On November 8, 2014 Lydia Fraser,
The Textile Museum Librarian, gave a program in which she talked about the Library’s founder Arthur D. Jenkins, the benefactor of the 20,000-volume library that bears his name. She described the Library as “a fabulous resource for the study of textiles, and includes many rare books and folios. “
Lydia first joined The Textile Museum in 1997 as assistant registrar. Since that time she has been a member of the curatorial team and served in a number of consultant roles.
As Librarian of the Arthur D. Jenkins Library of Textile Arts she melds over 15 years of subject area expertise in textiles with academic and professional training in knowledge organization.
She is a weaver with an affinity for textiles of Southeast Asia and is passionate about the power of textiles to connect people and cultures.
These RTAM programs, we should begin to say often, are provided under the aegis of both The Textile Museum and The George Washington University and Museum.
Before Lydia began Russell Pickering,
who knew and worked with Jenkins for a number of years, talked about his remembrances of Jenkins and his very substantial contributions, not just to the TM library, but to the management and development of the TM during the years when Jenkins was the TM board president. Russ is a great Jenkins admirer.
What follows is what Russell said in this session and in a subsequent interview with him. I have also drawn on some published material.
Russell said that when he was first in The Textile Museum in the 1960s, it was a very quiet place (membership was only 300). In a sense, Russ said, his remembrance of Arthur Jenkins is about the very great impact Jenkins had on the TM and its growth over the next twenty years, at which point membership had reached 3,000.
Myers had died in 1957 and Jenkins (who had been collecting since the 1920s) was, significantly, someone who had known Myers.
As a major collector, Jenkins gradually became an important part of The Textile Museum world, eventually becoming a member of its board, and, ultimately, board president.
Jenkins owned and managed a successful publishing company in the Midwest, and knew how organize projects and to deal with and manage people effectively. Russell says that Jenkins ran things with a “firm hand,” but also delegated “with a long flexible leash.” Jenkins had a sense of humor and an attractive personal manner that made him effective with both men and women.
Jenkins frequently contributed large amounts of financial support to TM exhibitions. In an outstanding instance he engineered the exchange of some pre-Columbian gold the TM had for a world-class group of dated Spanish rugs that the Dunbarton Oaks Collection held. The exchange included an additional payment by the TM to the Dumbarton of $50,000. Jenkins personally supplied a large part of that amount. Jenkins’ willingness to be of financial support was also illustrated with much smaller-gauged examples. At one point it was decided to open a TM shop on the premises and the woman who was in charge of the project came to Mr. Jenkins and said that she needed funds for initial stock purchases. Jenkins wrote her a check.
In 1962 Jenkins donated to the TM his personal rug and textile library of over 850 titles. He estimated that this gift included some 80 percent of total number of textiles books published since 1770. His intent was to create “the most complete research facility” in the U.S. devoted to oriental rugs.
In 1963 Jenkins and McCoy Jones mounted an exhibition of over 100 rugs and textiles at the TM, drawing on both of their collections. Jenkins seems to have drawn on his publishing expertise as he arranged for all of the photos of the exhibition pieces included in the catalog. Jenkins announced in this 1963 catalog that he was donating his collection to the TM. He says in this catalog that he sees himself as “the first rug collector to give his complete support to the Textile Museum.”
Jenkins’ gift of his rug book collection to the TM resulted in movement of Myers book collection from the residence to the third floor of the exhibition building where it was combined with Jenkins’ donation.
In the mid-1970s, because of the increased interest in textiles, the TM board undertook a major reconfiguration of the TM buildings. The entrance was moved from the exhibition building to the former Myers residence building and provided increased space for staff and meetings and the museum shop.
In 1978 Jenkins organized and conducted the first ever fundraising drive for the TM. Three million dollars was realized, an amount which would be a much larger sum today. This permitted the complete renovation of the of the Museum buildings to provide increased exhibition space and the first storage space in the TM’s history.
Jenkins was also an important force in some of the important exhibitions and publications that occurred during his tenure. He was an important supporter of the seminal exhibition of and catalog for the “From the Bosporus to Samarkand: Flat Woven Rugs” by Anthony Landerau and Russell Pickering in 1969. (Jenkins was an important collector of flat woven pieces and the color image inside the front cover of this catalog was from Jenkins’ collection.) This exhibition was a traveling one, under the aegis of The Smithsonian Institution. The ground-breaking catalog had to be reprinted repeatedly and was a huge financial success. In 1976, Tony Landreau curated an exhibition and catalog for “America Underfoot: A History of Floor Coverings from Colonial Times to the Present.” America Underfoot was also selected to be a Smithsonian traveling exhibition.
In 1980 Jenkins, as TM board president, wrote the forward for the catalog of the ground-breaking exhibition “Turkmen,” edited by Louise Mackie and Jon Thompson. This catalog was seen as the standard work on Turkmen weaving, and is still consulted usefully. Since Jenkins had long collected Turkman weavings, this exhibition and catalog are peppered with high quality Turkmen pieces from his collection, including the stunning Salor pile trapping, heavily decorated in silk which is (John Howe speaking now) “the most sumptuous Turkman textile I have ever had in my hands.” In that same year some work by Russell Pickering, Ralph Yohe, and Pat Fiske resulted in, perhaps, the first exhibition and publication to treat Moroccan rugs and textiles seriously . This work ultimately resulted in two catalogs/books. The first of these “From the Far West: Rugs and Textiles of Morocco,” 1980. And a second “Moroccan Carpets,” in which Pickering and Yohe, were joined by Pickering’s daughter Brooke. This second volume was published in 1994.
The approximate 20 years that marked Jenkins tenure as an important participant in the TM was a period marked by strong leadership and management, high-quality research, dazzling exhibitions, and fertile publications. Russell feels that the accomplishments of the Jenkins era were extraordinary. He says that he hopes that this RTAM program and the words said in it will bring to participants (and now readers) attention the fact that Jenkins’ contributions to the TM go far beyond his generous gift of his rug library and of his textile collection. He was a real force for excellence.
Lydia said that she didn’t know Arthur Jenkins, but that “after working on this presentation, I must say I wish I had. The Textile Museum attracts so many interesting and unique personalities, Arthur D. Jenkins was no exception.”
She asked whether there was anyone else in the audience had known Jenkins and Kathy Freshley, a former TM Librarian, shared her own remembrances. What follows here is a subsequent write-up Kathy provided.
Arthur D. Jenkins Library Remembrances
As a beginning weaver, I fell in love with ethnographic textiles, discovered and then became a member of the Textile Museum in 1970. In 1974 I responded to a TM newsletter requesting library volunteers. Another volunteer and I were charged with turning this gentleman’s library into a professional special library that could eventually be open to researchers and the public. I learned that Arthur Jenkins, a board member, had donated a significant collection of books and was anxious to have these volumes along with his extensive collection of newsletters, articles and clippings available to other collections and scholars. The Textile Museum applied for a foundation grant to fund this transformation and once it was approved in 1975 I was hired part-time (19 hours/week) as the Textile Museum’s first librarian. I had a MA degree in Library Science and threw myself into this wonderful project.
At that time of my arrival the library was located in the top floor of the Waddy Wood building with the Western Hemisphere textile flat files. Also located on that floor were the curatorial offices of Ann Rowe and Irene Emery.
In addition to bookshelves along the end wall, the primary piece of furniture was a very long table and ten or more handsomely carved wood chairs with leather seats. Both Mr. Jenkins and Mr. Myers organized their libraries by the subjects they were most interested in; hence articles in journals were interfiled with books on that subject. For example, an article on Caucasian rugs would be placed next to books on that subject ignoring all the other articles in that journal that might be of interest to others. So initially I began by separating the journals from the books. Soon the entire library table was filled with stacks of rare journals, such as Ciba Review. I discovered that the library had complete sets of rare journals. We created a separate periodical section in the library and began cataloguing each journal article so it could be easily located.
Cataloging this collection was a huge under taking, as none of the materials had ever been formally cataloged previously. After talking with the curators, I realized that most curators and researchers like Mr. Myers and Mr. Jenkins, wanted to find textile and rug books organized first by place of origin and then by textile techniques. Unfortunately both the Dewey Decimal and the Library of Congress cataloging systems organize first by technique, such as lace, tapestries, etc. This worked for most European or American textile collections but not for a specialized textile library that focused on textiles and rugs primarily from the southern hemisphere. Knowing it would be more expensive in the long run to create a new cataloging system, it was nevertheless agreed that a customized system would best serve TM’s curators, scholars and the public. It was quite a challenge but I was able, with the guidance and approval of staff, to create a unique cataloging system for the library that I am pleased to learn is still in use to this day.
Next I began an inventory of the book collection and created policies such as the number of copies we would hold of the same title. The depth and breathe of the collection was impressive, but slowly the gaps, especially in non-rug areas, such as Pre-Columbian, Indian and Indonesian textiles where the museum had significant holdings began to be identified. This is where Mr. Jenkins became critically important.
Mr. Jenkins typically came to DC only for TM board meetings, but while visiting he soon became an active presence in the library and encouraged the professional direction of the library. He made annual restricted gifts to the museum to fund new acquisitions, acquire rare books or purchase equipment such as a photocopy machine, when needed. He often called to tell me when a rare book on our “must have” list was included in an auction sale and often bid on these items to donate to the library. We developed a wonderful partnership.
The work at the library depended on volunteers, as I was the only paid staff member. Happily we were fortunate to have an amazing group of regular volunteers many whom were also docents. Joan Batchelor, Louise Belcher, Jean Bryant, Blenda Femenias, Jannes Gibson, and Betty Wright, among others came weekly for years and some continued after I left in 1986. Joan was our bookbinder since many older volumes had some damage. She even took classes at the Library of Congress’ bookbindery to learn the best conservation techniques for rare books.
Without their support we never would have been able to catalogue, organize, and maintain the collection.
The library was always available by appointment to scholars and collectors but at some point it began to have regular public hours. I cannot recall when that happened, but soon a steady array of fascinating people arrived researching rugs and ethnographic textiles and techniques. Often they recommended other important acquisitions for the library and as a consequence the library collection grew considerably.
Soon our limited shelving was bursting at the seams as was other parts of the museum. While the museum underwent a total renovation, the library was moved to the basement of the Pope building where public hours continued. The attic space in the Wood building was then totally remodeled to accommodate a larger library. I worked with the architect on its design. The library featured a “U-shaped reception desk facing the entrance with a bookcase along the back and folio storage along one edge. New stacks were installed that filled the center and interior wall of the library. The reception desk divided the public area from the work area. It was a marvelous light-filled functional space. Three smaller reading tables and a built-in counter workspace were placed in front of the dormer windows. After a few years however the museum learned that the dead weigh of the books was too much for the joists supporting the floor to bear. Significant repairs to the joists and ceiling below the library had to be done to correct this dangerous situation. Some overflow storage of rarely used books began to be moved back to the basement to lessen the load.
I forget the exact timing, but while I was the librarian a reference book publisher approached the library asking if they could photograph the entire card catalog and publish it. We all were quite proud that the TM library was considered significant enough for this endeavor. The TM library became a member of the DC Special Library group and began making and receiving inter-library loans to the Smithsonian, Library of Congress and select university libraries to further the research of TM’s curators and other scholars.
I believe it was after Mr. Jenkins died that the TM Board named the library after him, but it could have been when the library reopened after its renovation. Nevertheless, it was a well-deserved tribute to his generosity, leadership and annual contributions. His portrait was placed by the library’s entrance and he left TM money in his will to continue to support the library and its collections.
He was a crusty sweetheart of a man who was always willing to help or contribute if a strong case could be made. He once even successfully bid for me on an Uzbekistan door hanging that I loved and could afford at a NYC auction he was attending. He called immediately after the auction and very excitedly told me we both had won!
I worked at the TM as the librarian for 11 years and still cherish the experience.
With that fulsome prelude, Lydia Fraser began her lecture. (What follows is a virtual version drawing directly on her lecture notes and her illustrating Powerpoint document. A great deal of it will be in the first person with Lydia speaking.)
Lydia began with this title:
Jenkins (as we shall see again) lived, and had a publishing business in, a small town of 7,000 in western Illinois. The town was small enough that one could be distinctive on a number of bases. Jenkins wanted his home and his business to be distinctive and so painted the doors on both of them red,
and this, Lydia said, is the source of her lecture title.
Arthur Darwin Jenkins lived between 1897 – 1988
● He never married.
● He had 1 sister and 2 brothers, none had children and, thus, he had no descendants.
● While we know him as a collector of rug, he also apparently collected glass as well.
● Jenkins joined the Textile Museum Board of Trustees in 1969 and was president from 1979 – 1983
● In addition to being a benefactor and supporter of the library, he was also responsible for the introduction of our museum shop
○ He donated the money needed to purchase the shop’s initial inventory
● In the early 1970s the Textile Museum dedicated its library to Arthur D. Jenkins.
By acclamation the Board passed the following Resolution:
“Be it resolved, that in appreciation of Arthur D. Jenkins’ extensive gifts of book and materials and his continued interest in the library of the Textile Museum, it be dedicated to his honor and designated “The Arthur D. Jenkins Library”.
○ The “extensive gifts of books and materials” encompassed close to 80% of published works on the subject of Oriental rugs at that time.
■ His collection was donated as two large gifts, first in 1963 and again a decade later
○ His “continued interest” referred to here amounted to financial support of the library during a particularly challenging fiscal period for the institution.
While still in his 20s, Jenkins decided he would amass the best, most comprehensive library on rugs in the World.
● It is the opinion of many that he indeed succeeded.
● His collection contained works printed in seven languages. Some of the books dated back to 1770 and include some from limited editions of twenty-five to 100 copies
He described this experience:
“..while hunting for antiques in St. Louis. It was then that my first purchase took place: a small Turkish mat, with warp and wool of horse hair, for $5. since it has always been a habit of mine to buy a book whenever I acquire something, I bought my first book on rugs — a small pamphlet on Chinese weavings. And from then on I would buy a rug and a book, a book and a rug. And so it was in this manner that I developed a large library on oriental carpets.”
● This is the “small pamphlet” he was referring to which is now in the library … small indeed, measures 6.5” X 4.5” but started something from which we are all beneficiaries.
● Jenkins said that his interest in books would at times overtake his interest in rugs …
● When he decided to develop his library, he created an exhaustive bibliography of everything he had and everything ever published on the subject that he carried those with him everywhere.
○ Not only would he take these into books stores with him, but also to various libraries to compare lists.
○ Having the most exhaustive collection seemed quite a motivation for him.
○ He said, “when we combined my library with the one George Hewitt Myers already had, it put The Textile Museum ahead of everyone else.”
● What you see here is Jenkins’ bibliography of everything ever published … not sure what the marks all mean.
● George Hewitt Myers was the first fellow collector of rugs that Jenkins’ met.
○ As some may know, Myers was also a bibliophile … his particular interest was in the work of Robert Louis Stevenson.
○ So I imagine that those initial conversations between Jenkins and Myers were not only about rugs but also books.
● Jenkins said that his discussions and correspondence with Myers gave him the idea that he “would buy only the finest specimens that would someday be good enough for the Textile Museum to own someday”
o This was also a guiding principle in his book collection, he amassed his collection, knowing one day that it would reside in the library of The Textile Museum.
● It is also important to acknowledge that while Jenkins’ collecting focused solely on literature about rugs, Myers’ book collection reflected his burgeoning textile collection … this is especially true for important work about South American archaeological textiles.
(Myers Rug Inspiring His Bookplate)
● Jenkins traveled all over the country to search for rug related materials, generally stopping at second-hand bookstores wherever he went.
● He said that the average book seller, if they had anything, would have the rug materials at the very back of his shop on the very lowest shelf gathering dust.
“I’ll never forget the times that I spent in New York on 4th Avenue, down below 10th street. i would go into one bookstore and then the next one, the next and the next because there were so many next to each other — for two or three blocks on both sides. always the same question — do you have any rug books? I would always be shown a few and I would look at them and ask how much. So I had books coming to me after every trip to New York and Chicago and other cities. In the course of time … I finally developed the library I had and then gave it to The Textile Museum.”
Jenkins and Charles Grant Ellis befriended each other in the late 1950’s
I imagine that their conversations were as much about books and rug publications.
Indeed, the archives of Charlie Ellis attests to this … the note below acknowledges a gift of books given to Ellis from Jenkins (NOTE – real feather)
(click next two images)
– Over time their conversations went from books to rugs, to Textile Museum administration, to simple, and often silly notes, between friends.
As part of Jenkins’ first gift of books in 1963, he donated to the library a copy of the 1st edition, published in 1902 of the Bode book that Ellis later translated in the 4th edition.
● When the book was first published in 1902 it was considered the first comprehensive treatise on classical rugs. It was later released in subsequent editions. It certainly would have been a “must-have” in any collector’s library.
● This title demonstrates an important characteristic of Jenkins book collecting – while comprehensive and exhaustive collecting was a guiding principle for him, it appears he also seemed to consider the holdings of The Textile Museum and moved to fill in holes, seldom replicating a book that Myers had already acquired. Especially for the most rare and valuable material .
● Jenkins donated the 1st and 4th edition in English of this book, and Myer’s had the 3rd edition in English, published in 1922 and the 4th edition in German, published in 1955.
The catalog was not published until 1912, well after the exhibition had closed. While the publication did not receive the same scholarly acclaim of the exhibition, it represented as one author said, “A luxurious product in terms of economic value , and old fashioned weighty tomes of publication techniques.”
350 of the 430 copies that were printed were already subscribed to prior to delivery in March 1912. The Textile Museum holds 2 copies of this work, 1 from Jenkins and 1 from Myers … Jenkins’ copy is number 41 as seen here. However, Myers’ copy is not numbered … perhaps is one of the 30 that were “not intended for the trade” (nicht fur den handel bestimmt)
Interestingly, Jenkins to did not donate F.R. Martin’s “The History of the Oriental Rug before 1800”. Published in 1908 …
Myers already had a copy of this. It is another important “must have,” in early rug literature, and it is left of up to speculation whether or not for Jenkins it remained “one that got away” or was never pursued knowing that it was already a part of the TM library.
Thus far we have touched on the obvious candidates for a rug library in the early part the 20th century.
Though not easy to find and often expensive and of limited publication run, these publications were well-known and sought after. I have every reason to believe that if Jenkins had his sights on something he would have found a way to acquire it.
We now turn to another aspect of Jenkins’ collecting which is comprehensiveness … for this we look at the works of John Kimberly Mumford.
Regarded less as a scholar than his contemporaries, Lessing, Bode, and Martin, he was if anything more prolific than most on the topic. Mumford was an Englishman who traveled throughout Turkey and Iran and wrote about rugs for the layman. He published this book, “Oriental Carpets” in 1900 … we have the 1902 edition donated by Jenkins in 1963.
In addition to his book, Mumford wrote for several articles in popular literature … Jenkins some how managed to track down many of these publications which are now a part of our vertical file collection ,
These include articles such as “making hay in the rug business” which appeared in Arts and Decoration in February 1920 and “The Passing of the Antique Rug” in the Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine published in January 1910.
Keeping in mind that this was long before ebay and amazon, it boggles my mind to think of how he managed to track down such material and in such quantities. Our vertical files are filled with many such articles.
Jenkins collected anything written on rugs … scholarly, popular, or somewhere in between. We have several issues of the decorating magazine, “House Beautiful,” from the early part of the 20th century, as well as material like this short article that appeared in Harper’s Bazar’s 1903 thanksgiving issue.
To repeat a conversation told above, Russ Pickering, may remember, Jenkins saying, “I’ll never forget the times that I spent in New York on 4th Avenue, down below 10th street. i would go into one bookstore and then the next one, the next and the next because there were so many next to each other — for two or three blocks on both sides. always the same question — do you have any rug books? I would always be shown a few and I would look at them and ask how much. So I had books coming to me after every trip to New York and Chicago and other cities.”
● One of the more obscure publications was a basic information article simply titled “Fine Rugs” that was published in “Overland Monthly” in July, 1900
● Overland Monthly was a San Francisco-based literary monthly .. I am uncertain of the range of distribution however, given that Jenkins was collecting it well over 20 years following publication, I suspect it was not an easy or common find.
Jenkins also collected contemporary publications … the introductory books by dealers and collectors were popular and Jenkins collected as many as he could find.
. Here we have the 1949 self-published book by Armenian-born, french rug restoration expert. Alber Achdjian.
Jenkins Continued to collect rug literature after the initial donation in 1963, though perhaps without the same fervor, given that most of the early, rarer material had already been obtained.
o He would, on occasion, purchase a duplicate copy of something should the original be in poor shape.
● Here is the 1884 publication by Herbert Coxon, a British rug importer, said to be the earliest book on rugs to appear in English.
Jenkins said that when he was learning about and researching a new rug, he would take all of his books and spread them about the floor and furniture. In this way he was able to compile a most impressive index of citations for his rugs organized by area and rug types.
● Everything we have explored thus far points to a cosmopolitan man crisscrossing the country, searching all the relevant stores of major cities for books and rugs, rugs and books.
● To underscore this, he was featured in Fortune magazine in 1968 and was recognized in 1974 by the Hajji Babba society as collector of the year.
● There were however, many other dimensions to Arthur D. Jenkins for which he was equally well-known in other communities.
● And, as we noted at the beginning, Jenkins was known as “the man behind the red doors” .. he received this moniker for the fact that he had red doors on both his home and business.
● such a name however can only be meaningful if you live in the kind of community where door color can be a distinguishing feature.
● He moved there in the 1930s and lived there until his death in 1988.
● He immersed himself deeply within the community:
○ he served as chairman of the Planning Commission helping to develop their city-manager style of government
○ worked on several municipal improvement projects
○ involved heavily in the local schools
○ served on the board of the local library
● In fact, upon his death, he requested memorial donations be directly to either the ADJL or the Mascoutah public library
● When Jenkins passed, the mayor of Mascoutah stated that “like everyone, he had some critics, but he did a lot of good for Mascoutah” … he also added that Jenkins was “a bit of an individualist.”
Jenkins moved to Mascoutah to purchase and operate the town’s weekly newspaper which he ran from 1934 to 1971.
He also owned an operated another local weekly publication, the New Baden news.
● This appears to have been a family tradition.
○ His father established 2 or 3 weeklies in Michigan
○ his grandfather founded the Iowa evening Statesman in Des Moines in 1868.
Jenkins most lucrative business turned out to be legal sales and office management forms for the mobile home industry.
● He copyrighted over 100 forms of which he sold millions each year to close to 7000 mobile home dealers.
● in the many biographies and memoria that were written about Jenkins, it was not uncommon to see him referred to as a Renaissance man .. himself being a writer, publisher, civic leader and art collector
● Apparently throughout his life , he kept folders and folders of clipped newspapers and magazines that contained poems or sayings which he found inspirational
● Jenkins eventually picked the “best of the best” of these tid-bits and self-published a small collection called the Silver Creek scrap book …
Silver Creek being the a stream that runs close by Mascoutah.
● This was followed by a similar publication of cooking recipes since Jenkins felt that most mid-western food was sorely lacking in flavor.
● When asked about his favorite passage in the scrap book, he cited a poem by Richard Cardinal Cushing, called “Slow Me Down Lord!”
● It begins, “Slow me down lord … ease the pounding of my heart by the quieting of my mind … steady my hurried pace with a vision of the eternal reach of time.”
● Jenkins followed this by saying, “sometimes its hard to slow down, I have so much to do”
● This may seem a bit random, but above is a photo of a printing press once belonging to Jenkins and sent to me (Lydia) by the Historical Society of Mascoutah
● In preparing for this morning’s talk, I contacted the Mascoutah Library, as well as their historical society.
● To my surprise, I learned that the historical society is now housed in the Jenkins publishing building we saw earlier with the red doors. In it is this printing press as well as a small exhibition devoted solely to Arthur D. Jenkins.
● I believe to say that Jenkins was a beloved figure in the community would not be an overstatement.
● Marilyn Welch, president of the historical society, told me that everyone of a certain age has a memory or story to tell about Jenkins.
○ her story :
● There was also a favorite tale in town that was often repeated about the time Jenkins decided to spray perfume on each newspaper one week. Apparently he went to the drug store, bought some perfume and stood by the press and squirted each one as it came off.
I am grateful for the opportunity to have gotten to know better such an interesting and multi-faceted character! I am envious of those who knew him personally.
I sincerely hope that Arthur D Jenkins would be pleased with the new directions that both the museum and library have taken. We continue to honor Jenkins legacy of providing a comprehensive collection of materials for the study of rugs and textiles.
While we continue to unpack and organize in our new location on Foggy Bottom, we look so forward to the opportunity to welcome patrons to our new space. We hope to do this by appointment early in the new year.”
This was the end of Lydia’s lecture, but the program went on a bit.
Jenkins was in the publishing business and it’s not clear to me how much he published on oriental rugs and other textiles (Lydia has referred to some pieces above), but two items are fairly visible.
In 1963, Jenkins and McCoy Jones seem to have curated a Textile Museum exhibition that drew on rugs and other textiles from both their collections.
There were 109 pieces in this exhibition, about evenly divided between Jenkins’ collection and Jones’. There are a few black and white images of pieces.
The introduction in this catalog talks about about Jenkins’ donation of his his textile library to The Textile Museum, and both Jenkins and Jones pledge to donate their collections to the TM.
A much more substantial publication is Jenkins’ “The Arthur D. Jenkins Collection, Volume I, Flat-Woven Textile,” published in 1981. This catalog is a handsome over-size hardback volume,
that presents 67 flat-woven items, many in full color. Carolyn Cootner curated this exhibition and recruited some folks to share (in a Part II) the results of some early efforts to study textile structures. Two early John Wertime articles of this sorted are included.
Since Jenkins was a publisher, it seems that he commanded the order of quality that was possible at an affordable price in 1981. The color in this flat-weave volume seems to me to be superior to that in the “Turkman” catalog published in 1980 by the TM. This seems to me to be a beautifully produced book for its time.
also knew Jenkins and spoke next.
He said Jenkins is well-known for the flat-woven textiles in his collection, but that he collected pile pieces too.
and it could be argued that his Turkmen pile pieces were the strength of his collection. A number of these appeared in the 1980 catalog “Turkmen”
edited by Louise Mackie and Jon Thompson and Jenkins, then the president of the TM board, wrote the Forward for this exhibition catalog.
Wendel presented some of these Turkman pieces in Jenkins’ collection.
(click for larger image)
Thompson calls this piece “Salor weaving at its most magnificent.” This is a very large trapping. It is 94 inches wide. Its three gul-forms are heavily decorated with pink silk. I have had it in my hands twice and it is easily the most magnificent Turkmen piece I have ever seen.
The piece below is a luscious Salor fragment, seeming from a chuval. Again there is an extravagant use of silk in the gul centers. Jenkins says somewhere that one reasons that he bought Turkman weaving is that they were more affordable than other varieties. He must have been thinking of classical carpets from the 16th to the 18th centuries that were still, when he started to collect, sometimes within financial reach for someone like Jenkins. So even glorious Turkmen pieces might then have then, often been relative bargains.
The next piece is another Jenkins Salor, this time a compartmented design. Again, there are silk details.
Yet another compartmented Salor weaving. Stars in the compartments. Thompson said in 1980 that this was, then, the only Salor piece known with this design.
A spectacular Salor asmalyk of the rare “bird” design. Jenkins’ birds are “sitting;” in some related pieces they are “running.”
Jenkins also had some wonderful Tekke material. Below is Tekke chuval face with heavy silk decoration. Note the second “elem,” above the top border.
The next piece is an ever more impressive Tekke chuval with drawing that places three full-guls within the borders. Thompson calls the visual effect of this piece “outstanding.”
The image below presents two more Jenkins Turkman bag faces. In 1980 both were called “Ersari,” but nowadays they would be described as “Middle Amu Darya.”
In 1980, Loges felt that weavings like the upper one of the two below, with their spaciousness and stacked gul placement were likely “Kizil Ayak,” and recent students of Middle Amu Darya sub-groups seem to agree. This chuval face is 50 inches wide. This image is one to click in order to seen the wide range of color in it.
The lower piece, of the two above, is also very large, at over 57 inches. It is a familiar “mina khani” design that the Turkmen adopted from the Persians. The border on this piece is also the one typically used with this field. Thompson says that “it’s attraction lies in its superb wool and strong colors enlivened with touches of magenta silk.” I own a fragment that is an approximate quarter of this piece, and it is among the best I have.
The next piece is a stunning example of a “Beshir” niche rug (now more commonly also designated as “Middle Amu Darya“). Thompson calls it a “true prayer rug.” Rugs of this type are seen as likely urban, commercial production, but are nevertheless one of the most sought after Turkman types. The range of color and color contrast are noteworthy, as is the skillful use of a brighter blue. There are many elements, motifs and patterns in this rug, but one does not experience it as too “busy” because of the effective use of different scales for different design elements especially the ivory background.
The next piece is another Middle Amu Darya rug that Jenkins must have especially prized.
It is the leading piece of only seven that he had actual images of included in the 1963 catalog of the exhibition he curated with McCoy Jones.
It is also the piece at his feet in the photo of him that we saw earlier of him at home.
Thompson praised its “superb colors and wool quality,” but also calls it, “an incompetent version of the herati pattern.” Jenkins seemed to have disagreed.
The next Jenkins Turkmen piece was this Yomut group chuval face.
Thompson noted the spacious drawing of this piece and linked features of the drawing of its guls with those on the “archetypal gul” of the famous TM Yomut main carpet.
The piece below is an Yomut instance of the familiar “bokche” pouch. Thompson estimates it to the mid-19th century. The reverse side of this one-piece pile weaving is not shown, but the use of white in it seems effective.
The next piece was a Yomut-group engsi (door rug). Thompson was not taken with this piece, but calls attention to the small designs, each composed of three triangles, that project into the field “on either side of the mid-line.” He says this feature is “unexplained” and its decoding “may help reveal the true meaning and origin of the Engsi design.”
We have mentioned Jenkins’ volume on the flat-woven pieces in his collection, and Wendel shared images of some of those as well.
This is a colorful Persian saddle cover. Jenkins calls attention to these colors and fact that this piece is signed, probably reading “Allah is Prophet,” and with a date 1295, which is 1878-79.
The piece below is a incomplete Senneh horse cover (it is missing the front tabs that would go around the chest of the horse). Jenkins says that “the offset arrangement of the the individual pattern units – two opposed botehs on a flowering tree – is such that the dark blue ground color which is exposed around this unit forms a subtle lozenge grid enclosing each unit. This can best be seen from a distance.”
The next piece is a Senneh kilim with an open field, herati spandrels, and an anchored medallion filled with the same herati pattern. Jenkins called it “handsome” and its overall design has strong graphic impact.
This is another Senneh kilim with vertical stripes containing meanders. Jenkins admired its colors and the precision of its drawing. He says that the weave is exceptionally fine.
The next piece is a Qashqa’i horsecover. Jenkins liked its colors and said this design is done in five different weaves and that its design devices include “animals within animals.” He notes that while the cover is woven in one piece, the animals change the way they face along a center vertical line. The cover includes an attractive green.
The kilim below features bright colors and considerable graphic punch, despite the fact that many of its devices are of similar small scales. The attribution is Lori or Qashqa’i, whose works were particularly popular among collectors during the 1970’s.
The next piece is a 20th century Veramin cover. Veramin is an area with lots of ethnic groups (even some Tekke Turkman sometimes) and a rich intermingling of design influences. Jenkins says that he saw Kurdish features in this piece and that the animals in it are similar to those of the Shahsavan. He also says that these squarish covers were used as soufrehs (eating cloths) and “ru-kursi” (charcoal brazier covers). The zigzag borders at the edges of the field are seen in Kurdish and Afshar sourfrehs from Khurasan. The greenish shades are distinctive.
This is a complete Moghan Shahsavan horse cover. Jenkins says this piece projects a “regal splendor.” He says that “Alterations in the scale and proportion of the motifs and directional arrangement of of the animate figures produce marvelous results.”
Here is a closer look at one detail.
Jenkins cites the wonderful color and says that some of the silk ornamentation is wrapped in metal.
The kilim below was attributed by Jenkins to either the Caucasus or to Northwest Persia, although today it would be referred to as Shirvan. He notes that the vertically-stepped design is driven by the limitations of its predominant slit tapestry weave. He does not mention its wonderful color.
The piece below is described by Jenkins as having an Caucasian-Azerbajani style. I think there would now be less hesitation about suggesting Shirvan. It has very good graphics. Again, Jenkins does not mention its colors.
Jenkins said that the coloring and and implied niche format suggest that this piece was woven in the Caucasus. Today we know that the use of this zili technique for prayer format rugs is rather rare. The use of cochineal, boteh motifs and “prayer” formats were popular. He describes the use of color as “random,” but does not say much about the borders, which relate to flatweaves from Turkey.
The next kilim is the first of the Anatolian pieces in Jenkins collection. The weave is cicim and he places it in eastern Anatolia. He notes the “rhythmic” use of light and dark squares impacts our experience with this pattern.
Jenkins says that the Anatolian cicim piece below was woven south of Adana. He remarks on its “numerous and random” and “fanfare” of strong colors. He says that the “hooked verticals in interlocking diamonds” is seen as an Anatolian Turkman usage. Notice that the smaller scaled border does not frame the larger devices of the field, but seem to dwindle away a bit, without aesthetic harm. For me, this smaller piece is the “star” of the flat-woven side of Jenkins collection.
Jenkins say the piece below is an “outstanding” kilim from the Malatya-Sivas area. He praises its use of pale yellow, orange and deep purple and notes that some features of color use and patterning, in this piece (in particular the white-bounded squares) work to produce a three-dimensional effect.
The last piece Wendel showed from Jenkins collection was the one immediately below. This piece appeared in black and white in the “Bosporus to Samarkand” catalog. There, it was was thought, perhaps, to be Balkan. It is about 4′ x 6′ and woven in two pieces in a double-interlocked weave.
Wendel, who collects and has studied Scandinavian textiles, said that this Jenkins piece would today be recognized as a Swedish weaving. He produced an image of a nearly identical piece in color (the second piece below).
Here are large versions of these two pieces arrayed vertically so that you can examine them more closely.
Bosporus to Samarkand Example
With this comparison this RTAM program on Arthur Jenkins, the TM Library, and beyond, came to an end.
I hope you have enjoyed this brief look at a significant aspect of TM history, and at Arthur Jenkins, a figure in it important to remember.
R. John Howe