Michael Franses, Some of the Oldest Surviving Tapestries and Carpets

The symposium at Rippon Boswell in Wiesbaden last year offered attendees the chances to enjoy the hospitality of Herr Maltzahn and his dedicated team away from an auction’s hustle and bustle.

Travelling from the South West of England via Heathrow to Frankfurt I arrived on schedule at a clean AirBnB just two doors down from the symposium venue on Friedrichstraße. This elegant city can be recommended if only for the fine thermal baths, regular festivals of food and drink and other ad hoc events that spring up under the leafy boulevards and fine architecture.

The itinerary for the day included a series of lectures and announcements, a book launch (an academic treatise on Turkmen weavings by Jürg Rageth), an announcement relating to the imminent Sartirana Textile Show which would also include fine Turkmen artefacts, and an exhibition of Turkmen pieces upstairs, in the same galleries as the symposium, displaying many of the artefacts found in Herr Rageth’s impressive publication: ‘Turkmen carpets: a new perspective.’

The final lecture in the afternoon programme was given by Michael Franses who showed many wonderful pictures of rugs, carpets and textiles, some previously undocumented. His presentation included a focus on various artefacts from what was formerly known as East Turkestan and now is the far west of China. I visited this area ten years ago: the Taklamakan, Altai and the Kunlun Shan. During my visit I became painfully aware of the plight of the local indigenous population, the Uighurs, in the face of a flood of migrating ethnic Han Chinese from Eastern China (details of my visit can be found in another blog post on this site).

Michael extended his one hour slot to two. By the end I was eagerly anticipating his forthcoming publication in association with Hali. If I am not mistaken these theories may significantly shift current ideas about how various structural and pictorial aspects of woven art have come into being and from whence they have travelled. His observations about design elements and theories about where certain techniques of weaving may have originated were supported by an array of newly discovered artefacts and a reassessment of what have been commonly held beliefs concerning textiles from pre-history in the Tarim Basin, Mongolia and Southern Siberia.

Maybe I was impressed by his charismatic style or perhaps I was excited because I had only attended relatively few live events prior to this. I have visited many of the towns, cities and regions detailed on maps and graphics during Michael’s presentation so my familiarity with these locales brought back memories of carpet factories and bazaars. Whatever the reason for my excitement it seems that a chapter from another ‘great game’ will soon be available for all!