Star-Kazaks, like almost every other type of weaving, are not homogenous, as numerous different nuance of the design are now known to exist. Added to the easily deduced Ďvisualí differences, there are some technical ones that are less obvious.
The first of these is different dye palettes and the second, which is also based on color, concerns the presence of dyed or undyed weft material.
In 1980, like they tried to do for other types of weavings, pinner and little lord franses presented a categorization that divided Star-Kazaks into four groups. Basing their Ďsystemí solely on design factors, specifically the variations of main border, what they came up with was a good start but surely not definitive or a be-all-end-all.
Since then, it has been viewed as somewhat sacrosanct and infallible, as the rug world never has examined what these two writers claimed. This is true not only about Star-Kazaks but also for other types of weavings they also attempted to pigeon-hole.
This is something RK has never countenanced, as we know enough to realize such simple differentiations, like making 4 groups of star-kazaks for example, actually does nothing other than make it a bit easier to discuss them. It surely doesnít go far enough to support any value judgments, i.e. which group is older, more beautiful, worth more money, etc.
But in the typical limited understanding that ran- and still runs- rampant through rugdom, the practical interpretation of pinner and fransesís categorization made one of the four groups king and relegated the others to a lesser echelon of appreciation, value, etc.
Because this series of posts is aimed at a specific discussion Ė when is a star not a star - we do not intend to totally re-examine the entire oeuvre of Star-Kazaks but rather chose to couch our interest in the discussion at hand. In doing so we will obliquely refer to what they set out in 1980 in making our case.
Doing this will debunk the major emphasis of what pinner and franses concluded, i.e. one of their groups is better than the others. And, at the same time, we will project some new energy into what we see as false acceptance of a, by now far too atrophied, view of these rugs.
In 1980 they labeled the 4 categories type A, B, C, and D. Quite naturally, the A group was considered the best.
The example shown above is the best example of the A type.
Since it was first published in a German dealerís exhibition catalog it has assumed almost mythic status and is considered by most collectors to be the king of the Star-Kazaks.
It was originally owned by Berj Abajian and RK well remembers seeing it in Abajianís old upstairs wholesale showroom on 5th Ave a decade or more before it was sold and published in that catalog.
Abajian was truly a special guy and RK has always had, and still has, the highest respect for him both as a person, rug dealer and rug-lover.
He really was enamored of this rug, in fact, he told me once it was his all-time favorite, and thatís saying something for many truly great rugs passed thru his hands over the years.
I can remember once spending an entire day looking with him at his collection of Serapi carpets. He had two guys working at opening each rug for him to see. Believe it or not there were over two hundred and while each one wasnít a masterpiece, there were no klinkers.
Needless to say we didnít see them all but it was quite an education and turn-on, as decorative carpets never held much fascination for me. After seeing so many in one place I must admit I will always remember Abajian as the king of the Serapis and not necessarily for his Star-Kazak or any other piece he owned.
That said we do realize his Star is a marvelously beautiful piece of weaving art, its sparkling colors and virtual mint condition propel it way ahead of any other. But it is a type A.
In Part III, RK will explain the But and we believe after reading our viewpoint many of you will have to agree with our reasoning.
For now let us state for the record our preference is for type D.
Unfortunately, we know of no D example that is in the condition of Abajianís type A. All of them are condition challenged, which makes quite a difference as the color a rug projects is directly proportional the length of pile.
Granted color is very important but it isnít everything. Also crap color is just that no matter how long the pile is or isnít - while great color still looks good even if it is worn down to the knot collars. However, thereís nothing like high pile to make great color greater and thatís exactly what makes Abajianís Star so special.
Perhaps the D type that is in the best condition is McMullanís, which is illustrated on the cover of the thin paperback catalog entitled ďKazakĒ. It is also illustrated, though in black and white, in the Dimand/Malley hardcover catalog of rugs in the Metropolitan Museum.
Here is a D type that was sold at auction some years ago:
We have chosen this for no special reason, other than the picture was handy.
In Part III, which will be online later this week, we will elaborate on why the D type holds more fascination for us than the A, or either of the other two (i.e. B or C types).
So until thenÖ