Richard Kahn and Neale Perl on “Similar Interests: Small Textiles”
On January 29, 2012, Richard Kahn
and Neale Perl,
two Washington, D.C. area collectors, gave a Rug and Textile Appreciation Morning program on the topic “Similar Interests: Small Textiles.”
“With us today are Neale Perl and Richard Kahn, who both collected, very independently, similar small bags and rugs.
“Neale Perl is a long time rug collector and Textile Museum member He currently serves as President and CEO of the Washington Performing Arts Society and one of the nation’s leading nonprofit, multidisciplinary, performing arts presenting organizations. When Neale moved to DC in the 1980s he taught cello in Bethesda on Wisconsin Avenue’s “Rug Row.” Between lessons he would window shop and talk with the rug shop owners and soon began collecting. His musician friends advised him to resist buying any piece for at least a year.
“Richard Kahn began collecting rugs around 1975, simply because they were beautiful hand-made pieces of art that went on floors versus walls like painting and pictures. Once all the floors were filled with rugs, he moved on to bags and bag faces, which offered, basically, a smaller version of a rug, but that could fit just about anywhere. Over the years, he found bag faces at auctions, from other collectors and dealers, and even on a car trip around Turkey. He describes himself as a “pathological collector”, one who simply gets interested in an item and can’t help himself trying to find as many as possible, until either the money or space run out.
“In his other non-collecting life, he was the Chief Scientific and Medical Officer of the American Diabetes Association, for 25 years until mid-2009, when he retired to devote more time to his interests and hobbies. But since collecting is a genetic disorder, he still finds time to do part-time consulting, and has an appointment as a Professor of Medicine at the University Of North Carolina School Of Medicine. He lives with his wife and children, who don’t share his disorder, but are willing to put up with it.”
Both Richard and Neale collect in other areas, for example, glass. Richard collects glass sculpture; Neale collects art glass.
They were brought together by Wendel Swan,
who noticed the similarities in their textile collecting interests, and encouraged them to do this program. Wendel facilitated, since Richard and Neale have bought well, without becoming deeply immersed in the technical side of textile collecting.
Wendel said that there was some discussion of how to organize the program, and, at first, he and Richard considered a chronological treatment, in the order purchased, but that Neale opted for a distinctive approach, and tended to think of his pieces in terms of various “themes,” including the particular birthday on which he had awarded himself a given one. So, Wendel said, their treatment would, thus, be somewhat chronological, but would sometimes diverge from that.
Members of the audience had brought in some pieces,
and Wendel, in his facilitating role, worked these in with the treatment of those drawn from Neale’s and Richard’s respective collections.
Richard, said that, early, he bought most of his pieces at auctions, and started with two of the earliest purchases he made.
He said the first piece he bought was actually larger than most they would show. It was the rug below. Richard said that he bought this rug in a NYC auction in 1996. He said that he’d been going to auctions there for a while, and got to know an old dealer, who would comment on pieces that came up. Sometimes, when Richard indicated interest, he would mutter “schmatta,” a Yiddish pejorative for “rag,” but when this piece came up, he nodded his assent.
(numbers will not be consecutive)
Here are some closer details of NR1.
Wendel said that this attractive rug is a Ferahan; some might say a Ferahan Saruk. The Ferahan attribution, Wendel said, is mostly a judgment that this rug is of high quality. One Ferahan indicator is the use of green we see in this piece.
Richard’s second piece was the Caucasian rug below.
Richard says that this rug fascinates him endlessly. It has 98 floral motifs in its field, with combinations and arrangements of colors that never repeat, despite similarities along diagonals. He said that he often wonders how the weaver decided what the next device was to be like, especially when she was about three quarters along in her weaving task. It was sold to him as woven in Daghestan.
Here are some closer details of NR2.
This piece is dated. Wendel calculated it later as 1861, a pretty early date for a Caucasian rug.
Wendel: “It is very finely woven, with a supple, almost handkerchief-like, handle, and the wool is still soft and velvety. The original ends are missing and the selvedges have been replaced, so it’s difficult to say whether we would call it, by convention, Shirvan or Kuba (the wefts are ‘wavy’). Either way, it is Eastern Caucasus in origin. The striped secondary border is often attributed to Kuba rugs.”
Wendel said that one thing to note with the small bags, that would be featured in most of this program, was that they seemed often to take the devices also used in larger pieces and adjust their scale to the smaller formats. He used two “brought in” bags to illustrate this point.
The first of these was a chanteh-size, bag face with field design devices frequently seen on Shahsavan pieces. All the design elements of this piece have been reduced in scale so that they “fit” the reduced character of this smaller format. This seems a fairly remarkable feat for a weaver used working with the scales of larger bags and even rugs.
A second example is an even smaller South Persian bag.
Neale began by saying that “Collectors are the best people in the world.”
He said that when he was first dating his wife, he was living in a large, Victorian house with marks of his collecting affliction in evidence. He asked her what she collected and she said “Nothing.” But they continued to date and one day he encountered a room of hers filled floor to ceiling with loaded book shelves. He said lots of people seem to acquire a great many books without experiencing their acquisitions as collecting.
He said that for a period, while he has been collecting textiles, he lived in La Jolla, California, and knew about ten collectors in that area. Particularly noteworthy to him was the late Leslie Orgel, who had a large collection of bags. So, he said, he has had some sound sources of influence on his collecting decisions. He said that he has often bought a special piece on a special birthday, and the Shahsavan piece below was his present to himself on his 40th birthday.
Here are some closer details of this piece.
He said the olive green and the yellow in this piece are like catnip to him.
Neale said that his concert responsibilities often prevent him from attending rug events like ICOC or ACOR, but once, when ACOR was being held in Burlingame, California, he developed a relationship with a dealer that resulted in his purchase of the Baluch spoon bag below.
He said that this first side reveals that he loves anything with star designs.
Neale said that the other side of this bag is also fully decorated, but differently.
Although it’s hard to detect in the images above, this piece has silk decoration in places. Neale was told that it was probably a dowry piece. He said that his experience with this piece makes him want more spoon bags.
In recent years, he said, he’s tended more to buy chanteh-sized bags, like this Qashqa’i with its back intact.
Wendel observed that the cruciform designs in the field of the piece above are related to Shahsavan usages.
Richard had brought some yastiks.
The first of these is a published piece.
It appears as Plate 67 in Brian Morehouse’s catalog, “Yastiks.” Morehouse places it in central Anatolia, as part of the Nigde-Gelveri group.
Here is a closer detail of a quarter of it.
This is a classic, old yastik with good color and drawing.
Richard had a second Anatolian yastik.
Here are some closer details of NR7.
There was a question from the audience about the tan areas. Wendel examined them and said that the wool appeared, possibly, to be an undyed shade.
This piece is redder than, but otherwise very similar to, Morehouse’s Plate 52, which is in his central Anatolian section. Morehouse says that Plate 52 has features that can be found in a number of Anatolian areas, but that when they come together as they do in Plate 52 they “distinguish a particular weaving group.” Unless the redder palette is disqualifying, NR7 would also be a member of this group.
The prominence of Memling guls in Richard’s yastik moved Wendel to insert a small Shahsavan mafrash side panel that also featured five of them.
Notice that the markedly smaller scale of the borders in this piece brackets, but does not compete with, the gul devices.
Here is a closer look at just one of these Memling devices.
Hanging next to the two yastiks above, and very much a yastik size, Richard had the following piece.
The main field device in this piece is very like those in many Sewan Kazaks. The borders occur in Shirvan and Shahsavan pieces. But Wendel’s examination of the back showed that this piece has the “wavy” kind of cotton wefts that signal that this is a small, anomalous, Caucasian rug, woven in the Shirvan area, rather than an even more unusual Anatolian yastik.
Richard also had a small South Persian sumak bag, with a bright-ish red, but good graphics and fun animals.
Notice the effort, even in this small compass, to give the lions in the lower corners, human faces, as South Persian lion renditions often do. Wendel noted that the central medallion is a version of the device that appeared on the cover of the TM’s seminal flatweave catalog “From the Bosporus to Samarkand,” and that is widely referred to as a “beetle” image, despite it being no such thing.
Here is a vertical half of this little bag to give you a closer look at it.
Richard also had an unusual salt bag that was originally thought to be Bakhtiyari, but Wendel later said that it is probably Quchan Kurd.
Lots of complicated-looking stripes.
Here is a vertical half of it to take you a little closer.
Here is a look at the lower part of the back of NR11
Since we were dealing with a salt bag, Wendel took that opportunity to slide in another that a member of the audience had brought.
This is a bag the projects Kurdish exuberance and color and completely different than the Quchan example. Here are some other views of it.
Here is its equally colorful back.
Its owner said that it was given to her by “Bill” Eagleton, when he was researching his book on Kurdish rugs, the latter published in 1988.
Richard’s next piece was a Shahsavan khorjin face, published as Plate 10 in Wertime’s “Sumak Bags.”
This lovely piece is worthy of a couple of closer detail images.
Wertime attributes it to the Khamseh District in Northwest Persia (not the Khamseh Federation of Southern Persia).
Richard has a second khorjin face also published in the Wertime “Sumac Bags” volume.
Wertime calls attention to the crisp “butted” borders all around, and shows a similar Shahsavan piece in which some resolution of border corners seems to have been attempted.
Again, some closer details.
Wendel said that this field design is never seen in a technique other than sumak.
Wertime also attributes this khorjin face to the Khamseh District.
Richard had another khorjin face.
The central device in this piece is a Shahsavan version of the Memling gul, but the high number of small squares (diamonds) that surround it is very unusual. Most of us had not seen this treatment before. The squares are smaller than is usual and their prolific use is very different from most Shahsavan designs.
Here are some closer details of NR13.
Neale had several smaller bags, and we treated them next.
He said that these pieces reflect two themes. First, sometimes he has found himself attracted to pieces that he subsequently discovered “no one else wanted.” Some such, he said, are included in this sequence. A second theme is that he has often bought small bags from southern England. He said some may know of the “Bath boys.”
This chanteh or single bag comes from Northwest Persia and is undoubtedly the product of the Shahsavan.
Here are more images of it.
Neale’s next small bag with this one. He said that he bought this piece from another DC area collector. The foundation is cotton, but the sumak is extremely fine. The motifs are all floral.
This chanteh was published by Tanavoli.
Here are some closer details of NR15.
Neale’s next bag was a little larger, a Shahsavan khorjin half.
This is probably from the Transcaucasus. The pattern is reasonably well known in sumak bags and rugs.
The red and brown stripes on the back are typical in that area for both mafrash and khorjin.
Here are some detail images of NR16
We return to Neale’s chanteh-sized pieces.
This is a very attractive, diminutive NW Persian bag. The lattice is raised about the surface of the field. The instrumentation within the field diamonds is unusual. Some Shahsavan Khamseh District pieces have the same colors.
Neale said that the next small bag was a recent purchase and came home with him from the Capri Hotel sale in San Francisco.
The cruciform device in the field occurs in many Shahsavan weavings. Neale said that he was taken with the dramatic, large-scale border, and the green.
Neale invited thoughts about the border. It’s clearly a variety of reciprocal. Thinking about it since (this is likely a stretch) it could have echoes, for me, of a famous Seljuk border many will recognize. Of course, the Seljuk border is not a reciprocal, but weavers can be inventive about what they adopt, and how they modify it, and reflection is a well-established, weaver move.
Neale’s next small bag was the one below.
It is another Shahsavan chanteh from Northwest Persia.
Notice that the tan-brown edge treatment is the same as that on NR15 above.
Neale said that the next small bag was one of those that apparently nobody else wanted. The dealer had it for a long time.
Neale said that, of course, he liked the stars and also its interesting “griffin” border. There is also some green.
Here is a closer vertical half view to let you examine these features.
Richard also had a complete Quashqa’i khorjin set that he bought at auction.
Here are some closer details of this piece.
Here is a peek at part of its back.
Neale’s next bag was another Qashqa’i khorjin half. He said that he bought it and showed it, while visiting him, to Leslie Orgel.
Leslie said “I think I might have the other half,” and rummaged in his own collection and produced it. Neale said that his half has 12 rows of devices in it field and Leslie’s had 10.
Here are some details of aspects of this piece.
There was conversation in the room about the width variations in this piece, especially of its narrowing on this back. Most indications credited variations in warp tension and a tendency for flatwoven areas to become narrower because they are less “bulky” than pile areas.
Neale said that the next bag was bought only two weeks ago. It is another Qashqa’i weaving that is only 5 inches by 7 inches.
It has a distinctive and very attractive back.
He said that he and the British dealer, from whom he bought it, had bargained seriously about it, and that at one point Neale had said to him “Give it up.” (that is, for Neale’s price). The dealer said, “Neale, I love it, too.” Neale said it is a serious disadvantage to deal with dealers, who are also romantics.
Here is a vertical half of its front to let you see some of it a little closer.
The next south Persian piece was yet another Qashqa’i and had fantastic birds, other quadrupeds, and tassels.
Here is a vertical half of its face for closer viewing.
The next bag was the one below.
This is South Persian, likely Luri.
Here are some closer details of this piece.
The next piece was this one.
This is Kurdish, from Northwest Persia. The yellow-ground cross panels at the top and bottom of the field are unusual.
Here are two details of NR28.
Next were a series of very small, but beautifully articulated bags.
The first was this piece with a spindle bag shape.
Almost surely Shahsavan sumak. Here are some further images of NR29.
The next piece had a similar shape but was smaller.
Although it could also be Shahsavan, it might not be. Still, it comes from the area. Here are some detail images of NR30.
The next piece was a torba-shaped bag with a compartmented field design.
Also a spindle bag, this brocaded piece is from Turkey.
Here are some closer detail images of NR31.
The next small bag was perhaps the most miniscule or the day.
Its origin was debated. It is Persian, but no one could agree as to where in Persia.
It is a simple envelop folded on the bottom. The blurred photo below shows that its two sides are identical.
The next few pieces were bags almost as small at the one above. The first of these was Central Asian, perhaps Uzbek.
The next had a miniature khorjin format, a spacious medallion field, with animals on its connecting panel. South Persian.
Its back is also attractive.
The next piece was the one below.
Opened up, it looks like this.
NR35 Opened Up
Its owner said that its attribution is uncertain, and that we should probably say only “NW Persian,” for the moment.
The next miniature Qashka’i khojin set was one of my favorites of the morning.
A vertical half of one face panel.
The is a front view of one bag panel that shows the back.
One face with back
Here is opened up entirely, and viewed from the back.
Opened up from back
The next bag was somewhat larger Qashqa’i, closer to a smaller khorjin. It has an unusual green…very strong.
Here is its back.
This piece had an odd feature. There are four small handles on its corners. Here is a very visible one from the back view above.
It was not clear why such handles were needed on such a small bag and how they might have been used.
Here are some additional detail views of NR37.
Ed.: What follows for the next piece is: 1) an original attribution made in the room during the program, followed by 2) an elaborating comment on the character of such pieces and a slightly different attribution emphasis, and, then 3) a narrower attribution, plus a link to another similar piece, with quite a bit of associated information and then, 4) Taher Sabahi sent the images that were the subject of his message.
Just so you don’t get confused.
The next piece had strong graphics despite rather small design elements. My notes indicate that the sense in the room was that it is Luri or Bakhtiyari.
Its back was entirely decorated but with distinctive designs.
Since publication, Taher Sabahi has contacted me on the side, saying that this piece is one of a group referred to as woven in the “shisha derma” technique, and that he treats it in his book “L’Arte del tappeto d’Oriente KILIM.Tessuti piani d’Oriente.”
I don’t have Taher’s book, but a little look around revealed a short article by Parviz Tanavoli on such pieces. It is “entitled” “Shisha Derma: Iranian ‘Black and White’ Textiles, Hali 63, June, 1992, pp. 84-89.
Tanavoli says that “shisha derma” is a market usage that points to a group of “distinctive 19th and early 20th century textiles…made by the Qashqa’i and Lors in southwest Persia, and to a lesser extent, by the Shahsavan and the Turkmen in the north of the country.” He further notes that most of them have one of two specific warp-faced structures, and that, while the predominant design and coloring is black and white tile forms, some uses of red and green also occur.
Taher Sabahi says that Turkmen and Shahsavan instances of “shisha derma” are rare, and that he would like to hear from anyone who believes they have encountered one.
My thanks to Taher for this useful elaboration.
And Mike Tschebull writes saying that this piece is most likely Qashqa’i.
He adds “I don’t think there’s any possibility that this is Bakhtiyari, and probably not Lur, either.
“Hamid Sadighi thinks this weave is Kashguli and it could be Darrehshuri. Woven on four harness looms that the Darrehshuri were known for.
“See my notes to a similar bag (ed. Number 25) in the ‘To Have & To Hold’ on-line exhibition on the New England Rug Society web-site.”
Link provided below:
Note 3: Taher Sabahi provides the images from the page in his book (referenced above) of pieces with the “shisha derma” weave.
Here is his page 233 overall:
Taher notes that his book, cited above, from which these images are drawn, will shortly be published in English and Farsi translations.
Ed.: Thanks to all for this elaboration.
Here are closer details of both of these sides of NR38.
With the next piece we returned to the very diminutive bags, this one South Persian.
Here is a vertical half to let you see its details better.
It was followed by another small piece.
This is another Khamseh Federation sumak bag. The paired warps on the back are telltale signs of its origin.
Again, a vertical half to improve your view.
Another small Luri or Bakhtiyari piece followed.
The next piece was a Yomut group spindle bag.
Wendel drew attention at the beginning to the fact that with many of this small bags, the designs which are also used on larger pieces, have been reduced in scale to fit the smaller formats and we saw some examples of that. But there are some instances in which weavers seem not to do this. That is, they employ on smaller pieces design devices use on larger ones but do not reduce the scale. This spindle bag is one instance of that and the Yomuts seem to have done the same in the instance of other formats as well.
Here is a full-size Yomut group asmalyk.
It is the sort reputed to have been placed on the side of a wedding camel (with its pair on the opposite side) as decoration. This piece is slightly more than four feet wide (126 centimeters). I can’t precisely measure the size of the diamond devices in its field but we can estimate that the width of the white ground ground area of each diamond is about 10 inches. We can see all or part of a number of these diamond devices in it field.
Now here is a much smaller Yomut group piece with this same shape and field device. It hangs on a nearby wall as I write.
The weaving is 13 inches wide and the white ground width of the only complete diamond form in its field is just short of 6 inches. So, while the scale of the diamond device has been sharply reduced in the smaller Yomut piece, there has been no effort to miniaturize completely the full-size asmalyk on which it is based. This more comprehensive kind of miniaturization is what attracted Wendel’s attention in his early comment.
There was one more thing to note about this Yomut group spindle bag (here is it again below for easy reference).
Yomut spindel bags are woven “side-ways” in relation to field design. That is, in the piece above the warps are parallel with the short sides. The oddity in this case
is that there is a strip of tan plain-weave (the color of many Turkman back panels) on one of the short ends of this piece that tempts one to think that the warps are parallel to the long side. I think it was decided that the warps on this spindle bag are parallel with its short sides, but I’m not sure we sorted out the presence of this plain-weave panel.
The next piece shifted our “size” grounds sharply.
It is Richard’s last piece, a large Jaff Kurd.
Such bags are very heavy, in and of themselves, and it is hard to decide what could have been put in them, and how they might have then been lifted.
Here are some detail images of NR51.
Someone in the audience had brought in another very similar Jaff Kurd bag.
Again, a very heavy piece.
Here are some detail images of aspects of NR43.
The penultimate piece of the morning was this small Uzbek bag.
We finished, moving sharply in a different direction.
This is a Japanese rice bag of the “boro” textile category. “Boro” means “patched,” and such pieces are made originally from fragments of various textiles, stitched together. The materials are usually cotton, and most color is from indigo. The patches on this piece are patched in areas of wear. Some boro textiles (I lust for a good coat) are pricey.
I want to thank Neale and Richard for sharing their lovely, small weaving with us, and for being willing to have this virtual version of their program produced and published. Thanks to Wendel Swan for recognizing that they could, together, present a good RTAM program. Thanks, also to Wendel for his facilitating this “rug morning” program, and to Wendel, Richard and Neal for their editorial assistance, after, as we produced this virtual version.
As she often does, Margaret Jones provided me with a very useful set of notes.
I hope you have enjoyed the fresh and interesting material provided in this RTAM on small weavings.
R. John Howe