Yomut Main Carpets
Dear folks -
The second set of three pieces I want to offer for rating are Yomut main carpets. All three feature "kepse" guls in their fields.
They are A, B and C, left to right.
And here they are again sequentially with intervening larger details of each of them.
Rate these three pieces first Good, Better or Best, then give each a numerical score at the level you have chosen. Most of all justify your ratings with rationales for each of them.
R. John Howe
Happily I know almost nothing about the canon of beauty applied to Turkmen
Having also a gestaltic approach… I go for:
A: Better - 5
B: Best - 8
C: Good – 3
Rationale. Or, perhaps, a rationalization:
B- the composition with bigger gols looks better. Even if the ends and outer borders are missing, the surviving border alone is better than the more complete system on the other two pieces.
Rug C looks like the more conventionalized. A is between the two.
Laconic as always, uh?
My novice impressions -
A. Better / 4 - Poor drawing, and although the upper and lower borders disrupt the balance a bit, generally okay.
B. Good / 2 - Poorest drawing, the lower main border a shocker, and the apparent colour transfer doesnt help.
C. Best / 8 - Excellent drawing, refined and vibrant colour. Exhibits a certain Central Asian exotica.
Dear folks -
My ratings of these pieces likely need weighting since I chose the pieces and know a bit more about them than what the images suggest. But I'll try to restrict myself to aspects I think are visible.
Yomut A: Better: 6
Rationale: Good colors. The drawing and execution of this design is pretty good. There is discernible diagonal use of color in the kepse guls and the use of white in the diagonals where that interrupts such color usage is well scattered over the field. An archaic seeming "boat" border is nicely drawn on the sides, but the weaver apparent has trouble rotating it on the ends and opts for something slightly different there. This piece seems noticably younger than B but is in better condition.
Yomut B: Best: 7
Rationale: This rug looks markedly older than the other two. Both the drawing of its side borders and of the kepse guls are spacious and perhaps larger in scale than the devices on the other two. Colors and color usage also looks older and more attractive to me, except for the distracting unsystematic use of white in some kepse guls. Drawing of the main border is inconsistent. Started with a curled leaf version of a meander, couldn't do it well on the sides and seems to have given up on the top end. This rug is in the poorest condition of the three.
Yomut C: Better: 4
I think this may to the youngest of these three pieces and it shows some signs of conventionalization. Colors are richly attractive. Use of a brighter blue particularly effective. Diagonal color usage is both subtle and disciplined. Main border is one frequently seen on Yomut bags. A main carpet needs something more distinctive. Elems show a device seen on older pieces. Drawing seems a bit squashed and devices seem smallest (they may not be that). Condition seems best of the three. The overall feel, though, is of a younger rug.
R. John Howe
Thanks for putting up this salon. I am really enjoying it. The idea of looking at rugs for their aesthetic appeal brings some freshness and illustrates the diversity of taste among rug collectors.
There is something that I have noted in a couple of your assessments that I think illustrates something about how the more serious collectors look at rugs. Here, you include in your assessment of all three of the Yomut mains an assessment of their relative age. Presumably the clues you used to assess that were not purely aesthetic. In assessing rugs in another thread, you said that if a dye was proven to be synthetic, that would be "disqualifying". (If one has to conduct further tests to prove this fact, how does it matter from an aesthetic point of view?)
What this says to me is that as we become more "serious" about collecting, our appreciation for the aesthetic appeal becomes "coloured" by an assessment of the piece's age and rarity. Is there a point at which we lose some objectivity in assessing a rug's quality and beauty because we strive so much for older weavings? Of course, looking "old" and looking "beautiful" are often very much the same, but do we too often overlook a weaving because it looks too young? Would we do the same if we were looking at a painting in an art gallery ("that's a beautiful painting (or sculpture), but it doesn't look like it has good age").
Of course, I know that an appreciation for woven articles goes well beyond the purely aesthetic and more into an appreciation for the setting and purpose of weaving (if we can reliably assess that). But when we are setting ourselves the diversion of deciding which rugs "look" the best, I think we all struggle to disentangle the "beauty" from the "value". At least, I have started to recognize this trait in how I look at rugs, and I don't think it is an altogether good thing...
I'm enjoying your salon, and I confess learning as well. You may have noticed that I’ve not participated so far, but not from lack of interest. True, I could post numerous "Oh" and "Wow" comments, but to what end? Just as with Mr. Sack and his Chippendale chairs, it seems that you need some familiarity with the "range of expression" of the items in question, be they Yomud main carpets, Shasavan bag faces or Turkish Yastics, in order to formulate an opinion regarding the desirability of said items from the perspective of a collector. We see this with some frequency here on Turkotek, a difference of opinion regarding a given weaving at odds with the conventional wisdom or interpretation. This is not to say that these alternative opinions are wrong, as ultimately our preferences are a matter of personal choice, but that the conventional wisdom regarding the interpretation or “reading” of a weaving consists of a recognized, underlying set of standards which, as with the Chippendale chairs above, proceeds from a familiarity with a type specific “range of expression”. This said, here is my take on the three Yomud main carpets.
Yomud A Better- 7 Effect border, less crowded than many, indicative of greater age?
Yomud B Best- 9 Extreme age. Use of white reminds somewhat of the Ballard carpet (don’ have my books here, so can’t check). Pure, clear colors. Simplicity and variability of the border an asset (at this age, most everything is an asset). Bold drawing of guls. In short, awesome!
Yomud C Good-8 Later than A but an excellent example of it’s type.
I hosted a Salon a few years back titled something like, "Why Collectors Collect what they Collect", which addressed some of the issues you raise.
Collectors of tribal arts (and we can include tribal and rustic oriental rugs and textiles within "tribal arts" without stretching the term too much) nearly all insist that they are simply in love with the aesthetic and artistic qualities of the stuff. This, as you've noticed without any help from me, is a myth. Most such collectors appreciate the artistry and aesthetics, but are greatly attracted by being able to vicariously participate in a culture very much different than their own. In tribal arts, older usually equates to more nearly authentic (as opposed to later equating to more nearly made to be sold to people like us).
One consequence of this: in order to avoid the cognitive dissonance of being attracted to elements of the "foreign culture-ness" and believing that they are attracted by purely aesthetic and artistic qualities, they define artistry and aesthetics as the characteristics that they believe are associated with age and authenticity. This is an oversimplified view, but I think it has more than a germ of truth in it.
As a point in passing: one of the things that I like so much about Kaitag embroideries is that they do not appear to have been made after about 1900, and were not discovered in the west until the mid-1980s, so they are free of western marketplace driven properties. I also happen to think they are very beautiful and artistic.
Hi James -
You ask how are "age" and "synthetic" dyes implicated in our aesthetic evaluations.
Well, to over-simplify (and also sometimes to be not entirely accurate) it is generally felt among collectors that "older is better" and that includes "aesthetically" more appealing. Similarly, there is a feeling that synthetic dyes often produce colors that are less attractive than those produced by natural dyes (some argue in response that chrome dyes can do anything).
In the case where I said if the orange and pink dyes turned out to be synthetic that would be disqualifying, I had already indicated that I disliked their "hot" glaring shades. The confirmation that they were synthetic would only reinforce what I could see but would also raise the likelihood that these colors were less fast and would get even worse over time.
Now the age thing is more complex. I do think the drawing on Yomut B suggests that it is older. The scale of the kepse gul seems larger, the overall drawing on the piece (including the interior of the kepse gul) seems more spacious and the kepse gul seems taller as compared to its width than do those on the other two carpets. I think I also see attractive color use in Yomut B that suggests age to me, although the use of color in the other two is also skillful. Notice, though, that I did penalize Yomut B for its condition (also likely associated with its seeming age) and for the drawing of its borders (which are actually quite a mess).
I think that the particular complex of evaluation factors that those of us who spend a bit of time with Turkmen weaving employ is more than just aesthetic. It is a learned (and socially constructed by the current elite with regard to Turkmen weaving) complex of evaluation criteria that might at some point be reduced largely to what those in this elite currently "like."
That's one reason why I argue sometimes that, while it's interesting to compare our various aesthetic evaluations and especially the reasons we give for them, as we are doing in this salon, I see no reason why any of us should pay any attention to the aesthetic judgments of any others of us, since it seems to me that such judgments do not have an agreed objective basis. Subjectivity is still pretty rampant even when we are pretending otherwise.
R. John Howe
Hi Steve and John,
I understand what both of you are saying. My point is that whenever a rug collector compares rugs and is able to judge that one is considerably older (or rarer) than the other, that often trumps other considerations of its artistic or technical merits. That is natural, and something that Albert Sack must have recognized since he compared furniture pieces manufactured within a narrow time period (wouldn't we love to be able to narrow the date of manufacture of a rug to 1750-1770?).
Having said that, I would reiterate that older pieces are usually more attractive to me (or at least those that I think are older
). Still, I sometimes have to catch myself getting overly interested in a piece because it might be "important", even if I don't like it very much, and rejecting attractive pieces because I know they are too modern or (GASP!) might have a synthetic dye.
By the way, with respect to these Yomut mains, here are my ratings:
A: "Best" (8) - With the repetitiveness of the kepse gul, for me the quality of the field component is related to the placement and spacing of the guls, and the use of colour. The dramatic use of the white guls and the subtle changes in the colours of all of the guls is really attractive to me. The addition of white points on the "crowns" of many of the kepse guls is a nice touch, and probably gives the rug some added sparkle "in the flesh". I also find the overall proportions and spacing of the guls to be sophisticated, but still dynamic because of the effective variation in colours. The borders are "just right" for this piece in my opinion, with sophisticated drawing and dynamic but subtle use of colour. I am a sucker for a good green, and this one looks to have an excellent green.
B: "Best" (8) - I also like this one a lot. It is perhaps more evocative in terms of its proximity to tribal roots. I am not sure that I like the larger scale kepse guls. They seem just a bit too large for this carpet. Perhaps it would be easier to judge it I wasn't distracted by the disruption of the pattern by the bad condition. I find the drawing of the guls a bit messy, which has some charms but also makes the rug look a bit unbalanced to me. The strength of the colours and the simplicity and clarity by which the guls stand out from the field look outstanding to me. I agree with Filiberto that the border is marvelous.
C: "Better" (6) - This is another lovely one. I really like the effective "secondary" pattern created by alternating colours in the diagonals. I rate this lower than the other two for two reasons. First, I think the colours are a bit weak (at least on my monitor). Second, the border doesn't seem right. It seems too narrow for the overall design, and that orange strong orange doesn't have a nice counterpart in the field so it kind of overwhelms the overall colour mix. The elems are nice, but perhaps a bit crowded.
There you go, James! I give what you say in your post an 8.
Now I see, as I am about to push the send button, you've posted again but I've got to run so, just to say, I'm refering to your first post. Sue
Not going to provide detailed reasons, its all been said above.
My ratings would be:
A - 5. Good but by no-means outstanding example of a common-enough type.
B - 8. Excellent drawing, lovely border, good colours
C - 3. Run of the mill example of a standard drawing.
I am absolutely flabbergasted! Mr Howes excellent Salon has exemplified for me the differences inherent between East and West. This is not intended to be a political statement and its entirely relevent to those who appreciate weaving products from throughout the world.
Whereas the East, (using this term to indicate where most hand weaving takes place) places great import in the exactitude of the design elements being closest to the structure of perfection allowed by the formula of weaving a given design and nothing perfect except Allah, the West (viewers of Turkotek etc) seems to want a divergence from what is capable, to an appreciation of more than just quirkiness, to what appears to me to be just poor or even sloppy weaving.
I am making these comments from my observation of the replies to the pieces shown, and just about all participants indicate a complete reversal of my own perception of important design features which I usually look for in a given rug and to which I have been led by friends of experience from the East.
My love of weavings remains undiminished, but from the trend shown in the previous posts, especially those discussing the Yomut Main Carpets, I am left floundering. I cannot believe just how comprehensively my belief in my own taste has been punctured.
As usual my father was right after all; I should have properly studied art rather than just relied on my own personal appreciation.
I think you err by lumping all eastern weavings together in terms of cultural objectives. They are better treated as at least three distinct groups from a cultural aesthetics point of view.
1. Workshop and court carpets, which are made to the criteria you would apply to all oriental weavings. They are near perfection in terms of symmetry, elegance of drawing and presence of curvilinear elements, resolution of borders at the corners, etc.
2. Rustic or cottage industry rugs and carpets, which are woven from memory or freehand, actually a form of folk art and best evaluated in folk art terms. They're never even nearly symmetric, full of stray motifs and wonky drawing, highly personal, rarely have cleanly done curves or well resolved corners. One recurrent problem within this group is distinguishing the charmingly quaint from the sloppy and unskilled.
3. Tribal weavings, which are usually utilitarian in ways other than as floor coverings. Many are containers (they are the furniture in a nomad's tent and retained that role when nomadic people became sedentary), many are trappings for homes or for animals. The colors, layouts, designs, formats and motifs are often believed to be rooted in important tribal beliefs, although that's almost never supported by much evidence.
It should be no more of a shock to accept these as having different aesthetics than it is to accept, say, Beethoven and the Beetles, or Grandma Moses and Michaelangelo as subject to different aesthetic criteria.
G'day Mr Price,
You are entirely correct when you section the weavings into the three types, however while we recognise the apparent perfection of the refined 'court' or 'city' types (which excellence is often distained by us exactly for that trait) most of the pieces shown in the Salon could be termed 'tribal' if not nomadic.
Because we recognise something more in weavings other than their purely utilitarian use, and because the weavers go beyond the utilitarian by enthusing their craft with very definite artistic intent, and also knowing that artists strive to produce the very best which they are capable of, then the obvious 'faults' in the elements of drawing when comparing them against other better woven elements of the same design in the same piece would, to me, seem lackadaisical work rather than artistic expression.
While Im not particularly rigid in my requirements when looking for interesting rugs, I do try to discern where the weaver has imbued the piece with some personal expression of their own which goes beyond the original design of it, so it is not that I am unaware of the difference between poor, and creative weaving, more that I am aware that other experienced acquirers of rugs can better differentiate between good, and lesser art.
When I see a rug which has 'idiosyncracies' that do not detract too much from the general intent of the design I accept them as part of the merit of the piece, but when most of the design has been faithfully reproduced throughout in a clear and neat manner, the composition repeats the same until we see where something has occured during the weaving, and the weaver seems to have lost the plot and has inexplicably made lots of mistakes, then often it may be excused by saying another person might have taken over the job.
Even in this case, I do not see it necessarily as complimentary to the rug; imagine how the original weaver must have felt coming back to the loom to find their work marred by inexpert or careless fingers.
Perhaps we are too quick in this day and age to accept as okay things which may, during the time when most of our carpets were made, have been deemed unaceptable, especially in one woven for market.
When someone is weaving entirely for themselves and the family, jumping to the loom in a spare moment to get a few more knots done before the evening milking of the goats or whatever, obviously a poorly rendered symbol may not be of much concern, but for someone striving to produce a fine marketable item would not be happy in themselves if it contained obviously flawed work.
I just dont think we should make a virtue out of what may be construed as careless or poor work within the context of the whole piece.
Im pretty rough as guts myself, and my own work often reflects my own careless attitude to my creations, and because Im only making something entirely for myself, selfishly I dont consider how others may find it when its finished, providing I like it myself, so perhaps weavers might be similar themselves in how they view their completed works, except perhaps when the work has been done for sale.
Im sorry if this post makes no valuable contribution to our appreciation of weavings, I guess I really needed to express my horror at finding my ideas of what constitutes good weaving is the opposite to many here.
I don't know of any good ways to handle the frequent occurrence of things that might mean sloppiness or lack of skill, but might alternatively simply reflect that it is an element which, in the weaver's culture, is of no concern. Ruggies will disagree in many an instance, and there is usually little basis on which to make a judgement.
Your opening this subject seemed to me to be based on your statement, ... the East ... places great import in the exactitude of the design elements being closest to the structure of perfection ... and proceeds from that position. I think the statement is correct for court and workshop weavings, but probably not for rustic or tribal weavings.
For example, it is pretty common to see rustic rugs begin with borders of some particular width, then change width abruptly after a few inches of the field is in place. Some ruggies interpret this as having been pre-planned, and refer to it as an internal elem. This, I think, would fit well with your view. The other interpretation is that the weaver changed her mind about the proportions of field and border once she had a look at them, and made the adjustment on the fly. I suppose we could call this lack of foresight, a form of poor craftsmanship. But we could also suppose that her culture doesn't view this as a defect. If it carries no negative connotations in her world, who are we to call it a defect?
I think the whole problem is fascinating because it forces us to become aware of the similarities and differences between our aesthetic criteria and those of some culture that we can barely begin to understand.
G'day Mr Price,
I do agree with you in all you say; a good explanation of my feelings with the sometimes abrupt changes seen in different weavings.
Actually, as a reference to what I had felt was poor weaving is exampled by B. in the Yomut pieces where the turkmen border elements were so different in their execution. Some large, some small, none really conforming to any given balance or design criteria.
Also in the field the guls often had changes of size and within which the 'anchors', seemingly to fit a changei in the proportions of the gul.
The non conformity to equal size of design elements in the borders is very obvious and yet this very feature has been extolled as a 'plus' rather than what I might call a negative, even a defect affecting the whole composition.
True, who are we to comprehend the intent of the creator of the piece, however we can be left the satisfaction of commenting on how the whole affects us, and it is this which leaves me behind when reading how others have appraised the work.
On the whole, the pieces shown in the Salon came across to me quite differently to most of the participants. What I considered a weakness, others found a primary consideration for merit.
Still, I suppose this is part and parcel of what it is that we all find so appealing in carpets and rugs, and fortunately being given the pleasure of examining our feelings toward them publicly on Turkotek...
Hi Marty -
You say your ratings of these Yomut main carpets are out of sync with what most others have indicated. (Notice that there is also a lot of difference betweem two groups of those rating the Shahsavan end panels.)
That may mean nothing at all about the relative aesthetic merits of either of these judgments.
The aesthetic standards of those who have either collected Turkmen carpets awhile or have hung out with more experienced Turkmen collectors are socially constructed. Put plainly this often means that they reduce to what the more influential members of this elite currently "like."
The worst that can in fact be said about the fact that your ratings are markedly different is that it appears that you are "incompletely socialized" into the current standards advocated by the prevailing Turkmen collector/student elite.
The question of whether that is a good or bad thing is entirely separate and needs its own justification. :-)
R. John Howe
Hey Marty and folks.
We speak of "drawing" in woven pieces but its a different thing than taking pencil and pad and having at it. Pile weaving is in a sense the ultimate "paint by number" endeavor, in that the nature of the medium requires producing the design by putting a selected color in each box of a squared grid. Moreover, it must be done by completing each horizontal line of the grid at a time. One cannot take a global approach and sketch the major areas in first, then fill in. One of the aspects of pile weaving that still amazes me is that the weavers are able to produce intricate designs in this manner, one knot at a time, and essentially one knot after the other, consecutively. Watching a skilled weaver do it without visible secondary aids increased my admiration.
I have always assumed that some of this is accomplished by knowledge of a code or sequence of weaving for a particular design, as contrasted with knowledge of how to "draw" a particular design. Thus, a particular motif is created by "two red, three green, one yellow,....etc.," in a sequence the weaver has memorized. I'm sure the process is more complex than that, but something of the sort must be involved. If that assumption is accurate, the ability of a weaver to free lance within a design, manipulate it, apply motifs in a studied way rather than simply repeat devices continuously and exactly, by rote, may demonstrate a higher weaving skill than merely the ability to be accurate in rendering a given design.
From that point of view, taking the Yomud examples provided to us by John, the apparent anomalies exhibited in the B entry, such as the lower border, may be as much a demonstration of artistic judgment carried out in a skillful (or at least intentional) way, as they are a demonstration of lack of skill. And as Steve points out, shrewdly in my opinion, practices of this sort may not be viewed disapprovingly in the weaver's milieu.
For my own part, I shrink reflexively from discussions of rugs in terms of "art," but I do recognize the need to distinguish between the basic skill of precise and accurate weaving and artistry in weaving. What does matter in the end is, how do they look? To each his own, of course, but among those three yomuds, my clear preference is B, nevermind the lapses.
Artistry vs Artifact
Yes, it is my understanding that the Turkmen do prefer,generally, as an ideal, perfection and precision in the execution of their weaving. Yet the exceptions seem to be those which we westerners find most appealing, assumed to be examples of spontaneous self expression.
These exceptions may well be spontaneous flourishes, but in regard to Yomud B there more to the story, and why it is held in high regard. It is not so much in how this border came into being, but an accumulation of factors, which add up to what R. John Howe referes to as a "socialization" into the current standards. This "socialization" consists, I believe (and for myself this is a conscious process), of a recognition of those qualities which characterize older Turkmen weavings.
I am a collector of both rugs and antiques, and I believe this especially true of Turkmen collectors. The most dear and sought after Turkmen rugs seem to be the older examples, the older the better. For just as with Mr Sack and his early examples of Chippendale chairs, roughly contemporaneous with the publication of Chippendale's Director the most desirable Turkmen rugs seem to be those of the greatest vintage. Just as American Federal antiques are generally held in higher regard than American Civil War antiques, so with Turkmen rugs. The greater age is in itself a (or even the) primary component of "beauty" or desirability.
So in some respects the analogy drawn between Chippendale chair and Turkmen rugs is faulty in this regard, as the closer analogy would be between circa 1750-1770 Chippendale chairs and Turkmen rugs of the earliest discernable time period, or of a set time period (and introducing a whole other set of obstacles to the analogy).
I had noticed in going back over my ratings that I substituted a scale of 1-10 for each of the three gradients, Good, Better, and Best. My apologies.
Thanks, I appreciated all your comments and I do understand the gist of the matter in discerning others appreciation of Better, Best, and Good and whilst I tend to look for what appears to be something 'more' in the weavings which I obtain whether old or newer, my inexperience obviously leads me to pass over some items which to my naive eye seem a little rough and ready, which in fact perhaps may be especially good.
And that is really the crux of the matter - ones experience. Its not hard to read posts from Turkotek afficianados and really learn something of value - the great mass of weaving material which has been accumulated by the more regular participants from all the regions, and has been discussed at length together with pieces plucked from cyberspace to demonstrate facets of interest within and about them is a good indication that people here certainly know what they are talking about (with the exception of myself of course ).
A good Salon on Turkotek is akin to spending time enjoying an excellent and interesting lecturer in class at Uni.
Its ifascinating to find that a form of 'peer pressure' exists amoung collectors of certain genre of weavings, that if the majority determines 'this' is IT, then let others exclude it to their loss.
Those things which I find myself drawn to would undoubtedly not be considered the creme de la creme by any means, and it is just this difference which I look for so assiduously.
And because of this wanting something different often leads me to things which others have pointed out as having discrepancies in the pattern - those irregularities which I pointed out in the Yomut post as having been perhaps poorly worked.
Were I to find items which showed similar quirks, it certainly might have me point them out to the dealer in hope of reducing the price. Now I find that it is perfectly possible that just these 'quirks' may actually be the sign the piece is special.
And that makes me feel good about my stuff in toto - most of it is definitely showing evidence of just such work which I had originally thought to be a bit badly done!
Oft times Im loathe to stick my neck out and comment on something or other because usually Im showing my ignorance. However, when I do post, inevitably I am gently shown a better direction to observe and learn from. Much appreciation for that ...
As an accumulator of many things of interest, from antiquities to books, carpets to porcelains I certainly wouldnt call myself a collector, as often I am satisfied with one item which takes my fancy - and one item a collection does not make!
Nonetheless, of all the wonderous stuff gathered, it would have to be the weavings which attract me daily to spend time with in tactile and visual appreciation - and the more I learn, obviously the better the items will be...