Archive for February, 2015

The Joy of Fragments: Tim Hays, Ali Aydin, and Wendel Swan, Part 1, the Lecture

Posted in Uncategorized on February 21, 2015 by rjohn

On October 4, 2014, Tim Hays,


Ali Aydin


and Wendel Swan

gave a Rug and Textile Appreciation on “The Joy of Fragments,” still in the Myers Room of The Textile Museum, at the old S St. location. 

Ali arranged for many of the in-room examples and Wendel produced the Powerpoint presentation for the program, but both had to be out of town on the day of the program and could not participate except in absentia. 

So Tim gave the lecture and led the session.


The lecture began by presenting you with an array of fragments all on a single slide, announcing the title of the session. 

WendelTitle slide

(click on image above to see a larger version)

Tim began by indicating that George Hewitt Myers himself collected fragments, and so this program was within one of the traditions of the TM since its founding.


Among the fragments that Mr. Myers collected are this wonderful pre-Columbian fragment (you can click on most images to see a larger version),


this Spanish assemblage of fragments that resembles a complete and wonderfully composed small rug,

Slide2lowerleftand the Mughal fragment below, which was cut so as to create a beautiful and artful composition in a very painterly fashion.


One of the debates in the area of the subject of “fragments” is what is to count as one.

Europeans tend to take a strict view and call something a “fragment” if any part of it is missing.  Like this mounted fragment of a mid-19th Century Cappadocian kilim from Central Anatolia.


We, in the U.S. tend to reserve the term “fragment” for instances in which a quite substantial part of a given piece is missing. 


However, many are reluctant to use the term “fragment” to describe a piece that is, basically, “all there.”


Tim, Wendel and Ali proposed what seems like a reasonable terminological middle ground.  First, that pieces that are only small pieces of a much larger textile or are substantial pieces from which quite a bit is missing should be described with the frank term “fragment.” 


But in instances in which a piece is missing minor parts but is still, basically, “all there,” the piece should be described as “fragmentary.”


There is also the question of why we collect fragments at all? (and there are those who don’t)

Here are some reasons that are often offered:

  • Because they can be inexpensive and therefore within collecting reach, even for those collecting on a budget.
  • Because in spite of what they are missing, they can be beautiful (in fact, Rugrabbit dealers seem to have discovered that details of pieces are often better “teasers” than are images of the complete pieces themselves).
  • For historical documentation of rare or otherwise unknown textiles (more about this, shortly, below).
  • Size.  Fragments are usually smaller and can be more readily displayed (think of the difference between a complete two-panel kilim, 1o feet long, and an attractive part of only one of its panels).
  • Fragments can be intellectually stimulating (for example, what did the designs on the entire piece look like?)


The important book, above, on fragments is also one of the most important books on early carpets. A Swede, C. J. Lamm, collected about 40 early fragments in Cairo, many probably from the Fostat area in Cairo. His collection included centuries of pile weavings that are otherwise unknown.

The cover, above, shows a fragment of the early 15th Century from Turkey or the Caucasus, while below is a fragment from Egypt of the 8-12th Century with a form of unknotted pile.



To follow and exemplify the last point in our tabulation above, the fragments in the Lamm collection are often very small.


But the fragment above, only 21 x 11.5 cm, has been the basis for the reconstruction below of the likely design of a larger area of this rug.  Note the indication of where this fragment “fits” in this reconstruction.


Below is a small fragment in a Washington area collection that is from 1,200 BC and is perhaps the oldest known pile weaving.


It is not published and this image was presented to the rug world for the first time anywhere. With multiple wefts, it would have served the same purpose for sleeping as the more recent rugs we call gabbehs or yataks.

With this fragment and the images that follow, we witness more than 3,000 years of weaving history.  There are other fragments of ancient or antique rugs that are structurally nearly identical to the 3,200 year old sleeping rug.

Below is a modern filikli,


while, below again, is a fragment of a sleeping rug from 200-400 AD.


They have nearly identical structures.

This very old fragment and its contemporary counter part let us see, as John Wertime said in his seminal Hali article on primitive pile rugs, that “the new does not always slay the old” and that “some most primitive method may survive for some special use.”  This ancient structure is still being woven today.

It is well known that designs travel widely, even between media.  The colorful fragment of a Central Anatolian rug (on the left in the composite image below),


uniquely demonstrates the dissemination and sharing of motifs over millennia.

This outer border motif


can been seen in this Anatolian or Gordian wooden stand from 800 BC


WendelGordian box detail 2

and as the outer border of a 19th Century Tekke engsi.


While the motif of the inner border of the Anatolian rug,



is reflected and doubled in the lower border,


after which it closely resembles the lappets that we see on Anatolian yastiks and rugs.


We learn from this fragment to not assign most motifs exclusively to certain weaving groups or even particular media.  There are lots of transfers of designs, for example, from architecture and pottery to textiles.

Another instance of design comparison over time is from further east. 


This framed fragment may be part of a large carpet from Eastern Turkestan or Western China, possibly from the 17th Century or even earlier.


It has the very thin warps of Ming Chinese rugs, but the brown is some kind of hair, perhaps goat or yak.

Focusing more closely on its border element,


we can compare it to the 19th Century descendant (below) that was probably made with synthetic dyes that have faded.

Slide10right(click image for larger version)

I am unaware of any other piece with a border design comparable to the early fragment, but this design seems to have traveled a long way in time, at least once.

The painting below, by Hans Memling, in the Prado in Madrid, gives rise to our present day use of the term “Memling gul.”

In this Photoshop reconstruction that Wendel did several years ago,


you can see how closely the Memling guls were juxtaposed in 1490.

Although the rug Memling painted was probably flatwoven, note that it has three horizontal guls grouped in almost a tile-like manner.

Subsequent yellow ground Memling gul rugs from the Konya area, such as this from the early 19th Century, display increasingly separated guls.

And nearly all of them have only two guls abreast.


This yellow ground pile fragment, from the Konya area, is one of very few which also has three guls across.


This fragment retains for us to the character of the Memling gul usages that Memling was looking at and painting in the 15th century.  It might even indicate that this fragment is from a rug older than most Memling gul rugs, and fragments from rugs, which have only two-guls on the horizontal.

The Memling gul is one of the most frequently and widely used rug and textile design devices.  And even a fragment with a single Memling gul can be attractive.

This Northwest Persian fragment


and this Eastern Anatolian fragment


both have isolated Memling guls. They are both attractive fragment examples for differing reasons.

One does not need more of the originals to appreciate them, and they illustrate how many different versions of the Memling gul motif have been fashioned.

As with an intact textile, fragments should have aesthetic appeal because of their composition, visual integrity and inherent quality.

Generally speaking, we expect a fragment to have superior qualities of age, color, wool or other qualities. This end, below, of a Talish rug


is good, but not exceptional. Its border elements are unusual, but the Persian fragment, again below, is much older and rarer and has a wonderful sense of composition and color.


Another dimension on which fragments can be evaluated is inherent quality.

Here are two fragments that are about the same percentage of what the intact weaving from which they were taken would have been.

The first is this fragment of a Kazak rug, approximately half of its original size.

Wendelmediocre Kazak fragment on black

Below is a visual reconstruction suggesting what the complete rug would have looked like.


The second is this Salor Turkman fragment.


Although the notion of “inherent quality” can be debated, most would agree that the Salor fragment, immediately above, is clearly more appealing than the Kazak, further up.

Often, a fragment of a great rug is better than the whole of a mediocre one.  Inherent quality matters.

The next dimension on which fragments are evaluated might be called “readability.”  Because fragments generally come from worn carpets, wear and holes can be problematic. The condition of a fragment becomes an issue, as it does with a complete textile.

However wonderful they may have once been, this Cairene


and this Persian fragment, are worn to the point of distraction for some.

Wendel15 C Persian border fragment 

The colors and drawing in this early Anatolian fragment


are a bit easier to see, ***** but the brilliance of the original is retained when holes and damage do not distract the eye.

Concentrated study is required to understand the patterns in some battered fragments,


whereas in others, in better condition, the splendor of the original weaving is preserved.


Although of two entirely different styles, both of these would grace anyone’s wall.

Here is a test. Examine the two pieces below.



Do you think that one or both or neither of these is significantly fragmented?

The upper one is the fragment. The lower one is a complete Northwest Persian or Caucasian bag.

Let’s examine the upper fragment more closely.  It is part of the center field of an Eastern Caucasus rug.


(click for larger image)

Notice that the bottom red line at the edge of the top the field continues all the way to both edges of the piece (and that the red edge line at the bottom border does not). 

If we had it in hand we might pretty quickly discover that a strip of the trefoil border was attached to the top.  The warps in this addition run horizontally.

Here is how this piece looks without this top border addition.


You can see that there is a sense of incompleteness.

Let’s go a little further with this fragment in a slightly difference direction.  We have said that it is part of a longer rug.  Here is a reconstruction indicating what this longer rug might have looked like.


Below is similar rug with an outstanding ivory ground.  Compare this piece with the reconstructed “rug” above.  Which to you prefer?


The filler in the reconstructed version is distracting and the ivory ground piece is clearly preferable. 

Interestingly, the problematic character of the fillers, in the full reconstructed rug, is less visible and troublesome in the fragment with the top border added.


The problematic nature of the fillers needed the longer vertical length to make itself more evident.

Sometimes a fragment of an object is preferable to what the whole might have been.


That is the case here.

We have often puzzle over what the whole rug, from which the fragment below came, might have looked like.


After years of speculation, the rug below appeared,


suggesting that the medallions repeat.

Examination of this second piece reveals that it is also is fragmented.  It is part of a longer rug, similar to the fragment further above. The piece immediately above was cut below the partial blue medallion and the bottom border was added.

Let’s look at a few more attractive fragments.


These Mughal fantasy carpet fragments are just incredible.


Below is a spectacular fragment of an Uzbek saf.


Below, sections of a silk velvet have been composed to create a well-balanced image that you would not see in a garment,


while, down again, is a silk Caucasian embroidery.


The silk Mughal fragment, below, is a wonderful artistic achievement, just by itself,


and the delightful 17th Century Central Anatolian fragment, down again, is well-composed.


Both are so delightful that we almost don’t have to wish to see more of them.

This untrimmed Anatolian rug fragment has its own special appeal,


as does the velvet embroidery, below, 


and the following Bakhtiyari fragment.


Size is another advantage fragments often have.  The frequent smaller size of fragments allows us to display them where we might not otherwise be able to show the entire piece.

Fragments often permit display flexibility.  Below are, in turn, a Turkish kilim and an early Persian rug border, displayed, first, vertically,



and, then, horizontally.


(click both horizontal images for larger ones)


 This Turkish kilim and early Persian rug border differ in style, but we could enjoy either of them on the wall, mounted either vertically or horizontally.

Some fragments, especially kilims, offer the opportunity to simply enjoy color.


Even when there are plenty of holes.


The Turkish kilim below,


and this Turkmen tent band fragment


are easily displayed even though it would have been difficult for most of us to display them as they originally existed.  The kilim might have been 10 to 12 feet long and maybe four wide.  Turkman mixed technique tent bands are often about 44 feet long.

The Persian kilim fragment, below, is small, but unusually attractive.


Whether the rest of it would have pleased us even more is largely irrelevant. We can love this as it is.

The Persian kilim fragment, below,


and the Salor main carpet fragment, down again,


could now easily be displayed to great effect.

Even fragments, such as this from a 19th Century Kirman, can have uses.


A similar use was made of this Turkish kilim.


Of course, if you have lots of old, worn carpets and some sharp shears, you too could upholster the furniture in your private railroad car.


With the Powerpoint presentation ended, Tim4Fetzen

Tim took questions and said that we’d now move to the fragments that had been brought in.

To see those you need to go on to Part 2 at this link:

R. John Howe

The Joy of Fragments: Tim Hays, Ali Aydn, and Wendel Swan, Part 2, the Fragments Brought In

Posted in Uncategorized on February 21, 2015 by rjohn

This is Part 2 of an RTAM given by Tim Hays, Ali Aydn and Wendel Swan.  This program began with a lecture conducted by Tim Hays.  If you have not seen it you can at this link:

Tim also talked briefly about some of the books and catalogs that have treated fragments.  

The first we have seen in the lecture.  It is a book presenting a series of very old carpet fragments purchased in the 1930s in Cairo by Carl Johan Lamm.  Although most of these fragments are small and often not in good condition, a number of them have not been published elsewhere.  The Lamm book is seen as something every collector of carpet fragments should own.


A second piece is from Austria, entitled “Fetzen” and is by Kirdoek an admirer of fragments.


Penny Hays had translated a passage by Kirdoek into English.


(click on the passage below to get a more readable size font)


She and Tim also had a second short passage on fragments by their friend Erhard Stoeber a Viennese collector and painter.

Translation2They distributed copies of these two passages to the audience as a handout.

A third publication the catalog for an exhibition by the Galerie Sailer in Salzburg, Austria in 1988. 


This catalog is beautifully produced and treats nearly 50 wonderful kilim and pile carpet fragments with a text by Friedrich Spuhler.

A great many fragments had been brought in and Tim began with them now.  He started with a piece from the Hays Family collection.



Tim said that this is an silk velvet applique design.  It is an Ottoman-influenced European textile from a church in a town in Lower Austria (near the city of Graz).  Tim believes that it might have been a altarpiece. The piece has been examined by Dr. Nurhan Atasoy who assessed it to be late 17th or early 18th Century.

Here are some details images of T1.



The next fragment was mounted and framed an Ottoman embroidery.



Here are some closer details of it.



A third piece was a contemporary reproduction, large, but with a yastik-like layout and Ottoman designs. Somewhat comparable in design and execution to T2. This piece was embroidered in Armenia.



Some details of it.




The next piece is a pre-Columbian Chancay textile fragment.  Camelid fibers.






The next piece was a flat-woven fragmentary Chiprovtsy kilim from NW Bulgaria.



Tim said that this pattern is the oldest he knows that occurs on this type Balkan kilim.  In a subsequent email conversation, he wrote:  “

“This is a Chiprovtsy kilim from the town in NW Bulgaria where kilims are still made, According to Bulgarian scholars this design pattern is known as bakamsky or garabalda. The design originated in the Bulgarian Constructionist Period and is known to have originated in the 18th Century, The design must be older, as its also known from the same 18th Century time period in Wallachia (SE and Eastern Romania).

“The color palette of this piece is typical-brown, ochre, indigo blue, and green (blue over yellow).

“The production center for this kilim is the same as for the Thracian saf fragment. Chiprovtsy in NW Bulgaria. the colors are very similar, if more intense in the say (T8).


Here are detail images of T5.




The next piece was very large.  In part, because it is two large pieces from the same flat weave.   The original was very big indeed.



Interlocking tapestry, eccentric wefts and very good drawing.  Made in a Serbian workshop.




The next piece was Anatalian kilim.



This fragment is of a famous “Yuncu” type woven in western Anatolia.  Most of these pieces are red and blue.  This one is darker than most because the ground color at the sides seems brown.  This is a one-piece version of this design and is estimated to have been woven in the early 19th century.

Here are some details of this nice piece.




The next piece is the saf that Tim referred to in his comments on T5.



This large fragment was woven in Chiprovtsy in NW Bulgaria.  More below but first look at the fabulous way in which this fragment has been mounted.  It lets us see a bit what the original piece looked like.

Tim said that this saf was made for a mosque.  Late 18th century, before the Ottomans left this area.

Dtails of T8.




The next fragment was small: a border from a Chiprovtsy piece.



Next was this Central Anatolian kilim.  Nice colors. Possibly from the Aksaray area. 



Some details of T10.



The next piece was described as a Konya kilim.  Interesting colors.  There was a long conversation at about this point about the impact of various backing colors.  It was noted that Anatolian dealers seem always to prefer tan backings (as in the case of T11) but that some felt that different colors (often darker blue or black) highlight most pieces more effectively.  Kilim books often present their pieces on a black ground page.



Details of T11.




T12 was described as western Anatolian, with an unusual design.  Dated to the late 18th century. Published in Orient Stars. We believe it shows a link to both West Anatolian and Balkan weavings.



Details of T12.




Tim and Penny displayed the next piece, one from their collection.


It was a graphically dramatic Anatolian fragment, mounted on a stretcher.  Central Anatolian, Cappadocia.  Mid-19th century.  Very good colors, including a purple.



Detail images of T13.





The next piece was a flat-woven Yomut Turkman text band.



This tent band at 25 feet is shorter than the more usual 44 feet and is so because it combines two different bands with this design.  Twelve inches wide.

Details of T14.




The next piece was a fragment of a Central Asian item of clothing, likely a robe or coat (see yellow ground edge).  It is so thin that it had to be mounted on red rather than black, because the latter “washes out” its design.  This piece may be from a distinctive group, since it has blue wefts rather than the more frequent red ones in most Central Asian ikats.  Elena Tsareva has said, repeatedly, with this fragment in her hands, that it is the oldest piece of Central Asian ikat of which she knows.



The next piece was, at 2.25 inches wide and 5.5 long, the smallest fragment of the day. Silk embroidery.



It is also an example of something that is whole, as made, but is a fragment because it is only part of a larger textile assembly.  In this case it is the small connecting piece that holds the false sleeves together in a Turkman chirpy.  Here is a yellow ground Turkman chirpy.

See the horizontal connecting piece in the upper center of the detail below.

From the smallest piece of the day we go to the largest.



It was bigger than the front display border but this image lets you see how skillfully its two pieces were mounted to show its original niche design.

It is composed of two large fragments of a very large 3.5 X 3 meter Pirot kilim (Sarkoy) from SE Serbia .It is estimated to have been woven in 1830 to 1850. The color palette is typical for this genre and age.  The primary colors are quite saturated.


Here are a number of details of T17 to let you appreciate it.  Very good color.










The next piece was a fragment from a Salor Turkman main carpet.



Notice the intensity of the ground red and the precise drawing of the “tauk naska” animal forms in the interior of the major guls.  There are three reds in this piece.


Characteristic Salor border.


The next piece was a khorjin face in a familiar Qashqa’i rendition.



Detail of T19.


The piece below is a fragmented Middle Amu Dyra torba with an unusual ikat-influenced field design.



Details images of T20.


Interesting variations in the drawing of the devices used in the field.


Next was a very nice fragment of a small Kurdish bag face.  Striking field.  Effective use of both dark ground and white.  The border is seen in some Kurdish flat-woven pieces.



Details of T21.



The next piece was a a very nice Kurdish rug, with St. Andrews’ Crosses in its field.  Such rugs are usually 8 to 10 feet, so its fragmentary nature must be that it has been shortened.  Its good range of color is wonderful.  Effective use of white.



Details of T22.





The next piece is a Turkman chuval I own.  As you can see, it’s badly damaged especially on the lower left corner.  I’ve really only been able to display it for viewing by having sewn onto a backing.

Most will know that this would now be called a Middle Amu Dyra piece with a field design based on Uzbek ikat devices.  I think it’s older, but can’t prove that.



Details of T23.



The simplicity of the “throat” of this gul and the use of bright blue are two things that make me think it may be older.


The next piece was bought out of a Jordanian flea market with the help of a friend in Amman.  It is an instance in which mounting on a red backing, similar to the ground color of the rug, minimizes the holes in it.



It is Uzbek with two varieties of Memling guls.  The first drawn positively,


and the second in the negative in between.


The next piece was one of those that was made whole but is fragmentary because it was part of a larger assembly, this time a Turkmen horse head decoration.  Silk embroidery with lots of green



The next fragment was a large, heavy one.  Full, deep pile, huge Memling guls and only a trace on one side of its borders.  Sold to the owner as Zakatalan.  About 3.5 x 7 feet.



The next piece was a fragment from a large Anatolian rug with a “Star Ushak” design.  This is an example illustrating the fact that even a quite small piece of a large rug can be worth having and attractively displayed.



Complete rugs of this sort are 6-7 feet wide and 12-14 feet long.


The next piece was Kurdish.  Damaged bit with good graphics and color.



Detail of T28


It is not possible to  really see the merits of the next piece without magnification.  It is a piece of exquisite Indian embroidery.   Dated about 1725.



The last piece of the day was this fragment of a Middle Amu Dyra main carpet without its borders.  Probably northern Afghanistan Turkman.


Tim took questions


and brought the session to a close and the after-session conversations started up.


Below are Tim and a friend who helps with AV in his presentations.



A closer look at Amy Rispin’s colorful, beaded belt.


I hope you have enjoyed this look at “The Joy of Fragments.”


R. John Howe

“Mike” Tschebull on Kazaks

Posted in Uncategorized on February 2, 2015 by rjohn

On November 22, 2014, Raoul “Mike” Tschebull,


gave a Rug and Textile Appreciation Morning program, here at The Textile Museum, on Kazaks, which most readers will know are rugs and textiles from the southwest part of the Caucasus.  Mike provided a summary of the type from this weaving area as Turkic tradition, high pile, symmetrical knots, often red wefts and red selvedges. Sometimes they have blue wefts and blue selvedges. There are also a rare few with undyed wefts.

Mike is a collector, textile scholar, and a long-time figure in the rug and other textiles world.  Perhaps his best-known work is a catalog he wrote in 1971 entitled “Kazak.”


Mike has done some important translating work, for example, in 1981, he translated, from the German, the still-valuable and used “Turkoman Tribal Rugs” by Werner Loges.  More recently, his important work includes that on an on-line exhibition by the New England Rug Society entitled “To Have and To Hold,” about various kinds of tribal bags.

He has written for Halı, from its inception, and referred to an article he had written for Vol 1, No. 3, 1978, pp 257-261, “The Development of Four Kazak Designs.”

In it he said that there are four Kazak design groups, indicated by the literature, using “inappropriate, but understandable, trade names.”  They are:

  • Karachov
  • Single medallion, or cruciform, or “keyhole” design
  • Triple medallion
  • Lori Pambak, or what Ralph Yohe called “bug rugs.”

To these he added, for this talk:

  • Double medallion, like plate 28 in Kazak.

Mike said that some academics seem to look down a bit on “collectors,” saying that they sometimes “have little knowledge.”  He says now, rather than being a “rug collector” that he is a “student of animal fiber ethnographic textiles from the Middle East.”  🙂

Mike began with a piece from the single medallion, cruciform or “keyhole,” design group.



Mike said this rug is similar to half a dozen old Turkish rugs at the TIEM in Istanbul.  Kazaks like this are sometimes attributed to an area near Lake Sewan in the western Caucasus, but there is no supporting evidence.  We do not really know where they were made, other than generally in the southwestern Caucasus.

Walter Denny suggests the design evolved from the “Bellini” design.  The design was stylized, altered and reversed in village weaving in Turkey.  It made its way into the southwest Caucasus by the 19th century.

Mike uses the term “old,” as this piece is, for “pre-boom” rugs, generally woven before about 1865, when synthetic dyes started to be used.

The rug is in unworn condition, which is unusual.  This type is characterized by blue selvedges, blue wefts, and 3 madder “reds”: (1) a dominant warm red field,


(2) salmon in border, (3) aubergine in some highlights. 



The border has a relatively un-corroded black-brown.  There is long pile.

There is a fairly large number of published pieces like this.

There is a very similar piece in the Keshishian catalog “Treasures of Caucasus”, and one in Hermann, SOT VII, that have the same drawing error in the border that this one has. Conventionally, the small white hooked devices have the center stem pointing in and the curving hooks on the outside (see the orientation of the white device in the side border above). The ivory brackets in the end borders are reversed from the norm in all three (see images above and below).



The next rug had the Lori Pambak design.  Alleged to have been woven in a village, Lori, in the north of the Armenian Khanate (this area was occupied by Kurds and Azaris before the latter part of the 19th century).  Unlikely to know for sure; no fieldwork.



The design seems to be based on early embroideries, altered to reflect an “animal style” of drawing.

Fine knotting, long pile, also 3 madder reds as in M1: (1) field red, with (2) a rose, and (3) an aubergine in the border.



It is complete except for very top and bottom end “barber pole” borders.





This design evolved by 1900 into a much starker, reduced, simplified version in fairly large quantities. Some with Armenian inscriptions occur, and some Lori Pambaks have been chemically washed. Mike said that he has been told that some old Kazaks were also sheared, so, many, especially early rugs, may have had quite long pile.

The next rug had a “prayer format,”



 John Howe: This piece has an aesthetic feature that an old Persian dealer pointed out to me. Notice that the white-ground, niched area does not touch the main borders, as those on Caucasian niche designs often do. This feature is aesthetically superior to those that touch, since it makes the white, niched area seem to “float” on the surrounding red field. It gives the illusion of a three-dimensional design.

Mike said that M3 is, likely, post-1865 but with no synthetics, and probably from the same general area as M2. The regional attribution of Lori Pambak is a name that has stuck, but not verifiable, and there is no Russian fieldwork to help. The northern part of the Armenian Khanate was mostly Kurds, but was this Kurd? Armenian? No one can really say.

Here are some detail images of M3.





There was a question from the floor about the type-names for Caucasian rugs used by Ulrich Schurmann. Mike said that these were Armenian dealer names, hearsay, from the region. Maybe they knew. Some, said to be among Schurmann’s sources, say that he got what they told him wrong.

The next Kazak piece was this salt Bag.



Whether this is from the Kazak area is not known. It may be Armenian, based on other similar bags with Armenian inscriptions.  Supposedly such products are from an area called “Mountain Qarabagh.” Mike said that this piece is the best of this type he has seen. These are generally without an original back, but this this piece has one. The center bordered line on the pile side makes one wonder whether this piece is constructed, but it is not.


M3Salt bag --back1

Part of its neck is rewoven. Such pieces were not in the western market until after the collapse of the Soviet Union c. 1990. Mike said that it is puzzling why someone would make a pile salt bag – not the better economical choice vs. flat-woven ones.

Here are some details of M4.




The next two pieces had the look of “mafrash” cargo bag sides. 





But Mike observed that these people (those who wove pieces we call “Kazak,”) probably did not use square mafrash bedding bags.  They were settled villagers who did not need cargo bags in a tent setting.  They would have simply piled bedding around the sides of rooms. (There is some evidence that settled weavers sometimes retained some seemingly unneeded practices from their nomadic days.)

Another indicator that these pieces may not have been mafrash side panels is that one does not find end panels that are pile woven.  Most full bedding bags have no borders around all sides of a given panel, but rather exhibit horizontal design rows that continue entirely around the bag on both side and end panels. 

It is true that some flat-woven side panels show borders all around.

But in complete mafrashes, with this feature, it appears that it is usual for both end panels and the back side panel to be plain woven without design.

Going back to M5 and M6,





Mike said that such panels seem not to have been widely made in pile for commercial sale. They are very uncommon. We simply have no answer about whether these pieces are mafrash bag side panels or what.

Let’s look at these two pieces more closely, one at a time.



M5 features three eight-pointed stars on a red ground. The white-ground, reciprocal border probably went all the way around. Its color contrast and simple graphics are powerful — maybe an old piece.

Here are some detail images of M5.






Mike’s panel, below, has three, hooked, ‘flower” medallions, on a field of varying green, and a white ground border with stars in, at least, four colors.



It is in such good shape that Mike made sure it was not a reproduction. The small white panel with what seems to be a date is illegible squiggles forward, backward, up or down. Mike said, regarding buying old pieces in good condition, “I try to say to myself, who is trying to fool me and how are they trying to do it?”

Details of M6.








Mike said that the next piece is properly called a “stepped medallion”



(not the typical misnomer of double-ended prayer rug).

Mike wrote about this piece in a recent issue of Halı (181), saying that he thinks its crudely drawn date is 1223 (1808)


is more plausible than many we see because of the use, here, of ten colors, three red dyes including aubergine and two yellows.  He argues that the use of more colors, and particular ones, suggest more time and care, and that tends to justify a sense that the interwoven date is correct. 

The Russians had come in by this time, had begun to stimulate production, and pieces went into Russia. This one evidently came back out again.

The style is from the western Transcaucasus, said to be from the region of a village called Fachralo near Genji.  Mike said that this piece could be from as far west as Kars,

Here are some details of M7.








The next rug is a Kazak from the Southwest Caucasus.



It came from a repairman’s table.  The outside guard borders on the sides had already been cut off.  Parviz Tanovoli had them rewoven in Iran.

It has a unusual borders and an unusual field design, a stack of three stepped rhomboid medallions that are probably derived from slit tapestry designs, surrounded by a running outline of curving hooks or horns like something from felt design – or perhaps even Turkish kilims, which, in turn, may have taken motifs from felts. Dating is probably 19th century.

Here are some details of M8.






The designs in the next piece are possibly related to those in M8.  This is a Dagestan mosaic felt, with typical curves and white, rolling stitch outlining.



It is an example of curved designs that may have influenced some rug designs like the curving hook outlines in #8.

It is new — about 10 years.

The next piece was a long rug.  Mike said that we don’t know where it was woven.


H10 yellow field & botehs

Its colors, rarity and overall impression suggest that it is old.  His contact in the Caucasus says that it’s Kazak.

It has red selvedges, red wefts, and no end finish at the bottom.

(H10 top end)


(H10 bottom end)



There are some rugs like this with a red field, but, Mike said, those with a yellow ground are rare.  He knows of only one other.  It sold in a European auction in the 1970s.


 Here are some additional details of M10.







The next piece was a Kazak kilim.



Age unknowable. Consistent good color saturation; clearly not used; hidden away. Karakonlü. There are also bags with this design.

Details of M11.







Mike said that the next piece was a try at a Star Kazak.  It was attributed to the Bordjalu Valley area in Georgia.  Probably “old.”  Pre-1865.  No aubergine, but lots of yellow and green.  Long pile, unworn.



These long pile pieces are like Turkish yatak bedding rugs. Probably how most early Kazak pieces were also used.

Details of M12.









 Members of the audience had brought some pieces in and we dealt with them next.

The first piece, below, is attributed to Nagorno-Karabakh.




It is typical of that area, possibly of Armenian weave, with a stack of seven multilayer hooked diamonds.

(Color difference due to lighting and different cameras)

M11aNagorno Karabakh JM

Here are some details of M13.






The rug below is attributed to Bordjalu Valley area in Georgia.  Full pile … Kazak … heavy red wefts, high quality wool, no wear. 

Its design is rough, wonky, and includes an attempt at a Lesghi star with hints of Karachopf.

Owner says this was purchased from prominent Jewish dealer in Cairo about 55 years ago; he called it Karabagh.


M12comprehensiveKarabakh  Lesghi star

Mike said that this is a try at a star Kazak, probably “old:” pre-1865. 

One reads, sometimes, that the Lesghi star, as seen here,

M12comprehensiveKarabakh  Lesghi starstaronly

is a design device that, some suggest, has emerged fairly recently, and is the product of simple rotation and reflection of a single smaller component.  Despite its claimed recency, and possible mechanical mode of creation, Mike’s indication (and there are others) suggests that the “Lesghi Star” may be older than some think, and has its origin in “zili” weaves.




The next rug featured 3 1/2 stacked, Turkic medallions: also attributed to Nagorno-Karabakh.



The very white outlines in the medallions may well have been bleached to enhance white natural wool.


There are brown wefts in many of this type.

Here are some additional detail images of M15.






The next piece was a pile mafrash side panel from “somewhere in Iran.”



Mike said that it was probably not Caucasian, “a good piece to stump people.”


Wendel Swan said from the audience that this piece is definitely Persian, but that the 6-lobed blossoms are unusual. 


The use of 8-lobed blossoms, stars and other motifs is more common in Turkic weaving.

The next piece was a pile bag face with little crosses in diagonal rows on a dark blue field, ivory border and running back-to-back C-hook elements.



The suggestion in the room was that it is southwest Iran, perhaps Fars.



The next piece was the khojin face below.  It was attributed to east Azerbaijan.


M13Azerbaijan bag face

Someone from the audience asked for comment about possible a Shahsavan attribution, since this cruciform design device is often used in flat-woven pieces attributed to them. 

Mike said that pile bags, would be too heavy and too uneconomical to be actually woven for use. Mike said that nomads wove little pile work.  It was too expensive in time and materials. and pieces for their own use are made while they must keep moving. Pile was probably woven by the settled relatives for sale. So the differentiation is between nomadic flat woven pieces and settled pile pieces.

He added that the Shahsavan term is broadly used and unspecific.





The next piece was a long rug, attributed to the eastern Caucasus and said to be typical of the Shirvan area.


M14Shirvan w botehs left

It has brown and ivory wefts and original white cotton selvedges (some dyed blue in a few areas).  Unusually long pile: has not been on the floor much.  Good vegetable dyes.

M14Shirvan w botehs right

Botehs arrived in the Caucasus from Kashmir textiles.


The woven-in date 1329? about AD 1912, seems about right.

M14Shirvan w botehs detail2

More details on M19.




The next piece was the Kazak rug, below.  It has a field design based on the Georgian (Christian) cross.


M15Georgian crosses

Trefoil border that looks archaic.  Good vegetable dyes.

The woven date is 1319, so AD 1900 seems about right.


Bob Chenciner says this field motif is, originally, of Celtic origin.


Mike said that it also harkens to felt border designs and mosaics. 

The rug, above, has a milder palette than a more colorful, larger rug, with this field, in Schurmann. 

Barbara Kaslow, who was in the audience, at this RTAM, had an image on her smart phone of a rug of hers with very similar designs and a coloration closer to Schurmann’s example.

(Barbara Kaslow’s rug)

Barbara Kaslow Bordjalou Kazak

Mike said that Rosalie Rudnik has a horse cover with the same main border.

The last piece of the day was this, end of the 19th century, Kazak.



Red weft, replaced selvedges.  Mike said it was later (longer format as knotting got denser, pile shorter). 

Erroneously called either a “leaf & calyx” or a “wineglass” border (actually half of a entirely geometric pattern).


Some purple and a green.  Very light, possibly bleached, wool in border.


Probably for the western export market.

Mike answered questions and brought his session to a close.


The migration and conversations began.




















I hope you have enjoyed this authoritative look at Kazaks.


R. John Howe