Ali Aydin on Turkish and Caucasian Rugs

On November 2, 2013, Ali Aydin,

Ali5

gave an Rug and Textile Appreciation Morning program on Turkish and Caucasian rugs, here at The Textile Museum in Washington, D.C.  Ali is a well-known dealer and skilled restoration practitioner, here in the D.C. area and is associated with a family member in Istanbul. He has given several previous RTAM programs.

Ali began with some Caucasians.

A1

A1

This rug is termed a “Borchalo” Kazak woven in the Southwestern Caucasus..  It is similar to rug 6 in Ralph Kaffel’s Caucasian Prayer Rugs, 1998.  The border and the field design and palette are all characteristic. 

Ali called attention to the “dragon” or “double-headed eagle” design used in the two larger outer borders.  He said that the Seljuks used this design, as did the Chinese.

A second rug was also a Kazak, this time of the Fachralo type.

A2

A2

The main border usages is very characteristic.  Compare with Kaffel, rugs 10 and 11.  The “insect -like” devices in the red-ground field are present in both rugs 10 and 11.

I want to put these two rug ups side-by-side in order to pass along something an experienced dealer pointed out to me.

  Ali 1-2

Now these are both strong rugs, but the old dealer said that he thought that the treatment of the niche-topped area of the rug on the right is aesthetically superior to that in the rug on the left.  He said that a niche-topped  area that does not touch the inside of the main border  on the edge of the field, tends, both to “float” in the red field and move in a different plane  than does the red field.  The niche-topped treatment of the rug on the left looks “flat” and lacks the “depth” of the one the right.  One doesn’t have to agree with him to see what he means.  An interesting  observation.

The next rug was a niche-design from Shirvan.

A3

A3

The rug above is a white ground field with a “lattice with flower forms” design.  The border is fairly frequent, but this version strains toward a curvilinear look.  Many versions of this border are more abstracted with a more rectilinear, conventionalized appearance.

Here are some details of A3.

A3a

Flower forms seems to repeat. approximately, every other lattice, reading horizontally.

A3b

A3c

A3d

A3e

Ali said

Ali4

that his fourth Caucasian piece was flat-woven.

A4

A4

This piece is done in sumac.  Its designs seem derived from Caucasian embroideries (See Schurman,139 on page 353).  The “armature” devices in the four corners of the field echo usages in the “Caucasian dragon rugs.”

Here are some details of A4.

A4a

A4b

A4c

A4d

A5

A5

Ali described A5 as “Marasali.”  It does not have the frequent boteh-dominated field of many pieces with a Marasali attribution, but Kaffel says that striped designs were woven in “niche” rugs in every part of the Caucasus, excepting the Kazaks of the southwest.  He notes that a glowing red is as indicative of Marsalis as is design.

Here are some detail images of A5.

A5a

A5b

A5c

A5d

Ali took us to his next piece.

Ali3

A6

A6

The dark field background that would tempt one to put this piece in the “black Marasali” Shirvan group is actually dark blue. Ali says that in his experience, blue Marsalis tend to be younger.  Its curved niche is noteworthy and the drawing immediately under the niche, moves toward the curvilinear.  It does not exhibit the use of color in the field devices to create diagonal effects.

Here are some details of A6.

A6a

A6b

A6c

A7

A7

Ali described A7 as “Shirvan.”

Here are some details of A7.

A7a

Ali called attention to the slight color difference from the yellow ground in the tax diamond device surrounding the “cross” in the image below.  Alie thinks such areas (and there are a number of them) are likely camel hair.

A7e

A7b

A7c

A7d

A8

A8

Compartmented designs are frequent in Central Asian rugs (e.g. engsis) and in Anatolian rugs (e.g. many Ghiordes designs) but do occur in some Caucasian rugs.

Ali said this piece was woven in western Anatolia.  The main border is unusual in Anatolian rugs but similar ones occur in Shirvans.

Here are some details.

A8a

A8b

He said that this piece may have animal and human forms in its designs. See the white “face” and the upside down “bird” forms in the detail below.

A8g

Here are a few more details of A8.

A8c

A8d

A8e

A8f

A9

A9

Ali said that this graphically attractive long rug was woven in the Konya-Cappadocia area of Turkey.  Although the rich gold is common in the Konya area, he said that you can only tell which is which by closely examining the weave.  The weave of this piece features nine wefts. The higher number of wefts more frequent Cappadocia usage.

There was a question about whether the wefts were unplied.  Unplied wefts are often used as a indicator that a given piece was likely woven in Turkey, and that led to the more general question of whether un-plied wefts could be considered to be a defining characteristic of a Turkish piece.  Ali said after that some Moroccan rugs have unplied wefts, but these would not be confused with Anatolian rugs, so for most purposes, un-plied wefts can be used as a defining characteristic of a rug suspected of being Anatolian.

Here are some detail images of A9.

A9a

A9b

A9c

A9e

A9g

A9h

Many Turkish weavers were Turkmen, who had come to Anatolia in waves from Central Asia.  Ali included some Central Asian Turkmen pieces as part of his Turkic examples.

This is an engsi (door rug) and was distinctive, in part, because the pile is thick for the Tekke location in which it was woven.

A11

A11

Here are some details of A11.

Relatively few “candalabra with animal head” devices staggered row to row on the four panels of an engsi is sometimes seen as an indicator of age. The articulation of the “combs” in the “animal heads” could also suggest age, since this is the sort of thing that is dropped out in conventionalization.  Wonderful red.

A11a

A11b

The main border with “winged” devices is unusual and simpler than some other Tekke engsi uses.

A11c

The next piece is a well-known Anatolian yastik, published, among other places, in Morehouse’s “Yastiks” catalog, number 39.  It has a wonder green and some purple.

A12

A12

Morehouse places this piece in western Anatolia and says that these repeating field forms occur in 17th century Ushak and Bergama rugs.

Here are two details of A12.

A12a

A12b

A13

A13

This yastik was described as from Karapinar.  Different color and design.  Morehouse offers a similar design (number 79) and places his in Mucur, although he admits it narrowness is not “pure” Mucur.

Here are some details of A13.

A13a

A13b

A14

A14

Morehouse offers four very similar pieces that he places in the Mucur area near Kirsehir or Karapinar..  Ali says that the Mucur pieces tend to have a much finer weave than do those from Karapinar and he places this piece in the latter area.

Here are some detail images of A14.

A14a

A14b

A14c

A15

A15

The next piece was another yastik of this design: better and much older than the previous one.  It was also woven in Karapinar.  The design of the last two pieces is one of the most frequently encountered in the market. 

I have what I think is an older one but in very poor condition.

JohnYastik1

Here is a detail of A15.

A15b

A16

A16

Ali indicated that this rug was woven in the village Inlice in the Konya area.  Very nice Memling gul, white-ground border.

Here are some details of A16.

A16a

A16b

A16c

A17

A17

The next two yastic have  striped fields and distinctive muted colors.  Morehouse shows four yastiks (81, 82, 83, 84) that are similar.  He says that such pieces are often attributed to Kirsehir but some have features typical of other areas.  For example this piece has a border similar to that on Morehouse 83.  He says a rug with this border was discovered near Arapkir, southeast of Sivas.  Morehouse 84 has a field closest to that in this piece but no real borders.

Here is a detail of A17.

A17b

The second yastik of this type is this one.  Ali says this its Mucur from the Kirsehir area.

A18

A171

Notice that A18 has two borders and lappets.A171c

Morehouse calls attention to the deliberate variation in the color placement in the stripes in some of these pieces.

A171b

A19

A18

This piece has some similarities with A14 and A15, but its “armature” devices in its field are more abstracted and its red-yellow palette is harsher.  Likely Mucur.

Here are some details of A19.

A18a

A18b

A18c

A20

A19

This is yet another yastik, but now we have moved to Eastern Anatolian.  Ali noted its purple ground and said that despite the fairly steep diagonals, especially in its border devices, there is no offset knotting in this piece.

Here are some details of A20.

A19a

Notice the use of a good, strong orange.

A19b

A21

A20

This piece has an unusual “architectural” design and was placed in Eastern Anatolia.  Odd coloration in the spandrels ground.

Here are two detail images of A21.

A20b

A20a

A22

A21Wendel

This Karpinar fragment was once thought by its owner to be from a large carpet.  He had in fact down a speculative elaboration of what the design of the large rug looked like.

But he has come to think that, despite the large scale of its major elements, it is from a yastik.  One is always awed anew by its aubergine.

I need to acknowledge that my photographs of the next very old fragment do not do it justice, but I am going to share what I can manage with you anyway.

This is said to be a fragment of a 16th century Anatolian rug from the Ushak area.

A23

SD CARD 001

It does not look much like more recent Anatolian rugs we know. Ali said that it has two wefts between rows of knots and that the wefts are un-plied, the latter often taken to be an indicator supporting an Anatolian attribution.

Here are some additional details of A23.  These details are a little sharper than the comprehensive image above.

A22a

SD CARD 005

SD CARD 004

A24

A23

The next piece was a fragment of an Anatolian kilim.  It was described as having been woven in the 18th century in Central Anatolia, close to the Cappadocia area.

Attention was called to its colors, especially the gold.

Here are some details of A24.

A23a

A23b

A23c

A25

A25

This Caucasian piece is likely a side panel from a cargo-type mafrash.  It is done in the flat-woven zili technique. Nooter says that zili is woven in a number of places in the Caucasus.

Here are details of A25.

A25a

Notice that the warps are horizontal in the image above but that we have rotated the image below to orient them vertically.

A25b

Notice the “corduroy” effect in this weave.  Zili is a species of brocade.  This weave results in rectilinear designs.

A25c

The next piece has the same weave structure.

A26

A24

This is a complete Caucasian khorjin set.  Again notice the crisp rectilinear design.  Nooter places two pieces very similar to the two we see here in the Kazak area.  Wertime places a newly identical zili khorjin set in Karabagh.

Here are some detail images of A26.

A24b

A24a

A27

A26

Its owner said that this lovely and unusual niche design was sold to him as woven in Anatolia, in Mihalic, near Dazkir.  Early 19th century.

Here are some details of A27.

A26a

A26b

A26c

A26d

A29

A27

This piece was described as Anatolian woven in Bergama before 1900.  It measures 3′ 1″ by 3′ 10.

Here are some details of A29.

The green designs in the field are similar to those in some very old Anatolian rugs in the Christopher Alexander Collection.  There they are seen a “Seljuk” type devices.

A27a

A27b

A27c

A27d

A30

A28

It features a field with cross-panels decorated with abstracted palmettes.  Its main border suggests that it may have been woven in the area where the “eagle” Kazaks were made.

Here are some details of A30.

A28a

It is inscribed with what seems to have been intended to be a date.  On the left top we seem to see a date of 1222 which would be a hard-to-believe: that is, early in the 19th century.  A second “date” seen above is 12222, which does not compute at all.

A28b

A28c

A28d

A28e

A31

A29

A31 is a Lenkoran long rug (Southeast Caucasus) with some wear.

Here are some details of A31.

A29a

This piece has at least two shades of green.

A29b

A29c

The outer trefoil border is nicely articulated  and uses dark blue, red and a nice green ground skillfully.

A29d

A32

A30

This four-medallion long rug was likely woven in either the Kazak area of Karabagh or in Northeast Turkey.  It’s palette suggests that it is 20th century.

Here are some details of A32.

A30a

A30b

A30c

A30d

A30e

A30f

A30g

A33

A31

This seems very likely to be new production.  It is probably from Afghanistan.  It uses Caucasian motifs, but with orientations that one would not find in an antique Caucasian rug.  The corners are unusual.  That type of drawing would not be found on an old rug.  Note that the corners are perfectly resolved, another indication of new commercial production.

Here are some details of A33.

A31a

A31b

A31c

A31d

A34

A32

This is a sumak mafrash end panel.  Someone suggested that it might be Moghan, but neither the color or the drawing suggest Moghan.  It was woven somewhere in Northwest Persia.

Here are some details of A34.

A32a

A32b

A32c

A35

A33

This piece is a classic Shemakha Shirvan flatweave.  Despite being larger than usual (27″ x 27.5″) this is an end panel from a cargo-type mafrash. Some have suggested that it is too large to be an end panel a cargo-type mafrash, but the dealer from whom it was bought said that two other panels from this bag were still with it when it was purchased.

Notice that the basic design elements “decay” on the sides, something seen in many Jaff Kurd bags.

Here are some details of A35.

A33a

Notice the classic Shirvan brown and white warps.

A33c

A33b

A36

A34

It appears to be woven in weftless sumak, a strong indicator that it was woven by Kurds in Eastern Turkey.  The owner once thought that it might have been one face of a large khorjin, but has become convinced that it was part of a mafrash when he compared its size to that of A35.  They are almost the same.  This piece is very finely woven and supple.

Here are some details of A36.

A34a

A34b

A34c

Ali took questions,

Ali1

and brought his session to a close.

The audience moved to the front, but today, I didn’t follow them.  Sometimes folks bring textiles not related to the program of the day for sharing with someone at the session and I followed Connie and Jim Henderson, who had brought an interesting Tunisian piece for Bill and Sondra Bechhoefer, who lived for awhile in Tunisia, to consider.

After1

Sondra and Bill are the first and third from the left.  Connie is on the far right and Jim is second from the left.  Second from the right is Ed Elmendorf, a member of the Textile Museum Advisory Council, who attended this program

Jim has given me a few more studied straight-on photos of this piece that he believes show its more muted palette accurately.

x123c

Jim also reported on the outcome of their examination of this cover with the Bechhoefers.

The piece is Tunisian, Gafsa Oasis region, c.1870, about 8’ x 7.’  It is a cover and might be used as a blanket by an entire family.  It features square devices amd a camel caravan.  It has a single dovetailed warp sharing weave.  There is also some diagonal and curvilinear wefting, e.g., at camel neck lines.

x123c LLcorner

The main question was whether this piece was constructed from parts of a large cover format called a “huli” or a complete example of a smaller one called “ferachiya.” 

To rehearse some of the points made, at one point Bill Bechhoefer wrote: “… Sondra and I can say with a fair degree of certainty that [your piece] it is from Gafsa, as indicated by the color palette, the design vocabulary and the evidence of white ground in the “caravan” and the squares in the center. Usually the squares make up the entire composition of the type called “ferachiya” … The stripes and caravan are typical of huli. But it is unusual to find both in the same piece. I suspect [if a huli] the piece was originally considerably longer (typically 5 meters), as these were often used as blankets to cover a whole family — the fact that the ends are turned over supports this. The dating to the end of the 19th century is reasonable, given the apparently natural dyes.”

x123c LR corner

The Bechhoefers had seen illustrations of end panels of a longer (about 5 m.) “huli” and the Henderson’s piece was not that long.  After examining it they concluded jointly that it was not  composed of portions of a “huli,” but was, instead, a complete and intact, but unusual, “ferachiya” cover.

Bill Bechhoefer wrote afterward that he had found a similar piece in a book on Tunisian weavings published in 1953. 

TT 31 copy

This ferachiya that is very similar to the Henderson’s. The book calls its example “moderne.”  That would put it in the first half of the 20th century.

The mixing of squares, caravans, and stripes may not be as typologically unusual as Sondra and I had originally thought, but the fact is that in the late 1960’s when we were regularly in the souks, we never saw anything quite like it. The Henderson’s is a fine piece, with good color, wool and design. Very “collectable” and “unusual” as a survivor.

I want to thank Ali for this program with strong material and the Henderson’s and Bechhoefer’s for letting us eavesdrop on their joint consideration of an interesting Tunisian textile.  This side conversation illustrates that these “rug mornings” are not just valuable for the programs themselves, but are often the occasion for rich interchange between members of the local rug community.

I hope you enjoyed yet another virtual version of The Textile Museum’s Rug and Textile Appreciation Morning programs.

Have a fine New Year,

R. John Howe

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