(ed. This extensive review has been online for many years and our decision to move it to the Best of RugKazbah.com Topic Area will interest many of the recent new readers. It provides important background information on michael franses and the so-called Kirchheim/Doha animal carpet.
This information is, like much of what appears on RugKazbah.com, available nowhere else online or in any other published media.)
The rug above is now known as the ďQatar Anatolian animal rugĒ. But it has had several other names attached to it since ever so quietly appearing for sale in London almost 20 years ago.
The sale was handled by Ms. Lisbet Holmes, an old school textile dealer who lived in London and conducted business from home.
Holmes did not discover the carpet. Rather, she was just selling it having been given it for sale, as we have heard it, by another English art dealer, Mr. David Salmon.
We have also heard various rumors how Salmon got it, and the three other early rugs which appeared with it, but since these are still rumors weíll refrain mention.
Regardless how they got there RK remembers well seeing the three carpets with Holmes, in her ground-floor reception room/gallery, sometime quite soon after she had gotten them.
The three early carpets RK saw for sale in the Lisbet Holmes Gallery many years ago.
But not really soon enough -- the best and pick of the litter in our opinion had already been sold, removed before we arrived so RK did not get the chance to examine it with the others.
By the way, it is still in the Italian private Bruschettini collection where it went after purchase from Holmes.
Below is the single panel animal rug Bruschettini bought and still owns.
And here are the two other animal rug fragments published in fransesís paper
Left: According to franses from the Jeremy Pine collection; Right: Kirchheim collection
Now then, and before we get into commenting on franses Qatar lecture about the Qatar animal rug, the other three animal rugs Lisbet Holmes offered, and two other related but very fragmented examples which appeared about 10 years later, weíd like to say a few words to put mr michael franses in proper perspective.
Actually we intend to shine some light-rays of fact down the dark corridor of invention and history rewrite his lecture at times evidences.
Perhaps the worst is fransesís version of how the carpet came to the Doha Museum.
It is completely unsatisfactory and, we believe, nothing but re-telling a mediocre fairy-tale.
So might be franses referring to the rug as the ďQatar Anatolian animal rugĒ.
After all it has had quite a few previous owners and for so short a time in the art world this is something in and of itself worthy of mention.
Also not acknowledging the rugís history in the west is misleading, and done deliberately.
More correctly would be to call it the Salmon/Holmes/eskenazi/franses/Kirchheim/Qatar animal rug, as these were its former owners.
Well, franses doesnít really belong as he never put up any money, rather he made commissions on both sales Ė splitting with eskenazi on the first sale to Kirchheim, and then with Kirchheim on the Doha sale.
And since using so many names might be cumbersome, RK believes at least H. Kirchheimís name should have remained, as he sold it to Qatar with franses as the middle-man in the deal.
RK can only interpret fransesís avoiding Kirchheimís mention, and the others like Holmes, as another example of history rewriting and invention. Clearly, franses does this to prevent the truth about his involvement with the Qatar animal rug to become public.
But letís trip back to the day RK visited Homes, now long deceased, saw, handled and examined the three animal rugs above.
Holmes had already sold the Bruschettini example, for a reported 750,000usd, and that same price was what she was asking for the rug that is now in Qatar, the rug called the ďFaces RugĒ still presumably in the Kirchheim collection; and the smaller four animal/animal rug that soon ended up in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.
Here is a photo of the Faces rug, the two halves now separated but when we first saw it they were sewn together.
RK stood there with Lisbet and said ďIf I had the funds Iíd buy all threeĒ, but alas RKís bank account fell far too short by many digits.
Also, we never were successful in trying to convince far more capable buyers we knew of the importance of purchasing them.
To make a long story short daniel walker got the small four animal rug for the Met, and then somewhat later eskenazi and franses cajoled Heinrich Kirchheim into buying the other two, the ďFaces RugĒ and the one he then sold to Qatar that is the subject of fransesís paper/lecture.
If writing himself and his role in the selling of the Qatar animal rug first to Kirchheim, and then from Kirchheim to the Qatar Islamic Museum, out of the picture isnít reality invention and history rewriting we donít know what is.
Plus, its avoidance puts a very disingenuous light on everything franses has to say about the Qatar animal rug.
But this type of rewriting history is par for the course for franses, and quite similar to his still unmentioned, and unacknowledged, role in the sale of the bogus dennis dodds ĎBelliniĒ rug to the Collectorís Committee of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art(LACMA).
RK is now convinced franses owned the carpet, sold it to dodds, and perhaps even still owned it when dodds sold it into LACMAís collection.
Also RK needs to once more state for the record our expert opinion the Qatar Anatolian animal rug is Kurdish and made in Iran not Anatolia. It is surely not anything like other animal rugs we know, save its Ďdesigní.
RK wants to try and place it, and the related others published in fransesís paper, geographically. This is something franses never mentions.
In our opinion these rugs were made in what is now called Ardabil Province in the north west of Iran/Persia, bordering Azerbaijan and the provinces of East Azerbaijan, Zanjan, and Gilan. There are a number of reasons for this choice and perhaps someday we will discuss them, this not being the right moment for more speculation.
In fact, we also question the Anatolian provenance the animal rug the Metropolitan Museum of Art bought from Holmes.
We firmly believe it also is not Anatolian, rather its an amazingly early Afshar weaving, probably made in western Iran, not Anatolia as franses and many others opine. By the way Afshar peoples migrated to Azerbaijan from Turkmenistan in the 13th century, which goes some distance in documenting our choice for where these animal rugs were produced.
So to repeat: the Qatar animal rug is Kurdish, probably from Ardabil province, and the Metís an Afshar, likely made there as well.
We are positive extensive forensic testing will prove this but as all the rugs have been, and are now, unavailable for testing it appears the fictional idea of their ďAnatolianĒ parentage will remain unquestioned.
Nota bene: Made in Anatolia should mean to everyone what it means to us: Made by indigenous Anatolian people, not foreigners or aliens like the Seljuk, Afshar or Kurdish groups, some of which migrated into Anatolia post 1300AD.
OK, enough preamble letís look in as franses begins his talk by mentioning:
ďThe study of the origins of oriental carpets, their patterns, developments and history, have never commanded the respect given to other areas of art history.
Apart from a few eminent scholars, such as Wilhelm von Bode, Fredrich Sarre and Kurt Erdmann and Ernst Kuhnel, the study of carpets, the origins and development of their patterns, has remained a somewhat taboo subject for art historians.
Perhaps this is due to the fact they were considered just furnishing items and not worthy of serious study. Perhaps it is also because so little is known about where any of them were made or indeed by whom.Ē
There definitely are other reasons why oriental carpets have never been taken seriously by the art establishment.
To find them one does not need to look any further than the dennis dodds bogus ďbelliniĒ caper to see how weak and ineffectual carpet studies, and those like franses who seemingly lead them, remain.
Carpet studies need science and insightful art historical analysis. Were franses and others able to deliver quality work, RK is sure things would turn around. But things wonít until real information replaces the undocumented speculation running rampant through rugDUMB, and in a paper like franses presents in Doha.
This is RK reason for critiquing franses and although we wish others would we know no one else will, as everyone is too afraid to rock the boat preferring to see it sink than say anything to save it.
This is a dreadful situation and the biggest impediment rug-studies faces.
But back to franses:
ďToday I will try to put into context one of the most beautiful works of Islamic art in the collection of the Museum of Islamic Art here in Qatar Ė the Qatar Anatolian Animal Carpet.
Standing before this extraordinary carpet one is immediately fascinated by abstract animals that fill the center. The patterns embrace aspects of Islamic art as well as iconography derived from earlier traditions and show how the people of the Islamic world adopted and adapted symbols. We see creatures within creatures perhaps symbolizing birth or mythological beasts placed here to carry the soul to the afterlife.Ē
ďSymbols of birthĒ? Carrying ďsouls to the afterlifeĒ?
This is nothing but malarkey and franses presenting these notions without so much as an iota of supporting reference is nothing but bad, bogus scholarship.
Again, any wonder serious scholars avoid rugDumb like the plague?
ďWhat strange creatures they are, probably ancient totemic symbols that can be traced back to some of the oldest civilizations of the ancient Near East .Ē
Traced back to some of the oldest civilizations of the Near East?
OK, sounds great, but why doesnít franses provide even one reference or photograph to support the well-worn and tired words uttered like they were established fact.
ďThe carpet tells a story of which there have been many interpretations but I will not address this point today.Ē
Gee, wonder why? RK is positive franses has little to no idea where or how to try and support these imaginary allusions.
ďInstead I will attempt to shed light on its rarity and significance by examining the surviving group of animal carpets.
The Qatar animal/animal(sic) carpet was acquired in Kathmandu, Nepal in the late 1980ís from refugees fleeing from Tibet.Ē
Since hearing this story before we visited Holmes and saw the carpets, RK did not believe it. We still do not now.
Mind you back then it included the outrageous addition those Tibetan refugees found the carpets floating in a river after they were thrown there for disposal by monastery monks on a cleaning binge.
If you believe any of this immediately go purchase the Brooklyn bridge from the guy who is selling it for 100 dollars!
Again, fransesís account of how these rugs were discovered, by refugees from Tibet, is nothing but a blatant unsubstantiated fairy tale, a story that has about as much chance of truth as the Brooklyn Bridge salesman having the deed.
ďAlso found in Nepal were four other Anatolian rugs, all now in western collections, with very similar designs -- The five Anatolian animal carpets, with animal patterns you see here.Ē
Photo of 5 rugs whose discovery, as painted by franses, is according to RK complete fantasy and bunk, originally fabricated to hide their real source.
ďThe Qatar example, on the left, is the most spectacular by virtue of its size.Ē
What else could franses say than it is the best since he sold it to Qatar, after previously selling it to Kirchheim?
Also, RK agrees itís the largest but when did size become a main arbiter of what is spectacular.
In our opinion, one we have held since first seeing three of the four rugs with Lisbet Holmes the single animal, the Bruschettini, is the most spectacular and the best.
We say this because in all respects it is far more comparable to the animal rugs in the earliest European paintings than any of the others franses shows and glows about.
Just notice the animal is placed within an octagon.
This compares far more favorably with the early Anatolian animal rugs in European paintings, which almost always appear in octagons, and not rectangular fields like the Qatar and others.
ďThese (the animal rugs in the photo) all will be discussed in greater detail later. They were all reportedly preserved in Himalayan monasteries for the past 700 years and they have been dated using multiple C14 tests.
The physical evidence to support they came from these monastery is the surfaces of many of them were quite black, coated with yak butter that had penetrated deep into the base of the pile. Yak butter candles are still used today to illuminate Himalayan monasteries.Ē
RK has mentioned before fransesís lack of formal education, and while it should not be detrimental to becoming a ďcarpet scholarĒ, or any other type of scholar, RK just cannot help but believe this lack of schooling the reason franses exhibits such incredible gullibility to believe the presence of ďyak butterĒ is evidence, or proof, for the outrageous Tibetan monastery/refugee story.
But the gullibility meter goes off the chart when franses states ďÖyak butter is still in use today in Tibetan monasteries.Ē. Seemingly then, its presence in the pile of these rugs proves nothing about their antiquity, or even provides credible circumstantial proof.
Equally as specious is franses trying to prove the borders of the Qatar rug have a strong relationship to those on other early animal rugs. And while the borders are somewhat alike, they are not exactly alike, falling far short of proving anything conclusive.
Plus the design he chose is so generic, a stepped-platform and zig-zag meander, even if they were exact matches their import would be slight.
Here are two of these border comparisons.
The drawing shows a detail of an early animal carpetís depiction in the famous Demotte manuscript. And while there surely is some similarity, as we wrote above, the generic nature of this stepped-platform and meander renders any comparison virtually useless.
Were this border pattern exclusively used on early animal rugs, or only on the Demotte painting of one, such comparison would carry weight. However this is surely not the case, as the detail from a Beshir MC (below) RK spied the other day on the internet well demonstrates another Ďversioní of this generic main border iconography.
This Beshir MC, called Khirgiz and dated circa 1700, was published in 1907 by FR Martin. RK doubts the rug is either Khirgiz or 300 plus years old, though it does appear to be an excellent example that might date to circa 1800.
But these are not the only naÔve gaffs franses makes, letís continue and others will become as apparent.
Citing a paper written in 1959 by Richard Ettinghausen franses tells this was the basis for his Doha talk.
Sadly, the main idea of that Ettinghausenís paper, that the animal designs were derived from woven silks, is myopic; as the reverse, that the designs on these silks come from carpet designs, is equally as plausible and possible.
Actually, in our opinion even more so, as the carpetís knotted pile technique preceded the development of the complex flatweave techniques those silks employ by many, many centuries.
Plus which came first is nothing but a chicken/egg paradigm, and were franses able to do real research we are sure he would be able to do more than cite a 50 year old plus paper that does nothing but voice the outdated idea this iconography originates in a court environment and not a village or clan one.
Worse, franses is making the same mistake, considering many more animal rugs and fragments are now known and recognized than just the two small pile carpet fragments extant when Ettinghausenís paper was first published.
Shifting to discussing animal carpets depicted in European paintings franses mentions there are 60 plus (he later states he has over 90 in his Ďfilesí) but of those, and RK has seen many of them, not one can be directly and positively related to the Qatar Anatolian animal rug.
Otherwise franses would have used it and not the weak border comparison with the Demotte miniature painting.
However, youíd never know this as franses continues to motor on without providing a drop of proof beyond that which is rather ineffectual, and circumstantial at best.
Fact is all these early animal rugs are different enough from those in the paintings to question any supposed relationship franses is trying to establish.
And they, not including the Faces rug and the Metís compact ďversionĒ, are all alike enough as a group to be considered one, a point franses also avoids discussing as it implies, as RK believes, these animal rugs are not really related with those examples in the 14th-17th century European paintings, save the generic iconography they share.
Launching into a vey cursory and rather suspect history of knotted pile carpet making franses repeats all the old wifeís tales -Ė for instance pile carpet was conceived to simulate the fur of an animal pelt Ė adding none of his own to try and prove a point.
What that point is can also be called obscure, as his survey is far too brief and inconclusive to bring any light to how, where, or why a rug like the Qatar Anatolian animal rug was produced.
Perhaps the most interesting slide, of those franses shows is this ďasmalykĒ like pile rug, which he calls a ďhorse-coverĒ.
RK seriously doubts this was a horse-cover as the lack of characteristic wear is not present. Regardless, it is a fascinating weaving, C14 dated to 800-364BC, that perhaps sheds light on how Turkmen asmalyk
Trying to substantiate his idea this weaving is a saddle-cover franses shows a decorated pottery vessel of a horse with a saddle-cover.
However, this vessel has little to no real relationship to the weaving, as the saddle-cover it portrays is a typical rectangle and not a pentagon. Also the large animal is a lion, not an ibex, and all the others visible are birds.
What is even more unbelievable, franses does not mention the close relationship this weaving holds with Turkmen asmalyk -- one might even call it an ancient archtype -- although he does mention Turkmen rug collecting in relation to the ďCĒ, or half-moon, motif he will soon explain, though incorrectly.
For mr fransesís information the ďCĒ icon found in the Vakiflar rug he cites is not found in later Turkmen gol but rather in some very early ones.
ďThe symbols depicted on early, early rugs were employed to protect the owner, ward off evil spirits, and to carry the soul to the next world. They were mirrors of the heavens.Ē
Here again, this is the same old, tired and hackneyed speculation RK has heard for the past forty plus years Ė voicing it provides no proof, no substantiation, or documentary evidence of fact.
Nothing but hot-air, and all franses is doing is recirculating it.
Next, franses drags (proverbially) the famous Pazaryk carpet on the stage.
Who knows, as it is in no way comparable to the Qatar animal rug he is struggling to put into perspective.
In describing the Pazaryk, franses misses the rather obvious parallel one of its minor borders shares with an early Egyptian throne cover, pictured in his talk a few slides previously.
Left; Detail Pazaryk carpet border, C14 dated to 388-200BC; Center: Throne cover, Tomb of Kha, Eqypt, circa 1400 BC, Turin Museum, Turin, Italy; Right: detail of throne cover
In 1985 RK was in Turin and we visited the Archaeological Museum where this cover and many other Egyptian artifact are preserved.
We spent quite some time looking at and photographing it because of the strong parallel the detail above has with the ubiquitous Turkmen Ďchemcheí icon.
Left: Detail Turin throne-cover; Right: Turkmen chemche icon from an early classic period Tekke torba, RK collection;
Since then we have been trying to find enough early archaeological references/examples to flesh this out.
We did mention this idea, and publish the floor-mosaic below, in one of the Turkmen exhibitions on the Weaving Art Museum website, link below.
This mosaic, and its chemche-like iconography was found in a temple devoted to the God Mithra, and according to the research we did it represents a ďthunderboltĒ.
Left: Detail turned horizontal, Turin throne-cover; Right: Floor mosaic, Ostia, Italy, dated 100-200 AD
And while this is seemingly unrelated to our discussion of fransesís paper, we decided to include it to demonstrate the historic roots certain icons found on early Turkish and Turkmen weavings can be shown to maintain.
We are also sure as time goes on these roots will be far more researched and known to rug-studies.
To his credit, franses does try to relate the Pazaryk border to a similar design on a Assyrian marble slab but this is not nearly as germane or effective, as the Pazaryk is a woolen weaving, not a marble sculpture.
Detail marble relief from Nineveh, Mesopotamia 668-627BC
Moving on to the far more unknown early rugs found in Bactria, and other adjacent areas of western Asia, franses provides some excellent slides Ė and this is the best part of his lecture, one well worth watching.
We do not agree with franses statement the iconography of early pile rugs has been derived from mosaics, something Kurt Erdmann and others tried to prove 50 years ago and more.
While certain mosaics do show iconography related to carpets it most definitely is not the elephantís graveyard of iconography carpet studies needs to discover.
And though there are obvious parallel, the mosaics are not as early as many other archaeological artifacts which have been discovered in the past 50 years since Erdmann and Ettinghausenís day.
The same exists with the early Near Eastern (Assyrian) wall reliefs with animal patterns franses cmpares to several of these Bactrian pile carpets.
Again, there are no proofs or evidence other than visual these are models carpets imitate and copied, as franses claims.
More likely is a relationship derived from as yet unknown earlier common source(s).
We were also surprised franses missed the obvious connection the very unusual iconography in this fragment, which he shows in his talk, has with the ďFaces RugĒ.
Left: Detail Faces rug, George Hecksher Collection; SF, Ca. ; Center: detail from this fragment that is similar to Faces rug; Right: Detail, Faces rug
We also know enough about art history to realize fransesís idea ďthere are enough details to suggest that abstract schematic creatures tend often to represent later developments in the evolution of symbols.Ē is untrue.
As proof we mention: There are numerous abstract, as well as naturalistic and realistic, patterns and designs drawn side by side, and contemporary, on the walls of certain decorated European Palaeolithic period caves.
Sorry, franses, back to the drawing board on that one.
When presenting a photo of the supposedly early ďlionĒ animal rug, now in the collection of the deYoung Fine Arts Museum in San Francisco, franses, who sold the rug to them, again forgets to mention his involvement in its acquisition.
Again, we think the audience deserves to know this, and how it might naturally color his remarks.
Continuing, franses discusses early animal rugs in European paintings, a well covered now rather boring subject, especially when nothing new is added as is the case here.
Another surprise is franses showing a photo of the back of the Marby rug, which has a weave so unlike ANY Anatolian rug we have ever seen or heard about.
This fact, which only very recently became known to RK and others demands comment.
But nada, nothing from franses, who we are sure has never even considered the import this broken chain-link in the somewhat questionable story of the Marby rug conveys.
Detail of the back of the Marby rug showing a structure unlike any early Anatolian rug we have ever seen or heard about.
Sayeth franses: ďSo carpet designs come from some very ancient patterns, but I am not going to deal with that today.Ē
Too bad, as RK would like to see him provide anything but wild speculation, as we know of next to no positive documentation or proof of such a statement.
That said, we surely believe it, and have written about this, but unlike franses we provide documentation to support the far more specific statements we have published.
Remember thereís a big difference between proof and belief, something on which franses definitely needs to take a refresher course.
Also there is not much real relationship between the designs on the animal rugs in his lecture and those in the paintings he shows. Yes, there is some visual relationship but not nearly enough to be considered a smoking gun, forget beyond the shadow of doubt a court requires.
We also admit fransesís attempts to ďproveĒ the ďsimilaritiesĒ he tries to demonstrate in the animal carpet minor borders provides no significant evidence they are related in any way other than casually.
Mostly because what franses calls an exact match isnít exact, as the photos above prove. And even if it were more exact, these carpetís all exhibit technical and structural deviations, which discounts they share anything but a design relationship. And on top, the border is nothing but generic -- a meander over a stepped platform.
Even the ďSĒ border he talks about is very different than those on the carpets in the European paintings.
Plus, if franses genuinely wants to prove relationship between the Qatar rug, the others that were found with it and the other known early animal rugs he needs to discuss in depth scientific analysis of the materials, structure and dyes, not only visual ones.
Regrettably, franses does not once mention these criteria, obviously because there are no similarities and doing so would just add more questions to what already is an eminently questionable situation.
The Qatar animal rug and the Metís example all lack the octagon surround, which is another point franses avoids mentioning.
Again we can only believe he does so purposely, knowing it would raise questions -- something as the seller of the rug franses most definitely wants to avoid.
Next franses repeats calling the fragment below ďSeljukĒ when it does not look anything like, nor does it structurally compare, with any of the known alleged Seljuk rugs. This is a blind assertion from franses, one he should know better than making with any documentation other than a Seljuk period C14 date.
And here is another very similar fragment franses shows and also erroneously declares ďSeljukĒ.
We believe franses remarks are again colored and affected by, as we have heard, he had a central role in selling the first fragment to its owner.
Showing the Kirchheim Faces rug for the first time on the screen franses has nothing to say about it other than it is a curiosity.
Oh, right, he does say it is Kurdish because it has ďoffset knottingĒ.
Both of these statements in our opinion are say-nothing remarks because not all Kurdish rugs have offset knotting and more importantly many other types of rugs besides Kurdish ones, especially early examples, also have offset knotting.
As for it being a curiosity? This is even more say-nothing commentary.
RK can say, since seeing it with Holmes and then several times with Kirchheim, we know the rug well.
Second we can say before it was ďwashedĒ it looked quite different than after.
And by the way it was ďwashedĒ like all Kirchheimís other rugs, and those of many other owners, by michael fransesís ďLongevityĒ conservation ďstudioĒ.
The Faces rug, and many of the others we have seen, now have a lost their patina, thanks to the Longevity ďwashingĒ procedures, which stripped away the many hundreds of years of patination they formerly displayed.
Which bring RK back to franses, the acclaimed carpet expert.
His paper isnít terrible, its mediocre, and surely not brilliant or even original.
Saying nothing someone else has not already said, there is nothing original infransesís talk, the best part being the slides he shows, with the commentary on a far lower level.
RK also believes we are sure most if not all of you know we do not get along with franses, and have not spoken to him since 1985.
So we are sure some might think what we write is Ďvindictiveí, as someone recently said about another RK franses critique.
No, weíre telling it like it is, and the comments above surely cannot be called vindictive.
Weíd be glad to have franses or anyone else try and show that, or even where we went wrong in our critique.
Itís easy to say something lacks scholarship without proving it. We believe we have proved it.
Here is the URL to view the franses talk.