Gordon W. Priest, Jr. is a collector of antique Oriental rugs and bags who lives in Baltimore.
He is active in Washington, DC area rug events, and speaks from time to time at The Textile Museum’s “Rug and Textile Appreciation Mornings.” He is a past president of one Washington, DC area rug club. Gordon is a corporate lawyer by trade.
What follows here draws on three different TM “Rug Morning” programs that Gordon presented, the first entitled, “Carry-All: Khorjin of Kurdistan & Persia,” in 2005, a second, headlined “Persian Bag Faces, Rugs & Wagireh” in 2006, and a third presented early in 2009, entitled “Pile Rugs & Wagireh from Persia & the Caucasus.”
(“Khorjin” are saddle bags; “Wagireh” are samplers.)
I cannot promise to include all the pieces Gordon treated in these three programs, but can offer a generous selection from them.
We begin with the 2005 program on Persian rugs, bag faces, and samplers. From this point until the commentary at the end of the 3rd set, accompanying Harold Keshishian’s examination of a Bijar’s structure, the text will be in Gordon’s own words:
Here’s my patented stage property demonstrating how the 5 elements of a khorjin are woven as a unified, continuous piece, with the result that any directional elements on the first (bottom) face will be woven upside-down and, when righted in bringing together the completed 2-bag set, the pile on such face will run upward, contrary to the favored display direction.
Comment on GA1: This is an Afshar piece, from Kerman Province, in south central Persia. It was brilliantly composed by a veteran weaver of considerable technical skill and artistic flair. There are 3 aspects particularly worthy of note: The strikingly-hued floral blossoms and latch-hook motifs seem to float in the midnight-blue field; the white main border with the delicate meandering vine sharply frames the field and the central medallion; and the multiplicity of design and colors in the brocaded closure panels constitutes a distinct work of art within the overall production.
Detail of GA1
Comment on detail of GA2: Those colors are more clearly evident in this zoom-in.
Comment on GA3: Here’s a curious item with an appealingly primitive simplicity. Best guess: Probably not a bag face, but a practice set by a young weaver just learning her craft. Things are a bit off-center, and the stepped polygons in the upper third get crushed; she runs out of beige yarn at the end and has to complete the top 7 or 8 rows of the border with the red wool used in the field. But the colors are complementary, and it possesses a powerful rustic charm. Probably Kurdish, but one’s gut reaction is some sort of Kazak sampler.
Detail of GA3
Comment on detail of GA3: A corner view shows how crisp this is.
Comment on GA4: A cousin of Wendel Swan’s best-of-type Shahsevan bag face, with the same glorious colors, per se, and a superb juxtaposition thereof. This is a bit more horizontal, the handle is somewhat stiffer, and the closure panel differs from that normally seen in Shahsevan bags. All we can probably say is “northwest Persian”.
Detail of GA4:
Comment on detail of GA4: A good look at the cruciforms within the diagonal rows of diamonds.
Comment on GA5: A Karabagh bag face from the southwest Caucasus, with an accomplished use of color throughout. As with many khorjins, it frames a single representation of an infinitely repeated pattern, in this case, the Herati.
First detail of GA5
Comment on first detail of GA5: A view of the rich cochineal in the central medallion. This dye is produced from the females of a tiny species of beetles, and yields a striking blue-ish red.
Second detail of GA5
Comment on second detail of GA5: Lovely color contrast in the framing: deep indigo in the field, ivory inner and outer borders, a soft scarlet in between. The white and cornflower-blue line at the bottom is a small but graceful end-finish.
Comment on GA6: A bit of a puzzler; perhaps a Khamseh, from southwest Persia, but plenty of room for other opinions. The whirly-gigs appear to hover above the darkened sky of the field, and are reproduced in the closure panels. It has significant warp-depression, and thus a fairly stiff handle.
Detail of GA6:
Comment on detail of GA6: One can count, perhaps, 7 or 8 distinct borders in what is larger than a vanity bag, but fairly small as khorjins go.
Comment on GA7: As opposed to the many thousands of soumac khorjins woven by the Shahsevan, pile-faced bags are rare. This one features what we might call a “calamari” central medallion. The blocked rabbit ears in the main border are likewise unusual. It has a floppy handle and soft wool.
First detail of GA7
Comment on first detail of GA7: We can see here how she blew the alignment on the inner border. Referring back to the cardboard prop, we know from the fact that the pile runs upward toward the navy & ivory embroidery that marks the bottom of the missing closure panel that this face is the first of the 5 sections woven. It’s thus not surprising that the mistakes appear here. We could speculate that, if we had the other face from this set, it would be more technically correct due to the experience the weaver gained on this opening face.
Second detail of GA7
Comment on GA8: A Beluch (northeast Persia / northwest Afghanistan) khorjin half, consisting of a pile face (with closure panels) and corresponding flat-woven back, which has been un-stitched. A typically somber palate, but very lustrous wool.
First detail of GA8
Comment on first detail of GA8: The out “S” border mirrors the larger ones in the field.
Second detail of GA8
Comment on second detail of GA8: A pleasing row of bug forms within 12-sided boxes adorns an otherwise plain back.
Comment on GA9: Another Beluch bag, this one with the face and back intact. The other half of the pair is in my collection, but they are separated and, of course, the bridge panel is missing. Similar coloration, but the pile has had almost no wear, and the wool is even richer than the preceding piece. A Beluch such as this really needs to be viewed at poolside for maximum appreciation.
Detail of GA9
Comment on detail of GA9: The popular “S” border again, but here framing a lattice with 8-pointed stars inside. Note the white highlights.
Comment on GA10: Another complete half-set, probably Kurdish. It’s had little wear, and is surprisingly heavy; one is able to feel how sturdy and durable these utilitarian items were in their original condition.
Detail of GA10
Comment on detail of GA10: The alternating coloration of the closure panels is quite attractive, and echos that of the triangles in the outer border. The primitive “zipper” has survived.
Comment on G10: A khorjin face from the Qashqa’i, from southwest Persia, presented in a faux saddle-cover design. A typical palate from this tribe, with bricky red and deep indigo, complemented by white, orange, and blue-ish green elements.
Detail of GA11
Comment on detail of GA10: The inner border features miniature boteh. Note the fugitive red dye in the corner of the white outer border.
Comment on GA12: A Beluch chanteh (vanity bag), in a leaf pattern.
Detail of GA12
Comment on first detail of GA12: Here’s a corner view.
Second detail of GA12
Comment on second detail of GA12: A much better view, which may have been caught directly in the spotlamps. This again demonstrates how these Beluch weavings require a lot of light to strut their stuff.
Comment on GA13: An unstitched khorjin face, in reverse soumac, with pile elem (where the bag has maximum contact with the pack-animal), and plain-weave back, produced by the Shahsevan, in northwest Persia.
First detail of GA13
Comment on first detail of GA13: A better look at the 3 different weaving techniques employed in this single piece.
Second detail of GA13
Comment on second detail of GA13: Not an elecrifying specimen, but accomplished with great technical skill, such as the spacing of the field octogons and the resolution of the corners.
Third detail of GA13
Comment on third detail of GA13: Note the fine mix of colors within each of the border stars, as well as from one star to another.
Fourth detail of GA13
Comment on fourth detail of GA13: A broad palate in the field, as well.
Comment on GA14: A Jaff Kurd khorjin face, from northwest Persia or northeast Iraq, in an extraordinarily large format. In poor condition, this is nevertheless the sort of acquisition one of limited resources and/or experience might well make for a study of color, design, and structure.
Detail of GA14
Comment on GA14: The main border consists of a highly abstracted, but classical, dragon-and-phoenix motif. The diamond lattice enclosing latch-hook devices is, of course, the universal field design of the Jaff tribe. The ample use of green and aubergine are particularly attractive here.
Comment on GA15: Kurdish bag face, with an overall repeat field of rectilinear floral forms. Contrast with the Khamseh piece displayed earlier. Here, the somewhat cramped and overly complex motifs, and the more mundane blue of the field, create none of the drama of the former.
Detail of GA15
Comment on detail of GA15: An unusual main border of blocky “Zs”.
Comment on GA16: Possibly a small wagireh (sampler), or, like the earlier specimen, a practice piece by a young weaver. Weighing against the latter is the fact that all elements of the design appear to have been executed with fair precision. There are actually 4 distinct border designs within only 2 borders, per se, and the off-center placement of the bold medallion, as well as the serendipitous positioning of the other field designs, argues for a sampler. If this was its purpose, it certainly serves as a strong advertisement for the skills of this weaver, for the overall impact is one of significant primal power, of which her use of autumnal hues and a dense, rich highland Kurdish wool are significant elements.
Comment on GA17: My favorite among the thousands of Jaff Kurd bag faces I’ve seen. The broad Carolina blue lattice is highly unusual, and frames each diamond in a more dramatic fashion than the more conventional black, brown, and/or white-dotted outlining. The diamonds are comfortably spaced, and there’s a relaxed, flowing character to their relationship to each other that brings a kinetic quality to the piece. The stepped polygon border, while not unique, is not often seen, and has a skillful juxtaposition of mellow colors, such as the soft green and pumpkin. Even the shape is unusual, being considerably more horizonal than the typical square, or even vertical, Jaff format. Funky, but powerful.
Detail of GA17
Comment on detail of GA17: A zoom-in on that soft palate and the Tar Heel lattice. Note that the elem, which belongs at the bottom in actual use as a complete bag set, appears here at the top, so that the piece can be displayed with optimum light effect (with the pile running downward). This tells us that, as with the Shahsevan “calamari” bag face (as well as, statistically, 50% of the single khorjin faces extant), this one was the first panel woven in the 5-panel set.
Comment on GA18: This Jaff has quite striking colors, but it is generally darker in tone than the pieces immediately preceding and following, and could have been better appreciated in a bit more direct light. The simplicity of the single blossom border contributes to its impact, but its most compelling feature is its extremely lustrous pile: a tactile feast.
Comment on GA19: This Jaff has more of a Williamsburg tonality, which even extends to the powder-blue border, which would more customarily have been white. As is frequently encountered in Jaff bags (including the last), there is a diamond at or near the center in white or, in this case, yellow.
Comment on GA20: An odd Kurdish bag face with muted coloration, but a hauntingly archaic rusticity, to which the simplistic totemic figures in the field contribute significantly. Again, the unconventional horizontal orientation adds interest.
Detail of GA20
Comment on detail of GA20: The border is also a less-is-more equation.
Comment on GA21: This Kurdish double-panel large-format khorjin face has several noteworthy features: the reciprocal blue-on-red and vise-versa of the panels, the strong framing of the mustard border, and the elem in what appears much like Turkman motifs.
Comment on GA22: Another Kurd in the same large size, but here the two medallions are twins, and are not panelled off. The navy-white-green-red transition from perimeter to inner field is also quite effective in drawing one’s eye into the piece.
Detail of GA22
Comments on detail of G22: A corner close-up accentuates the color and design dexterity.
Comment on G23: As with the earlier Karabagh piece, this Kurdish khorjin face boldly frames a single representation of a classical Persian design, in this case, the Mina Khani. The weaver has skillfully employed rich complementary colors: pumpkin, cornflower-blue, salmon, and a bit of seafoam-green in the inner petals of the central floral form.
Comment on GA24: Here’s a face and elem from a bag from Kurdistan. The curious red forms at the top and middle look like 2 sets of shoulders-and-arms. The main border is, frankly, more effective than the field.
Detail of GA24
Comment on detail of GA24: No lack of technical precision, but thematically confused.
Gordon next treated the bag below.
Comment on GA25: The first of the pieces brought in by those in the audience, this has Veramin tonality, but such bags are almost invariably produced in a horizontal format. Very simplistic, but with a single high-impact motif. Contrasted with the last piece, this weaver had a strong purpose.
First detail on GA25
Comment on first detail of GA25: The elem matches the outer border.
Second detail on GA25:
Comment on the second detail of GA25: Here, we can see that we have a complete, attached set. The back is a pleasing series of narrow horizontal stripes.
Comment on GA26: A nice-looking Jaff Kurd khorjin face and attached, but unstitched, back.
Detail of GA26
Comment on GA27: Baluch bag face, with a very striking tic-tac-toe border.
Comment on GA28: A well-executed soumac khorjin set, but the colors have suffered either severe sun-fade, synthetic-dye dissipation, or both.
Comment on GA29: An interesting central motif, surrounded by trees and latchhook medallions.
Comment on GA30: Probably a Kurdish khorjin face.
Detail of GA30
Comment on detail of GA30: Quite similar to item 24.
Comment on GA31: An odd, but not displeasing arrangement, wherein the borders constitute 80% of the composition.
Comment on GA32: A borderless soumac bag face and back, with Jaff-like latch-hook medallions.
Comment on GA33: Bold simplicity and positive-negative with the columns of stacked diamonds in this complete flat-woven khorjin set.
First detail on GA33
Comment on first detail of GA33: The striped bridge likewise accomplishes more with less.
Entire back of GA33:
Comment on entire back of GA33: Ditto as to the back.
Comment on GA34: Here’s a real jewel, and note that the colors on the borders of the 2 faces are entirely different. Similarly, the central medallion on one is in cornflower-blue, while the other is in seafoam-green. A knock-out bridge, to boot. Also, animals and a strong abrash in the red surrounding the medallions; this guy has it all.
First detail of GA34
Comment on first detail of GA34: We can see here that she runs out of the blue yarn for the border at the same time she uses up the darker red for the field.
Second detail of GA34
Comments on second detail of GA34: Translation of inscription: “I’m a stone fox!”
Comments on GA35: A full set, with a most attractive diagonal stripe arrangement within a blue frame.
Detail of GA35
Comment on detail of GA35: Very crisply executed.
Comments on GA36: Another complete khorjin set.
First detail of GA36
Comment on first detail of GA36: Note the elaborate diamond lattice bridge in soumac with cruciforms.
Second detail on GA36
Comment on second detail of GA36: Killer color in the main border.
Comments on GA37: A Jaff bag with highly-saturated dyes in a wide range of color, nicely set off by the simple border.
Detail of GA37
Comments on detail of GA37: Seven or 8 different colors, just in this corner shot.
Comment on GA38: Harold’s wonderfully abstract Bijar bag face has a mesmerizing fluidity. Perhaps a view down into a lower level of the solar system from a hole in the cosmos?
Detail on GA38
Comment on detail of GA38: A closer look accentuates the glorious color, but is just as mysterious as the piece as a whole.
Comment on GA39: A single “S” from the large-format “zili” family of flat-woven Caucasian covers.
First detail on GA39
Comment on first detail of GA39: Effective use of pink and olive green.
Second detail of GA39
Comment on second detail of GA39: Lots of interesting minor design elements that are obscured by the “S” itself from the longer perspective.
Comment on GA40: Typical Kurdish tones and designs redeployed in a transport bag anyone would be proud to carry on the plane, albeit not a khorjin.
(Ed: With the image below, we begin with pieces shown in a second RTAM program by Gordon in 2006. Image numbers will now sometimes have gaps because we dropped out images of pieces shown in the first “rug morning” treated above.)
Comments on GB1: A Bijar wagireh, from northwest Persia, with some lovely colors, particularly the cornflower-blue in the lower panel, and the green in the leaves of the main border. Bijars are too stiff to fold, due to the 3 or 4 wefts that are pounded in with a comb-like device between each row of knots. Thus, they’re referred to as the “rugs of iron”.
Comments on GB2: One my top 5, this Bijar wagireh was in Wm. Randolph Hearst’s collection at San Simeon. It features 4 distinct borders, a broad range of colors, and a multiplicity of medallion, all-over-repeat, and floating motifs, in fields of pale gold, camel, and then deep walnut, dramatically divided by bold red-and-blue steps. A joy to behold, and so heavy it requires 8 alligator clips to maintain it on the wall.
Comment on GB3: Another top-seed, this one a Qashqa’i wagireh, from southwest Persia. It has 5 different border samples (including the wonderful forest green section on the right center), 3 separate field panels, and a classic 4-armed medallion that serves as the trademark of this tribe.
Comments on GB4: This is a balisht, or cushion cover, the Beluch equivalent of the Anatolian yastik. The blue and red totemic motifs on the camel border provide a brighter, more accessible, effect than the normally somber palate of weavings from this area.
Comments on GB7: Here’s another Beluch with similar brighter coloration. It has a very Kurdish look to it, particularly with the stepped-diamond polygons in the field. The usual wide, striped, plainwoven ends are missing. This piece has a very supple handle and exceedingly lustrous wool.
Comments on GB8: A small jewel, and quite unusual: A Senneh wagireh from northwest Persia, with swatches of 4 border and 2 abstracted field designs, juxtaposed with a considerably more naturalistic floral figure very effectively imposed on an otherwise unadorned mustard field.
Comment on GB9: A northwest Persia camel caravan long rug. The field is, unfortunately, shot, but the borders are in relatively good shape. This was picked up for the price of a rag at a country junk auction, and the only other one that I’ve ever seen was in pristine condition and offered by a West Coast dealer several ACORs back at a justifiable king’s ransome.
Comment on GB9a: A close-up of two of the dromodaries, one of which is grazing.
Comment GB9b: Probably the best-preserved corner, and the animals are rendered in a magnificently naive form, with dogs and humans appearing sporadically.
Comment on GB10: A small-scale Karaja rug, from northwest Persia, with typical colors from this group, and a sparse, but durable, weave.
Comment on GB13: A typically-sized Beluch rug with a leaf design. The most effective feature is the tic-tac-toe main border.
Comment on GB14: Another Beluch with the same dimensions, but this one with a repeating Mina Khani field design.
Comment on GB14a: A typically-Beluch employment of white to accentuate the focal point of repeating motifs.
Comment on GB15; This Kurdish village long rug derives its power from the spacious camel field.
Comment on Gb16: A real meaty guy in its prime, this Saj Bulaq Kurd long rug achieves much visual appeal despite a surprisingly limited palate. Similar to the last example, its spaciousness is a significant factor.
Gordon next moved to the rug below.
Comment on Gb17: Here’s a northwest Persian runner, but a wide one, possibly Shahsevan. It has quite a diverse palate, and the alternation of the octogon and “branch” medallions affords more interest than a vertical repetition of a single primary form.
Comment on GB17a: The main border is its most striking feature, with diamonds surrounded by ram’s horns, or serpent heads.
Comment on GB17b: A zoom-in on the 2 different medallions.
Comment on GB20: This is a pile-woven side-panel from a Saj Bulaq Kurd mafrash, which is a 3-dimensional bedding bag. These bags are more frequently produced in soumac.
Comment on GB20a: The weaver made a very effective use of mostly red, yellow, and several shades of blue, with seafoam-green in the left and right medallions, and aubergine in the central one and as a very abstracted leaf in the meanering border.
Comment on GB20b: There’s a very delicate navy and white trefoil border flanking the main one. The boldly striped flat woven strip at the top is actually about one-third of what was the bottom of the box in its original form and with the 5 constituent parts (2 side-panels, 2 end-panels, and a bottom; the top would have been open) assembled.
Comment on GB25: Someone went to considerable trouble stitching together the fragments of what had been a very attractive Hamadan rug, with a Herati field design, into a mini-runner.
Comment on GB25a: The white-ground borders were cleverly redeployed to finish either end and separated the new piece into 2 field sections.
Comment on GB28: This Jaff Kurd khorjin face was shown earlier, but here’s a much better shot. An unusual aspect is more apparent here: The half-diamonds disappearing beneath the left and right borders contain ever-diminishing diamonds themselves, rather than the typical ram’s-horn seen in the rest of the field.
Comment on GB30: Another Jaff Kurd bag face, but the ubiquitous diamond lattice contains subsidiary diamonds surrounding 4-mini-diamond clusters, in turn surrounded by latch-hooks. The lattices are outlined here by white dots. The border of various-colored hexagons is unusual.
Comment on GB32: Here’s a Shahsevan long rug that achieves great potency through a simplistic single white ground border and a dark brown field. Unfortunately, the iron mordant used to fix the walnut husk dye-stuff has corroded significantly over the decades.
Comment on G32a: Here we see the substantial range of colors used for the boteh, always surrounded by a checker-board design, with a tree-of-life almost always in the center.
Comment on GB32b: A closer look at one of the boteh, and the border.
Comment on GB32c: Quite coarsly woven, with a supple handle.
Comment of GB33: Also on my A-list is another Shahsevan long rug, with mellow primary colors and a floppy handle. The big fascination here is that the weaver has created in pile what would have been quite a vigorous kelim, including all the right-angles mandated by the tenuous structure of that flat-weaving technique. We can’t declare it unique, but no one in attendance could testify to having seen another specimen, either in a photo or in the flesh. Much archaic force.
Comment on GB33a: A closer view of the garden-variety paneled kelim format.
Comment on GB34: An unusually large Afshar rug, woven with great precision and clarity, possibly as tribute for a person of considerable prestige or authority. A stiffer handle than weavings from this tribal group, probably due to greater warp-depression. The boteh are very effectively framed by the mustard lattice on the midnight-blue field, which shows some abrash in the lower 6-8 inches of the field. A more subtle grace-note: The narrow multi-tone barber-p0le end-finishes echo those of the selvages.
Comment on GB40: Sofreh are flat-woven cloths in various sizes for a number of different uses con- cerning food production and serving. This Qashqa’i example is one used to cover and serve bread. The embroidered end finishes here are a dynamic contrast to the open field and simple deep indigo border.
Comment on GB44: Here’s a delicate little Bahktiari chanteh (vanity bag) face, with asymetrical and highly stylized floral forms, including the petals rocketing to the right from the off-center main blossom. A very art deco look.
Comment on GB45: A handsome Kurdish bag face, including elem, from a member of the audience.
Comment on GB46: A wanky, but appealing, Jaff Kurd khorjin face from out of the audience.
Comment on GB47: A Beluch bag face from the crowd, with some blue undertones and white cotton highlights.
Comment on GB48: A Saj Bulaq Kurd fragment turned into a pillow. Nice leaf-and-calix border on a mustard background. The densely-packed field has a bas-relief effect due to corrosion of the dark brown field pile.
(End of GB series)
Beginning of GC series)
Comment on GC5: Here’s a Malayer rug, from northwest Persia, with a city workshop look to it, being more naturalistic and curvilinear in the representation of its floral forms. Superb technical execution, and the colors complement each other well.
Comment on GC5a: Minor yellow-ground borders, framing a main one in red, is a combo that frequently works well, as here.
Comment on GC5b: The central Herati medallion is flanked by a Harshang motif at either end.
Comment on GC5c: The blue subsidiary Harshang within the principal red version creates a mother-and-child effect more frequently observed with boteh.
Comment on GC11: A Zakatala sleeping rug. Largely unknown before the fall of the former Soviet Union, these began to trickle out of the southwest Caucasus thereafter. These rugs are almost uniformly squarish in dimension, coarsely woven, long-piled, sparsely-adorned, and with the warp-ends braided in groups.
Comment on GC11a: This specimen’s particularly spare presentation, with the simple over-sized saw-tooth main borders and the ever-coveted plain white field, enhances its impact.
Comment on GC11b: On the back, we observe the 5 or 6 wefts between each row of knots, which creates much of the meatiness of these rugs; the 5-cord edge finish, akin to the Baluch selvage, is also on display.
Comment on GC12: A classic Genje long rug, from the southwest Caucasus, with bold primary colors.
Comment on GC12a: The narrow inner border matches the outer’s design, but the choice of yellow more dramatically sets off the royal-blue field.
Comment on GC12b: The boteh are well spaced, and the alternating colors maintain interest. Although the often-encountered horror vacuui is manifested here, it’s quite unobstrusive.
Comment on GC12c: The archaic bird’s-beak main border, with alternating red, green, and blue backgrounds, is this piece’s most successful feature.
Comment on GC14: The ubiquitous boteh appears again as an over-all repeat field design, this time in a long rug from the Armenian enclave of Karabagh, also in the southwest Caucasus, and, appropriately, once in the collection of the late, great Jim Keshishian.
Comment on GC14a: Contrasted with the Genje, it has some modest warp-depression, which permits a slightly more curvilinear treatment of the design elements. There is also a far greater range of colors. Lots of small, crude zoomorphic figures filled in here and there.
Comment on GC14b: Among that remarkably diverse palate, we see an ample use of cochineal, encountered more frequently in Karabagh weavings than any other, and discussed earlier in the examination of the khorjin face from this region.
Comment on GC15: Yet another southwest Caucasian long rug, this from Kazak.
Comment on GC15a: Like the Genje, its most striking feature is the main border, this one with opposing 4-headed serpents alternating with cruciforms upon a white ground. It’s suffered significant wear, most prominently in the minor borders, where the walnut brown has corroded down to the foundation.
Comment on GC15b: The cornflower-blue central medallion is boldly offset by the stepped white frame, in turn accentuated by the white dice.
Comment on GC15c: One of the 2 flame medallions at either end, which lend a kinetic aspect.
Comment on GC16: This Fachralo Kazak prayer rug, from the southwest Caucasus, and the one that follows, were conveyed gratis about 15 years ago from a neighbor, who had no idea what they were, and had long been using them as mud-scrapers at the front and back doors. They came out beautifully from 2 rounds in the bathtub with Orvus paste, although they absorbed some additional wear in the time since. Here, the 10-sided central medallion, which is the Fachralo trademark, is, as usual, set within the prayer panel.
Comment on GC16a:The main border on this one features saw-tooth triangles, while the field outside of the prayer panel has large crab motifs.
Comment on GC17: The Fachralo medallion on its fellow victim has an unusually horizontal shape. The field has a pleasing spaciousness afforded by the judicious placement of the highly rectilinear blossoms.
Comment on GC17a: Another instance of the effectiveness of a white ground for a main border, this time with simple cruciforms connected by a 45-degree meander.
Comment on GC17b: Unlike the first one, this, and the Fachralo following, have a prominent niche at the base of the prayer panel, complementing the mihrab, at the other end.
Comment on GC18: This version rates as unusual, due to its more somber red and a prominent use of forest green. Note that the prayer panel is so relatively large that what might otherwise be the red field is relegated to a second main border, inside the outer one, which is done in the ubiquitous leaf-and-calyx design.
Comment on GC18a: The boxed ram’s horns surrounding the Fachralo medallion mimic the 4 tendrils protruding from the medallion itself.
Comment on GC18b: Another mother-and-child configuration with the central medallion.
Comment on GC18c: Three sets of simplistic ribbon guard borders.
Comment on GC38: This piece from the audience displays a variation on the Herati design, with lavish floral protrusions from the 2 main medallions.
Comment on GCnondup1: This is a yastik (cushion cover) from central Anatolia. It’s in great condition, and the absence of any side borders, and of any outlining of the alternating black, red, and pale-blue batman and swastika figures drifting on the white field, give it an eerily abstract effect. The rich red lapis (end panels) set off the white ground quite crisply. I saw this several times over the years at dealer’s fairs, and it’s been published at least twice, but I grabbed it when it became available again at the most recent ACOR.
Comment on GCnondup2: Another keeper, this Bahktiari (southwest Persia) khorjin face displays primitive and ghostly serpents (?) positioned as graceful, but dynamic, overlapping waves. A white ground border never hurts. This one slipped by me a few times in the past decade, most recently last year as a “just sold” on RugRabbit. But then, last spring, it came into the always-interesting Williamsburg inventory of amiable retired Marine officer and rug dealer John Murray, who was in the midst of a modest liquidation to fund a 4oth reunion trip with his former military company back to Vietnam, and I was delighted to contribute to the cause.
Comment on GCnondup3: Canakkale yastik, western Anatolia. With a multiplicity of borders, the absence of lapis, and the chain of diamond medallions in the field, this one looks more like a miniature rug than the usual yastik.
Comment on GCnondup4: A Malayer wagireh, northwest Persia. Single-wefted, as with many from this village. Three distinct borders are featured, along with 4 different field designs. Earth-tones abound.
Comment on GCnondup5: This Kuba, from the northeast Caucasus, has nice bold colors in the shield-like pomegranates, accentuated by the nearly black ground.
Gordon moved next to the Caucasian rug shown in full below.
Comment on GCnondup6: Here’s a very crisply rendered Shirvan, from the northeast Caucasus, accomplishing much with only 5 colors (and 2 of them indigo). The key is the visual impact of the white carnations popping out of the field. This piece was “stolen” from a clueless Baltimore French antiques dealer. It had turned up as a muddy heap among a shipment of furniture she’d just checked in from New England. Orvus paste to the rescue! I was born too late; the real old-timer collectors were scoring coups like this 10 times a year in Boston attics and Hicksville auctions.
Comment on GCnondup7: A Melas prayer rug, western Anatolia. Pretty much garden-variety in its design and configuration, but it has good strong dyes and is well-executed. The sharply notched mihrab is a dead give-away, but even where not in a prayer-rug format, rugs from this village are instantly recognizable as such on the basis of their soft palates.
(Ed.: Here, below, is a piece that slipped by us as we assembled this virtual version. We’ll call it “Added1.”)
Comment on Added 1: I’ll have them toss this one in the coffin, as well.
It’s a Bijov, which is a sub-set of the Seychour catagory, which in turn is a sub-classification of Kuba, in the northeast Caucasus. The salmon, green, yellow, red, and white floral figures radiate from the predominantly royal-blue ground, which abrashes to cornflower-, midnight-, and finally, powder-blue, at the top.
The weaver starts with a fairly elaborate, but narrow, border at the bottom, but soon abandons it for simple inter-locking “S”s, which better allow the vibrant field to speak for itself. The typical Kuba macrame honey-comb end-finishes are largely intact, as are the oft-encountered 4-cord blue selvages. It sports a very supple handle, creamy wool, and draws much favor from its fairly diminutive size.
I acquired this perennial crowd-pleaser about 15 years ago from a well-known high-end dealer, but stalked it in his inventory for about 2 years before; surreptitiously, or so I thought, but my enthusiam must have leaked out, because he cut me little slack at the moment of truth. All this time down the road, I still can’t blame him, and harbor no regrets.
“Rug mornings” at The Textile Museum draw a crowd of regulars. Some of us are nearly always in attendance. More, a number of us are collectors and belong to the local rug club, so there is sometimes a fair amount of experience in the room. So it is easy for “rug morning” conversations to take on a kind of “insider” character.
But these are free Textile Museum programs open to the general public and folks with little or no real knowledge of rugs and textiles are often in the audience. So it is important to remain conscious of the fact that sometimes what might seem obvious to more experienced folks requires a little more explanation in such a session.
Harold Keshishian, whom you saw recently in the “small bags” post, was one of those “present at the creation” of the Rug and Textile Appreciation Morning programs is one of those always alert to the needs of less experienced folks who might be in the audience.
Someone had brought in a Bijar runner that was cut off, exposing the foundation in a way that is not often seen. Harold saw this as an opportunity to learn for folks with less experience and came to the front of the room to point this out.
Harold attracted attention to the cut, raw edge of this piece.
Then he said, illustrating with his fingers,
that in many rugs the warps are all at the same level, that there is little or no what is called “warp depression.”
But, he continued, in some rugs every other warp is depressed to a lower level (usually by a taut weft that goes over one and under the next, and holds them at different levels).
Sometimes this depression is slight, but in some cases it is so deep that the lower alternate warps are directly beneath the upper ones.
The cut edge of this Bijar runner, he said, is a rare opportunity to look directly into a fully depressed structure.
Harold’s explanation of depressed warps was dramatic enough that he got Wendel Swan (who has been looking at depressed warps, knowledgeably, for 30 years) to look at this example.
This little vignette is just to show how the interests of less experienced folks are sometimes protected in these rug morning sessions. Good job, Harold.
This is the end of this “composite” post of three “rug mornings” that Gordon Priest presented.
As usual, here are some “after” images of Gordon and audience members at these three sessions.
I want to thank Gordon
for permitting me to put up a virtual collage of these three programs and for working diligently with me doing all the selections and commentary.
Thanks also to Gordon’s wife, Liz,
who did some early internet facilitation and took some needed photos toward the end.
I hope you have enjoyed this virtual version of three “rug mornings.”
R. John Howe