Potpourri with David Zahirpour

On November 12, 2011, David Zahirpour

gave a “Potpourri” session of the Rug and Textile Appreciation Morning series here at The Textile Museum in Washington, D.C.

David is a long-time rug dealer, with a shop in the city.  He has, for years, been active with the TM.  He has given many Rug and Textile Appreciation Morning programs and is a fixture as a demonstrator of rug repair at TM workshop events.

“Potpourri:” anything goes.  Let’s see how it went.

David brought a few pieces,

but the bulk of those treated had been brought in by members of the audience.

He began with the flat-woven, Senneh, horse trapping below.

David said that this piece has been reconstituted from its original shape.  There would have been clear provision for a saddle and a front tab would have extended from both corners at the top.  These two tabs would go around the chest of the horse and be fastened together, as part of the anchoring of the horse cover, while in use.  These tabs appear to have been taken into the body of the current reconstituted version.

Despite its alteration, David considers this cover to be a “fabulous” piece.  It is finely woven with classic Senneh designs and colors.

It is a piece deserving examination in several closer detail images.

David estimated that this Senneh kilim horse cover was woven in the 1890s.

David’s second piece was more ordinarily Persian, but with a twist.

David described this rug as a “workshop” Saruk, woven in 1930s to the 1940s for the U.S. market.

Here is a closer corner detail image.

Its field design is a departure from the more usual Saruk design vocabulary.  It features European flower forms, primarily, roses. 

This field design also occurs in some Caucasian rugs.

David’s third piece was this one.

This piece is an unusual format.  One form of heating in Persian homes was provided by a small square-ish table

that contained a heat source underneath itself (electric or coals).  People sat on cushions around this table and ate, usually with a heavy blanket on the table that flowed onto the laps of those sitting around it, keeping the heat on their legs and lower body.  A decorative piece like this would be placed either directly on the table or over the blanket to catch food stains.

This format is called a “ru korsi” and this one is embroidered.

David said that this one was made by Jewish weavers, perhaps in Meshed.  Both the ground cloth and the embroidery are 100% wool.

Here are some details of this embroidery.

David’s next piece was smaller and square.

He said that this is a Baluch bag face, woven about 1910-1920.  It is finely woven of high quality wool.  Its center gul device in influenced by the Turkman, “Salor,” turreted gul.

Here are two closer details of this bag face.

The warps appear to be cotton.

David does not always bring to “potpourri” sessions only pieces with exquisite color or fine weaving.  Sometimes he brings things that are are unusual and/or that have pedagogic value.  The next piece he treated is one of these.

David acknowledged that this piece, which he said was woven in the Kuba area of the Caucasus, is not old (1910 – 1920), and that some of its dyes are likely synthetics that have faded and show signs of transfer to its warps.

Despite this, David said, this is an interesting piece because it likely has famous design ancestors.  He described it as having a field that is a stylized “dragon” design, the precursors of which included 18th century rugs like this one.

Notice that the old “dragon” rugs had lattices as well as devices read as “dragons.”  It would be possible to argue that the device in the quarter of David’s piece below is a lattice rather than a dragon, but there are examples of pieces in the old “dragon” group described as “dragon-less dragon rugs.”

So, although this example is a very stylized, perhaps tenuous, version of the 18th century dragon rug design, it is still defensibly and credibly a more recent rug that still (perhaps remarkably) retains visual echoes of this famous design group.

Here are some closer details of aspects of David’s example.

The last piece that David had, himself, brought to this session was the one below.

Here it is full-faced.  David described this piece as a half-khorjin woven in sumak by the Shahsavan in NW Iran.  He thinks it is a “terrific” piece.

Here are some detail images of aspects of it.

Now we moved to material brought in by members of the audience.

The first piece was this large Anatolian kilim.

This kilim is a member of a famous western Anatolian kilim type: the Yuncu, woven by Yoruks in Turkey’s Balikesir province in the northwest.

This piece is of the “polychrome” group of this type, defined by Petsopoulos.  It is similar to, but has a wider palette than, Plate 92 in the larger Petsopoulos book.  Such pieces can be very old.  Age estimates of early 19th century are frequent and some are placed in the 18th century.

This is a piece worth looking around on a bit.

As you can see, the colors of this kilim have the wonderful saturation and clarity of older Anatolian weavings.

The second audience piece was this small, complete khorjin set opened up.

David said that a bag this small would have served either as a school bag or as one in which a student carried a Koran.

Here are some details of this piece.

The top, front of both sides of the this small khorjin set have slits in its closure system.

Some felt that some of its drawing irregularities suggested that this piece was worked on by two weavers.

David said that it was woven at the turn of the 19th to the 20th century and exhibited Afshari influence in its designs and color palette, the latter, for instance, in it distinctive bright blue, seen in many Afshar weavings.

The next piece was a Kyrgyz “chavadan” bag.

The Russian scholar, Antipina, says that the “chavadan” has a pile front and a back made of homemade fabric.  The back and the front are sewn together to form pouch with its opening on a narrow side.  She says that is was used to hold “harnesses, women’s jewelry and personal items.”  It had a special place in the Kyrgyz yurt/house. 

At the back of the tent /housewould be one or more piles of textiles called a “juk.”  The juk shows off the family’s textile possessions.

The chavadan is always placed, long-side horizontal, pile out, at the front of the lowest level of a pile of juk textiles.  In the image above there are two chavadans employed, one at the bottom of the right-hand stack of textiles and the other at the bottom of the left stack (these “brown-tan chavadans, with cruciform field devices, seem to be contemporary).

Here is a partial half image of the chavadan brought into David’s session, just to bring it a little closer to you.

David said that this was a complete piece, not altered; that it had asymmetric knots; and that it is in wonderful condition.  He estimated that it was woven in the 1900s and said that the colors are “unusual” (many quite old Kyrgyz pile weavings have synthetic dyes).

The next brought in piece was this Uzbek hanging, cover or jajim, to use the Persian term for such a format.

Such pieces are woven in warp-faced structures on narrow looms and a very long length is cut into pieces can sewn together to form something more formidable in width.

Creating designs in warp-faced structures is difficult in part because all of the colors to be used must be provided by a separate warp cord of that color (the warps in the detail above are horizontal).  So warp-faced weaves are noticably more restrictive.

Here are some additional details of this piece.

Age is difficult to estimate since such pieces are still being woven, often in natural dye colors, but this is a well-drawn, richly colored piece.

The next piece was the, niche-format, Manastir kilim below.

Its owner said that it’s not entirely clear whether this piece was woven in eastern Bulgaria or western Anatolia, although some indicators point to the former.  The colors used, especially, the “Bulgarian” green are not those used in Manastir-type kilims woven in western Anatolia.  The wool in its structure is also very tightly spun, another factor said to suggest Bulgaria.

It was woven in the late 1930s or in the 1940s.

Here are some detail images of this kilim.

The next piece was African.

The textile is an all-purpose wrap from northern Nigeria.  It is hand-woven cotton, woven in two panels and then sewn together.   (It was held up with its warps and stripes on the horizontal, but I have turned it here so that its warps are vertical.)

Here are some closer detail images of it.

It was woven in the 1960s.

Another piece from northern Nigeria was next.  I’ll show it first, as it was held up, with its warps on the horizontal.

The piece, also woven in the 1960s, is composed of panels 10 inches wide and sewn together.  This one is more densely patterned.

Below I have turned it 90 degrees.  You can see that it is composed of six bands.  I didn’t examine it closely, in the Myers Room, but thought it likely that it is warp-face.  But the horizontal orange bands puzzled me.  So I asked an experienced person, who said that the weave looks weft-faced with tapestry and brocading.

Design variations are easier with weft-faced weaves.

The following detail images have also been turned so that their warps are vertical.

The orange bands seem to confirm weft-faced techniques.

The next piece was a Persian pile rug.

David said that it was NW Persian and woven in the 1930s.

The pile is wool on a cotton foundation.  David said that some of the dyes could be natural, but others seemed not to be.

Its field included anchored medallions.  There are traces of abrash.

David said that some restoration work has been done on this piece.  He did not say “Hamadan,” but its back (below) seems to show the bared alternate warps that result from single picks of wefting.

The next piece was a complete khorjin set.   David saw some evidence of restoration.

It has a Persian closure system with slits and loops.

Its goat hair selveges drew attention.

It borders are cartouched eight-pointed stars,

and its field is populated with larger botehs without outlining.

The connecting panel has an unusual pile square on each side.

Its back is striped in red, brown and blue.

It was estimated to have been woven in the 1920s by village Kurds, perhaps from NE Iran.

The next brought in piece took us to Central Asia.

It is a large torba-shaped piece, described in the room as Beshiri, but the sort of textile now described in the literature as woven in the Middle Amu DaryaIt is missing 2 inches on its lower edge.  Someone, likely a dealer, removed part of what was there in order to “even things up.”.

David described it as a “fabulous” bag face.

Here are some detail images of aspects of it.

The next piece was a large-ish flat weave, bought in Kabul.

David described it as “Afghan-Baluch” and said that it is a recognizable contemporary production being woven by “coop” projects.

He said that all of the dyes used are synthetic.

Here are some detail images.

David took us to the next piece: this small pile mat.

Here is a complete unobstructed view of it.

Dave said that it is tightly woven, with a single-weft,

and a” Ferahan green” in its corner brackets.

It has a “herati” field design,

He said such rugs were made in mat sizes for the U.S. and Eropean markets in the 1920s.  This one is finer than the average of this type.  He judged it a high quality decorative rug.

The next piece was described as a “pillow bag” woven by Persian Balouch.

David estimated that it was woven in NE Iran in the 1920s and 1930s.  It is very finely woven.

Here are some closer detail images of this piece.

The next brought in piece was another Uzbek wall hanging.  (I do not have a general, unobstructed image of this piece.)

As with the earlier one, this hanging is woven in narrow width, using warp-faced techniques, and then cut and sewn together.  David said this piece is not as finely woven as was the one we saw above, but he admired the beautiful reds in this one.

The color palette in this piece is “cooler” than the “warmer” shades of the earlier weaving.  David had the earlier piece held up in the image below to compare it with this one.

The next piece was a small, pile, Yomut group, Turkmen rendition of the asmalyk format.

This piece is too small to have been used on an animal and was likely used as a tent decoration.  It has the most usual designs for Yomut group asmalyks.

Here are some detail images of it.

Someone said once that a good asmalyk design requires a clear top border and this piece has one.  David said that the border wrapping on this piece gives the impression of age: before 1900.

Its colors include a green and its wool is soft.

The last piece of the morning was was a tube skirt from Africa’s Ivory Coast.

This skirt is Dida, hand-plaited rather than loom woven.  It is of plant fibers: raffia and is tie-dyed. 

The material is smooth on the inside, very stretchy, and has a heavily textured surface on the outside.

The Metropolitan Museum in NYC recently bought one they think is exceptional, since they took out an add in Hali to brag about it.  So such pieces are admired in fairly  high circles.

David answered questions,

and brought his program to a close.

The audience came forward.

I want to thank David for permitting me to fashion a virtual version of his “potpourri” program and for his editing assistance with the draft of it.

Thanks also to a member of the audience whom I can’t name for a nice set of notes.

I hope you have enjoyed, yet another virtual version of a program in The Textile Museum’s Rug and Textile Appreciation Morning series.


R. John Howe

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