The 1973 English translation of “Carpets of Central Asia” written by A.A. Bogolyubov and published by Crosby Press, with notes added by jon thompson, still remains, both in RK’s opinion and many others who are familiar with thompson’s other publishing ventures, his best work.
In fact, it is really his only genuine professional contribution to our field, as his identification of “S” group stands head and shoulders above anything else thompson has done since.
By the way thompson had done nothing public before then, no writing, no speeches, no nothing with carpets.
We should also mention our old buddy Simon Crosby, who founded Crosby Press as an extension of a burgeoning interest in Turkmen rug collecting.
Sometime we will, perhaps, recount some of our personal stories with Simon, who like thompson, LESLIE Pinner and Professor Mark Whiting, were rug friends of ours and passionate English collectors of early Turkmen weaving.
RK can remember well first seeing a copy of the revised Bogolyubov in Weyhe’s Bookshop on Madison Avenue sometime in late 1974/early 1975 and, after struggling with having to pay something in the neighborhood of $60.00 for it, we bought a copy and took it home to read.
Let’s all remember in those days even 50 dollars was sometimes more than enough to buy a great old rug, if one shopped in antique stores or markets where non-specialist dealers hawked their wares.
So 60 dollars for a book like Bogolyubov was, for some, a hard price to accept. But for RK that price, considering the knowledge that could be had, was surely, in our opinion, a good use of the money.
RK cannot say enough about what a revolution of thought that book provoked, not so much because of the illustrations of rare Turkmen rugs, or the words of General Bogolyubov, but rather on account of the insightful “notes” thompson added to the original text.
It was here RK first learned about “S” group and the English Turkmen collector doctor named jon thompson.
Sometime thereafter not only did we discover our first “S” group chuval, and purchase it for our collection, but we met and then became ‘friends’ with him.
In fact it was quite soon after we found and bought that chuval in a small antiques store, owned by Jimmy Barker, on Charles Street in Boston, Massachussettes we met dr. jon thompson and invited him to visit us in our apartment in New York.
He told us he was busy and might get around to see us and we gave him our phone number and address hoping he would come.
Honestly, we don’t remember exactly if he did come then or if it was on his next sojourn to America.
But come to visit us he did and when we showed him our, at that time, small collection, including the “S” group chuval, we could see he was quite impressed, and so began our ‘friendship’.
We remember him congratulating us on the pieces we had, and can still see him, in our mind’s eye, fingering the “S” group chuval, as interested in it as if it were one of his long-lost brethren.
During those years in the mid-later 1970’s RK met many of the now legendary and famous European and American dealers, like Ulrich Schurmann, Herr Feitchinger(sp), herbert ostler, Nesim and raymond bernardout, Berdji Abadjian and his one time-two-timing repair man berdj andonian, Louis Georgi, Donald Wheeler and his looney wife pamela, Margaretta Herrmann, Ebberhart’s mother, and a host of others, on their trips to NY, or ours to their home-grounds.
But jon thompson was, because of our mutual appreciation of Turkmen rugs, someone with whom we had, what we believed to be, a real ‘friendship’. Little did we then realize how that friendship would turn around, and turn around it did.
During those years, prior to our split with him, we found thompson to be an engaging, knowledgeable and interesting character.
We were most impressed, however, by his passion for wanting to learn and understand Turkmen rugs; a passion we felt equaled ours, and we believed, and still do, he was equally impressed by ours, as well.
On our first trip to London in the fall of 1976 we paid our first visit to thompson’s flat and he dazzled us with some pieces of his collection.
We met his charming wife Barbara and thoroughly enjoyed our visit, and all the others we made on our frequent subsequent trips to England.
Though we must mention our last visit, which we will recount in a later part of this series, was far from pleasant – in fact it was downright a drag and we saw first-hand how jealous, greedy, and revolting jon thompson truly can be and is.
Those were great years, 1970-1980, to be hunting for early rugs and carpets in New York, San Francisco, London and Paris, our preferred places to visit. Naturally the sensory pleasures of Paris far exceed those of anywhere else but, in reality, London in those years was a pretty happening place in its own right.
RK had first visited England and the Continent as a young boy with our parents, as father did business in Switzerland and occassionally took mother and I along on his business trips.
Those trips introduced RK to the “old country” but they were nothing like being in our late 20’s and going abroad on our own.
London was still like we imagine it was just after the War, WWII, and compared to NY and California, where we had spent much of our time prior to the mid-1970’s it was truly an eye and mind-opening experience.
OK, enough reminiscing, and let’s get back to thompson, “S” group and our exposée.
During those years thompson and RK were on “speaks”, as they say in London slang, he never tried to buy anything from us, nor did we try and sell him anything.
Our rug friendship was just that, friendship without any business or commercial overtones, and frankly we liked it immensely.
It was also during this time RK met michael franses, but we are not sure if that first meeting was in NY or in London.
In any event franses, unlike thompson, was not a collector of rugs, Turkmen or any other kind, but rather he was purely a dealer.
He was younger than both thompson and RK and not nearly as educated, as franses never even graduated from high school, called "A" or "O" levels in England, while RK graduated from university with a degree in sociology and, of course, thompson had an M.D.
RK found them, franses and thompson, to be very different animals, especially in those early years when thompson never tried to do business with us.
While that’s all franses was ever interested in – buying rugs from RK so he could bring them back to London to sell.
We also invited franses to visit us, and that he did on each trip he made to NY, we would always see him show up on our door-step, or call, to try and pry a rug or two from us.
On one of those trips and visits we showed franses the “S” group chuval we had bought in Boston and he became fixated on getting it from us.
We resisted, but eventually he wore us down and when we quoted a price high enough to, as we thought end the matter, we were genuinely surprised to hear him say, “OK, I’ll have it”.
Since RK is a man of our word, regardless of the fact we did not want to sell it, we honored our word and sold it to him.
You know memory is a funny thing and sometimes we can remember moments like that as if it were yesterday, and that’s still our recollection of that day with franses.
The price we quoted was an unbelievable one, $3,500.oo, but franses knew it was still good enough for him to make money. He also knew there was no chance for bargaining; so he bit the bullet, ponyed-up the money, and the “S” group chuval was his.
About a year or so later we saw it in a Lefevre catalog and it sold for 3,500 English pounds, which was at the time about double what he had paid.
This Lefreve sale was about 1976/77, and we have the catalog but unfortunately it is packed away and we cannot get to it now.
Nor do we know where our old pictures of it might be, so regrettably we cannot illustrate it here.
As an aside, we then saw it many years later in the collection of hans sienknecht and then in peter hoffmeister’s collection if our memory serves us well. If it doesn’t, it was first with hoffmeister and then with sienknecht – but it is sure both of them at one time owned it.
Where it is today we don’t know as we will never again have any conversation outside of a court with hoffmeister(aka hoffscheister) and probably never again will we talk with sienknecht either.
Perhaps someday RK will recount our difficulties with sienknecht, but our faithful readers know all about our dealings with that thief, liar and cheat peter hoffscheister.
Nuff said on these two rug-maniacs from Deutchland.
When we then saw thompson sometime after selling the “S” group chuval to franses, and his putting it in and selling it at Lefevre, we sensed there was some change. But little did we know how the disappointment of the piece going to franses would mess with thompson’s mind.
And mess with his mind it did, so much so that within a few years, circa 1980, it caused a complete rupture in our declining ‘friendship’.
While we must say at this point in time, thirty years later, our memory is not quite perfect as to exactly when something happened, it still is sharp as a razor and right on as to what did happen, so please excuse any minor lapses in the dating of incidents we recount.
But you can bet the farm 100 percent of what we say happened, and did happen exactly as we say it did.
As we said, we first began to notice changes in thompson’s attitude to us after the incident of our selling the “S” group chuval to franses, and those changes became more and more obvious, and obnoxious, as time went on until we basically stopped seeing him circa 1981.
End of Part 3