TurkoTek Discussion Boards

Subject  :  An "Oops!" Bag Face
Author  :  R. John Howe mailto:%20rjhowe@erols.com
Date  :  04-01-2001 on 10:26 a.m.
Jerry has invited us to post pieces that may be sources of personal embarrassment. Sadly, I can comply. This may be a piece that demonstrates (since I have not yet actually given it up) that I may not be a "real" rug collector.

I first saw this piece tucked back in a hard-to-see sector of the window of a Washington antique shop that has mostly Mission Oak furniture but also always some rugs. I inquired and was told that the price of the piece was $850. Well, I'm crazy but not quite that crazy and so said that I would be willing to buy it if the price approached $350. The shop dealer was aghast, said the rug was consigned by a knowledgeable collector in Tennessee who had been quite firm about the fact that his $850 was his minimum. I walked away but every 90 days or so stopped by to determine that it was still there and to bargain a bit more. At one point the dealer offered to me for $500 and I almost bit, but not quite.

The very next Sunday it appeared in Ahmad's space at the Georgetown flea market and I made my $350 bid again and Ahmad accepted it.

Now I could see that it was gauchely drawn. But its very awkwardness seemed to me to contribute to a definite graphic "punch" that its irregularities did not, for me, erode. Its "crudeness" was part of its attraction to me, although I understood that this likely meant that I was ascribing positive things to what might simply be "bad weaving." It was, for me, from the beginning, a piece that suggested to me that I had not evolved much in my collecting decisions, since I was clearly liking a piece for its faults. This, as a matronly dog judge said once in my presence about evaluating dogs, suggests that re-education is needed. I still own it and it still suggests this to me.

It seemed to me that it might be have been a family project that a child had done some work on but both its regularities and irregularities were puzzling.

First, the pile points down in this image and so the piece was started at the elem which is quite well drawn. It is clear the the weaver of the elem has no trouble drawing diagonals or with outlining and although there are quite a few ornaments, the execution of the "tree-like" figures on the elem is of the sort that would tempt many of us to say that the piece has an "older" look in this aspect. Even the lower border is fairly well done and the size the ornaments in this border is part of what attracted me to this piece.

But once the weaver got into the field, there are immediate signs of difficulty. First, it is clear that the weaver of this part of the rug cannot draw the minor ornament at all. It seems likely that the model being used was a Yomut bag and it is clear that this weaver was not Yomut. (I say Yomut because the outside outline of the major gul is a shape that I think I have only seen in Yomut usage.) This "foreign" gul has be blown up considerably but again this feature is part of what gives this piece visual impact for me. So while it's not entirely successful, it seems to me that this rendition of this gul contributes positively to the piece. There is visible "compression" of the top half of the upper set of major guls and this may suggest that the weaver ran short of warp, although the top band of the major border seems not reduced in size. The execution of the side borders also challenged the weaver(s) seriously. They start and then restart and sometimes are simply garbled.

I suspected that one of the reds in this piece might be synthetic and there were some "pink traces" in the white areas after I washed it that I think are dye transfer. But I didn't find the colors unattractive until I took it to my office and hung for awhile over my computer. There is something about the lights in my office that makes them a very good detector of "bad" rug colors and in this light the ground reds were harsh and unattractive and I began to "get religion" about this piece.

Still I retained it and took it to rug club meetings as a kind of "hair shirt," since while I could see its problems, I still liked it. At one such meeting, Elena Tzareva, who had just unexpectedly admired a torba that I own, looked at this chuval and said sternly "This is not Turkmen." I had thought that it was perhaps Afghan Ersari but this is Elena's area of strength and so I don't know any longer what it is. She made no attribution herself.

But the long and the short of it is that I still own this "oops" rug, I see many faults in it and although tthere are still things about it that, if I am honest, I still like, even if I should not.

A sad state of affairs for an aspiring collector. I know Wendel quietly sorrows for me every time he sees or hears of it (and of another Tekke torba that I own and refuse to give up, that is quite exquisitely woven but full of synthetic dyes).

My foolishness with regard to this humble piece has not, unfortunately, been confined to April 1.


R. John Howe

Subject  :  Re:An "Oops!" Bag Face
Author  :  Steve Price mailto:%20sprice@hsc.vcu.edu
Date  :  04-01-2001 on 11:11 a.m.
Dear John,

I see your bagface more or less as you do. Like the old Volkswagen Beetle, it's ugly, but with a certain attraction.

I disagree with Elena Tzareva's flat out statement that it is not Turkmen, though. In Jerry's Salon on rug books (Salon 19) I was critical of her book for its, let's say, idiosynchratic attributions, and have had similar reactions to her attributions on the occasions on which I've heard her speak. She might be right, of course, in which case everyone else is wrong. Being out of the mainstream is not conclusive evidence that someone is mistaken, although it usually works out that way. I'm confident enough to bet my mystery rug against your chuval face that I'm right.

I believe your chuval face is a chuval face, made by Turkmen, probably Afghan Ersari, within the past 75 years and perhaps within the past 50 years. I would not take an attribution outside the Turkmen group seriously without pretty compelling evidence.



Subject  :  Re:An "Oops!" Bag Face
Author  :  R. John Howe mailto:%20rjhowe@erols.com
Date  :  04-01-2001 on 02:28 p.m.
Steve et al -

No bet, but this weaver seems not to have been steeped in the usual Turkmen numerological tendencies.

Does anyone know of another eight gul chuval?

Perhaps I can begin to describe it with the phrase "no comparable examples know."

This would result in its pair appearing immediately on eBay without a reserve.


R. John Howe

Subject  :  Re:An "Oops!" Bag Face
Author  :  R. John Howe mailto:%20rjhowe@erols.com
Date  :  04-01-2001 on 05:00 p.m.
Dear folks -

I should be more forthcoming about my title in this thread.

Way back in Salon 5, we investigated, experientially, the line at which weaving variation is no longer a defensible aesthetical advantage and becomes distracting fault.

Here is the link to the initial salon essay.


Once your read it, you can still take on its tasks and then compare your results with those in the ensuing discussion and summary, which you will find further down on this page.

It was a humbling experience and Jerry is a bit ill-mannered to dredge it up and to insist that we relive it here again, even in celebration of the day.


R. John Howe

Subject  :  Re:An "Oops!" Bag Face
Author  :  Vincent_Keers mailto:%20vkeers@worldonline.nl
Date  :  04-01-2001 on 08:51 p.m.
Ewoh Nhoj Raed,

Looks Russian, but it's not.
It's your name right-left. This is a remark that doesn't belong in this posting but I hope you don't mind. I thaught the miroring of dates and text in rugs can be because of the writing and reading is from right-left to. And living in coutries that are at the borderline of western and eastern civilisation, it's good marketing if you adress the audience in both ways.
But this wasn't the subject here.
You will never get rid of this Bagface.
You must give it a special place in your residence next to a master piece.

Best regards,

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