Archive for April, 2009

Favorite Caucasian Rugs From Three Collectors

Posted in Uncategorized on April 1, 2009 by rjohn

On February 14, 2009, George Manger, Tom Newcomer, and Jerry Thompson gave a Rug and Textile Appreciation Morning program at The Textile Museum here in Washington, D.C. on “Favorite Caucasian Rugs From Three Collectors.”

There was a “full house.”




The material was drawn from the collections of George, Tom and Jerry, and most, if not all of the pieces shown, were included in an exhibition that Jerry curated in 2006 in the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts in nearby Hagerstown, Maryland.

An exhibition guide was produced for this 2006 exhibition


and, although, I have a set of notes on this “rug morning” session, I will also sometimes draw on the descriptions in this guide.

Tom Newcomer treated the first set of pieces shown.


Tom began with an eastern Caucasus piece that had a yellow-ground niche design.


It is described in the 2006 catalog as a “Marsali Shirvan.”

Here is a closer corner of this piece.


A “bird” border, “characteristic of Marsali prayer rugs” is employed.

Below is a detail of its niche and its field design.


The latticed field projects a “chevroned” effect that adds richness to this piece.

Last, a detail of a side border.


The second rug was a rare-ish, pictorial rug with a Marsali-type field of flaming botehs.   Eastern Caucasus.


Here is a closer corner.


The central pictorial features (which intrude on the borders) may illustrate an event from the great Persian classic, the Shanameh.


Perhaps a depiction of Rustam killing the White Shiv.

Below the scene above is a horse and rider.


I don’t recall any suggestions in the room about this latter figure. The third piece was another Shirvan.


I’ll simply quote the guide on this rug. “This unique design contains several different motifs including a kochak (ram’s horn) design alternating with stylized images of women’s jewelry.”


Guide: “These are placed on a red field and contrast beautifully with the major border consisting of a meandering ‘T’ design against a yellow background.”


A fourth piece was a flatwoven horse cover.  Its weave is sumak.



The field design features some roosters of a larger scale than one usually sees in such weavings.




Tom thought this interesting piece might be attributable to the Shahsavan, but is not sure. The 2006 guide attributed it to the “eastern Caucasus.”


The next piece is a khorjin bag face, 1′ 11″ X 1′ 10″.


This bag, in sumak, has what is widely described as a “beetle” or “bug” field design. 

Despite the liklihood that such designs are geometric, rather than representational, bags with them are vigorously sought by collectors, and often command impressive prices.

The next piece, an even smaller saddle-bag face, was attributed in 2006 only to the “Caucasus.”

My notes say that there was a suggestion in the room that it was likely Shahsavan.


The aspect of this piece that draws attention is the unusual prominence and domination of the borders over the very small striped field area.  Despite its unusual proportions, the piece “works” aesthetically.

One more Shahsavan piece was this long, narrow weaving, 1′ 4.5″ X 3.5″.

It features the, graphically strong, “bird on a pole” design, internally instrumented with “Greek crosses.”


It was described as a “shear” bag. It was used to hold the large shears employed in sheep shearing. The side facing us has a white ground.

The 2006 guide notes that the reverse side has a red ground.

Jerry Thompson took us through the pieces he had brought.


He began with the rug below.


Notice that the weaver abruptly changed the field design partway along. And the warps are continuous: this is not two different rugs put together.

Here is a closer upper half.


The 2006 guide notes that “It has a standard prayer niche at one end and also two prayer niches inverted in the spandrels.”

Here is a lower corner.


Jerry attributed it to Kuba.


The next rug was a Shirvan with an “ascending” field design.


“This rug is dated, but is difficult to read.”


It was estimated in the room to have been woven “around 1900.”  (Since publication of this blog post, someone has written me anonymously on the side, indicating that the date reads “1319” which would be 1901.)

Here is a closer look at its borders at one corner.


The next piece was the long, narrow, Daghestan prayer rug below.


It measures 6’5″ X 2′ 10″. The white ground is very effective and the wool of the pile is “velvety.”

Here are closer looks at its niche,


one corner,


and its latticed field.


“Rugs from the eastern Caucasus display many, minute design elements.”

The Shirvan rug below is an exceptionial one because of the spaciousness of its design.


(The 2006 guide uses the word “paucity,” but I prefer the more positive usage “spacious.”)

Here is a closer look at the spare instrumentation of its medallioned field.


And a detail of one corner.


Jerry owns one of the most sumptuous “eagle Kazaks” of which I know.


It has a full, meaty pile, wonderful color and graphic punch,


Jerry often says


that it has enough “Coke-bottle” green to slake the thirst of aficianados of that color.

George Manger


began discussion of the pieces he had brought with another “eagle Kazak.”


The 2006 guide indicates that this second piece “belongs to the earliest group of “eagle Kazaks.”

It also calls attention to the “two half circular ornaments” that “flank” the central medallion in this piece.

The guide suggests that if these two armatures and their contents were placed with their open ends together they would form a hexagon, and there are older, larger rugs in which this actually occurs.

The catalog also notes that these armatures are likely remanents of those found on 17th century “dragon” rugs.

Jerry Thompson noted that he used to own this second Kazak,


but sold it to George when he acquired the other one.

Since it has now emerged as the older of the two Jerry said the only fault he sees in it is that it belongs to George. 🙂

George continued treatment of the piece he had brought with a Karabagh with a niche design.


The guide to the 2006 exhibition notes that niche Karabaghs are very unusual.

Here is a closer corner of this piece.


Here is a field detail.

The field design is the “so-called ‘crab’ motif of ten seen in Caucasian rugs.”


The niche treatment is very unusual and there is “controversy about its significance.”


George’s next rug was the Perepedil attributed to Shirvan or Kuba.


“The distinguishing characteristics of this rug are the ‘Kufic’ border and the ‘ram’s horn’ design in the field.”

j17a j17b 

The next rug was another Shirvan.

j18 j18a 

Guide: “A hexagonal motif is bracketed by two flattened saw edged medallions. This motif has been related to ancient Egyptian and Persian royal insigna.”

A few closer details.

 j18b j18c 

This piece is indicated to have wonderful color and to be in mint condition.

The next rug was another eastern Caucasus piece with a Kufic border.

j19 j19a 

The guide from the 2006 exhibition says: “This rug has an overall arebesque lattice based on hexagonal forms…


The arabesque pattern with strong ‘Kufic’ border is possibly a descendant of the ‘early lotto’ Turkish rugs from the 15th century.”

j19c j19d 

This rug has 10 colors and a corroded brown that “accentuates” the arabesque of the field with an embossed effect. It is in “superb” condition.

The last rug George showed was the Alpan Kuba below.


Attributed to the area surrounding Seychour in the extreme northern part of…Kuba…

Here are closer looks at some details of it.

j20a j20b j20c 

Guide: “Authorities maintain that the geometric Alpan design can be traced, via Azerbaijan embroideries, to the pattern of unglazed tiles found throughout the Islamic…world.”

A number of pieces had been brought in and the session moved to consider them.

While I have a set of notes, often they indicate only the attribution given. So the comment from this point will, necessarily be “thinner” than has been possible so far.

The first “brought-in” piece was a complete khorjin set.


I don’t have an attribution, but I think the owner thought that it was Caucasian. The bag faces are done in sumak.

Here is a closer, more focused look at the “top” front in the image above.


The connecting bridge is done in slit tapestry with a large-scale, graphically impactful design.


And here is the “bottom” front panel from the comprehensive image above.


Harold Keshishian had brought an interesting old Caucasion rug fragment.


Here are some additional views of it.

 bi2a1 bi2b bi2c 

Harold attributed this piece to Seychour Kuba.

He says its design is “Persianate” and shows connections with “vase” carpets.

The next “brought-in” rug seemed younger and its owner acknowledged that it had been bought at a mall.


Here are some additional looks at it.

 bi3a bi3b bi3c 

Some saw Karachoff influences in the designs in this piece.

The next brought-in rug was attributed to the western Caucasus and described as a Kazak.


Here are three increasingly close images of the border systems and the field designs of this piece.

bi4a bi4b bi4c 

The next “brought-in” rug was the Shirvan below.


There’s a lot going on in this rug, but I like the way the larger scale of the main border design helps it frame the field.

bi5top bi5bottom bi5corner 

The next rug was another Shirvan.


Here are some additional closer details of this piece.

 bi6a bi6b bi6c 

Good, crisp design and a nice range of color.

The next “brought-in” rug had a niche design. bi7 

The larger scale and crisp spaciousness of its field devices give this rug good graphic punch.

 bi7a bi7b bi7c bi7d 

This rug was attributed to Akstafa before its current owner acquired it.

Akstafa rugs are a fairly recent Caucasian designation. You will find no references to them in some of the standard sources.

Some Akstafa rugs are said to have distinctive structural features, including materials that are S-spun and Z-plied, the reverse of what is most usually found in rug wools. The next rug had a more recent look.


Here are some additional details of it.


This piece is dated, but I think with Arabic numerals. If so, it should be read “1444,” an “Islamic” date well into the 20th century.

bi8b bi8c 

It was seen as likely woven in the south Caucasus.

The next piece was attributed in the room to Genje.


Its owner said that he found in an antique shop in the Virginia countryside and admired its yellow ground and its use of green. He also admitted to being partial to compartmented designs.


He said that he sent it off to vacation Turkey, from which it recently returned to grace his walls.


The next rug was the one below.


It was thought likely to be a species of Kazak. Here are two closer details.

 bi10a bi10b 

The strong primary colors and large devices give it strong graphic impact.

The next “brought-in” rug was the interesting piece below.


This nice piece was attributed to Seychour Kuba.

 bi11a bi11b bi11c 

Good colors are used effectively in this complex design.

This same collector had brought a second rug.


This rug is a Kazak.

bi12a bi12b 

Simple design elements in good colors are effectively framed by a white-ground border.

The next “brought-in” rug is my own.


It is a small Kazak that I bought maybe 15 years ago as a possible piece on which I might develop my repair skills. When my repair skills did not develop, I asked someone else to fix it.

It has a wider range of color use than the initial red, white and blue impression suggests.

The last rug was sizable.


It was seen to be a species of Kazak.

Here are some closer detail images of it. bi14a bi14b bi14c 

The session ended and folks came to the front get hands on and to talk over this nice Caucasian material.

 after6 after21 after3 after5 after4 

I want to thank Tom, George and Jerry for permitting me to share this virtual version of their program with you.  Thanks, also, to Pat Riley for a good set of notes.

I hope you have enjoyed this virtual version of a TM “rug morning” focused on Caucasian rugs.

Some of the pieces featured here from these three collections (and some others as well) were also treated in a post I made on in 2006. That post is still in the Turkotek archives. You can reach by clicking on this link:


R. John Howe