Proscribed vs Prescribed
Those two words -- proscribed and prescribed – hold the keys to the non-urban rug comprehension kingdom.
Detail; Plate 4; “Image Idol Symbol:Ancient Anatolian Kelim”; vol.2, 1989
However they only unlock the front door and, either fortunately or unfortunately depending on how you look at it, there are many other doors to be opened before one can enter the ‘elephant’s graveyard' to bring home great treasure.
Let’s now explain what the rather cryptic Indiana Jones metaphor above means.
Both Anatolian kelim and Turkmen rugs were not created as “art” or even “craft”.
This is an essential element and until one gets this under their belt one can never understand the mechanics of how and why these weaving were produced.
And if one cannot understand the beginning of the story it is impossible to understand the conclusion.
Clearly, understanding the beginning requires extrapolation as no one alive today, in either Anatolia or Turkmenistan, or even their grandmother/father, was around during what RK calls the archaic period.
Whereas the conclusion we mentioned is the desire of those alive today to be able to recognize, purchase, collect and research the earliest and best examples from these two geographic areas.
Many serious ethnographers, historians and, yes, ruggies, have since the late 19th century ventured into the remote areas of Anatolia and Turkmenistan to research the ‘societies’ where these weaving were produced.
A great many of these ‘explorers’ had motives that were not always the highest but, regardless of why they went, the information they brought back, as it pertains to the issue at hand, is not gospel. Far from it…Why?; read on.
It is a proven and well-known fact the descendants of the societies responsible for the production of such weavings are extremely protective of their forebears and what little remains of their now destroyed traditional culture.
It is also a proven and well-known fact the descendants of these earlier societies are, and have been, very disconnected from their forebears and a traditional culture they might have only heard about or can possibly sense.
Even in the remotest part of Anatolia and Turkmenistan for the past 500 plus years religious missionaries have brought Islam, Buddhism, Christianity and what RK like to call contemporary coca cola culture.
All these foreign influences have made serious inroads and changed almost every facet of life.
Then, of course, there is the lack of written history to contend with – so, very often, the information gathered by researchers is less than factual.
Frankly speaking, we know nothing about the weavers who produced archaic period weavings, nor do we know why these weavings were produced.
With this is mind RK urges any reader to recognize we know well what follows is our interpretation based on many disparate tidbits of information we have found in our search for explanation of why these archetypes were made but, more germane to this discussion, our ideas are on far firmer ground when we discuss how to recognize them.
As we explained in Part I, we are only going to discuss in detail how to recognize archetype Anatolian kelim, not Turkmen rugs.
So from here on that will be the case.
Detail; Plate 5; “Image Idol Symbol:Ancient Anatolian Kelim”; vol.2, 1989
We also pointed out in Part I how no early Anatolian kelim were on the international rug market prior to 1979.
This might seem ridiculous to many readers but it is fact.
This situation, where no early pieces were available, did not exist for any other Near Eastern weaving we have ever heard about, whether during our lifetime or before.
Early Turkish Ottoman court produced rugs have been appreciated and collected since the end of the Middle Ages in Europe.
Witness the now often cited household inventory of Henry the VIII, where 800 some ‘Turkie’ rugs were catalogued.
He ruled England from 1509, and while many of these rugs were clearly not made in Turkey as ‘Turkie’ rug was a term referring to any “oriental” style patterned rug during this period, some of them surely were.
Also remember it is very probable some belonged to his royal forebears, so it is totally plausible some of these ‘Turkie’ carpets were 15th century and even earlier.
Before proceeding RK must mention a very obvious fact: Just because a weaving is very old doesn’t necessarily mean it is an archetype.
So to speak ‘commercial’ copies were made way back when – witness, for instance, the numerous medallion Ushak rugs that appear in many early collections and still appear on the market today.
While there is no shortage of 16th century court rugs, some masterpieces others mediocrities, this is not the case for village rugs, and it surely is not the case for equally as early Anatolian kelim.
Let’s get back to why no early Anatolian kelim were available prior to 1979.
Surely they existed, but where they existed had sheltered and protected them from exposure and discovery.
We do not intend to turn this exercise into a doctoral thesis, so please excuse our only highlighting the social and economic mechanics of how and why quite suddenly the Anatolian kelim entered the rug market. But we will mention how this happened in broad strokes.
During the mid-late 1970’s a small group of foreign rug dealers began to haunt the Istanbul bazaar looking for rugs to export and sell back home.
For many reasons we are not going to name names, or discuss who did what, this will someday be fleshed out in our autobiography so all you rug hounds will have to wait until then.
The presence of these intrepid, and some less than intrepid, rugmen motivated local rug dealers to seek out types of weaving that previously had been unwanted and unappreciated by their customers.
Selling damaged, and even very damaged, weavings had never been possible for the local dealers, but now this new breed of foreign dealers would purchase such pieces.
This was not missed by the ever enterprising ‘Stanbul rug dealers and they immediately began scouring the countryside and brought back to their shops and stalls all types of damaged older, very old, and even ancient rugs.
The level of their discernment as to what they were acquiring was far less than their energy to acquire and, needless to say, their knowledge of what they had acquired even less.
When RK drove to Istanbul and traveled by car far out into eastern Turkey in the fall of 1981 we met many of the mover and shaker dealers, both in the city and in the countryside.
We can absolutely state not one of them was an expert, or even a journeyman, when it came to knowing what they were purchasing.
Some were, like most ruggies today, able to talk the talk but not one was able to walk the walk.
In the almost two months RK spent in Istanbul and out in the countryside we were offered many a “Seljuk” rug – too bad not one of these ‘treasures’ was even close, many in fact had synthetic dye and designs that had nothing to do with anything anyone in their right mind would call “Seljuk”.
Let’s just leave this with the notion many damaged rugs and fragments began to seep into the Istanbul bazaar and then percolate into European and American rug dealer hands.
Along with these pile rugs, and basically for the first time, old kelim began to be rounded-up in the countryside and brought to the bazaar for sale.
Like in the plethora of pile rugs, which were for the most part totally uninteresting, occasionally an ancient masterpiece would appear; the same paradigm existed for kelim.
This situation was directly responsible for the discovery and resale of ancient, archetype kelim, and for a couple of years the few now known examples were brought to market, bought by foreign dealers and the rest is history.
RK is sorry to leave the details of the story hanging in the air but we will, as written above, deal with those details in our autobiography, surely not here and now.
We also need to briefly mention the 10 pieces in our Anatolian kelim collection, yup that’s all we have or ever had as we have never sold an Anatolian kelim, were purchased in Europe or America.
When we went to Turkey in 1981 we already owned all of them except one subsequently purchased in 1989.
Some astute reader might ask why only nine are in our Anatolian kelim book?
That’s because we had already finished making the separations and layout for our Anatolian kelim book and including it would have been virtually impossible as our production schedule could not have been easily changed.
However, it is included in the Weaving Art Museum exhibition as Plate 10.
Plate 10; Weaving Art Museum “Archaeology and Anatolian Kelim”
Because we feel it germane to this discussion, we will recount a small part of our 1981 trip to Turkey.
RK wanted to drive there so we purchased a 1979 450SEL Mercedes for our trip and had, sometime before we left, arranged to have two ‘friends’, who were ruggies, accompany us.
One finked out shortly before departure and, quite frankly, we wish the other, bertram frauenknecht, had as well.
But he didn’t, and we picked him up in Nurnberg Germany and drove to Istanbul, arriving about 26 hours after we had left his front door.
The tale of what transpired on this trip is, not to exaggerate, something of a legend – although parts of that legend are complete bullshit.
Let’s just say there were some interesting events and occurrences that gave rise to those more fantasyland ones that to this day continue to drip-off certain people’s tongues.
To make a long story short, RK went to Turkey for two reasons: One to hopefully find a treasure or two and, second, to do some first-hand research into early archetype rugs and kelim.
In brief we found only one rug we wanted to buy, illustrated below, and no kelim.
You all might be surprised at this but it is fact, as the rugs and kelim RK wanted to buy even way back then were rarer than hen’s teeth.
They still are today.
We did see a number of genuinely good to very good pieces for sale but we did not see any other masterpieces, and since that’s the only type of rug or kelim RK purchases, we left Turkey with only one treasure we still call “the king of the yellow rugs”.
Detail of the king of the Yellow rug group we still own
Again more about this rug, and the rest of the details of our trip, will have to await publication of that autobiography but we will, for the sake of this discussion, recount the following.
In 1980 frauenknecht was a virtually unknown small-time dealer RK had met and quickly become friendly with at the 1980 icoc in Washington, D.C.
In fact, frauenknecht virtually moved into our two bedroom suite at the conference hotel so he could enjoyed the pleasures of hanging out with RK.
Those pleasures included great food and wine, as well as looking at and learning about masterpiece weaving.
We liked bertram (but eventually learned the hard way he was a Mister Jeckyl and Hyde, having a rather unseemly and revolting other side to the affable, energetic front he puts on) and we invited him to meet us and stay with us in New York after the conference was finished.
We honestly can’t remember if he drove back to NY with us or arrived under his own steam, but arrive he did.
For a week or so he stayed with us, enjoyed our food and drink and, most significantly for this story, sat at our knee and soaked up as much of our rug knowledge as he could.
We can positively and 100 percent say frauenknecht knew next to nothing about historic Turkish rugs and kelim before we started exposing him to them, and he had his eyes and mini-mind well opened during the time we spent together then, as well as on the trip to Istanbul and afterwards.
We need not go into detail here but let’s just leave it with the following synopsis.
When we arrived in Istanbul frauenknecht wanted us to stay at a small, out of the way but close to the bazaar, hotel called the Oran.
This was where all the foreign rug dealers stayed, and since frauenknecht had some years before made a short trip or two to Istanbul, and knew of the Oran, he wanted us to stay there.
Now on those former trips to Istanbul and to Iran frauenknecht had purchased pieces RK calls airport-art – we saw many of them when we arrived in Nurnberg.
This type of merchandise represented what he knew about older Turkish weaving or any other type -- next to nothing.
We had asked him to come along with us on the proposed trip, which we discussed with him in NY after the icoc, because we “liked” him and his enthusiasm for rugs and also because he said he knew Istanbul, surely not for his rug knowledge.
RK had already, before we left America, researched the hotels of Istanbul, and settled our mind on staying at the Pera Palace Hotel, located in the Tepebaşı neighborhood of Beyoğlu (Pera) district in Istanbul.
It was, and still is, the grande-dame of hotels in Turkey, having been built in 1892.
In 1980, like most of Istanbul, it was not modernized but, as thread-bare as the carpeting and upholstered furniture was, it still retained that inherent luxury and location all great period hotels have.
It was RK’s kinda place and when we rather forcefully told frauenknecht that’s where RK intended to say he started squawking about the ‘price’.
We then told him he could contribute to the cost what he would have paid to stay in the Oran and RK would pick-up the rest of the bill.
Needless to say frauenknecht was bright enough to realize this was a great deal and he readily agreed.
When we arrive, RK rented a large one bedroom suite, arranged to have a roll-a-way bed brought into the living room each night, and frauenknecht slept there.
Of course since we were paying the lion's share of the bill we slept in the great bedroom.
By the way the suite's bathroom was big enough to put a ping-pong table in and the ceilings throughout the suite high enough to hit serious baseline lobs.
The next morning at breakfast RK met the general manager and he told RK the suite had formerly been where Mustafa Kemal Atatürk had lived in the later part of his life, and where İsmet İnönü stayed during the armistice talks with the British after WWI.
The suite, as we said, was extremely large, on the first floor above the reception, with a fantastic view, as well as all the physical accoutrement the best suites in old luxury hotels offer, regardless of the rather poor state of the furniture and carpeting.
To begin to bring this part of our discussion to an end: After only the first day of visiting many rug dealers, RK had the feeling we were not going to find a rug or kelim to bag for our collection unless we were lottery lucky.
By the second evening we knew this was not conjecture but was going to be fact.
On frauenknecht’s and our return to the hotel after that first day of looking around we got into a pretty big and nasty argument, which had actually started earlier in the day.
Basically it concerned his disapproval of the way RK approached the dealers, large and small, we had met together.
Since RK treats anyone and everyone we meet kindly and openly; well, that is until their actions prove them unworthy of such politesse, that's how we comported ourself in Istanbul.
We also have always been extremely generous with information about rugs, as any longtime reader of RugKazbah and the Weaving Art Museum websites realizes.
This dissemination of our thoughts and knowledge of rugs, which by the way frauenknecht had been, and still was, a major beneficiary, irked him to no end, and he harped and harped, like a disgruntled woman, Turkish rug dealers were snakes, dishonest and unworthy of any trust or kindness.
RK told frauenknecht in no uncertain terms he could think and act as he wished but he should belt-up about how we dealt with the dealers we were meeting.
After the second day, seeing what was on offer was not going to result in RK getting anything for our collection, RK came up with a plan frauenknecht jumped-at.
RK would pick-out the best of the pieces on offer, we would share their cost, and then do a selling exhibition at frauenknecht’s gallery in Nurnberg and share the profits minus his gallery expenses.
As duplicitous and stupid as frauenknect is, he knows a great deal when he sees it.
So, on the third and fourth day we were together in Istanbul, RK picked-out about 15 or so kelim for the show.
But although frauennecht was silent as a mouse about RK’s choices, he still continued to harp and harangue us for our kind, friendly and open manner in dealing with the carpet dealers we met.
Over and over he complained what dogs they were; how they did not deserve any kindness and openness; how they would ‘screw’ us unless RK stopped being friendly.
That fourth night when we returned to the Pera Palace, and frauenknecht continued like a broken record on this tack, RK told him to get out of our suite and go stay at the Oran.
We told him to leave immediately, as we were sick and tired of his bullshit, and that he had to pay nothing for the four nights he had stayed in the suite.
At first he argued to stay but when he saw RK was adamant and not going to change his mind, he started packing his bag and knew the jig with us was up.
But before leaving, he sheepishly asked us “Ummm, what about the pieces you picked out and planned to buy together for the show in my gallery?”
We told him “They’re all yours. You pay for them if you want and do the show yourself. The only thing we want is to see you walk down the hallway and get out of our sight.”
RK then proceeded to spend another month or so traveling around Turkey by car and when we left we took with us the one and only piece we bought.
The show at frauenknecht’s gallery happened about 6 months or so later and all the best pieces in that show were the ones RK had chosen.
The show and our picks, plus the lesser material frauenknecht had chosen himself, was memorialized in his little black catalog “Anatolische Kelim" published in 1982.
RK is not going to spend more time discussing frauenknecht or the on and off relationship we subsequently had with him until the early 1990’s.
But we will quickly mention that relationship interruptus was caused by the fact frauenknecht proved himself more than once to be a cheat, a liar and a petty crook.
He also proved to be a bird-dog, going behind our back and using our introductions to benefit himself.
The only honest thing he ever did in our direction was inscribing a copy of that little black catalog, containing all the kelim we chose:
Title page of "Anatolische Kelim"
He is right, RK was a friend and a teacher, although frauenknecht, like others we turned on to our collection and knowledge, barely learned a fraction of what he could have because his capacity for knowledge is small and his belief he knows it all large.
That’s all we have time for today.
Part III will be forthcoming as time permits.