(ed. RK has seriously considered how to present the story of what will now become known as the “Shanbo Swindle”.
We realize certain people, particularly the buyer and sellers involved, will take umberage to what we have written. But that is to be expected for when the rock is lifted what was formerly dark and hidden comes into plain view.
We have chosen our words carefully from using the word ‘swindle’ as a noun and not a verb to cloaking the buyer with the pseudonym Mr Park.
RK has known jim burns since 1974 and frankly we have little to say nice about him. Same with krikor markarian.
But our dislike is not based on personal taste but rather how they have acted in pursuing careers in oriental rug dealing. Yes, burns is a dealer as much as markarin is but he does not do it from a shoppe but rather from his home. So burns the closet-case dealer has cloaked himself in rug collector clothes and for this reason we feel little sorrow for exposing his deal with Park.
And markarian has been involved in other controversial deals and as far as we are concerned he too does not deserve to remain unexposed for his actions.
Mr Park, however, as much as he has a personality that is 100 times more obnoxious and abusive than either ever-smiling car salesman krikor markarian or jim – I’m your friend – burns, he got sucked into this Shanbo Swindle innocently and he deserves to know the truth. We can only hope he sees reality and no longer is under the illusion that the four rugs he acquired are anything close to what he has been told.
We mention our 2003 review of burn’s “Antique Rugs of Kurdistan" which can be found here:
and our critique of jim burn’s “connoisseur choice” article published in that rag hali will soon be posted in the Topic Area "JC'S Corner". We decided to critique burn’s take on the Arhan rug because it shows with no room for doubt jim burns does not know the difference between a real Anatolian Village Rug and a later genre revival workshop copy.
He is not alone and RK has demonstrated michael franses is equally challenged in our three part series “Workshop of Village: franses’s pvt collection” that can be found here:
Another high profile alleged expert who has mistaken many late Anatolian rugs for early ones is dennis dodds, whose biggest caper was off-loading the late genre period revival ‘bellini’ rug on the Los Angeles County Art Museum by cheating his way into convincing the Museum’s Collectors Committee to buy it. More on dodd’s ‘bellini’ rug can be found here:
We mention the above to put markarian and burns’s inabilities into perspective – they are not alone but that does not make them any less culpable.)
Konya rug with ‘Karapinar’ type medallion, circa 1650; published in “Carpets of the Vakiflar plate 35; Collection Vakiflar Museum, Turkey
Anatolian Village rug is a term used like many others in oriental rug studies so loosely it has no real meaning. Of course some people can recognize the early, pre-18th century, examples from the later copies, as well as realize how extremely rare and valuable they are. But many supposed and alleged experts, and others, have no clue. Few real examples ever come, or have come, onto the marketplace. When they do they quickly change hands, and for the past years at an every increasing price level.
The other day RK mentioned the private sale of a so-called and misattributed “Karapinar” rug with the proviso we would revisit soon. Since then we have learned enough about the situation and the people involved to warrant further comments.
The buyer of the “Karapinar-that’s-not-a-Karapinar” is not a public figure in rugDUMB, so for now his identity will remain anonymous. But we will refer to him with the sobriquet Mr. Park. The seller was krikor markarian, a very well-known NY dealer and restorer who has been involved in, let’s just say, more than one problematic sale. The price was $250,000, two of our sources told us Mr. Park told them this was what he paid. Regardless if it were less or more, it is far too much and there are many reasons why. Here are a few…
So-called “Karapinar” rug sold by krikor markarian to Mr. Park
This rug, which would far more correctly be called a Konya rug with Karapinar style medallion, was in three pieces when purchased by markarian more than a decade ago. He stitched the two sections of the field and one of the borders back together and then added a good amount of repair and restoration. The rug is pretty for sure, but hardly one of the best of the group. More importantly it is not 16th century, as markarian maintains, or even 17th century, but rather middle 18th century according to us. These facts and markarian’s high price, he had been asking $150,000, discouraged any would be buyers.
After the ensuing years of trying to sell it very quietly markarian went more public with his attempts. We know it at least two people who were offered it for $150,000, one did not make any counter offer and the other offered $90,000, which markarian did not accept. RK then heard markarian offered it to someone for $115,000, not much more than he is rumored to have paid.
Before going any further RK needs to make several disclosures to correct any possible misunderstandings our going public with this story might entail.
1. We know Mr Park well and have spoken with him at length for hours and exchanged many, many email with him. We tried to have a working and personal relationship with him but found that impossible since he refused to pay us for the help and assistance he constantly asked us for and never acted like the friend he claimed he was. This went on for almost decade during which time we did sell him several outstanding pieces, none of them Anatolian. But Park reneged on the last deal refused to pay for two rugs we sent him and he had committed in writing to purchase. Needless to say this did not go down well with RK, and with Park constantly and continuing to send RK pictures for our ‘opinion’ without paying us for the advice we then stopped communicating with him.
2. Mr Park has been a rug ‘collector’ for about twenty years but his interests in pedestrian 19th century rugs did not coincide with the ones RK collects and researches, so our involvement with him was rather peripheral. However, during the entire time we kept telling Park to get interested in Anatolian rugs. He always flatly dismissed the idea saying he did not like them, they were not his style, etc.
3. In the fall of last year after not hearing from him for a long while, and before he reneged on that purchase, Park emailed us and said he was now interested in Anatolian rugs and we should offer him something. We told him we had nothing for sale at the moment but we offered once again to provide expertise for payment. Then, a few weeks later, we ‘sold’ Park the two non-Anatolian rugs he had us send him but then refused to pay for. This severing any further relationship or contact, which is where it remains. By the way we are not the first person Mr Park has returned purchases to, and in fact there is a whole bunch of people he has played this game on. Basically he does this because he is a rug ignorant, dead-eye who has shown no ability to master the fine points of oriental rug connoisseurship. He relies totally on other people’s opinions and has often proven a poor judge who to believe and trust. Hence the disaster he has made for himself buying the inferior, stale, over-priced and over rated rugs, like the markarian Konya and three others RK will now discuss.
4. About 14 days ago we learned from one of our sources that Park bought markarian’s rug, which by the way we have known and had pictures of for a number of years.
5. Then just the other day we received a copy of an email Mr Park sent to a number of ruggies announcing his purchase of the markarian rug and three others from another seller. This is when we decided to proceed with this story, as it has already been made public.
6. RK recognized Mr Park is a smart and successful guy. But like others, who have used their skills to prosper, he has not learned the same skill set is not applicable to successful oriental rug investing and collecting, or to develop a high level of connoisseurship. His failure is just another one on the list, and try as we did to help him realize this Park’s insecurities, overbearing Alpha personality and immense pomposity prevented him from recognizing how much we could help him. He ended up to his detriment listening to lesser minds, people we call rug-pundits and expurts, and dealers who were pushing him to buy their goods.
In our opinion the markarian Konya rug is a middle 18th century late genre period revival workshop copy made most probably in the Konya environs.
Detail Konya rug sold by markarian to Mr Park
The stiff two-dimensional appearance, most noticeable in the medallion interior and the filler panels between them as shown above, is the first dead give-away this rug is not an earlier real village weaving.
Compare it to the Vakiflar plate 35 example above and this becomes instantly obvious.
The proportions are completely wrong, the trefoil outer border should be wider and the inner one less wide. The medallions are too large for the field and the panels of filler elements between the medallions, shown in the detail photo above, are likewise too large. These poor proportions make the overall look unbalanced, and worse it is incapable of creating any recurring viewer experience. In short its gross proportions destroy any mystery or mystique. This “Seen it once do not need to see it again” mantra is applicable to many of these similar revival copies. Go look again at dennis dodds’s bogus ‘bellini’, another lifeless copy.
Here again is a photo of a genuine Anatolian village rug with almost exactly the same iconography, however, it has correct proportions.
Konya rug published “Carpets of the Vakiflar” plate 35 dated in the publication 15th/16th century but RK would place it later to circa 1600
There is hardly any comparison, markarian’s rug is glib and flashy but lacks the internal cohesiveness the Vakiflar rug exudes, particularly as we just mentioned in articulating the iconography within the central medallion and in the panels above and below them.
The archetype of this ‘Karapinar’ medallion exists on a fabulous carpet that popped up at the Brunk auction house in North Carolina about a decade ago. It, too, was, and continues, to be mistakenly attributed to Karapinar, though it was not made in Konya but according to RK farther west most likely in Bursa.
But there is no question about its importance.
RK has written extensively about the “Karapina Myth” and the Brunk rug and hope interested RugKazbah.com readers have availed themselves of our research.
More on the Karapinar Myth can be found here:
Here is the no comparison comparison of the Brunk medallion with the markarian.
RK has worked out the progression of iconography from where this Karapinar medallion was sourced and how it morphed into the various versions the small group of rugs like markarian’s display. This is, however, not the time and place to publish that and perhaps one day we will get around to polishing it up for publication.
It is interesting to note the Brunk rug sold in the auction for $250,000 the same price Mr Park paid for markarian’s. Surely the intervening decade has pushed prices, and were the Brunk rug to come to auction today RK is sure it would sell for 4-6 million, if not more. But that does not make markarian’s more valuable. Unfortunately for markarian, and now Mr Park, the rising tide of prices for early Anatolian rugs does not, and will never, lift all the boats in that harbor.
To close the book in the markarian rug RK would be foolish to say it is the worst of the four rug under discussion Mr Park bought. Two of the other three we will now discuss deserve that distinction.
However, no matter how you slice it the markarian rug is a late genre period workshop revival reproduction that holds little interest for any connoisseur, or would be wannabe one. That’s why it remained unsold until Mr Park and his less than astute advisors dumped his dosh on it.
RK telephoned markarian and, even though he was displeased with our complete disagreement with what he thinks his rug is and is worth, he did not offer any rebuttal to the points we mention here and during our call. Frankly, we sincerely doubt he knows the difference between a revival workshop rug and a real pre-1700 Anatolian Village one.
Mr Park then, according to his own statements to our source who spoke directly with him, paid $500,000 for these three rugs shown below.
The seller was jim aka generous jim, burns, who is no collector but rather has always been an investor-closet-case dealer.
So-called ‘Shanbo’ rug published in “Antique Rugs of Kurdistan: A Historical Legacy of Woven Art” plate 56 dated by author 17th century but RK would place it circa 1800
So-called Kurdish rug published in
“Antique Rugs of Kurdistan: A Historical Legacy of Woven Art” plate 93 dated by author 18th century but RK would place it early 19th century
Sauj Bulak rug published in “Antique Rugs of Kurdistan: A Historical Legacy of Woven Art” plate 40 dated by author 17th century but RK would place it circa 1750
By the way, RK reviewed burns’s “Antique Rugs of Kurdistan” book here on RugKazbah.com on April 11, 2003 and below is what we said about Plate 56 with some minor editing. Our view has not changed since then.
The complete review can be found here:
“…Jim Burns's new book on Kurdish rugs.
Before entering into the Saragasso Sea captain Burns so confidently set sail on and having RK’s decidedly different viewpoint ship-wrecked by those who might not like what we say, the following disclaimers should be noted.
1. RK has not had a chance to read Burns's text in its entirety and in fact have only skimmed through it.
2. After having set in motion the rug world's now de rigueur focus on the importance and relevance of pre-historic and archaeological findings, RK is no stranger to that type of material offered by burns in the text.
3.That said RK is, however, often amazed at how authors, like burns, either over generalize the possible relationships these materials have with certain carpets or even worse totally misappropriate such information in the guise of "proving" great antiquity for specific weavings or types.
4. Lastly and something that has been previously stated, RK is not a fan of Kurdish weaving. Almost all Kurdish rugs, like those of the Baluch, have no original iconography – they are almost entirely derivative of Persian, Turkish, Turkmen and Caucasian weavings. We find their colors monotonous and technically inferior, as they are coarse and often made of sub-standard materials.
However, there are a very few examples which break out of this mold and are genuinely wonderful, important and well deserve praise and admiration. Please note the VERY FEW designation, and that only one of the three burns sold Park would qualify..
With these caveats in mind let RK provide some objective balance to hali’s glowing review, written by Michael Wendorf, aka Mr Mambo to those who have followed his use of anonymouse-tags here on RK.com a while back. By the way Wendorf told RK under no uncertain terms that he wrote most of burn’s “Antique Rugs of Kurdistan” publication.
Jim Burns may have been a heavy-weight trial attorney but as a rug scholar his past efforts can surely not be so described and now, based on what RK has seen his new book is no different or better.
Mr Burns assigns a number of newly minted Kurdish tribal group attributions and locations of production to the rugs in his collection, and RK for one would like to know where these ideas came from? Has Mr Burns borrowed the oujji board other 'researchers' have consulted for such difficult to pinpoint information or has he somehow connected spiritually with the souls of Kurdish weavers past?
The assignments he makes appear to us on first glace as highly fabricated and based solely on opinion, not fact.
Take for example plate 56, the so- called a Shanbo rug. Burns attributes it to the Hakkari Heights in Northern Kurdistan. Please tell me Mr. Burns would any judge in the courts of law where you have spent your career accept this as fact and over-rule a hearsay challenge? RK believes not and we are sure so would you in such a circumstance.
Why then would Burns so boldly present an “idea” or opinion as a fact?
As RK has no interest or desire to prove or disprove these contentions Burn’s published and will leave them alone but we can easily demolish one that is within our purview - his attributing this ‘Shanbo’rug to the second half of 17th century.
plate 56 so called Shanbo rug, Burns Collection
Again has Burns been oujji boarding?
Because this rug is not a 17th century rug and it is debatable whether or not it even predates 1800. The “…veritable feast of designs and symbols” he mentions in the text description appears to RK to be a mish-mosh of 18th/19th century Anatolian village rug iconography distilled from the prototype weavings made several centuries earlier.
The sloppy drawing, the pastiche of ornaments thrown into the over-filled field area and a main border design not found on any 17th century weaving combine to negate any of Burns’s wish full thinking this rug is anything other than an early 19th century weaving.
Here is a Turkish rug, from the Ulu Mosque in Divrigi (plate 67 in the Vakiflar catalog), which might have been the model for the Burns rug’s “…veritable feast of designs and symbols”. Regardless, it is a genuine circa 1700 rug, something his ‘Shanbo’ definitely ain’t..
plate 67 Vakiflar Catalog, circa 1700
It also has a full plate of design on the field but notice the careful placement and articulation of those designs and ornaments. They show a world of difference exists between Burns’s funky, stiff, stuffed to the gills disjoined weaving’s version and a genuine late 17th/early 18th century Anatolian Village rug.
Is it beautiful, RK says Yes; is Burns’s? Well since beauty is in the eye of the beholder the following only expresses our opinion – No, Burns’s isn’t beautiful but it is sloppy and funky.
Burn’s could be onto something in his describing one of the motifs as the “star of Teshup” and RK will look forward to reading this explanation as soon as we have the opportunity.
But not to pee further on Burns’s parade, RK does find it remarkable the Shanbo group, or any of its weavings, were never mentioned by other writers, as Wendorf carefully informs his readers, and, notwithstanding Burns’s choice of other citations, his Shanbo attribution may be on even on shakier ground than his 17th century dating of this rug.”
To what we wrote in 2003 we can add the following comments to further destruct the fairy-tale nonsense in the plate description which we show below.
Published description of plate 56, the Shanbo rug, in burns “Antique Rugs from Kurdistan”
Examining the ‘Shanbo’ central medallion points out many flaws, ones no 17th century
version of this medallion would ever contain. The comparison with two other, one from the 17th century that could be considered the prototype and the other even earlier that is archetype is worth the proverbial 1000 words.
Left: Detail ‘Shanbo’ central medallion; Middle: Detail central medallion Vakiflar Plate 13; Right: Detail trans-Caucasian long stitch embroidery fragment, RK collection
We have published photos of the embroidery on RugKazbah.com before and offered our opinion it is also the archetype for other medallions where to varying degrees its iconic visual elements are reproduced.
Using it as a yardstick makes it obvious the four golden yellow multi-hooked elements in the ‘Shanbo’ medallion are a crude, derivative and amorphous copy of those in the medallion of the Vakiflar plate 13, as they are to the embroidery. They are far too large for the space allotted and have squeezed the blue ground cartouche in the center of the ‘Shanbo’ medallion into an almost meaningless addition. This type of eight-pointed cartouche has an important history and will be discussed below with Burns’s plate 93, where it also makes an appearance.
Detail ‘Shanbo’ medallion showing more of its design elements
The ‘Shanbo’ weaver’s even more inept attempt to copy the turreted-medallion style found on certain golden age Classical Persian Tabriz rugs is laughably unsuccessful. Worse it is ungainly and honestly in our eyes ugly as sin. Same with moving the cartouche these Persian rugs invariably display outside the medallion, between it and the pendant finial, into the center of the medallion and then placing two small designs flanking a tiny eight-pointed star. This is not 17th century, or even 18th century, iconography but rather what is post-1800.
Then the monotonous coloration with no attempt to utilize varying hues to create the depth of design weavers in the 17th century invariably used. The band of lighter red abrash in the bottom third of the rug does nothing to create this effect, and RK views it as an eyesore rather than any addition to its visual appearance.
But it is iconography that makes the ‘Shanbo’ rug a shamble.
Here is an early Anatolian Village rug, circa 1500, with some of the same iconography that shows how it appears in an early weaving.
Anatolian Village Rug with lobed medallion, four octagon and archetypal ragged-leaf border published in “Carpets of the Vakiflar” plate 61, dated by authors 16/17th century but RK would place it earlier, circa 1500
The differences between this and the ‘Shanbo’ are as wide as the Pacific Ocean and as deep. Notice the lack, except for a couple of ancillary field design elements, where the ‘Shanbo’ has a profuse, horror vaccui style number. Also notice how close together Plate 61’s central medallion and four octagons are. This surely is not “spacious”, one of the most over-worked ideas in rugDUMB, and one that is a dead end. If anything the ‘Shanbo’ has that spaciousness, however, it’s a nil effect as the too large separation between the designs prevents any synchronicity, leaving each one as not part of a whole but a unitary figure.
So it is not the amount of space between the elements of design but rather the size of that space (bigger is not better), and the way that space allows the elements to interact and relate.
Plate 61’s positioning creates that synchronicity and unified appearance without squashing or compressing the design. This is a very difficult designing feat for weavers to produce and only in the earliest village rugs does this exist.
Then examine the octagons both the ‘Shanbo’ and Plate 61 display. There is little doubt the ‘Shanbo’ weaver had little comprehension of how the complex interior ‘star’ iconography should be articulated, and only plopped a simplistic star where plate 61’s weaver knew the formula to create it.
But it is plate 61’s major border, and its sublime coloration and use of abash, which demonstrates what happens when the mastery of, and connection to, the historic weaving culture combines to create a masterpiece rug that dwarfs an inferior pedestrian, late genre revival copy like the ‘Shanbo’. Look at its typical 19th century designed borders.
Above the book’s plate description burns illustrates these two details of design elements from the ‘Shanbo’.
Illustrations (a) and (b) in Shanbo plate description
“The Shanbo diamond device with four extruding hooks(a) is found in four white ground octagonal medallions flanking the large medallion; at their center is the star symbolizing the Hurrian weather god Teshup, a motif later adopted by the Zelan kings.”
Ok let’s examine burns’s idea in light of reality and not the myopic focus he has cast it in.
Actually what burns calls the ‘Shanbo diamond device’ is nothing but a late, derivative version of what in rug studies is known as the Crivelli star, thanks to its appearance in several 15th century paintings by the Italian artist Crevilli.
Fragmentary ‘Crivelli’ carpet and detail circa 1600; Budapest Museum of Applied Arts
Closer in design is an early Crivelli medallion variant that could well be the prototype for burns’s (a) design.
Left: burns Shanbo illustration(a); Middle: Detail octagon with Crivelli star variant Vakiflar plate 61; Right: detail Tekke Turkmen fragment; private collection
Analyzing these design elements it becomes clear the probable source of burns’s ‘Shanbo’ star lies in some type of combination with the Crevilli variant and the Turkmen double kotchak icon. Were this the case RK sincerely doubt burns’s contention for the meaning of the ‘Shanbo diamond device’ is anywhere near factual. It is, once again, not an example of ancient Kurdish roots but instead another of the degenerate, derivative nature a rug like the ‘Shanbo’ presents. These icons are not Kurdish by any means and burns’s claims they are is nonsense.
Illustration (b) can likewise be traced back, not to what burns claims but once again to the archaic trans-Caucasian embroidery medallion and the subsequent prototype ones like plate 13 in the Vakiflar.
Left: Illustration(b); Middle: Vakiflar Museum plate 13; Right: Detail Saryk MC Timurchin gol, private collection
It also includes an important Saryk group Turkmen icon placed in a prime position, right in the center of (b).
Of course, burns avoides these obvious clues and describes (b) as having four “abyss medallons”, a term RK has never heard. And while the “small blue field medallion in the center of the rug” according to burns “also displays the Teshup-Zelan star” this is another high jump as what is more likely is RK’s suggestion this “small blue medallion” is a vestigial remain of the cartouche pendant. Plus the ubiquitous eight-pointed star has no indication it has anything other than fairydust to reference it to the specific Teshup-Zelan icon.
All considered the outlandish claims burns makes for the ‘Shanbo’ rug’s meaning are not in any way substantiated or documented.
It is telling both (a) and (b) display Turkmen iconography in prominent positions. This makes burns’s attempts to establish a separate ancient Kurdish tradition seem somewhat improbable and fanciful.
“Other prominent devices” burns writes “in lined ‘containers’ presumably represent significant heraldic devices of the confederate tribes rules by the ‘Shanbo’. ”
“Lined containers” is another burns-ism RK has never encountered. We guess he is talking about the octagons with two-color barber pole outlines in this detail of the Shanbo field.
If so, we can’t see anything else, the never before identified ‘Shanbo’ confederation must have ruled over a huge number of people for a thousand year or more because these same iconic octagons appear from Egypt to western China. This is something we sincerely doubt ever existed.
RK could go on demonstrating the defects and deficiencies the ‘Shanbo’ carpt exhibits but feel we have proven our point. It’s no top collector rug but rather an amateurish attempt by a weaver far distanced in time and space from the tools and knowledge necessary to produce one.
So-called Kurdish rug published in burns “Antique Rugs of Kurdistan: A Historical Legacy of Woven Art” plate 56
So let’s now have a go at burns’s plate 93, another late revival Anatolian Village Rug imposter he sold to Mr Park.
Published description of plate 93 in burns “Antique Rugs from Kurdistan”
First off almost any knowledgeable and experienced rug connoisseur who saw a picture of this rug, or the rug in the flesh, would call it an eastern Anatolian rug. Not a Kurdish rug.
This is an essential point, one that also pertains to the ‘Shanbo’. The fact burns wants to call them, and many others in his book, Kurdish is a very significant factor in understanding why RK believes jim burns has been a charlatan in the rug world and why we have liitle respect or regard for his supposed expertise or connoisseurship.
That these are later revival period rugs made in Anatolia is 99.999% accurate, but no one alive today can prove whether they were woven by Kurdish, Armenian, Turkmen or Anatolian weavers.
And while the geographic location where they were produced could no doubt be what was once called Kurdistan, or perhaps will be renamed as such sooner or later, this is a moot point. When these rugs were woven they were made in Anatolia, and this is a strong argument to discount all of burn’s allusions to Kurdistan, a place that never really was a country in the sense of Anatolia, Persia, or China.
According to burns “ Three medallions seem to float on a contrasting rich rust-red field”. This is bad poetry as the two of the klunky boxes burns calls medallions are far from anything RK would call a medallion. And these stodgy heavy-weighted boxes burns calls medallions couldn't float if they were pumped with more helium than the Hindenberg. The only one that fits that description is the upper one, and we will soon prove its iconography has nothing to do with any Kurdish weaving tradition but rather one centered farther east in the trans-Caucasus.
The central box is actually a mirhab, a fact lost on professor burns. The lower one, like the upper, has a similar but totally degenerated version of this:
Detail ancient Kazak rug
This is the earliest and what RK believes to be the archetypal version of this medallion, which appears in both Anatolian and trans-Caucasian weavings. There should be no doubt the upper and lower ‘medallions’ in plate 93 attempt to express the iconography it displays, as this side by side comparison makes perfectly obvious. However, they fail miserably.
Plate 93’s version combines some of the iconography RK traced in illustration(b) above with that in the Kazak medallion. This is not unexpected as both these iconography assemblies are far older than burns’s ‘Shanbo’ or plate 93 and the transmission process to them did not facilitate exact reproduction.
The Kazak is, in our opinion, the earliest example we have ever seen of this type of trans-Caucasian pile weaving. RK would date it 17th century based on the wool quality, handle, colors and design.
But the discussion is not how old it might be but how late and degenerate plate 93 and that ‘Shanbo’ rug are.
“The wide border of spaciously arranged diamond-shaped quadrangles…is quite unusual and a delight to the eye.”
There’s that ‘spaciously’ definer used again and while burns is correct these rows of diamond shaped quardangles are plate 93’s best feature the funky, misshapen and sloppy presentation does not inspire RK’s admiration.
There is a big difference between what is called naïve, peasant, or folk art and inept and inarticulate. Clearly the weaver of plate 93 could make the quadrangles with perfect shapes, however, even if the misshapen ones were done on purpose the effect is surely far more likely to be seen as sloppy rather than inventive.
One of the paramount aspect of early Anatolian Village carpets is their unsophisticated but highly sophisticated iconography, which never is sloppy or funky.
When you see funk you are looking at later, post-1700 weaving. RK has studied these weavings for decades and we defy anyone to find a pre-1700 Anatolian Village Rug, or one from the trans-Caucasus that is funky and has the sloppy, undefined quality of icon portrayal plate 93 or the ‘Shanbo’ exhibit.
The red wefting burns notes is another feature many Kazak rugs have and in fact the one with the medallion we illustrate has some light red wefting along with wefts that are mostly undyed. A small similarity but one that adds to the idea plate 93’s iconography comes from the Kazak rug or one of its descendents. Another worth a mention is plate 93’s outer harlequin border that can be seen on certain Kazak rugs and rarely if ever on any pre-1800 Anatolian Village rugs.
To make this brief there is positively no way on this God’s green earth that either plate 93 or the ‘Shanbo’ could possibly be earlier than mid-18th century and quite honestly we doubt either breaks the 1800 time line.
There’s an old saying “Horses for courses” and you cannot take a thoroughbred and compare it to a champion plow horse. It’s an unfair comparison whether you race them on a track or have them pull a plow through a field. We say this because we are sure some readers might think because RK likes sophisticated weavings and plate 93 and the ‘Shanbo’ are unsophisticated our opinions are colored by our likes and dislikes.
This might be Mr Park or jim burns’s major criticism of our anaylsis.
This is nonsense as we have already explained there are no actual and early -- pre-1750 – funky and sloppy Anatolian Village Rugs. Nor are there ones that are unsophisticated; sloppy is not unsophisticated and neither is funky.
The true early Anatolian Village rugs, be they woven in western, central, or eastern Anatolia all have qualities these rugs Mr Park bought from burns decidedly lack. And at the price level he paid, he surely did not get his money’s worth.
The third rug burns sold Park is both completely different from either of the other two and far more genuine and valuable.
Sauj Bulak rug published in “Antique Rugs of Kurdistan: A Historical Legacy of Woven Art” plate 40; sold for $67,500 sotheby New York April 10, 1997, lot 56
Described in the catalog as trans-Caucasian, then as Azerbaijan in the that rag hali auction report, RK would agree with burns it is more properly called Sauj Bulach. However, burns’s ridiculously over-dates it to the 17th century whereas RK would place it circa 1750.
It’s a beautiful rug and the best of the four rugs Park bought. That said RK would never want to own it, as from its harshang field pattern to its cartouche border there is nothing original about it. It does have a prototypic expression of this design pattern and on that level this rug is important but that’s not enough to make us covet it.
Here is what we wrote in our 2003 review of “Antique Rugs of Kurdistan: A Historical Legacy of Woven Art”.
“Many of the other rugs in Burns’s magnum opus are equally as over-dated and over-rated as those chosen for commentary here. However there is one rug that truly is remarkable and very important, Plate 40.
plate 40 Burns Collection circa 1750
This finely woven, well for a Kurdish rugs that is, piece has a white ground field covered with an animated design of medallions, palmettes and other ornaments.
If I am not mistaken this rug appeared at a New York City auction some years ago and sold for a quite princely sum that, by the way, was well worth every penny Burns paid compared to some of the other prices he has dished out to own many of the ‘old’ rugs now published in this book.
Plate 40 is the most outstanding piece in the book. Why you might ask? Because it has an original and prototypic use of motif and, believe it or not, this rug is the prototype for a type of 19th century Caucasian rug, like one shown here from Schurmann plate 95, known as Ashvan Kubas.
plate 95 Schurmann circa 1830
Notice the way the weaver of the Burns rug has carefully ‘cut’ the design to fit within the field and the borders ‘Transylvanian’ inspired cartouches with their complex interior design. These features, as well as its fine weave, suggest this rug was made in an urban center, perhaps even from a cartoon.
It surely is not the product of a nomad’s loom or even a so-called village rug – this piece screams of urbanity and high culture. Funky, it aint.
Is it beautiful, a definite Yes.
As stated above, my sole reason for commenting on Wendorf’s review and Burns’s writing is to provide another perspective to hali's self-promotion and Wendorf's groupie posturing to the guru of Kurdish rugs, Mr Burns. And while finding many faults with the methodology Burns used and the conclusions he presents I do agree with Wendorf when he states
“'Antique Rugs of Kurdistan' must be considered a monumental achievement and essential to anyone interested in the Kurds and their weaving.”
However, I strongly disagree with the notion of a legacy reaching back to antiquity that both Burns and Wendorf share concerning Kurdish weavings as well as the validity Burns’s classification system implies – both of which are central to the theme of this book.
All Near Eastern rugs maintain some degree of attachment to antiquity, this is undeniable. But trumpeting this fact in regards to weavings that are at or near the end of their design continuums, as has been shown here, doesn’t prove those rugs are ‘important’ nor does it make them more attractive.
It does allow authors to fill up pages with text and references and to picture really ancient archaeological remains along side of their chosen weavings but, might I ask, does it in the end prove anything?
I can congratulate Jim Burns on finally making a well-produced and handsome book but I don’t have to agree with what he writes to do it.”
To that review we added the following:
“Just for drill we're publishing this archetype "Kurdish" rug from the McMullan Collection.
Archtype "Kurdish" Medallion Rug, circa 1600, Metropolitan Museum gift J McMullan, plate 16 Islamic Carpets 1965.
Interestingly enough it can be considered one of the contributing influences producing the sotheby/burns rug:
plate 40 Burns Collection circa 1750.”
Now then the Met’s rug is the type of rug that RK would be very glad to own, as it is a masterpiece of its type, and although the Sauj Bulach is also of its type it just don’t have the push to make RK want it on our wall or in our closet.