Home > Turkmen Rugs >Review: new hoffmeister collection book Part VIII
Mon, Jul 18th, 2011 03:15:29 AM
Topic: Review: new hoffmeister collection book Part VIII

Yomut chuval Tsareva ridiculously compares to an “Old Master painting”, cat. 83, hoffmeister collection

In answer to the question we ended Part VII with: Why Tsareva did not comment about cat. 67, the mafrash we gushed over, we can only say because she does not have the ability to tell a great Turkmen weaving or, but not in this case, an ancient one from ones that are far less wonderful or old.

The Yomut: Between the Caspian and Amu Darya” is the title of the fifth story, and after reading the first sentence RK feels like throwing in the towel and just posting scans of the pages.

But since we are the eternal optimist and maybe, just maybe, Tareva will, it seems almost by accident, drop some interesting info, we will mush on.

’The furnishings and the adornments of the tent of a wealthy Yomut…are much brighter and richer than those of all the other Turkomans…(Foelkersam, 1914, ppg 107-108)

This might have been true in 1914 when the Foelkersam article this quote was taken from was published.

But it surely was not the case when all of the hoffmeister Turkmen weavings were made, forget about the earliest of them or those which peak RK’s interest.

Why then does Tsareva start off which such an oblique and generally unrelated reference?

First, we’d guess name dropping, but worse to allow her to again exaggerate its import to make this point

This quotation by Baron A. Foelkersam…describes the interior decoration of a Turkoman yurt as seen by a nineteenth century European traveler.

The Baron wrote this sometime before 1914, let’s say even 20 years….that’s then 1890, a time when the traditional Turkmen lifestyle was all but destroyed.

So what possibly can one draw from such a late commentary about the rugs in the hoffmeister collection or the people who made them?

RK would have to say absolutely nothing, and Tsareva’s weak beginning does not bode well for what might follow.

Explaining the fragmented and widespread diffusion of various Yomut groups is the reason for the multitude of types of Yomut weaving makes perfect sense.

But let’s face facts here, Tsareva is not the first to write this, and on top she has nothing new to add.

Par for the course, so far, huh?

Also we find it annoying Tsareva’s text uses a word like halis rather than the English word carpets.

After all she is writing in English for an English speaking audience, though there is a German text in the back of the book printed in a tiny typeface (was this the prevent German-speaking Turkman rug fans from actually reading it?).

So why not use carpet instead of trying to dress-up her text, or is it to sound foreign and mystical?

She also can’t develop her theses and ideas well enough to really get them across.

For instance: The fact some rugs considered to be Yomut are asymmetrically knotted and others, like the Ogurjali(another outdated reference that RK believes doesn’t belong in a Turkmen book published in 2011), have the symmetric knot.

Re-reading the passages this quote is surrounded by it becomes clear Tsareva believes the symmetric knotted Yomut rug are not Caspian zone

..it remains unclear whether all symmetrically knotted items are Ogurjali, all asymmetrically knotted piecfes are Yomut proper, or that all of them were manufactured in the Caspian region, not elsewhere in the vast territories between the Caspian Sea and the Amu Darya oases.

However, she then backtracks on that as the quote above shows.

Now that’s real cutting edge scholarship, ain’t it?

See what we mean by calling it a say-next-to -nothing text.

Here she also doesn’t supply anything new but, rather, restates what is already general knowledge

Yet in the thirteenth century Ogurjali groups, as well as descendants of the ‘aboriginal’ Balkhan Salors and Ersari began to be absorbed into the population of the region.

And is it those ‘aboriginal’ Salors, Ersari and Ogurjali who made some, or maybe all of the most archaic and ancient, and rare as can be, Turkmen weavings that have come down to us?

This is a position RK favors but since we are not the ethno-historian, and know no extant weaving can be ascribed with certainty to any Turkmen group we avoid discussions of this nature.

Tsareva’s brief recount of the supposed “ethno-history” of the Ogurjali group is worthwhile and we suggest those readers who have not seen it elsewhere read it here.

It is below, on the second page, of Tsareva’s text.

When RK opined Tsareva can’t tell an old Turkmen rug from an ancient one, we were not just being theatrical – she can’t. But we now would like to add she can not even tell a beautiful one from one that is an ugly duck, as the following proves

…while cat. 83 is brightly coloured with an amazingly rich design that may be compared to an Old Master painting.
Cat. 83, a chuval Tsareva compares to an “Old Master Painting”

Two things are sure, the Yomut chuvals in the hoffmeister collection are not champions and cat. 83 is the runt of the litter.

Oh well, no accounting for taste, or the lack of it as RK likes to say.

The rest of this chapter is nothing worth our effort so we will call it a day and hope the next “stories” are somewhat richer in content.

However, before we sign off we would like to add another comparison of a champion weaving and a less than stellar one from the hoffmeister collection.

There are three Yomut engsi in the hoffmeister collection, all are at best mid-Classic period. Frankly we do not like them because we know far earlier examples with the major features they exhibit.

The hoffmeister engsi are all pastiche, they are not ‘pure’ types but rather ones made up by combining specific features from those ‘pure’ archetype examples.

We are not going to turn this into a major lesson, although we easily could, by demonstrating how the designs on the three hoffmeister engsi developed.

But we will take one, cat. 76, and compare a few of its dominant features to another engsi which is it’s model.

Here is cat. 76
Yomut engsi, with niche, cat. 76, hoffmeister collection

When we say its model we are not saying or implying the weaver actually saw the engsi the detail below comes from.

No, not at all, rather the weaving tradition and culture, to which the weaver of cat. 76 belonged, transmitted certain characteristic elements, like the niche, a secondary border of colored diamonds on a white ground and the colorful ashik icons in the center panel and above the niche.

Astute RK readers will remember our discussing what we call “sets”, their use in drawing comparisons of weavings, and their ability to document and validate those comparison.

Those three elements -- the niche, the secondary border of colored diamonds on a white ground and the ashik – are a set that we believe validates the comparison we will now offer.
Detail, early Classic period Yomut engsi with niche, RK collection

Each element of the set is far better expressed and articulated in the detail above than in the hoffmeister engsi, and those differences, though subtle, matter. They matter a lot and are what it is all about for RK – finding the best examples, regardless of their condition, to demonstrate the original, and archetypal, iconographies of Turkmen rugs.

By the way, to further validate the set both cat. 76 and the other engsi contain, both are symmetrically knotted and have similar, if not exactly the same, color palette.

That’s it for this chapter and on to the next.

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