Archive for February, 2010

Saul Barodofsky on “Nazarlik”

Posted in Uncategorized on February 28, 2010 by rjohn

Dear folks – On January 16, 2010, Saul Barodofsky

gave a Rug and Textile Appreciation Morning program, at The Textile Museum here in Washington, D.C. on the topic:

Nazarlik :” Small pieces as a window into the consciousness of tribal peoples from the Silk Road.

Saul is a dealer in Charlottesville, VA, who has traveled the world, importantly all over Turkey and Central Asia, in search of interesting textiles. He has frequently conducted previous TM “rug morning” programs.

What follows here is a virtual version of Saul’s presentation that draws on a set of notes taken for me, the photos I took during it, Saul’s treatment of this same subject on his website, and Saul himself as we edited this post.

“Nazarlik,” Devices of Protection & Good Luck

The term “nazarlik” in Saul’s program title may need a word or two of explanation.

Saul began by indicating that one belief held by nearly all humanity throughout human history is that their interactions with the “unseen” can produce good or evil results. He said that “This belief in “luck” or “Divine” interaction seems to be a universal human characteristic that transcends physical location, education, religion, wealth, social status or lack thereof.”

The ancient Greeks believed in this power. They even had a name for its application: “Apotropaic” meaning having the power to prevent, to ward off, evil or bad luck. (You can occasionally encounter use of this word in more rarefied levels of conversation in the rug world.)

Saul said that while he is most familiar with the belief in the unseen worlds in Turkey, the phenomenon of worrying about evil and of taking personal steps to deal with it, is spread along the length of the Silk Road.

“Nazar, Saul said, is an Arabic word for “a glance or look” which may contain (even unconsciously) evil thoughts like envy, greed, jealously and hatred. “Nazarlik” are devices that operate like lightning rods repelling and/or misdirecting the “evil eye.”

And this is what Saul’s program was about.

He had the front board in the Myers Room covered (more than one layer) with amulets, nazaliks, fertility, and good luck pieces. And he led us through an array of examples he had brought.

Nazarlik as a Pre-Islamic Residue

Saul said (and this is likely true for much of the Middle East generally) that the belief in the “evil eye” and in “nazarlik” likely belongs to pre-Islamic eras when shamanistic beliefs were predominant.

Conversion to Islam has not, seemingly, led to the shedding of some pre-Islamic beliefs.  Islam is experienced as a kind of firm overlay, but previous beliefs still operate strongly without any experience of contradiction.

He said that in Konya, a highly religious and conservative area of central Anatolia, the locals find no apparent contraction between their formal Islam and their usage of a symbol from pre-Islamic, shamanistic times for example — the Shah Miran, the Queen Goddess of the Snake.

Here is a Taimany Baluch example from Afghanistan, with a Shah Miran design.

If locals are queried about this seeming contradiction, they merely state, “She is a nazarlik.”

Saul had two more pieces with a “Shah Miran” field design.

Here is a Antep Kurdish example from S.E. Anatolia.

Here is a Hakkari Kurdish example – also S.E. Anatolia.

This version has interesting horses in its corners.

Saul sketched beliefs and behavior he has observed regarding nazarliks in Turkey and Central Asia.

He said that while we might smile at examples of such belief in traditional societies, we need also to remember that even in the “modern and rational America of 2010, we have a continuing unease with the number 13 in hotels, office buildings and airplane seating. In addition, we avoid black cats, carry a rabbit’s foot, knock on wood, wear religious symbols as jewelry, and hang an upside down horseshoe on a barn or home to protect the inhabitants from evil.”

The similar superstitions actively practiced in our own society could be multiplied.

Saul began with the general observation that “within Turkic society colors, symbols, pattern and design are used to ward away malefic intent, and call forth beneficent interactions.  Other societies within modern Turkey (like the Kurds, the Alawites and the Yezdis) view colors and patterns in the same way.  Even non-Islamic Turks (the Jews and Christians) conform to the social usage of nazarlik.

The Ubiquitous “Blue Bead”

Perhaps the most ubiquitous nazarlik is the blue “evil eye” bead.

Even the most westernized Turks may have a small blue bead pinned under their suit collar (This is especially true of small children), and most still carry their tasbih or prayer beads (for prayer and good luck).

Even a “modern” Turkish mother will pin a blue bead on her child’s clothing.  Just in case.

(Ed. I have seen a blue “evil eye” bead on the bumper of a BMW in Istanbul.  Some folks define their “children” variously.)

Color as Nazarlik

Why “blue?” one might ask.

“Well,” Saul said, “the color blue not only represents the sky, which is closest to god, it is also the color of the peacock, which to the Yezdis is the creature favored by God’s favorite angel – Shaitan.”

Yet another explanation is that when the dye indigo was introduced, people were in awe of the fact that it was yellow, as it came out of the dye pot, but then instantly, astoundingly, turned blue.  Despite the fact that this phenomena is natural, and merely the result of the dye stuff being exposed to the air’s oxygen, it was so awe-inspiring to ordinary people that the color blue assumed magical properties for many.

It should also be noted that the usage of blue beads goes back many thousands of years.  For pictorial examples, see The Mummies of Urumchi, by Elizabeth Wayland Barber.

Many of the pieces that Saul had brought featured very bright, even garish colors.

My own previous assumption has been that women in many traditional societies simply favor the brightest colors they can produce or find, and that may still be true to an extent, but Saul provided an alternative explanation.

He said that, for example, Kurdish belief holds that evil does not like pink, orange and other bright colors. Often one can observe Kurdish homes and doorways painted these very bright colors, as are their long-distance trucks.

Saul said that Kurdish weavings usually feature some pinks and oranges – sometimes the fringe is brightly dyed (this doubles the protective effect because fringe moves and, as we will see, below “evil” is thought to have a short-attention span and can be distracted by both color and movement).

This belief may explain why the baby carrier below, that Saul had brought

seems to have a body and back done in naturally dyed colors.  Whereas the fringe is almost electric.

Here is a closer look at a detail of this back.

As one can see, the front is solidly arrayed in tassles, which are bright, bright and bright…using angora goat hair for the shine.

What may be driving this use of bright colors is not just the liking of them, but the desire to protect the baby! (Note the long goat hair fringe, which will, when in motion, creates a distraction away from the baby itself.)

Movement as Nazarlik

A we have noted above, it is believed that ill intentions are attracted by and diverted away by movement.

So features like fringes and tassels are employed for this reason.

Armed with these insights, we scanned the items that Saul had brought for other similar seeming usages.

Here is a Kurdish wedding cloth.

Saul said that it was from the Jehambelli plateau between Ankara and Konya.

Another closer look.

Saul said that, like a similar Jewish usage,

such a piece was positioned to perform its protective function by being held over the marrying couple’s heads, with its tassels hanging down.

Another large, three-panel piece, a Kurdish “tent surround,” did not feature tassels,

but was decorated lavishly with crude embroidery done in bright colors.

A third large piece, Saul presented,was another tent surround – probably from Antep – S.E. Anatolia.

With an intense bluish purple

and although its visibility is not of the “in-your-face” variety, there is a fulsome use of tufting in a secondary diamond design that covers the entire face of both orange and purple panels.

Note also the use of cowry shells (fertility), and blue beads with additional ‘found objects.’

One more large piece, I think Saul said, a camel load covering from Persian Baluchistan that seems done mostly in natural dyes

but which features lots of surface decoration,

including an occasional pink,

that may combine to have the desired protective effect. Note the use of silk tufts.

Another piece with a seeming surround format is not as tall as the pieces just treated above.

Here are some closer looks at this colorful piece.

As one gets closer, one can see that the use of bright colors is very skillful

and that the lower edge is packed with lush “tassels.”

These are tassels that can really attract and divert.

Saul said this was a tent surround from the Baluch tribal area of Pakistan (Barda) – embroidery on cotton, with tassels, small mirrors, shells and triangular amulets – so that all the bases were covered (fertility, protection, distraction, and the bringing in of good luck).

Band-shaped Pieces

As you can see in the case of some of the narrower surrounds, some  band-like shapes can function as nazarlik .

And some are actually bands. They can be long or relatively short.  Some are  woven, and some are not.

Let’s start with some longer examples.  They’re difficult to see in this overall photo, but at the top of the board in the one below

there are two longish pieces.

I did not take closer photos of the one at the top, but you can see that is is a kind of narrow band or plaited cord, decorated at intervals with bunched tassels.

The one below it that swoops twice as it crosses is a band with heavily decorated ends. Here is a closer look at the band portion.

And one that is even closer.

But is the ends of this piece that attract real attention.

They show that such pieces can feature elaborate use of buttons and beads.

In this case, the movement of the hanging ends is for distraction as well as decoration.

Buttons, Beads & Cowry Shells as Ways to influence the Unseen Worlds.

Here is the left end,

and here is the right end.

Saul had a knotted carpet belt from the Afshar peoples of Iran.

The woven part of this band is quite narrow, but it has a colorful top selvedge and a vertically wider array of wrapped open diamond forms below that end in tassels.

Here is a closer look at a detail of this piece.

And an even closer one.

Next Saul showed a piece of a cradle cover.

Fashioned from four narrow strips sewn together.

Saul described this piece as “Byzant” from Western Anatolia – a baby cradle cover from the converted peoples, who use the cross design as a form of protection. The small cross at the bottom is difficult to see.  Right below Saul’s  hand.

Animals are very important to tribal peoples, and also get the added protection of nazarliks.

The next piece is from Pakistan, and is a decoration for a horse’s chest.

Note the usage of mirrors, blue beads and tassels.

Mirrors as Nazarlik

The horse decoration above is entirely done in beads decorated at intervals with mirrors.

Here is a closer detail of its center section.

Mirrors are used in nazarlik because it is believed that evil does not like to look at itself.

And here is another horse piece. This one from the Lake Van region of S.W. Anatolia.

A generous application of tassels at the bottom.

Here is a closer detail.  Note the fine weave and use of silk.

These tassels not only keep flies out of the horses eyes, but also distract any passing, ill-intentioned spirit or jinn.

Related to the narrower bands were some items that seem closer to plaits.

Some of these were fairly short, like the Baluch horse decorations below.

Note the use of shells and blue beads and coins.

The next pieces is a Turkish hair ornament – with all the various accoutrement that one would expect.

The piece below was a series of Turkish horse hair tassels attached to a plaited cord.  Again with blue beads.

Here is a closer look at the two tassels on the left above.

Saul had some larger pieces with band-shaped component .

The one below features a circular heading device and then several hanging band-shaped sections. It is a camel’s neck ornament, with cowry shells.


Below is a closer look at its circular heading encrusted with cowry shells, blue beads and found objects.

The hanging tassels move when the camel is traveling, and thus distracts the evil eye.

Next Saul showed a similar piece, dominated by its “head” device.

It has only a few plaited strands hanging down.

Below are some closer details of the “head” portion.

Note the mirror and blue rings.

The next piece was also oriented vertically on the board.

This is a woman’s belt from Uzbekistan.

Note the mirrors, blue beads and coins.   She seems to have covered every possibility.

Here is a closer detail.

The shorter band, below, was designed to go across a horse’s head.

Turkish, from the Taurus Mountains.

It is a woven band decorated with cowry shells and small beads hanging down.

The next piece was a horse neck piece from the Konya Mountains.

This one is done largely in beads with occasional intervening squares of leather decorated with pompoms and gold-colored metal Mashallah (means God Bless – about which more below).

Again, a kind of animal decoration with a protective function.

One more band is narrow, decorated its entire length with buttons, and has lots of tassels (themselves decorated with beads) hanging from it.

It is from the Bergama region – Western Anatolia.

Mirrors and Metal as Nazarlik

We saw above that some bands were decorated in part with mirrors, and Saul had some similar examples decorated with reflecting metal.

Here is a band worn on a woman’s forehead, decorated with gold-colored metal devices from Afghanistan.

A closer detail of one end of it.

The textile seems framed with embroidery.

Notice that the “tassels” here are metal and bead.

Below is another woman’s head decoration that is a little wider vertically.  It is Turkman, with silver on velvet, and carnelian stones and tassels.

Note that carnelian was reputed to ward off evil, and if not would change color (become black) in the presence of evil.

Again a closer detail.

Again, the tassels are metal with beads.

Here is a Kurdish woman’s wedding headband decorated heavily with coin-like metal devices.

A closer detail.

This piece is from Turkmenistan and is 19th century

Next was a Turkoman child’s garment is also heavily encrusted with metal devices.

This is heavy “ju-ju” for the infant.

Some closer details.

Note the large silver medallion with carnelian in the center.

A look inside shows how the metal pieces are attached.

We have already seen some nazarlik decorated with buttons, beads or cowry shells.

Saul had a few more.

Sometimes such items are almost entirely beaded.

as is the case for this small Turkish beaded Koran or amulet bag.

Here are two more in small bag format – although these are from Uzbekestan.

A closer detail of one of the above.

Here we see not only distraction and color usage, but also, the idea of concealment.  That which one does not see cannot be cursed.

Such beaded items can also be found amongst the Baluch.

Here is a woman’s head cover, replete with cowry shells, beads and pom poms.  Note, also, the use of old buttons.  (This was a gift from Tatiana Divens).

It is decorated heavily with cowry shells, thought to resemble female genitalia.

This next piece is from Kurdistan, and was used as a camel side cover.

This time shells, beads and buttons are supplemented with some mixed technique weaving. Some closer details of the piece above.

Multiple efforts to distract and divert evil, whilst bringing forth good luck are evident here.

The piece below is in the bead, button and cowry-shell-decorated grouping, and comes from Afghanistan (Pushtun?).

It has a khorjin shape and is decorated mostly with cowry shells and tassels.

Concealment, fertility and distraction are all intended.

The next piece had a similar khorjin shape, but is from the Baluch peoples of Afghanistan, and was probably used as a dowry bag.

Note the use of mirrors.

Buttons, beads and tassels are used to enhance the protective powers of the woven patterns.

A closer one-half detail.

And here is a view of the back of this piece.

The plain character of this back suggests that evil is not expected to approach from this side. Saul had one more similar piece.

Also from the Baluch peoples, and also probably a dowry bag.

Here, the weaving is more visible, but buttons, beads and tassels are used prominently.

Saul had some additional bags. We’ll treat them next.

Koran Bags to Protect and Conceal

This first example is a 19th century Ikat Uzbek koran bag.

Here we see the beautiful creation of something which will hold, and also cover (protect) from profane eyes.

This is the back of the immediately preceding piece.

Very often Central Asian ikat is backed with Russian printed cloth, but I think Saul said this back is done with a “mud-resist” technique.

Here is another Koran cover, this time in pile.  An 18th century example from Central Anatolia.

In the image above its covering flap is down.  The image below shows what it looks like when the flap is raised.

The image below is of its very worn plain-weave back.

Good, old colors.

The image below is of another koran bag in sumak.

This was Saul’s first Koran bag.

It is a 19th century piece from Obruk in the Konya region.

The piece below is of yet another Koran bag, this 19th century example is from Western Anatolia (Bergama or Seljuk).

Again a flapped pile treatment, but this time a fringe is added to the flap.

Here is the front with the flap up.

And here is its plain-ish back.

Here is one last Koran bag in this sequence.

This example is from the Denizli region of West Central Anatolia – early 20th century.

This time tassels have been applied to the edge of the flap and some beading has been included in them.

We can see the resort to the protection of bright colors in the orange and purple usages here.

This piece has a somewhat less plain, and more colorful and interesting back.

Apparently, some modest protection was thought to be needed on this side as well.

Nazarlik in the Kitchen

Saul also had an example of a “spoon bag.”

Such bags are convenient holders for kitchen spoons. Saul had a couple of wooden spoons, with calligraphy from the Koran – an added blessing, that we’ll treat specifically below.

and placed them in this bag to demonstrate how such bags are used.

Apparently, protection of food is also needed.   Not, in fact, a bad idea.

Here is a closer look at the center compartment of this spoon bag.

and also one of one of the two side compartments.

The piece below is a complete set of Kurdish saddle bags from S.E. Anatolia.

I do not have an image of it opened up, so to speak, but you can see that this piece has a long connecting piece and two bags at its ends.

Stripes in bright colors and tassels hanging down the front are used to effect protection.

Here are some additional images of this set.

The next piece is a salt bag from the Baluch peoples of Pakistan. Notice the fringes and tassels.

Below is a small bag,  another of the Koran bag type.  Very finely woven – from Uzbekistan.

A little closer detail.

A nice green.

The two items below are a format not frequently seen: a set of hangers for one’s rifle.  They were made by Baktiari in Iran.

The colors here are very good and appear natural.

Tassels, beads and cowry shells are employed to protective effect.

Here is a closer look at the one on the right above.

Good use of stronger colors and graphics.

The next bag was an Anatolian weavers bag from the Obruk region near Konya.

A closer detail.

Strong graphics, seeming pom poms cowry shells, beads, feathers, buttons and tassels are featured.

Shape as Nazarlik

Next Saul pointed out that the shape of nazarlik makes a difference.

He said that a noted Anatolian dervish held that the circle, the triangle and the six pointed star attract, and so deflect, the attention of the nazar.  (Notice that a diamond is two triangles joined on a common side, and that a six-pointed star is composed of two overlapping triangles.)

These shapes, Saul said, are common in traditional tribal weavings.

He acknowledged that the six-pointed star has seen less use in the 20th century, but suggested that this may be more a political statement than a shift in belief.

He added that Islamic philosophy provides a coherent iconography of the meanings of various kinds of stars. Five-pointed, six-pointed, 7-pointed, etc.

Triangles that upper-pointing triangles such as those in the amulets Saul is holding below, symbolize unity with God.

(below is a closer look at the one on the left),

Note: While we are primarily treating “nazalik as shape” here, it is important to note that amulets have compartments that should have something  sacred within them – like pages from the Koran, or earth from a holy place, etc., something we’ll treat again below.

The small, beaded bag below is another example of  the use of triangles pointing upward.

When triangles are reversed, with one point down,

as in this Turkish horse’s head band,

they are said to symbolize the fertility of the earth.

Here is another piece in which a triangular shape is prominent.

This piece is a horse’s head piece from Uzbekistan.

Strong colors, graphics and a liberal decoration with tassels that employee beads all add to the protective power attributed to such a piece.

A closer look at this triangular area.

The next piece is made from a 19th century Turkman fragment and has added blue beads, cowary shells, tassels, etc. This was to hang in one’s tent or home.  It was purchased from the wall of a home.

Here is a little closer look at it.

Color use and graphic design provide good protective impact.

Calligraphy as Nazarlik

Saul next said that calligraphy is another form of nazarlik.

Any of the traditional 99 names of God, quotations from the Koran or Hadith in written form are used to ward off evil.

These may be found on such things as the spoons we saw above (spoons are calligraphied and from Konya)

on a variety of bags or hangings,

The one above is from Uzbekistan.

The one above is Turkish, and has a pouch to hold sacred objects, whilst the triangles are amulets and are filled with holy or sacred things..

The hanging above is also of ALLAH, and has a Russian print on its back.

Another example with calligraphy was the beaded amulet below.

The Turkish piece above is both nationalistic and a nazarlik. It hangs on the rear view mirror in one’s auto.

Saul showed another “calligraphy” piece with a pentagonal shape.

He had a pair of small weavings with this same shape.

These pieces are from Turkey and made by Central Asian immigrants.

They have the same shape as the asmalyks that decorate the sides of the bride’s camels in a wedding procession. If these were a little larger we might conjecture that they were intended to decorate the knees of modest wedding camels.

An unusual Anatolian piece in the “calligraphy” group was the picture frame below.

A little closer look.

There is a crown above the space where the picture is to be placed and some writing below it. The flowers are composed of opened silk cocoons.

Here is a somewhat closer look at these two areas.

And of the embroidered flowers.

It is believed that calligraphy does not have to be visible to be protectively effective.

So many amulets contain a small piece of paper with something written on it.

Below Saul is holding a small amulet, feeling to see if it seems to contain something.

His facial expression suggests that it does.

Here, below, are some other small, beaded amulets that Saul showed.

These are 19th century Anatolian, and were probably used on a horse or camel.

Closer looks at the items in the little collection above.

Below is a Turkish woman’s hair fall which is an array of beaded tassels…but perhaps an important array to its owners since the tag says “dowry” visibly.

The next pieces were two pairs of “dowry” mittens. from the Konya Mountains, and probably used as nazarlik during a wedding ceremony.

These mittens are made of the same angora material, using the same technique employed to weave the Anatolian “tulus,” the shaggy sleeping rug.

The next piece is a kumus bag from S.E. Anatolia.  Here the aspects of concealment and fertility are paramount.

Saul brought out his last piece with a flourish.

This is a “fly palace.”

It is a farmer’s nazarlik, hung in the home to bring prosperity and good luck. It is made from seeds and is from Konya.

Saul answered questions,

and adjourned the session.

I want to thank Saul both for permitting me to share this virtual version of his nazarlik program with you, and for his considerable editorial assistance as we prepared it.

Thanks also to Amy Rispin for a detailed and useful set of notes.

I hope you haven enjoyed this interesting and usual material.


R. John Howe

A belated footnote:

Saul indicates that those who want to follow his schedule of of lectures, exhibitions, etc. can do so by joining his website for email announcements at:

Color in Oriental Rugs and Textiles, Part 1

Posted in Swan, Wendel on February 8, 2010 by rjohn

Dear folks,

On  September 12, 2009, Wendel Swan


gave a Rug and Textile Appreciation Morning program, at The Textile Museum here in Washington, D.C. entitled “Explring and Explaining the Appeal of Color Rugs.”

Michael Seidman


introduced Wendel, saying that Wendel is a long-time, passionate collector of oriental rugs and a well-known figure in the international rug world.  He was for some time the president of the Washington, D.C. area rug club and has been active in the International Conference on Oriental Carpets, serving as the head of the local organizing group that successfully presented ICOC-X in 2003.  Wendel is the Chair of the ICOC Executive Committee and is currently working on ICOC-XI, to be held in the summer of 2011, in Stockholm.  Wendel is also a member of The Textile Museum’s Board of Trustees and has presented frequently, both in the RTAM setting and to rug clubs and in rug conferences world -wide.

Wendel began with an interactive, PowerPoint assisted lecture,


then illustrated some of his points with “in the room” examples.

In addition, members of the audience had brought pieces in.


This virtual version of Wendel’s session is divided into two parts.

This is Part 1 and will present, as faithfully as we can manage, a virtual version of his lecture.

Part 2 will be devoted to showing you the pieces “in the room” and to comments on them.

Here is Part 1, Wendel’s PowerPoint presentation.

“This is a program in which I want to explore and explain, I hope, the appeal of color in oriental rugs and textiles.


It will be an interactive program in which I will ask you for your comments.


So please shout outppt5your responses or any questions you may have.

Whenever rug qualities are discussed, the mantra




is invariably used, just as “location, location, location”  is used when discussing real estate.

While it may be the most important factor in rugs, color is an extremely complex phenomenon.

Collectors often associate superior color with natural dyes.


while the quality and properties of wool


affect our perception of color and clearly influence our preferences.


Courtesy of Suzanne Grosjean

Color, of course, may refer to individual hues of which we all have favorites.

However, what we might call a single color is often more like a musical chord.  Take this example.


The blue in this motif


Is actually composed of various hues of blue, from light,


to medium,


to dark.


By itself, this blue has what we will later call “contrast of saturation.”

As to individual colors, I think this medallion is fantastic


in part because of the exquisite purple ground.

Even though I love the purple in the medallion,


I don’t own a purple hat.


or a purple coat…and the reason is context.


This medallion is part of a fabulous rug at the Vaklifar Museum in Istanbul…which so captured my imagination that I put it on my coffee mug.



Perhaps my predilection for purple in rugs is partly due to the learned convention that purple is associated with greater age and, therefore, those rugs with purple are more desirable.  But the purple is not the only reason I think this is such a great rug.  I’ll return to it later.

Today I want to explore the appeal of “color in context” and some aspects of “color theory,”


not color symbolism, or color as an indicator of age, or the qualities of dyes, or about preferences for certain colors such as purple.

We’ll focus on how color contrast, or more properly, color contrasts (in the plural)


are essential to creating some of the most beautiful and dynamic textiles such as the stunning Central Asian silk velvet ikat panel below.

If beauty is in the eye of the beholder,


So is color.


In essence, colors don’t exist.  They are “perceived.”

Perception of color stems from the varying cone cells in the retina to different parts of the spectrum.


So colors may be defined and quantified by the degree to which they stimulate these cells.

Because of individual differences in those cone cells, we all perceive color differently, some of us quite differently.


Our individual perceptions, undoubtedly relate to our individual preferences.

In fact, let’s experiment a bit with some standard tests of differences in perception.  The “circles” below are parts of Ishihara tests for color blindness first developed in 1917.

I am going to show you each of four circles in turn.  Each of them is diagnostic for a particular kind and degree of color blindness.

Here is circle 1:


Do you see a number in it?  If you see a number, what number do you see?

(Scroll down for the “book answer.”)










With normal color vision, one should see the number 74.

Here is circle 2:


Do you see a number in this circle?  If so, what is it?

(Again, scroll down for the “book answer.”)









Those with normal color vision should see the number 6 in the circle above.

Circle 3:


Do you see a number in this one?  If so, what is it?










Those with normal color vision should see number 29.  Those with red-green deficiencies should read number 70.  Those with total color blindness will not see any number at all.

Circle 4:


Do you see a number in this circle?  If so, what is it?










This time the “book answer” takes a different turn.  Those with normal color vision should not see any number at all.  Most  with  red-green color deficiencies will see number 5.  (Look back and check.)

More men than women have red-green color blindness.  Studies are being conducted to determine whether a small number of women can actually perceive a wider range of hues.

Great painters, like Michelangelo


and VanDyck


magically capture the way we perceive color and texture.

Da Vinci referred to “color theory” in his notebooks.

Sir Isaac Newton, based on his observations with a prism, developed this


the first circular diagram of colors, in 1666, correlating colors with musical notes and symbols for the planets.

Goethe developed the color wheel below.


Scientists and artists have created many variations of this concept.

Although there are differences of opinion, any color wheel


which presents a logically arranged sequence of pure hues has merit.

Today, art students learn color theory.


whether they are studying traditional media,


or web design.


But modern study may merely reflect what artists have known about color for millennia, without articulating or memorializing that knowledge except in their works.

This baby mummy in Urumchi, from 1,000 BC


demonstrates that we may have an innate sense of color and color contrast.

In trying to analyze what made some rugs are more appealing than others, long ago, I sensed the importance of contrasts both of color and graphics, but had great difficulty expressing that sense until I became somewhat familiar with color theory.

I would have said that I was attracted to this Bordjalou Kazak horse cover


because it is bold, because the open red ground shows off the design elements in it, and because of the strong, but well-proportioned reciprocal border.

Now, I am more apt to think in terms of the vocabulary of the color theorists, that is, of contrasts of light and dark, of hue and proportion, and of complementary contrasts – concepts I’ll try to explain.


Recognizing these aspects of contrast, identified by Itten, a teacher at Bauhaus and a noted color theorist and author, should provide a better understanding of why you like or do not like a given rug.

“Contrast of light and dark” is the simplest of the contrasts to understand.



“Contrast of saturation” is a rather straightforward variation of “light and dark.”



Contrast of hues is also relatively easy to understand.



Red, yellow and blue are extreme instances of “hue contrast.”  All other colors are derived from these three hues.

As you will see later, when these three colors adjoin, there are special perception issues.

Although there have been many scientific studies verifying the physiological effects of various colors, the “contrast of warm and cool” is the most difficult for me to demonstrate.

Blue-green is said the be the “coolest” color and red-orange is the “warmest.”



Van Gogh


captured the coolness of the evening blue,

while Grunewald, in 1515,


symbolically depicted a vibrantly living resurrected Christ with shades of orange and red.

The yastik on the left below has tremendous warm-cool contrast throughout,


while the Salor on the right remains warm because of the dominant red.  Note how a very comparable pattern yields two entirely different results because of the use of color.

Next we treat “complementary contrast.” (ed. notice the “e” after the “l.”  This is not the same as a compliment that one person gives to another.)

All color wheels show the primary colors red, blue and yellow,


and those colors that are directly opposite one another are called “complementary” colors.

The further one moves away from a given point on the perimeter,


the greater

ppt46and greater

ppt47and greater the contrast becomes.

ppt48(Ed.: Color theorists usually designate colors close to one another on a color wheel as “analogous” and reserve “complementary” for those on the opposite side of the color wheel.)

To repeat the colors at the opposite points on the color wheel are the “complementary” colors.

Here are six examples of “complementary” colors.


We perceive complementary colors as extremely high in contrast.


Just as high as “light and dark,”


although it may seem less obvious.

As to the physiological basis of complementary colors, you may be able to experience it if you do the following.   First, look steadily for a few moments at the red circle that follows below.  Then, move to the next black screen, stare at it, and see if you see an image on it.


Now stare at the black screen below.


You should now be seeing a color that is generated by the receptor rods in your eyes.

(Ed.: This effect may not occur in this medium but it did for this same image projected on a screen.)

If you saw a color when you moved your eyes to the black screen, it was probably something like this


Notice that this greenish blue is the complementary color of the red you stared at initially.

Next, stare at the black device in the center of the image below.

As you stare at the center, you may see a yellow ball rotating around the center, displacing the blue balls in rotation.

(Ed. Again, this effect may not occur in this medium, although it did dramatically with Wendel’s projected image.  If you do not see motion, double click the image, which will cause it to open in a new tab and you should then see the motion.  Read the directions for performing this test and then view the image in the new tab.)

Now, move your eyes out from the device at the center to the blue balls on the perimeter and move back and forth between them constantly.  Try this before reading the next paragraph.







The yellow ball may disappear.

Now move your eyes back to the black device at the center and stare at it.  The circulation of the yellow ball may resume.  Keep staring at the center for while, then look steadily at the screen below.


When you look at this green screen after looking steadily at the center of the previous one, a circle of yellow balls appears.  The cones in your eyes are transmitting green’s complementary color yellow.  You likely see it for a moment, then it fades away.

(Ed. We did ourselves see this effect in this medium.)

Now let’s do some comparisons with images of actual rugs and textiles.


The image above is of an Anatolian kilim exhibited at the ICOC in Istanbul.  It is relatively simple.

The fragment below


is of an early 19th century kilim, with decorated bands separating the panels.  Like the previous kilim, it may be a multiple-niche “prayer” design or saph.

The individual hues in these kilims are all from natural dyes and equally attractive.  But now I ask you to tell me which of the two you would prefer to have on your wall at home?



The one at the top or the one at the bottom?

Here is a full-length image of this spectacular Anatolian kilim.


It is about 16 feet wide (as oriented in the above image) and dates possibly from the 17th century.

It may be a multiple-niche “prayer” design or saph, but the design is almost irrelevant.  There are only a few repetitions of specific color combinations, but the combination and juxtaposition of colors is most important.

The adjacent ground colors and design colors have been woven in complementary colors,


with the result that each hue is enhanced and made attractive by its neighboring color.  This skillful use of complimentary color makes it my choice between these two.

Next, we see a portion of an extraordinary kilim


depicting mosques and their minarets, but using strong complementary colors, this time with an ivory ground.

It looks, in the image above, as if the ground at the bottom is gray, but it is white and the darkening is the result of available light.

This kilim differs from the previous two in that all of the design elements in this one have been outlined in a dark color — a topic I’ll address later.

Here is a fragment of a kilim


that was probably similar to the preceding examples, but there are dividing stripes between the mosques in this example.

Here are the above two pieces together. Which of these two do you prefer?  And why?












The colors are complementary in both, but the “mosques” kilim at the top has the added attraction of having contrast of light and dark as well as contrast of proportion (addressed below).

Contrast of proportion or extension influences the way we perceive colors and the ways in which colors appeal to us.   In general, designs with significant contrast of proportion will be more appealing than those with little contrast of proportion.

Wendel then asked the audience to compare the two kilims that seemed favored in the first two comparisons and to express a further preference, if any.  He asked whether the graphics of the mosques would be preferred over pure color.












The audience seemed divided and unable to select a preference between them.  Wendel’s perspective was that he also couldn’t choose, that the complementary colors of the top kilim are compelling, but color alteration and dark and light contrast of the bottom piece have equal appeal.

Although my purpose, here, is not to discuss dyes, I want to use the two pieces below to make a point about “color balance” that is, in this instance, dye-related.


One problem with synthetic dyes is that, if the colors change as the fuchine dye in the reverse sumak on the left has, it completely changes the color balance.  No such change has taken place in the pile bag on the right.

Synthetics are not necessarily bad.  I’ve always assumed that the cotton cloth in this mola


was dyed with chemicals, but the colors have not changed and the use of contrasting hues in this humble little reverse applique makes it very appealing.  Especially since I paid only $3 for it in Cartegena in 1977.

Next we have two small pile rugs, each about 3 feet by 5 feet.


The one on the left is Caucasian or Northwest Persian and the one on the right is Kurdish from Northwest Persia.  Both use diagonal stripes that have minimum floral decoration.  I put it to you, which of these two do you prefer and why?  Please evaluate these two pieces especially using Itten’s contrast of “proportion” or “extension.”










The simple way of putting it is that the one on the right is almost monochromatic.  It lacks contrast of hue, proportion and complementary colors.

In addition, if we remove all the color



the bold reciprocal border is appealing even without it.

Below are two Caucasian rugs of approximately equal size, condition and age.


Which do you prefer?  The one on the left? Or the one on the right?










I expect that most prefer the one on the left.   This preference is likely the result of the fact that the Fachralo, on the left, exhibits greater contrast of proportion (that is of scale or extension) than does the so-called Chi-Chi on the right.



In the Fachralo, there is greater contrast of proportion between the main border elements and those of the field.  And the large, open field is proportionally contrasted with the medallion and field elements.

While the total amount of ivory, which always provides contrast, is approximately the same in each rug, the larger scale of the ivory areas in the Fachralo on the left makes it seem as if there is more ivory in it.

With the color withdrawn



we can see that the while the contrast of light and dark is about the same, it is the contrast of proportion that make the difference.

Their lack of contrast of proportion is why I think most Chi-Chis are duds.

Now, for the next few moments I want you to forget about cultural context.  Tell me, solely on the basis of color, which of the two details below do you prefer?


Do you prefer the one on the left or the one on the right?  And why?













On the left is a Salor gul with the typical warm Turkmen reddish hues, while the one on the right is a very rare Karakalpak, using essentially the same Salor gul motif.

How do we evaluate the various contrasts in these two guls?



The Salor shows contrast of saturation as well as moderate light and dark contrast, while the Karakalpak has contrast of warm and cool hues, complementary contrast in addition to light and dark contrast and that of proportion.

So how, on balance, do we experience the overall effect of  the various contrasts in these two guls?  Is the Salor “subtle” or “boring?”  Are the color contrasts of the Karakalpak “dynamic” or “garish?”

Or is the answer “all of the above?”

Our individual preferences might lead to a real food fight over the answers.

(Ed.: And notice how difficult it is, once the tribal labels are provided, to keep cultural context out of these evaluations.)

Now, look at the pair below.



I collected the complete Ersari checkerboard rug on the left about four years ago because I was intrigued by its rarity and because I like checkerboards.  Its colors, although good, were not compelling.

Now compare it with to the Qashqai kilim on the right, which has terrific contrast of hues.  If anyone here were to prefer the Ersari, it would demonstrate that our collecting behavior is not always governed by the mantra of color, color, color.

Now, let me return to the Vaklifar rug that I have on my coffee mug.


and compare it to a later Melez that has many good individual colors.

ppt78left ppt78right

In the Vaklifar rug, on the left above, the scale of the central medallion is perfectly set off by the open red field.  The cloudbands in the border have contrasting hues and the border itself is drawn in a smaller scale, thereby emphasizing the medallion.

The Melez, on the right above, lacks this contrast of proportion.  Its design elements are all of about the same scale.   Because we derive no sense of contrast of proportion, its attractiveness is diminished.

This lack of contrast of proportion in the Melez is made further apparent when it is compared to this Mudjur long rug

ppt79left ppt79right

which has similar colors and design elements, but used entirely differently.

It is important to note that the various dimensions of contrast that Itten identifies can work both to support one another and so make a piece more aesthetically attractive, but there is discernible loss of appeal when one or more of such contrasts is lacking.

By comparing the two rugs below, you will see that the term contrast of proportion is more encompassing than just the scale of the drawing.


Note that the drawing and scale of these two pieces is nearly the same.   The sizes of the meander borders are the same.  The outline medallions are similar in scale.  Why do we like the one on the right far more than the one on the left?

It is, I would argue, because the colors of the Oushak on the left lack contrast of proportion between the ground and the elements within it.  On the other hand, the red ground of the early Anatolian rug on the right seems much larger in scale than the elements within it, thereby actually accentuating the small field elements.

The sickly colors in the Oushak may be from synthetic dyes, but more importantly, it is this fundamental lack of contrast that makes it so unappealing.

Further, the colors of the rug on the right seem “rich” to us because in addition to the contrast they have abundant complementary contrasts, hue contrasts, and contrasts of light and dark.   This is “color, color, color.”

How many of you love cilantro?


And how many swear it tastes like soapy dishwater?

Recent scientific studies have shown that the difference in reactions is due to whether one can or cannot discern certain components of its taste.

And so I believe it may be with color and contrast.  Perhaps some don’t like color at all, especially bold colors.

Many home and rug owners prefer the “neutral” look


and essentially bland Oushaks fetch tens of thousands at auction.

Perhaps the market has revealed how much of a dunce I am


in talking about the importance of contrasts.

Woven in Isfahan during the reign of Shah Abbas I (1587-1629), the silk rug below


measures 7′ 7″ x 5′ 7″ and is reported to have 14 shades of color.  I have difficulty seeing more than three.

Formerly in the collection of Doris Duke, it sold last year for almost $4.5 million.

While the comparison may not seem or even be fair, solely on the basis of these images,


I find little more to admire in this Duke rug than I do in this bleached out yastik that was offered on eBay.

Although more contrast can be seen in a detail of the Duke rug


when I spend $4.5 million for a rug, I think I’ll insist on a bit more color.

The juxtaposition of colors can affect the way we see scale and proportion and h0w adjacent colors are perceived.

Look at the three squares below.

ppt87The gray centers of all of these three squares are exactly the same size, but the yellow seems to compress the inner box while the red seems to expand it.

The fragment below is from a large, magnificent 16th century Mughal carpet.


It is a perfect example of more being more.  But its splendor can be better appreciated as we move closer.


This rug was probably meant to be viewed and appreciated as you are seeing it in the image immediately above, but its real splendor can only be as we move in closer.


I saw this rug in the Metropolitan Museum in New York about 11 years ago, and consider it to be one of the most beautiful objects that I have ever seen.

There are contrasts of saturation, as seen in the different hues of blue, green and red and yellow.  Part of the majesty of this rug is that so many colors were used.  And they are all enhanced by being set against the rich, almost velvety, red ground.

It has wonderful complementary colors

Mughal with complementary contrasts

It also has superb contrast of light and dark.


Note, in the image below, that the tendrils and all of the flower heads are outlined with a dark color,


something that is a common weaving tradition.

That tradition can be seen in this Seljuk rug from the TIEM


where the bodies and antlers are outlined as are the birds and the tree of life in the center.

Outlining is carried on in the 19th century yastik below.


where even the outlines are outlined.


In Persia, the same is true of the Mazlaghan below.


where, again, we see the outlining of outlining.

We see outlining in Northwest Persian rugs,


Belouch group rug and bags,




and Caucasian rugs,


as well as sumak bags,


and in some Chinese rugs.


It doesn’t appear often in kilims,


but we sometimes see it.


Just as with pile, there is no structural reason for outlining in a kilim.

Why, then, do we see outlining?

In some rugs, like this Persian fantasy carpet below


lines are used to create the image of some of the heads.  But that does not explain why the multi-colored fruits and leaves are also outlined.

If we look at other media, we also see outlining, as in the Iznik tiles below


from the Rustem Pasha mosque in Istanbul.  The argument could be made that the artist first outlined the pattern and then filled it in with colors.

But I believe that the practice of outlining can be explained by color theory.

Traditional, representational oil paintings did not employ outlining,


even though Rembrandt was a master of the contrast of dark and light.

But, from the Impressionist movement forward, it was color itself, not dukes and duchesses, angels and demons, with which artists were concerned.


And so outlining can be seen in oil paintings over the last 150 years.
I asked George Jevremovic why his rugs, which so faithfully create the spirit of antique rugs,


have outlining.

His answer,  “Tradition, tradition,”


was, of course, 100% correct, but not quite what I was seeking.

Yes, outlining is a tradition, but why is it a tradition?

I believe that answer may lie in an another kind of contrast identified by color theorists that is deeply rooted in the past.

Here, below, is another $3 mola


with the primary colors red and blue adjacent to one another and and of the same proportion.

Do you have trouble determining what is depicted?

Any two adjacent colors will change our perception of each of them as the result of the effects of “simultaneous contrast.”

Simultaneous contrast is an effect created by two adjacent colors interacting with one another to change our perception of them both.  This effect is strongest when the two colors are primary hues of the same saturation and darkness.

By substituting green for blue


it may be easier to see that there are two warriors facing left.

Here are these two color combinations side by side.  The warrior figures in green are now much easier to see.


And if we remove the color from this pair,


we can see that one reason why the blue-red image might be more difficult to discern than the green-red one, is that the light and dark contrast of the particular green-red hues are much greater than those of the blue-red image.

Let’s experiment with another example of this red-blue combination.  Look at the image below steadily for awhile.










When two primary colors are adjacent, our eyes have great difficulty determining where one color ends and the other begins.

The edge between the red and blue may almost vibrates and we begin to see black lines between the colors despite that fact than none exist.

For most of us, it may seem as if the red stripes are advancing toward us.

(Look back at the striped panel above and see what your experience is, then return to this place and go on.)

However, when the red and blue stripes are separated by a dark color,


the red and blue lines appear sharper and less visually confusing.

I believe that the origin and purpose of dark color outlining is to prevent this visual confusion of adjoining colors.

Let me share a related experiment that makes the function of outlining clear.  Below, are two outlines of the Mediterranean.


In the top version does either the water or the land mass seem to be  tinged with a certain color?

And what about the bottom drawing?  Is one or the other tinged?

Look back and consider your answers.











In fact, the water and the land are both pure white in both drawings, but the yellow outline is on the water side in the top and on the land side in the bottom.

Our perception makes the yellow seem to bleed into the adjacent white and this may account for the ancient technique of using outlining to prevent the perception of color bleed.

Leonardo Da Vinci said: “Colors will appear what they are not, according to the ground that surrounds them.”

I recently encountered the thought below in Hofstader’s “Godel, Escher and Bach,” a la Lewis Carroll.


I don’t know whether we can analyze beauty or any Capitalized Essence.  But, as we conclude, I’ll show three more examples of the application of color theory to what we enjoy about rugs.

I was only able to capture the detail below


of a very large and very old kilim in what is the “new” Vaklifar in Istanbul.  Do any of you recall seeing it at the ICOC?

The individual hues of greenish blue and red are both decidedly variegated and not particularly saturated.  Some might argue that this is not the highest achievement of the dyer’s art, but the complementary colors alone


create a stunning and memorable image.

And the contrast of proportion and overall scale make it one that I remember most from that conference.

Although far less sophisticated, it has a feeling that is similar


to the  silk velvet ikat I showed earlier.

Perhaps we should think in terms of a new mantra.


So that the next time you’re attracted, as almost all of us are, by a wonderful purple in a rug,


you may notice its context and whether it is in juxtaposition with its complementary color, gold.

And when you see a rug that you really like,


ponder its Capitalized Essences and ask yourself why.

Is it because of the “complementary contrasts” or the “contrast of hues?”  Or is it because of the “contrast of light and dark” or the “contrast of proportion?”

Or is it, as it is for me with this example … all of the above?

And so,


let’s look at some rugs.”

This is the end of this virtual version of Wendel’s lecture.  He had also brought in some pieces to illustrate selected points in it.

To see these, and the related pieces that members of the audience had brought in, use the link below:

R. John Howe

Color in Oriental Rugs and Textiles, Part 2

Posted in Swan, Wendel on February 7, 2010 by rjohn

This is Part 2, of a Rug and Textile Appreciation Morning that Wendel Swan


gave on September 12, 2009 on the subject of “Color in Oriental Rugs and Textiles.”

Wendel began this program with a lecture augmented with projected images.  If you have not gone though that lecture, you can reach it with this link:

In this second part of his program, Wendel illustrated selected aspects of his lecture with pieces he had brought in.  Members of the audience had also brought pieces.

Wendel began this second part of his program with the “cover piece” from his lecture.



This simple piece projects great color.  Several aspects of Itten’s varieties of contrast are visible.   It also features the use of both lighter and darker colored outlining.

Here is a closer look at its field.


Wendels’ second “in-the-room” piece was also treated in his lecture.  It was the Anatolian yastik below.


This piece was treated in Wendel’s lecture as an example of superior “warm-cool contrast.”

Here are some closer details of it.   First, a lower corner,


and then an upper one.

(Notice that the coloring of a top strip is different.  It is an old repair with synthetics that Wendel has decided not to tamper with.)


Although, the piece above does not need this advantage, Wendel showed it side-by-side with the faded yastik below.


It is evident  that the piece above lacks most kinds of contrast that would enhance our evaluation of its aesthetic qualities.

And a closer look at it does not improve things noticeably.


Wendel had two molas to illustrate “simultaneous contrast” and the effect of outlining to eliminate its adverse visual effects.

The first was the red-blue example without outlining that he used in his lecture.


His second in-the-room example had outlining,


and illustrated again both the source and reason for that frequent tradition.

Here are these two pieces side-by-side.



The next piece was one brought in by a member of the audience.  It was a fine, old Belouch group bag face with wool of spectacular quality.


This is a piece with very little color contrast, because its colors are, except for the blue and a sparing use of white, mostly close to one another on the color wheel.  And since both the reds and blues in this piece are dark, there is little “light and dark” contrast between them.  The design of this bag face also has less contrast of scale, since its design elements seem to be mostly of the similar sizes.  This piece has more color than this photo shows, but it requires bright natural light to see it.

There were some other Belouch pieces in the room.  The first one was the one below, which belongs to Wendel.


It shows what a more liberal use of white and colors with greater complementary qualities can enliven our experience with them.  Beautiful blues and an aubergine ground.  A bright orange-red jumps out from mostly darker background colors with an electric effect.

The next piece was another Belouch Wendel had borrowed as a less desirable example.

There are some reasonably attractive colors and varieties of contrast in this piece.  The contrast of proportion in it is pretty good.  But the overall effect is that the colors have been bleached out.  They lack contrast of “saturation.”

The next piece was a complete khorjin set of the darker Belouch sort.


This is a variety of the so-called “Mushwani” design.  As with the first Belouch bag face above, there is little contrast of “dark and light.”  The design devices used are of different scales and so project more contrast of “composition,” although the dark colors make it difficult to see.  There are glimpses of brighter orange, of a green, and  a brighter blue, but in general, the piece is very subdued.

Here are some closer details.



Here is a look at its back.  It has more visible contrasts.


The next piece was one of Wendel’s.


It is a panel from a Zoroastrian woman’s baggy trousers.  This panel wrapped the calf area of one leg of such a pair of trousers.


The ground stripes are silk as is the embroidery on them.

The complementary contrast between the stripes is very good, as are the contrast of “saturation” and the contrast of “light and dark.”


The contrast of “proportion” is great, given the difference of scale of the wide stripes and the tiny elements of embroidery


Dotted outlining is used between stripes to preserve clean visual edges of adjoining colors and outlining is used within and sometimes at the edges of the embroidered devices to prevent “simultaneous” contrast from “smearing” their sharpness.  Contrast of “light and dark” is also used effectively to highlight the effect of these tiny embroideries.

The next piece was the khorjin half below.


This piece is very well drawn in a tough reverse sumak fabric, but the dyes are likely synthetics.  While there is good contrast of proportion and reasonable contrast of light and dark, the faded colors lack contrast of hue and saturation.

The following piece was the complete khorjin below, again, one of Wendel’s.


The ‘mullioned” design in the field of this piece is the same as that in the previous one and a white ground border is used in both of them.   But this piece has a great deal more of the various contrasts we have listed. The back of this piece (that we can only glimpse in the bridge area) is also very nice, featuring stripes and zigzags, the latter with a much larger scale.


Notice that outlining is used extensively at the edges of it design elements.

The next piece was the end panel from a large Shirvan cargo bag type “mafrash.”

This slit weave tapestry panel has a relatively narrow color palette, but projects (as designs with few colors often do) considerable graphic punch.

Examining it a bit one can see that its graphic impact is the result of good light and dark contrast, especially a skillful use of white.  The internal instrumentation of the stepped devices in its field ed the use of good complementary contrast.

Notice that, as is the case with many slit weave tapestries, there is no outlining in most of the piece.  Outlining is reserved for the edges.

The next piece was a “Kordi” pushti (little rug) from NE Iran.


This piece exhibits good complementary contrast, and contrast of light and dark, the latter, again depending noticeably on an effective use of white.

There is positive contrast of composition in the use of striped “outing.”  Notice that the outlining is wider than is often the case but still retains a non-competitive scale with the field devices it separates and the borders it edges.

The next piece was a kilim fragment with “old” colors.


This piece is one of two end panels that, together with a brocaded center panel with more complex designs, made up a Central Anatolian “cuval.”


There is strong use of complementary colors and “outlining” effects are achieved by separating the broader stripes with much narrower ones, not of a single darker or lighter color but using the hues of other wide stripes.  So essentially contrast of composition is used to prevent the adverse visual effects of simultaneous contrast.


Wendel called attention to the “old” brown and aubergine.

The next piece was Wendel’s yellow ground Konya pile fragment below.


It is three guls wide rather than the more usual two.

Here is a closer detail of it.


Wendel sees its minor elements as more integrated into the overall field design than is the case with most of the rugs in this group.


He also showed this piece side-by-side with the previous flatwoven cuval fragment to show the similarity of palette.



The next piece was the part of a large kilim shown below.


This piece has great contrasts of “hue,” “light and dark,” and “complementary” colors.  White is often used, seemingly, to prevent too much “simultaneous” contrast, although many colors are adjacent without outlining.

Here are some closer details of this piece.


Notice the particularly effective use of purple with gold.




Truly glorious colors.

The next piece was a silk jajim, made in five strips sewn together.  This warp-faced piece was attributed to the Shahsavan, or possibly, to NW Persia.


It projects an effective use of complementary contrast.


Narrow stripes alternate wider ones and operate (as “outlining”) to prevent adverse “simultaneous” contrast effects.


The next piece was Wendel’s rather well-known “tessellation” pile rug, attributed to the Shahsavan.


It also displays a variety of effect color contrast and a tessellated field design.

Here is a closer corner.


Wendel pointed to the fact that the tessellated device


is composed of a triangle, rotated and reflected and


also internally instrumented.

The following piece was probably Kurdish, possibly NE Persian.  This time a pile long rug with a lot “going on” in it design-wise.


There are medallions, a dramatic striped main border, camels and other critters, “tree-of-life” motifs, etc.


But, as Wendel noted, it is also very colorful and it displays a variety of contrasts very effectively.


Here are a couple more close looks at it.



The next piece was another silk jajim.


Again the striped, instrumented design exhibits good “light and dark” and complementary contrasts.


There are narrower stripes between wider ones, but devices decorating the stripes themselves are not outlined and so some “simultaneous” contrast is possible, especially in stripes with high complementary contrast like the red stripe instrumented in green.

Here is one more closer look at a detail of this piece.


The next item was this small piece attributed to NW Persia, possibly Kurdish.


The excellent colors of this piece are so, mostly, because they  exhibit effective use of the various contrasts treated in this session.

The dark field and the yellow ground framing borders contribute strongly to the aesthetics of this weaving.


The checkerboard area may echo Kurdish “shrub” carpet usages.

The next piece had some similar features, but was attributed to the Khamseh Federation.


Its white ground border does not have as much white and the main borders of the immediately preceding piece had of yellow.

The result is that this piece seems somewhat darker.  The color palettes and design usages are very similar.  The effective alteration of color in its abstracted “boteh” devices drew favorable comment.

Here are some closer looks at this piece.

First, a corner,


And then a vertical slice of the field that includes part of the bottom border.


The next item shown was the one below.


This is a SW Persian rug of the so-called “mother and daughter boteh” design.  It exhibits many of the color contrasts Wendel has attracted attention to.

Here are some closer details of this piece.  First, a top corner,


then the field,


The next piece brought in was the one below.


This was attributed to the west Caucasus and exhibits typical primary colors, excepting that, perhaps of the “Lesghi star” in the center medallion.

Here are some closer details of this piece.




Red, white and blue predominate but there are visible uses of a softer yellow and a purple and, perhaps, a blue-green.  The marked abrash is an instance of contrast of “hue.”

Another Caucasian rug followed, this time with three “Lesghi stars” in its field.


Design-wise there is a great deal going on in this rug and while its colors are striking the large scale of the “bracketed” areas of the main border are nearly as tall on the sides and as wide on the top and bottom as the medallions in the field, and may for some begin to “compete” with the latter.

Nevertheless, the colors in this rug exhibit a goodly number of the contrasts that contribute to aesthetic attractiveness.  Several shades of blue are, for example, instances of good uses of contrast of “hue.”

Again, here are some closer details of this piece.


Notice that most motifs are outlined either with lighter or darker colors.


The “Lesghi star” device is another held to have been generated entirely by reflection and rotation of the triangular devices at the edges of the perpendicular and horizontal white areas of the medallion.


The next piece was the silk Hereke rug below.


This is a piece, like the great Mughal Wendel showed in his lecture, that demonstrates that “more” can be more.

The skillful color contrast usages in this piece speak for themselves in the details of it below.  Perhaps its most unusual feature is its own brown field.


The range of color in it is only becomes really visible in close-up.



A piece that truly exhibits wonderful uses of color contrasts.

There were some other “city” rugs in the room.  The next one, an Ishfahan with an ivory field, was one of these.


Although unavoidably something of a come down from the previous Hereke, this piece displays excellent “light and dark” contrasts.

Here is a corner closer.


And a closer detail of its field.


Notice that outlining is used extensively but not everywhere.

The red tendrils were seen to be an effective usage.

The next piece was an Ottoman yastik in silk.


This piece also has good “light and dark” contrasts.


Its owner said that he was attracted by its purple.

Again, outlining is used to separate some adjacent colors, but not others.


The next piece was Anatolian with a niche design field.


It has two cross panels as part of its field.  Cross panels occur in some Turkish rugs, and in Turkmen engsis, but they are relatively rare in rugs from other areas.

Good color contrasts are present in this piece, but the hues used are more subdued.  Here are some closer looks at details.



The “columns” at the edge of the field are featured in a group of Anatolian rugs beginning in the 15th century that may have their source in “Torah” rug designs used by Spanish Jews driven out by the Inquisition and welcomed by the Ottomans.

The turquoise blue hue in the field works in effective contrast with the nearby soft red.

The next rug was also an Anatolian niche design attributed to Kayseri.


It was suggested that this piece is a “funeral” rug.


This time a likely cochineal bluish-red contrasts with a pale green.  An inner of two main borders is a surprising yellow.  Here, below, is a detail of a closer corner.


There is limited contrast in this rug because the general palette is composed of milder hues.  The use of a brightish orange-red close to the bluish-red hue is arresting.

The next piece was the western Anatolian rug below, attributed to the Bergama area.


It design is “architectural.”  It exhibits several varieties of strong contrast, especially that having to do with contract of scale.

Here are some closer details.


The next rug was also Anatolian.


There is contrast in scale between the large open red field, but little contrast of any sort in the rest of the rug.

Here are some closer details.



The next piece was a Caucasian with three field cross panels, something, as we’ve said above, very unusual in Caucasian rugs.


This rug has good contrast of light and dark, and between its mostly primary colors.  It also has effective contrast of scale between design elements.

Here is a detail.


This rug may be dated


but the first two date “numbers” seem to be “1” and “2” and that would suggest an Islamic calendar date that seems optimistic for this piece.  An alternative explanation might be that this is something copied imperfectly by an illiterate weaver.

The next piece was the Balouch below.


Belouch rugs, as we saw with earlier examples, tend to have colors that are closer to one another on the color wheel.  The limits the degree of contrast this piece can project.

Here are some closer details.


Most of the contrast in this piece comes from the electric orange in it.


The next piece was attributed to Khamseh.


Although an attractive piece, the varieties of contrast are limited, especially a good contrast of proportion (scale).

Here are some closer looks at details of it.




The next piece of the morning was the one below.  It was estimated to be a relatively young Afghan rug, but the saturated hue of its red was given high marks even should it be the result of a synthetic.


This is not the best-planned rendition of this well-known Caucasian field design and it doesn’t have a lot of “light and dark” contrasts, but it has some others.

And just because it might be quite young doesn’t mean that we won’t give it a fair shot of display.  Here are some closer details of it.

First, an upper corner,


then part of the center of the upper field.


The last piece of the morning was a little Uzbek band.


This piece has been called a belt by folks experienced with non-Turkmen Central Asian textiles, but Bob Emery pointed out that


the bottom selvedge in the image above is hard and finished, while the top edge (with the trefoil forms pointing up) is folded over but loose, and appears perhaps to have been attached to something else.  Bob suggested that this is a lapel decoration for a longish Uzbek garment and that seems convincing.

On the color side, this piece demonstrates that the palette of natural dye colors on silk is distinctive from that on wool.

So the color contrasts visible in this piece (and there are some despite the fact that little white is used) require a little looking because of the distinctive hues of its  colors.


The session came to an end.

Wendel answered questions.


And adjourned the program.

Movement to the front and after session conversations started up.







I hope you have enjoyed this virtual version of Wendel’s interesting program.

I thank Wendel for both permitting this virtual version of something he had carefully prepared and delivered.  His editorial assistance was also critical.

Thanks also to Colin England who took an excellent set of notes.


R. John Howe