Wacky woman elena tsareva ridiculously dates this Saryk carpet 17th century; detail, Neville Kingston Collection
Another of the lead articles in the winter 2014 edition of that rag hali is entitled “An Unknown Horde”.
Written by elena tsareva, who now has deposed jon thompson to become the hired-gun of choice for budding book publishing Turkmen carpet collectors, readers are introduced to the Neville Kingston collection, aka the unknown horde.
RK is clearly on public record in claiming ms tsareva’s knowledge and expertise concerning Turkmen rugs is way overblown, just like many others who have tried to establish themselves as Turkmen carpet “scholars”.
After RK’s in depth critique of the text tsareva produced for the hoffmeister collection publication we’d be dumbfounded if anyone with open eyes could possibly believe tsareva’s reputation is anything but hype.
RK called her “tsareva the story-teller’, as much of the hoffmeister publication’s text is far more suited for a girl or boy scout’s campfire tall tale session than consideration as a scholarly work.
But don’t get RK wrong here – there is some information in hoffmeister publication’s text but it’s lost in the sauce of tsareva’s unsupportable and documented silly myth retelling and creation.
In the “Unknown Horde” article tsareva states publication of the entire Kingston Collection, with a text by guess who (elena tsareva), is forthcoming and this article is but a small preview.
In describing the collector, Mr Kingston and his formerly unknown collection, tsareva tells it was formed over the past two decades through buying from known sources, like the Leslie/robert pinner and Mark Whiting collections; various dealers; at auctions big and small, and unknown sources like at flea markets and on from Kingston’s wide travels throughout England and many other countries.
She mentions it comprises “more than 500 knotted and flat woven rugs and other textiles". She also tells readers of her difficulty in choosing pieces for the article, and in the end deciding to choose those which were her "personal favorites".
Five hundred pieces is quite a horde by any means and while RK hasn’t yet seen its entirety, only what is in this article that by the way tsareva says equals just “5%”, we are not shy to wonder out loud if Kingston was more a gluttonous gourmand Turkmen collector than a discerning gourmet?
Her stating the pieces pictured in the article come from his “home museum” again makes RK wonder if these are, in fact, the best in the collection?
Nevertheless RK awaits the promised publication to find out.
But back to ms tsareva’s article.
While we are not going to comment on every piece illustrated RK will mention the ones which seem to most demonstrate why we are now calling her “elena the wacky woman” rather than “tsareva the storyteller”.
First up here, as well as in the article, are a pair of embroidered asmalyk.
Calling them “astonishing objects”, “very old”, and, get this, “Salor” RK is baffled because they are not really astonishing in any degree or more importantly in comparison to other embroidered asmalyk, even when just considering their very specific type. Granted they are a pair, which is very rare to find.
As for “very old”?
Well, really now, what does “very old” mean?
And considering tsareva herself dates them to the “19th century or before”, this surely doesn’t equate to “very old”.
Using such a description for them is way wacky. Even if they were early 19th century, the cutting edge of today’s Turkmen carpet scholarship recognizes there are 17th and even 16th century examples, clearly what these are not.
In our estimation such pieces, and not a 19th century pair of embroidered asmalyk, deserve being referred to as “very old”.
As for astounding?
Again a misplaced descriptor.
Kingston’s pair of embroidered asmalyk are good but not great, best of type, let alone astounding.
And considering he was a buyer of pieces from the Leslie/robert pinner collection Kingston should have stood up and acquired the pinner embroidered asmalyk, which truly was outstanding and worth calling astounding. Note: the pinner asmalyk belong to a completely different group; one that is decidedly earlier, more important historically and in our opinion the archetype from which Kingston's have descended.
The pinner asmalyk
Lastly, and genuinely worthy of reader’s consideration, are the reasons tsavera hangs a Salor parentage on the asmalyk.
Here she’s at her best, a place she rarely visits, and we will let our readers find out for themselves what she says.
In referring to the rare and surely pre-1800 Tekke MC with a white curled-leaf main border that formerly was the pinner’s we are not so much concerned with her seeing it as “wonderful” and the “best known of the these”(note: it’s surely not the best or the earliest) but her dropping the following tidbit and then leaving any explanation a mystery.
Tekke MC with white curl-leaf main border; formerly Leslie/Robert pinner collection
“The aforementioned visual characteristics indicate an early origin for the ‘cluster’, before the Tekke arrived at the Akhal Oasis, suggesting the Balkhan Mountains as the place, and the 17th century as the time, of its production. While such an early date is difficult to accept, there are some convincing reasons for the suggested attribution. First is the colouring, which we find in some Aralo-Caspian Turkmen products….”
What pray tell are Aralo-Caspian Turkmen products?
Here’s a classic example of why we think elena tsareva is wacky, as only a wack job pseudo-scholar would first attribute such a carpet to the Balkhan Mountains, with no supportable evidence given, and then get further wacky by say it’s colouring is Aralo-Caspian, a descriptive term RK has never before encountered.
And worse wacky Elena mentons it like it is well known.
Oh well, as the old saying goes: Guess we’ll all have to wait to read the book, huh?
This type of writing is par for the tsareva course, and it reminds of other curious ‘statements’ she has authored and offered up without ever providing a rudimentary explanation, let alone proof.
Here’s another statement we find even more wacked-out “Most of the early pieces, which have survived several centuries of use, were made by the best weavers in their generation. Their taste and professional craftsmanship guaranteed exceptional quality of work and distinctiveness of pattern and colour scale. That is how we account for the survival of the so-called Eagle-group yolami or tentbands, or Imreli masterpieces such as a torba(5). These master weavers had great respect for traditional patterns. Therefore they followed archaic compositions and subjects, some of which are clearly representations of millennia-old motifs that were once central to religious practice.”
Whew, let’s take a closer look at what tsareva’s saying.
First: “Most of the early pieces, which have survived centuries of use were made by the best weavers of their generation”.
This is laughably wacky. How does tsareva or anyone else know if a surviving piece was made by the best weaver?
Does she have a crystal ball which tells her so?
Second: On one hand tsareva states “their taste and professionalism (those best weavers) guaranteed distinctiveness of pattern” and then a few lines later “they(those best weavers) had great respect for traditional patterns” and “followed archaic compositions and subjects”.
Wack-job elena can’t have it both ways and it should be clear to any expert Turkmen weaving specialist the later (following archaic compositions) and not the former (distinctiveness) is the correct line of reasoning.
Remember distinctive, as defined by the dictionary means “having a quality or characteristic that makes a person or thing different from others : different in a way that is easy to notice, appealing or interesting because of an unusual quality or characteristic”.
And as every knowledgeable Turkmen weaving expert knows early Turkmen weavings are anything but because the weavers were ruled by reproducing a culturally defined iconography that is believably archaic.
Third: is the wacky-questionable statement: “They (those best weavers) used archaic compositions…that were once central to religious practice”.
It seems obvious, but decidedly unproven, the iconography of the earliest Turkmen weavings had meaning that is both now lost and might well have been highly spiritual or religious.
But since this is clearly supposition how does wacky-elena tsareva, or anyone else for that matter, know only the best weavers were privy to this and in a larger sense what compositions were religious?
Worse is tsareva’s wacky idea they (those best weavers) used iconography that “once was central to religious practice”. How does she know it was no longer still central when they were using it?
Or when did this iconography stop having religious import?
Seems tsareva is trying to say she knows, which is something we find completely unbelievable, especially since she gives not one iota of explanation.
But the ultimate wacky position elena tsareva assumes is calling this rather ugly Saryk presumably small format main carpet, as no size is listed, 17th century.
wacky elena’s caption “Saryk Turkmen main carpet, hali, Mangyshlak territory, 17th century. Wool”; Kingston collection
Frankly, we were astonished when we first saw this mediocre derivative early 19th century at best piece dated to the 17th century.
We think it middle 19th century, and truly not worth a second look.
RK was also amazed tsareva thought it pertinent NOT to provide a single reason for dating this ungainly thing 17th century. Some ‘Turkmen carpet scholar’ is she.
We also need mention her off-topic rambling on about restorers in Istanbul having improved their techniques well enough to do repair that appears to be original. This surely did not belong in this article as in no way is it connected.
Mr Kingston clearly has spent considerable time and money to acquire his horde and from the pieces illustrated in this article it appears he has gotten some exemplary ones.
His white silk Tekke chirpy is, in our opinion, the best piece in the article.
Rare white “Tekke” chirpy; Kingston Collection
And as we said we await publication to see the rest.
But, as longtime RK readers know, we are not afraid to make predictions.
So our thinking Kingston would have been far wiser to acquire far less and only go for the best implies we believe there will be few masterpieces and many, too many, examples that, like his Saryk MC, lack qualities that are worthy of scholarly study, high praise and deep admiration.
It’s interesting tsareva herself seems to have given subtle hint to this by saying: “It might be said that not all the pieces are immediately, enticingly attractive; not every one is known to be rare or of great antiquity. Some can look pretty ordinary at first glance. However, a closer look soon changes one’s mind and compels one to study the piece. And through a lens and in strong light a seemingly simple, often damaged, item gives up its secrets and shows its hidden beauty.”
Let RK add to that a saying of ours: “Everything looks big through a microscope”.