Below is jim burns’s that rag hali ‘Connoisseur Choice” article concerning another alleged Anatolian Village Rug known as the Arhan he acquired from michael franses long ago. Just like the ‘Shanbo’ rug and plate 93 in burns’s “Antique Rugs of Kurdistan” publication, it is nothing but an 18th century workshop product.
Both franses and burns from their written words and actions have made it absolutely clear they cannot tell a late genre period revival copy from the real thing.
Some years ago burns traded the Arhan rug back to franses, who is still trying to unload it a second time.
So far no takers we learned from franses’s attempt to sell it to the fictional character RK invented ‘Gunter Raps’. We also learned franses still believes the Arhan is 16th century. He’s a clown, just like burns.
Here’s burns’s Connoisseur Choice and below RK’s critique that appeared in the first part of RK’s “Village or Workshop: franses’ pvt collection” three parts series, which remains online in the Anatolian/Turkish Rugs Topic Area.
Photo of franses's "private collection" Arhan rug from jim burns’s ‘connoisseur choice’; that rag hali issue 45, 1989, pg.14&15
To begin his rambling, say-nothing significant take on the Arhan carpet burns pontificates “Choosing just one of the many wonderful pieces I have seen and examined over the past thirty years is extremely difficult. When first approached, my thoughts flooded with the great rugs in the Metropolitan Museum and in Istanbul. But should my choice be from Persia, China, the Caucasus, Turkestan, or Turkey, all weaving centres which have held my interest? Should it be an urban product or a village treasure? As my thoughts focused it became clear that it should not only he beautiful, but also a piece one never tires of: one which, as time passes, still remains interesting, provocative and stirs the emotions.”
To be stirred emotionally by this two dimensional late genre period revival copy RK imagines burn’s emotions must be as exposed as 21 year old sailor who just hit port after 6 months at sea. Honestly, there is nothing truly stirring about the Arhan rug and we will explain more by shooting cannonball size holes in burn’s Connoisseur’s Choice, so keep reading. The first his insinuating it is a ‘village treasure”, something it surely is not.
“I therefore dismissed the sumptuous Persian court rugs with their complex interlocking designs and subtle nuances —too soft for the ‘choice’(burns continues). 1 also felt that 1 should choose something ‘fresh’, something which had not been widely published, but the great photogenic Turkoman and Caucasian rugs have been rather overexposed in print.
Overexposed in print? Who is this burns character trying to bamboozle. We agree there are not many really early great Anatolian, Turkmen or Caucasian rugs but there are a number of them, many still unpublished back then, that would have easily qualified, and trying to dismiss this as a reason not to chose one is just pure dumbass logic.
Getting to the meat of the matter burn’s explains “With these prerequisites in mind, I turned to my own collection. My decision was instantly clear. This beautiful early Turkish ‘star variant’ village rug, formerly in the Arhan Collection in Sweden, has held my interest through all the shifting and sifting to which we collectors constantly subject our collections, Impossible to upgrade, it is a piece which 1 have never considered replacing.”
Nothing like tooting your own horn and applauding yourself at the same time, now is there counselor burns.
And like all attorney jim burns will say anything to get his way, please remember for awhile his “I have never considered replacing (it)” statement.
He goes on “It is a special rug to me for several reasons. C o l o u r ; the nap is still of sufficient length and condition so as not to diminish the deeply saturated colours of its glowing wool —clear, direct, no-nonsense reds, blues, blue greens, yellow, ochre, aubergine and natural browns. This is not a soft and warm coloured weaving, as Turkish rugs became in later centuries. Its colours are bold and vital, as was the Ottoman Empire when it was woven.”
Discussing colors without scientific data is a fool’s game, one burns likes to play because it is totally opinionated.
What is missing in the Arhan colorwise is the gradual shading of coloring the weavers of the genuine 16th century masterpiece Anatolian Village rugs introduced in their work to give it depth and perspective.
The Arhan like all the revival late genre Anatolian Village Rug copies has monotonous coloration with little to no artful use of complimentary color shades. Check out the dodds ‘bellini’, or the markarian Konya, and you will see the same flat color planes. Also the Arhan’s colors are not the colors of the 16th century. They are more like those of the 19th century.
But what is not opinion is burns’s even more dopey statement his “great” Arhan rug should be considered an Ottoman rug. He is right about that, it is more Ottoman inspired than indigenous Anatolian, but it negates his inherent argument the Arhan is an Anatolian Village rug.
This is surely not the place for RK to do anything but mention our theory, which we discuss at length in our Anatolian Kelim Opus concerning the existence of an historic Anatolian iconography that was preserved by the traditional weaving culture. It is from this source, and not anything Ottoman or Safavid, the weavers of the real, genuine, early Anatolian Village rugs drew their inspiration and icons. Someone like burns doesn’t realize the difference, and even if he could he would still believe his Arhan rug is from the early 16th century.
This is the absurdly over-dated attribution this article states.
But burns is not alone in his inability to see workshop from genuine Village production, as we will soon show. He bought the Arhan from michael franses and eventually traded it back to him and franses is now peddling the Arhan with the same early dating. This is major joke-time because it is nothing but a second half of the 18th century late genre period revival.
And, once again, those big colors burn extols are in fact nothing but those found on countless other similar rugs of this ilk. Remember the dennis dodds bellini? Or most recently the krikor markarian Konya? All these rugs have nice but not early colors. This is one of the main ways to differentiate them from the genuine 16th and 17th century weavings.
But even more telling is design, and its most important element proportions.
Here is burns on what he claims is the brilliance of the Arhan rug’s design. “Design; it is dignified, spare, and subtly created, true to an early Turkic tradition, uncorrupted by opulence, soft living or foreign tastes. It is not a workshop product, as witnessed by the fact that it is the only example I have seen with this design, even in Istanbul. The balance between its forceful design and bold colours is the sine qua non of this era. Indeed, the star variant design became so popular that it was reproduced in many variations during the next three hundred years, with each generation of weavers contributing to its ultimate decay.”
This reads like cheap porn “ it is dignified, spare, and subtly created, true to an early Turkic tradition, uncorrupted by opulence, soft living or foreign tastes.”. And it is just as worthless.
To say burns is lost in his own masturbatory nonsense is too kind.
What he does not state is the Arhan is wonky and crude. It lacks the sophisticated, exact articulation of iconography real 16th century Anatolian Village rugs always display. Add that to the monumental weavings these weavers were able to create, all aspects a workshop revival rug like the Arhan doesn’t come close to capturing.
This comparison of the Arhan and a real but not masterpiece level circa 1650 Anatolian Village rug that could be its model says it all.
Left: Arhan carpet; Right: Carpet with quadra-lobed central medallion, circa 1650, from the turbe of Alaaddin Keykubat, Konya; published “Weaving Heritage of Anatolian, Tezcan&Okumura, vol.2 plate 74, Istanbul, 2007
The similarities of design are as unmistakable as are the telling differences in coloration, design articulation, proportion, and sheer presence.
Even in a digital photo, the Alaaddin Keykubat turbe carpet displays a larger than life quality the best and earliest Village rugs possess.
Notice the compressed overall appearance of the Arhan rug compared to the wider, more open proportions of border to field the Alaaddin Keykubat weaver knew how to create. The Arhan’s central medallion, both inner and outer, are too large, the two triangles above and below are also too large. Same with the four lobed emanating from the central medallion. Varying their proportions makes the Alaaddin rug far more alive and animated in comparison.
This side-by-side view reveals at least a century, (we’d say two) age differential any reasonably experienced unbiased observer would have to acknowledge.
However, jim the mouth burns could never be called unbiased. For him to finally admit his erroneous dating of a rug like the Arhan would invalidate a rug collecting career’s long failure to recognize the difference between later Turkish workshop weavings and genuinely earlier Anatolian Village ones. Same with franses and other pundits who can not tell the 16th century weaving from the revival ones made in the 18th century.
Like the dodds LACMA ‘bellini’, and the franses “private collection” pieces RK wrote about, the Arhan rug might fool the inexperienced and gullible but to a true connoisseur’s eye its shortcomings and deficiencies are just too many and too obvious. It has none of the characteristics of early Anatolian Village rugs but it does have all those of later genre period workshop ones.
Reading the following quote franses recently wrote about the Arhan we cannot help but remind anyone of the same gushing hyperbole and lies used by dodds to sell his ‘bellini’ and defraud LACMA “ The carpet is simply magnificent and in my opinion one of the most exciting Anatolian rugs outside of museum collections.”
Bordering on stupidity, stretching to the breaking point any belief franses knows anything about Anatolian Village rugs, this typifies why RK has for decades lambasted those like franses and burns and questioned why they are believed by so many to be experts.
The rest of burns’s spiel about the perfect displayable size of the Arhan is no better but his absurdly ridiculous belief it was woven during the time of the great Ottoman Sultan Selim I tops everything “… and the early years of Suleyman the Magnificent’s (152066), (when times) were energetic and spiritual. Their style of life followed the traditions of their Central Asian ancestors, and the rugs woven during this period reflect the attitudes of these hearty warriors.” This is such sickening verbal paplum it doesn’t deserve to get fed to pigs, and they’ll eat just about anything.
Hearty warriors, ha ha. Yessshhh. But this takes the cake and proves burns is an inveterate bull-shitter who knows nothing about these rugs and even less about the environment, physical and spiritual, where real Anatolian Village weavings were produced. “ Great wealth, power, corruption, intrigue and ‘alien fashion did not appear until the latter half of Suleyman’s reign, slowly spreading through his vast empire and leading directly to the eventual downfall of the Ottomans, as well as to the degeneration of their pure art forms. So what this doesn’t make the Arhan part of Suleyman’s world though burns’s thoughts about it are corrupt enough.
The one smoking gun fact the Arhan is a workshop rug is contained in this burns Connoisseur Choice comment:
“ Its distinctive handle is stiff, differing from the more floppy feel of most contemporaneous and later village weavings. 1 have examined two other early Turkish rugs with a similar structure, a medallion rug in the Poldi Pezzoli Museum, Milan, illustrated by Mercedes Viale Ferrero in Rare C a rp e ts (plate 46), and the village fragment collected by Joseph McMullan (Islamic Carpets, plate 80). It also reminds me of 18th century Ladik rugs. This feature, coupled with similar colour combinations to those used in Ladik rugs, suggests that it was probably woven in west central Anatolia.”
It might suggest that to an inexperienced observer like burns but to the expert it affirms the Arhan has a high degree of warp suppression, a weaving strategy used by workshop weavers and rarely if ever in early Anatolian Village rugs.
Citing two supposed similar rugs to vouch for his dating of the Arhan does nothing to negate this important factor, one completely lost on faux-connoisseur jim burns.
“ Interestingly, a ragged leaf border identical to that on the Arhan rug (and on the Poldi Pezzoli medallion rug mentioned above) appears in a painting by Lorenzo Lotto, in Leningrad, dated to 1524. The designs of many Anatolian village rugs are related to urban workshop pieces and most rug scholars have accepted that village weavers often copied the earlier work of urban designers.…”
Here for the benefit of jim burns, franses and others is an Anatolian Village Rug with the best and earliest version of that ragged-leaf border RK has ever seen. This carpet is a masterpiece and one to judge other against.
And it disproves the nonsense this design trickle down theory from Court to Village many famous ‘rug scholars’ still perpetrate.
Yes, of course that happened but many of the Court designers took their inspiration from the earlier Village Rugs and their vocabulary of icon.
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
And if you are reading this and cannot see what RK has proven our advice is give it up and go collect baseball cards or comic books.
“I hope my fellow ‘connoisseurs’ share my enthusiasm for this rug.”…burns concludes his article… It has escaped the frequent rotation of rugs chosen to hang in my home, having found a permanent place on the wall for the past twelve years.
Did burns finally realize the Arhan was a revival copy and that’s what motivated him to take it off his wall and trade it back to franses?
Go ask him yourself, we have no clue. But we sincerely doubt burns knows the difference even today.
So much for james d. burns the Anatolian rug connoisseur, or the value of his opinions.
Any respect RK might have once paid to jim burns rug expertise disintegrates when one reads his incorrect and foolish statement calling the Arhan rug “…not a workshop product…”.
The Arhan is a workshop rug and burns claiming any different is as specious as his claiming there are no analogs.
What about the Alaaddin Keykubat turbe rug?
Compare the two and there is no debate. The Arhan is no 16th century Anatolian Village rug; period, end of discussion.
Neither is jim burns a commentator whose opinions on ‘village rugs’ are worth more than empty beer bottles. And, face facts, the reason Mr Park parted with hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy the three rugs from burns rested squarely on his belief burns was an expert.
RK called burns the other day to discuss his selling the rugs to Park. Of course listening to burns’s fractured fairytale interpretation of what when down was farcical.
“The guy has a great eye and great taste…he bought my best rugs.” Translation: the guy did know a thing and bought the most expensive rugs I showed him because he believed the most expensive has to be the best.
RK also listened to burns tell us “These rugs are Kurdish, not Anatolian…I should know I wrote the book….I studied the designs and they are Kurdish. You know nothing about their meaning. I do..”
Sorry burns but most of your book is whimsical and were there peer review in rugdumb your book would have been shredded by others, not only RK.
The designs burns claims are Kurdish appear on rugs that can be called Kurdish but they are lifted, copied and based on ones that existed and were sourced from Anatolian, Persian, trans-Caucasian and Turkmen weavings. Not visa-versa.
The book burns wrote has been critiqued years ago by RK and we include it below.
One of the, if not the most salient point we raise is the fact Michael Wendorf, a mid-western collector of Kurdish rugs, claims he, not burns, wrote most of the book as a ghost-writer. We can easily believe Wendorf’s statement.
Does Every Dog Really Hasve its Day: RK reviews “Antique Kurdish Rugs” authored by james d. burns.
Several years ago, while talking with Michael Wendorf we learned that he, and not jim burns, wrote "most of the Kurdish rug book".
Yes, that's right, Wendorf in no uncertain terms explained the book is mostly his work, and not burns's.
Frankly, we are not very surprised as our opinion of burns's alleged rug knowledge is just that -- something alleged by others surely not by us.
As far as RK is concerned mr jim burns knows little about any type of rugs except certain late 18th to mid-19th century Persian city workshop rugs.
As for Turkmen, Turkish and Caucasian rugs?
Let's just say burns is at best, in our opinion, a novice and should any readers doubt what we claim we suggest you read several of the other posts we have written about jim burns and his supposed rug expertise.
By the way, Wendorf and RK have had many conversations in the past and when Wendorf first told us he wrote most of burns's book we totally credenced his statement and, to this day, still do.
Finally when we last spoke to burns in 2007, and mentioned the fact Wendorf told us he wrote most of the book, burns at first refused to answer our question as to the veracity of that statement and, then when we pressed him further to answer, burns hung up on us.
Needless we did not bother to call him back and should burns wish to set the record straight now RugKazbah.com will welcome any attempt he might wish to present.
So here's the review, which we believe contains some interesting rebuttal and commentary concerning a number of the questionable statements and opinions made in the burns/Wendorf text.
We also publish this again to ask did mr burns's publication of this book garner him that day in the sun?
The latest "buzz" in "rugdom" is the new book on Kurdish Rugs produced by Jim Burns, a wealthy Seattle trial lawyer.
Mr Burns should be well-known to anyone who has every attended a rug conference or auction, as he seems always to be at the center of an admiring group of acolytes who hang on his every word and stare admiringly at their "guru".
Over the years Burns has amassed a large collection and when I last visited him, which was in 1983, it was of variable quality. Since then he has dealt off most of the lower end, as well as surprisingly some of his most top-flight pieces, and presently is another collector-dealer whose reputation as an "important" collector has resulted in a very successful auction of part of his collection as well as allowing him to sell pieces privately that other dealers would have trouble moving.
But the reason for this mention here is not to discuss Mr Burns's rug business or career as a collector but rather to comment a recurring phenomenon in "rugdom" : The elevating of lesser areas of collecting into the higher stratospheres formerly reserved for more significant weavings.
This practice is a double edge sword - some of these areas rightfully deserved this attention while others frankly don’t. Why? Because they do not have what it takes to be placed in the first tier – a group of exemplary examples, which demonstrate an original iconography that represents a unique weaving culture.
More to the point this rising tide of appreciation has tended to create a situation where really pedestrian weavings are suddenly appreciated well beyond their inherent importance or, much better put, lack of it.
Discriminating the wheat from the chaff, which has never been a strong point in "rugdom", has gotten totally abandoned in the hyping of each of these new areas of collecting.
The case in point, Kurdish pile-weaving, is a perfect example of this process and while only a fool would deny the merit and worth of Kurdish rugs, in reality only very, very few of them qualify for that praise and/or admiration. Most are very ordinary and their designs absolutely derivative of other weaving traditions and cultures.
Is this a prejudiced viewpoint or one that is factual? This is not the time or place for this debate but I would be glad to not only defend this statement but to disprove anyone's arguments to the contrary.
Today on the hali.com website a glowing "review" of Burns's book and forthcoming conference exhibition has aroused this commentary. The hype value of their reportage is typically slanted to serve their purpose, ie. sell the book and pump a conference that is in trouble, but more to the point several statements that appear there are so exaggerated that not only are they ludicrous but they demand someone "setting the record straight".
The first : "Rug making in the Kurdish region can be traced back for hundreds, even thousands of years, but few surviving pieces pre-date the 16th century." is not only highly specious but down right misleading. Any Kurdish pile weaving, that predates the 16th century, or for that matter even the 18th century, has nothing to do with any of the so-called “tribal” rugs in Burns's book or the upcoming show. These examples were high culture, atelier inspired and produced weavings, they are completely different from anything the group of aficionados that Burns champions might call Kurdish.
Secondly, whoever wrote the hali blurb desperately needs some instruction in oriental rug design history for the following is could not only be said about ANY weaving group but smacks of the most outrageous type of advertising promotion that has no place in the art world : " The best Kurdish tribal weavings are not just attractive artefacts but also provide a glimpse of the weaver's physical and social environment. They are a reflection of and a commentary on the society that created them. They express communal tastes and are relatively uninfluenced by Persian or Turkish work, or by Western commercial interests. The symbols and designs employed by tribal weavers were influenced by traditions, by the rugged terrain, by the extreme heat and cold of their climate, and by the demanding physical circumstances which defined their lives."
This is such poppycock one has to wonder why anyone would write this crap.
There are pictures of four pile weavings included in this "review" and each one of them is easily shown to be totally derivative of earlier Persian, Turkish and Caucasian weaving traditions, which amongst other facts absolutely discounts this reviewer's "take " on this subject.
Are these rugs "important"? Are they "beautiful"? Are they worthy of the praise that is heaped on them?
Go decide for yourself, here is the url where they and the "review" appear : http://www.hali.com/news/story.asp?ID=500265&ch=in_view
And as I have stated above, anyone who finds objection with what is written here is more than welcome to express their views on RK.com’s discussion board.
In a second installment both to pump sales of a book hali had a hand in producing as well as to stimulate interest in the D.C. affair, which might appear to be the most dead-on-arrival ICOC on record, another glowing web-article on the hali site publicizes Jim Burns's new book on Kurdish rugs.
Before entering into the Saragasso Sea captain Burns so confidently set sail on and having the opinions expressed here ship-wrecked by criticisms from those who might not like what is said, the following disclaimers should be noted.
1. I have 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, I am no stranger to this material.
3.That said I am, however, often amazed at how authors 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, I am not a fan of Kurdish weaving. Almost all of these rugs have no original iconography – they are mostly derivative of Persian, Turkish and Caucasian weaving. I find their colors monotonous and technically 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 notice the VERY FEW designation.
With these caveats in mind let me 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.
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 Wendorf has excerpted, things don’t appear to have changed.
If in fact Mr Burns does assign Kurdish tribal group attributions and locations of production to the rugs in his collection, I 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 me on first glace as highly fabricated and based solely on opinion and 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? I believe not and I am sure so would you in such a circumstance.
Why then would this author so boldly present an “idea” as a fact? As I have not the interest or desire to prove or disprove these contentions Burn’s forwards I will leave them alone but I can easily demolish one that is within my purview - his attributing this rug to the second half of 17th century.
plate 56 so call 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.” appears to me to be a mish-mosh of 18th century Turkish village iconography distilled from the prototype weavings made several centuries before. 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 piece.
Here is a Turkish rug, from the Ulu Mosque in Divrigi (plate 67 in the Vakiflar catalog), which might have been the model for Burns’s and one that is late 17th century.
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 the world of difference that exists between Burns’s funky piece and a real late 17th/early 18th century rug.
Is it beautiful, I say Yes; is Burns’s? Well since beauty is in the eye of the beholder the following only expresses my opinion - No Burns’s isn’t beautiful but it is funky.
Burn’s could be onto something in his describing one of the motifs as the “star of Teshup” and I will look forward to reading this explanation as soon as I have the opportunity.
But not to pee further on Burns’s parade, I did find it remarkable that the Shanbo were not mentioned by other writers, as Wendorf carefully informes 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.
Another fanciful and stretch-marked attribution concerns plate 25, which Wendorf calls “A most intriguing example”.
plate 25 Hexagon gul rug, Burns Collection
Just for the record, Mr Mambo chose this piece for illustration rather than others that might actually be intriguing to satisfy his own purposes - as its design is related to his pet project - weftless-soumak Kurdish weaving - and his still-born theory of their great antiquity.
But as the meanderings of Wendorf’s rug-homeworking are secondary, let’s see how Burns’s pan out. Firstly dating it to the 18th century is far better than his last guess-timate and while I would believe it is more than likely early 19th century, based on the drawing of the field and borders, this is a minor point.
What isn’t minor is the comparison Burns cites with the very similar, and I must say obviously better and earlier carpet illustrated in Erdmann as plate 121.
plate 121 Erdmann mid-18th century
Erdmann was not too sure of how old this piece was, as his 16th-18th century attribution shows, and since this type of rug is definitely in my area of interest and expertise my dating it to the mid-18th century might explain the 19th century date proposed for the Burns example.
Compare the elongation of the hexagonal medallions in the Burns rug as well as the lack of design articulation the minor and major borders exhibit. It is apparent Burns’s is a later edition of this design.
By the way, this field pattern and border design both appear on an earlier and probably ‘real’ 18th century rug also from the Ulu Mosque in Divrigi.
plate 63 Vakiflar catalog circa 1750
Here you can see the origination of the hexagonal guls, their interior motifs and the associated main border that both the Erdmann and Burns rug have copied.
And the archetype for the drawing within these hexagonal medallions, if not the hexagons themselves, can also be shown from another rug in the Divrigi Mosque
plate 47 Vakiflar catalog circa 1600
Visualizing how the central and side medallions in this archaic rug were combined to generate the hooked medallions within the hexagons in the Erdmann and Burns examples, as well as how the border design was morphed into that which appears on them, may not be so obvious at first glance - it requires some concentration.
However, the transliteration of archaic designs into the later far more stylized ones seen on 18th-19th century rugs, as comparisons like this demonstrate, need no imagination to follow. For by providing such a continuum like this, the evidence it displays allows this process to become visible and proves it as a valid means of design identification and origination.
Shame Mr. Burns missed these analogies and the story of his hexagon gul rug’s design origination they tell.
The rather questionable one he offers “…a 14th-16th century Anatolian carpet now in the Berlin Museum that was formerly in the collection of Julius Lessing…” is so far out in left field it has become obtuse.
plate27 Oriental Carpets in the Museum of Islamic Art, Berlin, circa 1650
Burns cites a commonality based on color, a sharing of a design depicting birds, an all-wool foundation, and the presence of offset knotting. These criteria are far too general to associate a rug like Burns’s with one of the all-time great Turkish rugs. Likewise, his off-set knotting theorizing is another shot in the dark and, not a very good one I must remark, for it in no way provides factual support linking these two disparate weavings or not surprisingly any proof that a weaving is Kurdish because there are staggered knots.
Why he also references the by now very famous Kirchheim 'Faces' carpet here is also beyond me. Burns remarks it too has offset knotting and shares similar colors - blue, green and light red- all facts that maybe true but really have no bearing in any non-coincidental attempt to link these rugs and, once again, would the learned counselor present such flaky evidence in a court of law? I am sure not.
Perhaps Mr Burns feels that by name-dropping such references he will elevate his pedestrian weaving to the level a proven champ like the Faces rug maintains?
Also let me remark, Mr. Burns, I see no commonality of iconography in these two rugs and would enjoy listening to your attempts to demonstrate one.
For your information, Jim, if any of those archaic rugs found along with the Faces piece could be called Kurdish - it is the now ex-Kirchheim collection animal carpet and not the Faces rug. But explaining that further shal remain for another lesson you might want to avail yourself of, just ask me next time we meet.
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.