Posted by James Allen on December 22, 1998 at 08:07:01:
In Reply to: Re: Negative image posted by Marvin Amstey on December 22, 1998 at 07:47:42:
: : : : In the attached scan of a well known ensi medallion, the center ground between the two 8-sided designs represents the figure of a splayed animal or animal pelt. I cannot take credit for seeing this as my impressions were simply that this was the ground between two connected design devices. When I asked Michael Craycraft what he thought the designs represented, his first impression was that of the splayed animal. In other words he saw the ground as design between the two small "guls" or flowers or medallions or whatever. Now when I look at this rug hanging on my wall, I can't see anything else. It may be that in some rugs, we should look at the negative design, but I'm not sure that this applies to all Turkomen rugs. marvin
: : : : Just taking your position at face value the legs arn't turned right for a pelt. Funny but where one does see this funny bending of the extremities is in Alaskan and i persume Siberian totemic carvings. This iconogram isn't a desert adapted nomadic design, it is a beautiful and well worked out village rendition of something that looks archetypal and somehow gives me the impression of metamorphosis. Larry Joseph asked some superficial questions in a related post about where the galloping horse is. It is purple and the head and tail are outlined by the white highlights of the chemche gull. Don't tell me your are expecting a painting, it is highly abstract. The cat is a stick figure with turned triangular head. I would like to think the weavers of the representational safavid hunting carpets were our mongol friends. It is my understanding that they were. Now the cats are attacking game and on an angle to boot. It is a familiar mongol theme. My theories all rest on images and associations I know to have existed. This is why study is required. I have asked around and the fact is peoiple are not looking for the books on the Turkomans' lives. People arn't interested in hard work to achieve what they already assume they have. I have little chance of leading anybody to a new realization in a short virtual meeting, i just hope I am casting doubt on your perceptions of their art so you will begin to really look. JIM
: : Dear Jim:
: : You claim that your theories all rest on images and associations you know to have existed. Let us then work backwards and ask you to enumerate first the images and then the associations you "know" to have existed and then the specific basis for your claim that that a link exists between both the images and associations and then the weavings where you see them. Claims that it takes "serious study" without further explanation and support that you can articulate and related claims of the sort that people who do not see what you see just are not interested, in my view, detracts from your thesis and credibility.
: : I shared some of your comments in these salons with a cultural anthropologist who, while not a rug expert, has lived in central asia, speaks several languages related to the Turkomans language and is familiar as her life's work with their myths, taboos, and culture. While she indicated there was some truth to the idea of images, myths and symbols being transgenerational among Turkomans she had difficulty following much else. In particular, she indicated that there is very little that could be deemed stochatic or abstract about turkoman life or art, at least to the extent she understood your use of the terms. She also indicated that the sweeping generalizations that you make to summarize hundreds of generations is just too broad to be meaningful. She doubted that many turkomans would see what you see, but did acknowledge that these weavings have little connection to the people today.
: : Of course, others known to us have studied hard the questions you want to know the answers to. Andy Hale and Kate Fitzgibbon, for example. In their book, IKAT, Andy and Kate write of the knowledge obtained in the field as well as in the literature. At page 34 of the softcover, we read as follows:
: : " THE ILKHANID AND TIMURID PERIODS Chengiz Khan's invasion of Central Asia (and much of the rest of the Muslim world) in the early 13th century began a new and traumatic chapter in the history of the region. The Mongol armies were powerful and ruthless; they flattened cities, slaughtered the inhabitants and looted their possessions. Artisans were considered booty and were often spared, then shipped off to the courts of Mongol princes. Although the descendents of Chengiz' in Central Asia eventually converted to Islam and created stable, prosperous states, many cities never recovered from the initial mongol onslaught. Traditions and skills had been built up over generations. Once destroyed, thy could not be brought back overnight.
: : In the fourteenth century, the empire of Timur Leng succeeded to the Mongol Ilkhanids. Under Timur and his descendants, Central Asia began a renaissance in architecture and painting, but it was a renaissance based largely on traditions from outside Central Asia. The destruction of the cultural centers of Merv, Bukhara and Samarkand, the dispersal of artisans during the Mongol period and the importation of craftsmen from outside Cental Asia tended to shuffle the stylistic deck, and makes the attribution of artifacts from the thirteenth to the sixteenth centuries extremely dificult." This picture seems at odds with your theories.
: : I find the IKAT book slow but rewarding reading. Others come to mind as well. How about Barfield's The Perilous Frontier? I am not familiar with books specifically on the Turkomans' lives, maybe you could suggest some for those of us who want to prove you wrong and study. What I am familiar with suggests it is difficult to fairly support claims that one can read turkoman weavings. I don't think the few people who tried to live among them a hundred years ago did, for example Dudin, and they were certainly a lot closer than we are. In the end, what we may have to be satisfied with is understanding their context and then seeing them as beautiful objects that evoke something lost.
: : As for Marvin's ensi, it is nice to see it again. But why do we have to see the negative space as a pelt? The same image appears in rugs over a huge geographic area - at least as far west as Anatolia in the 17th century.
: : I do not think it is convincing as the origin of the design on your ensi is probably urban textile production. Again, refer to IKAT for a discussion.
: : Something to chew on. Michael Wendorf
: Dear Michael,
: Thanks for the info and reference. I didn't say that a pelt is the definitive answer to the iconography of the ensi, only that once seen as a negative image - like the famous black-and white drawing in the psych books of the young and old lady, depending on reading black or white - it's hard to get out of your mind. In fact the 8-sided devices in the photo are seen on many Ersari pieces and probably represent flowers, at least in my opinion. Marvin
: Michael that was a nice post and the position that I am making sweeping unsupportable assertions is correct. The sources on Turkoman life in situ are well known and include Wolfe, Burns, O'donovon, and others. Your statements about the Turkomens' fate in 13-16th century Central Asia is wrong. According to Chambers of the MET writing in his book ,THE DEVILS HORSEMEN,he states that it was an Ersari Turkoman who "knew" the desert who led the Khan on his famous end around move on the Persian empire. The Turkomen became his crack inner guard. They went with him all the way to Korea and another group to the outskirts of Rome and I can see evidence of Tekke like wedding band designs on very early Indonesian wedding weavings hunderds of years old. Another unsupportable assertion unless you look at the pictures and know what you are looking at. My understanding of Turkoman iconography has allowed me to "see" and acquire some of the worlds oldest examples. This is something I have done. I was able to do it because I can see and read the iconography and this is the real reason you are so interested in my ideas. James Allen
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