Re: "Ethnographic": An Attractive Distinction Hard to Maintain

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Posted by Tom Cole on November 29, 1998 at 10:34:54:

In Reply to: Re: "Ethnographic": An Attractive Distinction Hard to Maintain posted by Larry Joseph on November 29, 1998 at 09:22:34:

: On page 63 of Mackie and Thompson's TURKMEN,a diagram illustrates the notion that Turkoman guls descended from the cloud-collar motif on Chinese porcelain in the 15th century, which lends substance to the view that sophisticated design and implementation ideas, like other stuff, tends to flow down from pinnacle activities supported by the wealth of the leisure class, rather than vice versa.

: Can anyone provide evidence that counters this point?

I am hard pressed to embrace this theory that 15th century Chinese porcelain design influenced Turkoman (or Ersari, Beshire) designs in rugs. Where did the 15th century porcelain design come from? A vacuum? The motherlode of Chinese art history stored in some catacomb of the Forbidden City? Read my article in HALI 67 (Chinese Rugs - Art From the Steppes). In that article is substantial evidence to support just the opposite theory. And I might add, out of all the articles I have authored, this one received the least amount of feedback. In other words, in light of the evidence presented, no one felt like taking me to task over the stated premise as it was all too obviously true, not a point of controversy or heated discussion. Regarding Eiland's place in rug literature, he has definite views which are at times a bit out of touch (antiquated) and at others, provide wonderful background information for future study. He should not be considered gospel, just another scholar with a stated point of view and much relevant information (the result of research) to share with his readers. This idea that rug design traditions moved from sophisticated, urban environs to the 'savages' of the steppes, yurt dwellers, is a ludicrous one. Nothing moved in only one direction. The notion that nomads existed in isolation from their urban neighbors too is ludicrous, as explained in detail by William Wood in Tucson just two weeks ago. Reading Vambery's Travels in Central Asia also illustrates this point in graphic detail. There is much too muÁh romaniticism which pervades this type of discussion and rug studies in general. Determining an ethnographic rug using the parameters laid out by Jerry is useful but incomplete. Beauty is subjective. Whether a rug or trapping is well made reminds me of the Persian rug dealer mentality of gravitating towards a tighter weave. Colors used is relevant only if there are synthetics employed. Examination of design origins and the graphic portrayal of traditional themes in the weaving language will help separate a 'real' rug from a commercial impostor. For one of the most interesting essays on rug design in Central Asian rugs, read Bidder's book on the Carpets of East Turkestan, and the Cassin/Hoffmeister book, Tent Band/ Tent Bag.

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