Home > Rug, Kelim, Soumak, Textile Post Archive >A New Hat Thrown into the Ring
Thu, Mar 7th, 2013 07:48:30 AM
Topic: A New Hat Thrown into the Ring

Art historical comparison is the most valuable tool in any rug researcher or commentator’s quiver and RK firmly believes information derived from careful and exact comparison is the best ground on which to base any ‘opinion’, be it importance, age or any other criteria.

However, there is a nasty trend among rug pundits to publish many photos, ie comparisons, and then miss to boat on what they show, or worse draw incorrect ‘opinions’ from them.

This penchant is no better demonstrated than by viewing “turk0tek.com”.

After recently learning a new hat that has been thrown into the rug-website ring, we have been visiting and reading what john taylor, (former) rug restorer turned small time dealer, and now wannabe rug commentator, has been busy publishing.

His website’s URL is:


The latest “issue” taylor tackles is the Arabatchi Chuval, ostensibly provoked by the appearance of one, and two other Arabatchi weavings, at the recent rippon-boswell auction.

Though on a far higher level of relevance, taylor follows turk0tek.com’s shot-gun approach to publishing many photos of “similar” pieces with often little, or incorrect, ‘analysis’.

We have stated taylor is on firmer ground when discussing ‘classical carpets’, as his expertise quickly wanes and sometimes evaporates when leaving that arena to enter the far more demanding environs of non-classical weaving.

His brief Arabatchi chuval summary is a good example.

We don’t have the time or patience to comment on all of taylor’s errors and gaffs, there aren’t many in this entry as it is quite brief, rather we choose to mention his grossest.

Archetype Arabatchi Chuval, ex-collection James Ballard, gifted to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York in 1922

It is really hard for RK to believe what taylor mumbled about it in comparison to the one below which not nearly as early, beautiful or significant.

The drawing(of the Sienknecht example) is more successful than the Ballard, which is bunched on one side.

Arabatchi chuval, Sienknecht collection, Hamburg

The Sienknecht chuval is a really good one, it is early, well-drawn, and by looking at just these pictures one might get the idea it is as good as Ballard’s.

Or, like taylor, believe it is better.

But, and we are willing to bet here, were anyone, even taylor, sitting in front of both RK is positive you would have to agree the Ballard chuval is supreme, far earlier, far more expertly articulated, far more beautiful and most importantly with that unique, and so far unquantifiable, wool quality only seen in the earliest examples of Turkmen weaving.

You see, not only has RK examined both, we have studied the intricacies of Turkmen weaving for decades, something a pundit like taylor can’t possible equal.

And as for the Ballard chuval being, according to taylor, “ bunched on one side”?

Please now, mr taylor, wipe the crusted sleep juice from your eyes and open those peepers far enough to see what a dopey comment that is.

Also, needless to say, an incredibly weak one to debase the far and away best of type status Ballard’s Arabatchi chuval maintains.

In judging Turkmen, or any other type of oriental rug, there are a multitude of factors to be considered and unless all are put into the mix the results cannot be trusted.

This is taylor’s mistake, we know he has never handled the Ballard Arabatchi chuval. Were he, we are sure, he would have to change his opinion.

So, again, RK advises taylor to stick to writing about classical rugs and discontinue his straying from that field.

What more proof is needed than his naïve and foolish dissing Ballard’s Arabatchi?

Oh, and here is another Arabatchi chuval of a rare type for mr taylor’s records.

Late period Arabatchi Chuval, formerly offered for sale out of Istanbul

Similar to most late Arabatchi weaving this chuval is garish with design elements migrated from other group’s repertoire, particularly the elem panel taken from a rare type of earlier Yomud chuval.

Author: jc
Sat, Jan 26th, 2013 10:05:43 AM

Chodor mafrash with iconography related to those discussed below but not mentioned by taylor; offered for sale on the internet some years ago; whereabout unknown

It has been awhile since RK has written about taylor’s blog, which he energetically continues to publish.

We haven’t because basically its modus operandi has not changed one iota – many good scans of rugs with little, or sometimes incorrect, descriptions and opinions, particularly when discussing non-classical weaving.

And doing so today is surely not because taylor had finally seen the light and is now able to provide his readers not only a panoply of good photos but some excellent analysis and commentary as well.

No, sadly john taylor has little if anything to say about the rug types he focuses in on.

Content, and we mean good cogent content, is king. And as helpful and interesting as taylor’s photo comparison might be for some readers, who do not have an extensively library of rug books and publications, RK and many others we know do.

But rug expertise is not really to be garnered from book learning and photographs. It takes real hard and long effort to master this idiom.

Step one is being able to recognize what “type” of rug one is looking at.

Step two knowing the closest comparables and others of its ‘exact’ type.

And step three knowing where an example fits on a continuum of it comparables, i.e. how good it is compared to its brethren.

Many in rugDumb have mastered step one and step two by looking into their rug books to find comparables and others of the type. But very few truly have a good handle on step two by knowing many of the unpublished comparables or others of the type which are not found by perusing library references.

Experience can be a great teacher and rugDUMB is now full of collectors who have 20 plus years under their belts.

However, when it comes to step three there are very, very few who can properly recognize where an example fits on the continuum of its type.

In this field one can easily feel confident in saying “earlier is better”, and being able to recognize what RK calls an archetype or prototype is a valuable skill. One in which taylor, and many others, have not yet shown prowess.

To use a well-worn ruggie motto – good, better, best – is the way to go, always go for the best and forget the rest.

Were taylor able to provide accurate good/better/best analysis with the load of photo scans he uploads he might just put RK out of a job!

No chance of that happening this century, as taylor’s skill-set will never have the depth RK’s has achieved.

We are not trying to compare us; no, not at all.

There is no comparison.

And even though our longtime and fairly close relationship with taylor hit the skids in 2006(at our bequest and we have not seen him since), at that point in time his rug knowledge was unfortunately far, far below his skill in repairing rugs and spinning/dyeing wool to use in that work.

From what he has published online we can tell it has not increased much in non-classical carpets, which is the area we are speaking about.

RK can say taylor was a very accomplished rug repairer, and it is too bad he did not continue down that road instead of first trying to be a “dealer’, and now a rug world pundit.

Content is where it is at, anyone can look through a library of rug books, group pieces by specific ‘type’, digitally scan those pictures and then post them online.

We surely are not trying to diminish taylor’s contribution because we feel it is a good one. Clearly he has spent countless hours scanning photos to build a digital library of images.

Someone once said “A picture is worth a thousand words” and perhaps john taylor should take that to heart and publish the scans without trying to comment short of giving some identifying data for each scan, ie where he found the photo, it’s size, structural data, and any other related story(s) that might be attached (who owned it, where it was discovered, it’s history since discovery, etc).

This would work far better for him than trying his weak hand at analysis/commentary.

The latest taylor rugbam blog entry looks at “Two types of mafrash”, which is its title as well.

Turkmen mafrash, early 19th century; Sorgato, Italy

The photo above and this one below are examples of the first type.

Turkmen mafrash, early 19th century; newman, USA

RK has never found one of this type that was a pre-1800 prototype, and until we do we will resist owning one.

Sorgato’s appears to be in fine condition, the other not so – it is perhaps 25% of the original. But no matter it shows fabulous wool and glowing color, which we are positive are not photoshop enhancements.

We can make such a statement because we know, and have owned other pieces, with different designs mind you, we feel have the same provenance, ie made by the same group(s) in the same locale(s).

It is quite obvious Sorgato’s comes from an entirely different weaving environment, the coloration which can be seen in a photo, and the wool quality which can’t, the strong clues to identification.

Had taylor provided the structural analyses RK could say more. And this is another weak link in rugbam’s belt, he does not seem to feel posting structural data is important.

We find this both amazing and distressing, as taylor was a repair man who proved he knows the ins and out of that trade, because that job centers on materials and structure why has he not spent additional time to attached this info to his internet published ‘scans’?

It can be, in some instances, as important as a good picture. And often far more telling evidence to determine provenance.

On his blog taylor has published a dozen or so examples of this type but none of those give these two much challenge in the good, better, best contest.

They are the best so far, as RK's desired 18th century archetype/prototype has not yet made the scene.

Go look at taylor’s blog entry and see for yourself. Should any reader question our choice we’d enjoy hearing from you with some rational for your choice.

The second type of mafrash is this

Turkmen mafrash, early 19th century; j. thompson, England

Perhaps taylor did not notice this, too, is a fragment missing the entire left side border arrangement and 2/3rds a panel.

Regardless, it is the best one in taylor’s grouping, and a mighty fine one at that.

This one possesses jewel-like ornamentation and RK might guess it’s archetype/prototype was the root which sprouted the other type taylor chose to publish.

And while this example has that fine-line delineation the other lacks; dense, closely packed motif; higher knot-count; and a lot contrast on account of the white ground field it just comes across as to busy, a virtual groaning smorgasbord of Turkmen elements.

We like it and hope to one day see that archetype/prototype, which we are sure will not be as packed.

RK is not going to spoon-fed this but readers should study these images, and those additional ones on rugbam, to see if they agree with our idea these two type of mafrash developed from a common root/source.

And yes it is obvious as the nose on your face all their designs have a tent-band look.

This is about the only bit of analysis taylor offered.

But let’s end this with what is called a “passing shot” in tennis(one which passes an opponent by without any return volley).

It will, if the above has not already, demonstrate the difference between taylor’s inability to provide interesting, enlightening, cogent, insightful commentary and RK ability to do so.

We could easily initiate a number of further discussions over these two types of mafrash but the one we think deserves mention is perhaps for many quite a stretch. And RK’s faithful readers know we are never afraid to publish ideas some call far-out and unlikely.

Rug research is not mathematics, nor is it science. Rather it is, and must be, interpretative, the major necessary caveat being the interpreter’s expertise to ascertain and connect subtle, often hidden, clues.

First the idea there is a yet undiscovered archetype/prototype mafrash group these tent-band-type descended from, is ours and ours alone.

We believe this on account of the codified iconography they all display. Plus, the fact they are rare but still somewhat numerous fits a pattern we have seen, and been able to document before by actually discovering that archetype.

To take this a step further let RK postulate the entire tentband oeuvre developed from far smaller weavings like that mythic archetype mafrash.

Perhaps this is just too unsupportable but we cannot help think it true based on the fact all known tentbands are highly repititous, some with only three type of major panel, which in itself is bi-polar(the same on the left as the right with a distinct centerpoint where the two halves meat.).

Many older tent-bands are most probably a comparative age to the three mafrash published above, though there are some few seriously earlier ones.

But the amount of work, wealth and resources needed to produce a Turkmen part pile, or full pile, tent-band was enormous, way beyond the means of any but the most powerful and secure Turkmen clan.

Therefore, and remember this is speculation based on those circumstances, we see it highly likely the unusual horizontal non-gol iconography(versus the almost universal vertical gol style seen on almost all Turkmen weavings) placed in unified sections on tent-bands originally appeared on small, immensely easier to produce mafrash or torba.

So when will that archetype turn up?

PS: We see a chance it might not actually be a Turkmen product, and we have been looking in other related weaving groups for such a specimen.

Author: jc
Sun, May 27th, 2012 11:25:19 PM

RK recently examined the Ballard Arabatchi chuval in our Breakthrough Turkmen Studies, chapter one.

We think it relevant to republish that section and the URL for the entire paper.


The part specific to Arabatchi chuval is below:

The influence of our archaic minor gol is not limited to Tekke weavings as the following analysis of two Arabatchi and eagle-group torba demonstrate.

The first Arabatchi is the earliest and best example of the type, far earlier and better than any other we know.

The earliest Arabatchi Chuval, one of a pair; Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY City, Gift James Ballard

It is an outstanding weaving no other of the type can touch with a high ladder.

We have seen it in person several times and handled it, and the picture here does not do it any justice.

Those accolades and others we could add, particularly its coloration and outstanding wool quality, aside, we do not believe it is a truly ancient weaving.

By truly ancient we mean more than 400 years old.

Just for the record we are not shy in saying we believe some very, very rare Turkmen woven products we know are 500 and more years old.

We would not hesitate one minute to place our archetype Tekke torba, our Saryk MC, several chuval and engsi we also own, and a small number of MC, trapping and tentband from other collections we know in such a time period.

But the dating game is one we do not wish to discuss further, and for those of you who think we are cracked let us remind you not so long ago no one believed there were 18th century Turkmen weavings.

They were wrong then and you will be wrong now to doubt our early dating parameter.

The archaic minor gol, and not its age, is the item of interest, so let's spend some words on it and forgo any further discussion of age.

The Arabatchi chuval above, which originally belonged to James Ballard and was gifted by him to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, has very unusual minor gol iconography that has always interested us.

The central octagon has 'stars and bars' iconography which it shares with several group of early “classical carpets”. We know of no other type of Turkmen weaving where this appears.

This should not be unimaginable, as the weaving groups who produced those classical carpets, and Turkmen, like the Arabatchi, all migrated from Central Asia to Anatolia and other parts of the eastern Mediterranean region. At one time it is believed they all had been neighbors.

Exactly who first used the stars and bars design, or how the Arabatchi gol developed, is lost in history, and so far few Turkmen rugs that can be dated as contemporaries with the earliest classical carpets have been discovered and recognized.

However, it is more than likely someday a truly archaic Turkmen weaving with a stars and bars octagonal medallion will show up, and RK hopes we will be at the right time and in the right place to bag it.

So let's all leave sleeping dogs lie and not continue to debate which came first – Classical or Turkmen carpets.

Another seemingly 'early' feature of the Arabatchi minor gol is the four 'effigy' motif, one at each cardinal point of the central octagon.

Reading the rectangle with the two white dots as a head, and the two pairs of hooks below it as arms and legs, the effigy should be easily recognized.

This interpretation is one no one else has mentioned, well at least in our memory.

Are the four squiggles floating between these 'effigy' cloudbands?

Actually we are being a bit sacrastic here, and while we do believe the stars and bars central medallion has been derived from the same source as those that appear in the early classical carpets, we are less likely to believe the 'effigy', or even more so the cloud bands, were known to the weaver.

And because the stars and bar medallion's depiction is so two-dimensional and proportionally incorrect when compared to the versions on the classical carpets, the star in the center being far too large as well as the absence of other stars which should also appear, we really cannot believe a Turkmen rug of equal age to those Classical carpets would articulate this medallion so poorly. A good reason why we believe someday one will appear.

And was depicting an effigy the actual intention of the weaver? Frankly we cannot believe this either, and it is for these reason we cannot place this great Arabatchi chuval in the very small group of truly ancient Turkmen weavings, those that are of equal age to the earliest classical carpets.

So what does this all have to do with the present archaic minor gol discussion? We have to admit little, but for some time now we have been looking for an opportunity to memorialize in print our ideas about the Ballard chuval we felt this was, although not the perfect one, a nonetheless good opportunity.

Of course there are some elements, the central box, star in center, and dotted-line surround plus the arms at cardinal points, that tie this Arabatchi minor gol to our archaic Tekke torba's minor gol. However, these are too general to bother trying to build a more specific case.

What is not is comparing the level of 'archaic quality' these two minor gol display, a comparison that undoubtedly shows the archaic Tekke torba is far and away the earlier.

There is, however, another minor gol found on Arabatchi torba directly related to the archaic Tekke torba one. It can easily be considered an amalagam of features from the Ballard Arabatchi Chuval and our archaic Tekke torba gol.

later Arabatchi torba with a minor gol derived from those on the archaic Tekke torba; RK Collection

Here there are a slew of clues, including the set mentioned earlier, to prove these minor gol are related, the Arabatchi have been derived from the archaic Tekke torba minor gol. There is also little doubt this group of Arabatchi torba is not very old, surely not nearly as early as the Ballard chuval and some of the other better examples.

We will leave spotting the similarities to the weavings we illustrate above, and others that can be found in the literature, to our readers. Doing so will demonstrate all these minor gol have been synthesized from the archaic Tekke torba minor gol.

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