imreli thompson’s error at least had some factual basis but under-dating his lot 51 has no basis at all.
From the few examples above, and the many more RK can cite, it should be clear to all but the most ardent thompson ‘fans’ his alleged expertise as an expert of
Turkmen rugs is nothing but myth.
And after all, everyone should remember thompson’s reputation in the world of oriental rugs is based entirely on his “work” with Turkmen rugs, much of which has been now proven to be clearly over-rated and questionable, if not totally fallacious.
As far as RK is concerned the first and most highly visible example of thompson’s decline from a honest and forthright researcher came in October of 1981 when, at a highly publicized carpet sale in NewYork, he purchased the following asmalyk:
Lot 175, Sotheby, October 1981
RK previewed the sale, looked at lot 175 very carefully(in fact we took it outside to see it in daylight), and then at the sale watched thompson buy it – much to our surprise, as it sold for almost $50,000.
But what was even more remarkable was the fact RK believed it to be a revival/reproduction then and we still do.
Not a fake but, like dodd’s “bellini”, the thompson asmalyk appears to us to be a later piece masquerading as a ‘classic’ produced at a much earlier time.
Had anyone else but thompson bought it RK is sure there would have been yards, no miles, of discussion about it and its authenticity.
However, because the thompson myth implies to all but a few his invincibility no discussion was ever mounted.
By the way it is illustrated in “Carpet Magic” the book thompson organized, authored and produced. RK has written about that book and thompson’s role and perhaps in one of the next parts we will revisit the facts and not the fable of that effort.
From October 1981 onwards the myth and legend of dr. jon Thompson as the leading expert of oriental rugs grew by leaps and bounds, while at the same time any genuine and visible basis for this was not only hard to see – it soon became invisible.
What we have written so far should be enough to sink the H.M.S. thompson the great rug expert ship but since RK knows rugDUMB is never wont to accept fact that flies in the face of its own myths we will continue to torpedo thompson’s fake and phony reputation with more truth and example.
End of Part 2.