Lot 1945, Netherhampton Salesroom, Salisbury, UK
This surely not very interesting engsi from any standpoint, other than its condition which looks perfect, is illustrated here because of the inscribed “date” it carries.
Now then, dated Turkmen rugs are virtually non-existent and therefore this engsi deserves to be discussed.
However, the fact a date does exist on it does not necessarily mean a hole hill of beans.
That date 133?_? appears twice, once on the left on the upper horizontal bars, or “borders”, which separates the four boxes in the field, and a second time in the right corner of the lower bar which serves the same function.
Inscribed date that the auctioneers have read as 1348(AH) or 1929 in our calendar.
Before we discuss the rug let’s spend a few words on the date itself.
While the first two numbers are easily seen as 1 and 3, the following two are, at least to RK, surely not as evident. In fact, the third has little resemblance to a 4 and the fourth appears to us to be nonexistent.
Disregarding this obvious impediment to securely establishing just exactly what date the inscription is trying to convey one is left with the first two numerals 1 and 3.
So at the earliest possible interpretation, 1300(AH), one could say this date equals 1911 and at the latest, 1399(AH), 1978.
Looking at the engsi one would get the impression the 1911 date, or 1920 as the Netherhampton auction catalogue has stated, is far more plausible than say a 1940/50/60/ or 70 guesstimate.
But even if this engsi was made in 1911 it surely “looks” earlier, as no synthetic dyes “appear” to have been used and the iconography, while definitely not appearing early, is surely in keeping with “later’ 19th century styles
For us this engsi is then both problematic and confusing. For if the date is real and correct it means at least somewhere in south-west Turkmenistan someone was, in 1911 or thereabouts, producing weavings that have many, if not all, the appearances of 19th production.
Granted, a pre-1920 date is before the first and initial Russian 5 year-plan that included carpet production in its dictates. And in certain quarters of Turkmenistan one could easily state conditions were basically unchanged from the later decades of the 19th century.
And, of course, this engsi might be a one off dinosaur that statistically does not throw a monkey-wrench into the now fairly established ideas of dating Turkmen weavings.
Studying the iconography reveals a number of details of later Turkmen work, of which the over-sized elements in the four quadrant field, the appearance of elem at top and bottom, the incomplete reproduction of the not often seen icon in the vertical bars separating those four quadrant, the disregard for smooth transitions at corners of the main white ground border, the lack of cohesion in the elements seen in the elem and the complete lack of understanding of how those elements should be depicted – one of which is the traditional branch of a tree and the other what often has been called a crown.
Plus the flaccid and cookie-cutter style of articulation bodes poorly for any belief the weaver of this engsi had any real connection to Turkmen cultural mores and weaving tradition.
This engsi really needs to be seen to be accurately appreciated and since RK does not plan a trip to Salisbury in the coming days we would appreciate input from any reader who will be attending the preview.
So until more hands-on information is available we will, for now, leave this “interesting” tidbit of Turkmen weaving with a ‘nuff said’.