I first met Jim Allen sometime in the fall of 1992(I have now checked my diary and realize I met Jimbo in 1988 or 1989) at the behest of Mark Shillen, who then had a tiny shop on Prince Street in New York. Shillen asked me to do him a favor and go see “this guy who has a Turkmen bag he wants to have identified”. He told me this guy, whose name is Jim Allen, lived in Brooklyn and was just beginning to collect rugs. Shillen said this guy was coming into his shop every week or so and since Shillen didn’t know much about Turkmen rugs he felt I could help him out and answer the questions about the bagface.
Shillen then gave me Jim Allen’s phone number and a few days later I called and arranged to drive out to Vanderbuilt Ave in Brooklyn where Jim lived to see his piece.
As soon as I arrived there Jim Allen immediately brought out the chuval and asked me whether I thought it was an Ersari or a Saryk. Here is the photo of the piece I saw that evening on my first encounter with Jimbo.
I told him it was neither and it was a type of Salor weaving, but not a “S” group piece because it had an asymmetric knot open to the right and “S” groups are open to the left. Jimbo did not know what “S” group was and basically had no idea of the significance the Salor attribution gave his chuval. In fact he was disappointed it wasn't a Saryk. He then asked me how I knew it wasn’t Ersari or Saryk and I tried to explain to him the differences and asked him what rug books he had to try and help me make him understand. He didn’t have much of a library and, after suggesting he buy some books and giving him a short list of ones I thought would help him learn about Turkmen weavings, we chatted for a while and I left.
There is absolutely no doubt this is what transpired on our first meeting and, contrary to jimbo’s statements otherwise, in 1992 he knew next to nothing about Turkmen rugs, or for that matter about any other type.
Over the next 12-18 months, I visited him in Brooklyn several times and must say at first I did not find his company unpleasant. He was extremely interested in rugs, was active in trying to find them and generally amusing and appreciative of my visits and sharing my knowledge with him.
Then something rather unpleasant happened, he bought an ensi and showed it to me on what turned out to be the last visit I made to his place. I told him I liked and asked if it was for sale. He said maybe, we then discussed it and after I made it clear to him I would pay a good price for it, he quoted what appeared to him a rather steep price for it. I then said "Ok, I’ll have it" and after some hemming and hawing he reneged on the offer to sell it. I told him in no uncertain terms what he had done was totally improper and after seeing he would not fess up and do the right thing, I left.
I did not talk to Jimbo again until after I read the silly article he wrote and hali published in issue 55. In that he claimed to have uncovered some “important revelations” about Turkmen weavings and used the Textile Museum’s “S” group chuval, an “S” group piece I had formerly owned and his Salor piece I had identified for him as illustrations to “prove” his “thesis".
This turn of events did not sit very well with me for several reasons:
1. Jimbo’s "thesis" was as full of holes as a beggar’s cloak
2. Only several years before Jimbo didn’t know the difference between an “S” group weaving and the seat of his pants, let alone any of the subtle fine points of rug identification, and in the ensuing time his "thesis" proved he hadn't gone much farther
3. His using the bag I had owned and his desperate attempt to cast unjustified dispersions on it.
I called him up and after listening to a few minutes of his newly minted pompous, know-it-all attitude and obnoxiously childish bravado put the phone down. Here is a photo of the “S” group piece windbag claims to be inferior to his and the TM’s
Before continuing, let me state for the record that I have probably owned more “S” group examples than any other collector or dealer. I purchased the first one in 1978 and since then have owned more than twenty of which well more than a dozen were discoveries made outside the arena of rug auctions or from other dealers. I am extremely familiar and conversant with the materials, structure and design iconography these piece contain and will gladly put my understanding of them up against anyone else’s. I have seen and handled the TM’s Jenkins’s chuval as well as Jimbo’s, which by the way is NOT A TEKKE, as he so foolishly believes. It is one of those open right “neo”-Salors, and perhaps one of the best and oldest of that group. But it ain’t no Tekke.
The “S” group chuval shown above is truly a masterwork of Turkmen weaving and I can unequivocally state it is the oldest and most remarkable “S” group weaving I have even seen. And I have seen many more than the twenty plus I have owned. The structure and materials are extraordinary but these qualities seemed lost on jimbo, as he does not bother to mention them, even to denigrate them. The drawing is likewise top of the genre but to Jimbo it has “…a degenerate kochak border relative to Tekke work of a similar age.” In part three I will demonstrate how wind-bag’s comment is just another erroneous, self-congratulatory stab in the dark.
Granted, the subtleties of weaving structure and drawing are difficult to appreciate and even harder to positively demonstrate, so maybe we can excuse
jimbo’s lack of appreciation, after all such discernment is obviously beyond a person of his limited expertise.
However, color is different and unless one’s eyes are unable to register the perceptible and provable differences, overlooking them is not only bad, it’s totally unforgivable. Every color in this “S” group chuval is unique. There is a deep mustard yellow and an emerald green – both colors unknown from any other “S” group weaving. The rich deep ruby red field color and bluish crimson silk highlights present the epitome of Turkmen dying skill. True, the piece has seen plenty of time in a smoke-filled yurt and exhibits some effects of that but when and if forensic testing will be done, I am sure these colors will prove quite different than those in any other “S” group piece.
Jimbo says the following about this piece: “… but the color and size of the piece suggest it was woven in more opulent times.”, which is just another worthless piece of innuendo. Wind-bag Allen can’t do better and because he is too deficient in real knowledge to make cogent comments, he resorts to meaningless generalizations.
My intention here is not to slight the Jenkins’s piece but, again for the record, I have never been impressed with it as much as others have. The colors are good (but then ALL “S” group pieces have good color) and the design is open but there is some elusive quality lacking in both these aspects. Perhaps the best way to demonstrate this is to compare the distance separating the major and minor gols with that in the other “S” group piece illustrated just above.
The extreme separation in the Jenkins piece, which I might add reminds me of the same feature in some of the better 19th century Ersari chuvals, destroys any possible interplay between the major and minor gols, rendering them as individual motifs with little or no relationship to each other. This might seem to some to be a virtue, however, I do not agree and believe the inter-play and synthesis between the major and minor gols is an important and pre-requisite quality all great Turkmen weaving must illustrate. Also the split minor gols at both sides as well as the top and bottom in the piece above create, for me, the conceptual archetype all Turkmen weavings attempt to replicate.
I could go on but will stop with this last comment. Should any reader doubt the archetypal nature of this chuval, the motif in its elem panel, which by the way appears in no other chuval, provides the model for the little twinky flowers that most Salor chuvals, like jimbo’s, utilize.
There are many other points in the windbag’s thesis that can be as easily discounted and trashed and as my patience and time is short, I will end this Part II here. Be sure Part III will in a bit more depth critique one of the many fallacious aspects of jimbo’s Tekke Torba soliloquy and provide an equally salient argument to support my assertion wind-bag knows too little and talks to much.