“The Arabatchi. Rare and Beautiful” is the title of the next and eighth story in the Tsareva text.
She is correct about part of it, as Arabatchi weavings are rare but few, very few, are truly beautiful.
Beauty is surely in the eye of the beholder and if dollar signs, or euro ones, are the lense through which one is looking it is then possible anything can be called beautiful.
The three Arabatchi weavings in the hoffmeister collection, or at least the ones in this book, are not in our estimation beautiful, nor are they close to earliest or best of their type.
So before we get into commentary here’s a comparison
Detail above, Arabatchi engsi, cat. 106, hoffmeister collection; detail below, Arabatchi engsi, published Weaving Art Museum Turkmen Trappings exhibition, 2002
RK is publishing an enlarged high resolution detail of the complete engsi pictured and discussed in the Weaving Art Museum exhibition: Turkmen Trappings, from Tent and Town so readers can compare it to cat. 106.
We are not going to spend much effort detailing the many reasons we believe it to be the archetype for hoffmeister’s considerably later edition, and trust the pictures will tell the story.
We do not know another, and there are a few others besides hoffmeisters of this specific group, that can compare to the Weaving Art Museum exhibition example – in age or in beauty.
And yes we believe it is beautiful, a comment we could not honestly make about hoffmeister’s or the others.
OK, let’s now look at Tsareva’s brief two page text and see what she has to say about Arabatchi weaving.
The first page details some historical information gleaned from other authors, particulary Djikiev, who she calls a “well known authority on the history of the Turkoman”.
So far this is the most interesting reading she has provided and we suggest readers check it out in the scans below.
Postulating about the two Arabatchi MC in the hoffmeister collection she states cat. 105, shown below in the scans, is an “ excellent nineteenth century Amu Darya commercial product” and cat. 104 “seems to be much earlier tribal piece…”.
We would concur with this assessment but not the “much” part.
No doubt cat. 104 is the earlier but we’d not give it more than 50 years or so over the other.
Now we would like to, again, call attention to the change in minor gol in the lower reaches of cat. 104, we mentioned in Part II.
This minor gol, a very rare variation of the chemche, is one we have seen before and always marveled over.
Here are a three analogous minor gols, each of which we believe pre-date the cat. 104
Top left: detail, Arabatchi MC, cat. 104, hoffmeister collection; Top right: detail, small format Tekke carpet, RK collection; Bottom right: detail Beshir chuval, RK collection; Bottom Right: detail, unknown group chuval, RK collection
Full photos of the Tekke small format carpet and the Beshir chuval are pictured, along with more discussion, in the Weaving Art Museum Turkmen Trappings exhibition, while the detail of unknown group large format chuval is published here for the first time.
We have no idea how this iconic treatment of the chemche was developed, or which Turkmen group originated its use.
We do know its appearance in the three weavings we published comes as part of their very fluid treatment of chemche, where there is much variation in minor gol aspect and size.
This is not nearly as pronounced in cat 104, though the two and one half rows with this variation are slightly larger than the other chemche.
This and the lack of fluidity in minor gol expression have led us to believe cat 104 is not as early a weaving as these other three.
Enough of this detour, let’s finish up reading the Arabatchi text.
In discussing the tauk naska gol seen the two hoffmeister Arabatchi MC and its linguistic roots she mentions “…the earlier carpet (ed. cat. 104) has a taller gol, the latter one is more flattened.”
This is a good observation, and one that often holds true but like all things ruggy there are no rules and pesky exceptions can and do often pop up to fool the uninitiated.
Trying to shoe-horn in her theory “S” group, aka Salor, weaving set the archetype for most, if not all, other Turkmen weaving again Tsareva sees “Salor associations…in the general composition of the tribe’s ensi door rugs (cat. 106).”
Once again we do not agree, as the elements she points to -- the synak, the curl-leaf meaner border, the branched bird icon in the four quadrant field and the niches -- are all non-specific icon belonging to no Turkmen group, definitely not ones proprietary to the “S” group, aka Salor.
And so ends another of Tsareva’s long on title promises but short on story delivery.