Archive for December, 2015

Melissa and Mark Keshishian: Potpourri

Posted in Uncategorized on December 23, 2015 by rjohn

On December 12, 2015, Melissa and Mark Keshishian gave a “potpourri” session of the Textile Museum’s Rug and Textile Appreciation Morning series.

MarkMelissa1

Melissa is the widow of Harold Keshishian, in whose honor these Rug and Textile Appreciation Morning programs are named.  Mark is the son of Harold’s older brother James.  Together, Melissa and Mark operate the family rug firm.  The Keshishian firm, here in the U.S., was established by Mark’s grandfather, also Mark Keshisian.

Mark began by sketching some of the Keshishian family and firm history.  I won’t attempt to report on that, but you can read a great deal about the interesting and successful Keshishian family and business on their web site.

http://www.hadjin.com/Mark_Keshishian.htm

Melissa had clearly been thinking about material that might relate to the current TM exhibition featuring the photography of John Thomson, who took photos, in the last half of the 19th century, of people and costumes at all levels of Chinese society.

She moved, first, to treat a series of Chinese collars.

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Melissa3*

The first of these was a long embroidered piece that Melissa said may have been part of a costume worn in theater or opera performance.

MM1

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MM1e*

Details of MM1.

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MM1a

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MM1f

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MM1c

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Note the flap that raises.

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MM1d

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MM1g

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MM1k

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MM1i

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MM1j

The next Chinese collar had five embroidered lobes.  The decoration on this piece is all embroidery.

MM2

MM2*

Details of MM2.

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MM2a

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MM2b

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MM2c

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MM2d*

Melissa said that the next collar had a “moth” theme in its patterning.  It is done in applique and embroidery.

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MM3

MM3*

Details of MM3.

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MM3a

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MM3b*

Melissa was asked whether these figures could be butterflies, rather than moths.  She said that she thought butterfly images would be more skeletal and delicate.  These devices were more chunky, as moths would be.

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MM3d

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MM3c

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The next collar was framed under glass and had a dragon theme.  Embroidered in gold couched thread.

MM4

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MM4

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Details of MM4.

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MM4b

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MM4c*

The number of toes dragons have are said to be symbolic.  Five-toed dragons on clothing were reserved to the emperor.  Four-toed and three-toed dragons were allowed by folks of lower station.

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MM4d*

Next was a saddle blanket.  The pieced fabric is brocade.

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MM6

MM5*

Melissa said it seems unlikely that an elaborately brocaded piece like this was actually used, but there are wear marks in places where that would occur.

Details of MM6.

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MM5a

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MM5b*

Next was an incomplete silk skirt.  Intricate pleating and embroidery.  Field of flowers design.

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MM7

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MM6*

Details of MM7.  (The 3-D character of the pleating does not come through, fully, in these images.)

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MM6a

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MM6b

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MM6c

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Melissa said that the next piece may, possibly, be a lady’s vest.  Black taffeta and black-on-black secondary drawing.

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MM8

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MM7*

Details of MM8.

Ground color varies because of lighting and camera operation.

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MM7a

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MM7bcomp

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MM7c

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MM7d

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Next was a Chinese, silk purse.  More embroidery.  Exotic birds.

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MM9

MM8*

Details of MM9.

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MM8a

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MM8b

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Melissa said that the next item was sombre evidence of the cruel, oriental practice of foot-binding.  You can see how small these tiny shoes are in relation to the size of her hand.

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MM10

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MM9shoes

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The next piece, Melissa said was a tapestry.  The silk background is crumbling and the embroidery is holding it together.  Backed with a linen-like material.

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MM11

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MM10

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It is a Chinese court scene.  Four panels, stitched together.  Lots of details of MM11.

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MM10a

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MM10b

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MM10c

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MM10d

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MM10e

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MM10f

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MM10g

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MM10h

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MM10i

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MM10j

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MM10k

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MM10l

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Now, Mark moved to treat three, square-ish, pile pieces with the same basic design.

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Mark1

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Each of these mats features an eagle holding an American flag.  The flags each have 48 stars indicating that they were made after 1912 when Arizona was the last of the contiguous states admitted to the Union.  A number of such rugs were woven (one still sees them in dealers’ shops) and the Keshishians presented one to Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was president in 1936.  See thank you letter, below.

Roosevelt gift letter 1936MM12 was woven in Kashan, Iran, using “Manchester wool.”  As many readers will know, this is a very soft wool from Australian Merino sheep, processed in Manchester England.  Carpets with pile of Manchester wool are prized by some collectors.

(Click two or three times on the images below to get a larger version.)

MM12

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MM12

MM14 is a larger Kshan piece of Manchester wool, blended with silk.  The eagle faces left in this version.

MM13

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 MM15

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Mark said that the third example this format and design (MM15) was made in China.

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MM14

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MM14*

Manchester wool was used in a number of Persian carpets and Mark had three more examples.

MM15 was woven in Kashan. 

MM15

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MM11

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Details of MM15.

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MM11a

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MM11b

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MM16 was another Manchester wool example.  Mark said that it’s wool feels like silk.

MM16

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MM13*

Details of MM16.

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MM13a

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MM13b

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MM17 a Jozan Saruk with an embossed effect achieved by clipping the pile wool of the dark background.

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MM17

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MM16*

Details of MM17.

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MM16a

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MM16b

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MM16c

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MM16d

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Next Melissa treated two Chinese saddle rugs in pile.  She used the term “Mongolian.”

Both of these two saddle rugs were woven in two pieces with the pile pointing to the sides (down when sitting on it on top of the saddle).  This for a more comfortable ride.

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MM18

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MM17

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MM17pilepointsoppositedirections

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Addi tonal detail images of MM18.

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MM17a

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MM17b

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MM18e

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MM19 was another such saddle rug with a different design and coloration.

MM19

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MM18comp2

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MM18

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Details of MM19.

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MM18a

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MM18b

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MM18c

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MM18d

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The next piece was a small Chinese rug with a bird and dragon design on a field of shades of yellow.  Both the bird and the dragon, especially when appearing together, are auspicious symbols in Chinese folklore.

MM20

MM19*

Details of MM20.

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MM19a

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MM19b

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MM19c

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Mark now took us through some fragments thought come from 17th century “dragon” carpets,traditionally, but now controversially, attributed to the Caucasus.  Mark gave the traditional attribution of Shusha, which is in the province of Karabagh.  He said that these are “dragon” carpets without actual dragons.

MM21 is a sizable fragment that gives us a sense of the 18 foot long “gallery” rug from which it is likely taken.  The field designs feature a variety of palmette devices and armatures.

MM21

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MM21comp2*

Details of MM21.

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MM21a

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MM21B

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MM21c

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MM21d

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MM21e

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Mark said that he thought that the other threee smaller fragments may have been taken from the same rug.  He thought that they were likely older than MM21 above.

You can see only traces of the patterns in MM22.

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MM22

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MM20

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MM23 is also not in good condition.

MM23

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MM23*

MM24 is a border fragment that reads more clearly.

MM24

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MM22*

The next two pieces were large wall hangings.

MM25 is starkly graphic.   It is Egyptian.

MM25

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MM25

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Details of MM25.

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MM25a

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MM25b

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MM25c

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MM25f

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MM25g

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MM25i*

MM26, the second hanging was for tent use.  Melissa describe it as likely made around 1900 by Ottomans in “Banja Luka,” the second largest city in Herzegovia-Bosnia.  A Croation dominant area.  100% applique, velvet and silk.   About 5 feet by 12. Backing was likely done in Europe.

MM26

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MM24

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Details of MM26.

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MM24b

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MM24h

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MM24f

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MM24e

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MM24i

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 Next were some pictorial rugs.

MM27, below, was one with Edward VII’s image.  Edward was oldest son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert (1841-1910).  Because of his mother’s long reign, he was crown prince for longer than any ultimate King of the Great Britain, so far (the current Prince Charles may supplant him in this regard).  He reigned from 1901 to his death.  Edward was an international figure, popular, and seen to be an arbiter of good taste.  It is not surprising that he would be seen to be a good subject for a pictorial rug.

This rug was woven in Sivas, in central Turkey and is dated 1909, nearly at the end of Edward’s reign.  It has a lot of additional inscription on it, including what may be the name of the “weaver” of it.

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MM27

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MM26*

Details of MM27.

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MM26b

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MM26a

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MM26c

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MM26d

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MM26e

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The next pictorial rug was of President Abraham Lincoln.  Mark said that this rug is super-fine and called attention to the near-photographic detail of the drawing.  It was woven in Greece in 1920.

MM28

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MM27

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Details of MM28.

MM27a

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MM27b

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MM27c

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MM27d

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A third pictorial rug is based on a photo of Mark’s namesake and grandfather on the occasion of his graduation from the American Syrian College in 1916.  Here is the photo.  Keshishian is in his Turkish military uniform.

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Now, here is the rug (MM29).  This rug was woven in Romania in the 1990s.  Very fine: mid-400s knots per square inch.

MM29

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MM28

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Detail of MM29.

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MM28a

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 The town of Resht, near the Caspian Sea in northern Iran, was known during the 19th century for its sumptuous, embroidered, applique textiles. 

Some of the instances of Resht material are nearly beyond belief.

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Reshttent*

MM30 is a horse cover done in a luxurious Resht fabric.  It is a relatively simple instance, but still very nice. Woven wool red background.

MM30

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MM29*

Details of MM30.

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MM29a

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MM29d

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MM29e*

MM31 is a second instance of Resht.  Again, embroidered on a red background.

MM31

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MM30*

Details of MM31.

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MM30a

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MM30c

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MM30d

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MM30b

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MM30e*

The next piece was a small, pile decorative band, with wrapped tassels.

MM32

MM31*

Details of MM32.

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MM31a

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MM31b

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MM33 was a pile saddle cover, probably Persian, Bakhtiari.

MM33

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MM32

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Details of MM33.

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MM32a

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MM32b

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MM34 is a classic Senneh saddle cover in pile.

MM34

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MM33

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Details of MM34.

Interesting herati field pattern.

MM34

MM33a

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MM33b

Notice the thin, vertical, red, connecting line from the cantle opening to the upper border.

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MM33c

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MM35 is an octagon-shaped, smaller, saddle rug.  Probably Qashqa’i.

MM35

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MM34

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Details of MM35.

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MM34a

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MM34b

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MM34c*

Notice the wide range of color in the small boteh designs in this piece which looks dark from even a little distance.

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MM34e

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There were some samplers (varigehs).

Samplers are interesting.  They seem to have two functions.  The first is to guide the weaver in weaving particular patterns and the second is as a kind of marketing device to let potential customers see what’s available.  There seem to be no 18th century samplers and the use of them apparently arose when western firms became influential in the Persian rug industry.

Eiland says that there are four kinds of samplers:

1. One that includes all the design motifs for a particular rug (field, major and minor borders).

2. One that includes a variety of designs available without attempting to include those needed for a complete rug.

3. One that indicates only the colors available.

4. One that is a smaller version of a rug to be woven in a larger size.  All the designs to be used in the specific colors to be used as well.  Sometimes called a “strike-off.”

The first sampler Melissa and Mark had brought was the one below.  It was described as a Bakhtiari border sampler, 1930s, and it does offer a number of borders.  If the large circular device is only used in borders, then this sampler is not one from which an entire rug could be woven.  If the round device could be used as a field device, then this sampler could function to guide the weaving of a complete rug.

MM36

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MM35

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Details of MM36.

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MM35a

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MM35b

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MM35c*

The second sampler was MM37.  It was described as a Bijar sampler also from the 1930s.

MM37

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MM36

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It is of the type from which a complete rug could be woven.

Details of MM37.

 MM36a

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MM36b

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Most samplers are Persian, but Melissa and Mark had two attributed to Anatolia.  MM38 is central Anatolia, Tashpinar area.  It provides field devices (both a medallion and a spandrel), two major borders and one minor one.  It could guide the making of a complete rug.

MM38

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MM38

Details of MM38.

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MM38a

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MM38b

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MM39 was described as a “Ziegler” sampler. As many readers will know, Zeigler, was an England-based firm that had production in Iran during the 19th and 20th centuries.  Rugs from this period are still described as “Zeiglers.”  A permutation of this firm still operates.

The Ziegler sampler provides near quarters of designs that could be used as spandrels or rotated and reflected (something weavers do readily) to produce medallions.  It offers no borders and so isn’t of the type from which a complete rug could be woven, unless it was one without borders.

MM39

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MM39*

Details of MM39.

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MM39a

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MM39b*

MM40 is the second Anatolian sampler Melissa and Mark had brought.  Its tag attributes it to Kirsehir in central Turkey.  it provides a central field medallion and a variety of borders and so could guide weaving of a complete rug.

MM40

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MM40*

Details of MM40.

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MM40b

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MM40a

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MM40c

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MM41 was woven in Tabriz.  It could, certainly, be used to guide the weaving of a variety of rugs (it offers several field designs and at least three narrow borders).

MM41

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MM37*

Details of MM41.

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MM37b

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MM37a*

The next piece was an Anatolian kilim.  Slit tapestry.  There was a suggestion that the device in its field were reminiscent of animal pelts.

MM42

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MM41

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Details of MM42.

MM41b

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MM41a

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MM41d

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MM41f

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A good purple.

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MM41c

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MM41e

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MM43 was described as Uzbek.  Applique work, pleating, quilting.  Loops on upper corners. Backed with “trade-cloth” (no image of that).

MM43

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MM42

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Details of MM43.

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MM42a

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MM42b

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MM42c

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The next piece was an exquisite little Kyrgyz bag.  Embroidered in silk.  Its devices are like designs used in Kyrgyz felts.  Tassels edge the bag and one hangs long.

MM44

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MM44

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MM44b*

Lined with silk ikat.

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MM44inside*

MM45 was another Kyrgyz piece.  Applique.  Some simple decorative stitching.  Perhaps the front of a bag or might be part of a larger piece.  Tassels edge the piece on all sides.  Longer rapped tassels hang below.

MM45

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MM43

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Details of MM45.

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MM43b

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MM43c

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MM43a

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The next piece was another small bag, silk embroidery on an ivory ground.  Possibly Kyrgyz.  Loops at top corners.

MM46

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MM45*

Detail of MM46.

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MM45a

MM47 was a small Kyrgyz pile piece. About 2 feet square.  A text book example.  Notice the effort to achieve resolution of the corners of the borders.  Completely successful in the lower right corner with the device rotated 45 degrees.

MM47

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MM46*

Details of MM47.

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MM46a

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MM46b

MM48 was a Krygyz pile “chavadan” a storage bag.

MM48

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MM47*

Details of MM48.

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MM47c

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MM47A

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MM47d

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Inside cotton strip on the inside of the top.  Likely Russian cotton printed trade cloth.

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MM47stripontopofback

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MM49 was another square-ish Kyrgyz bag face.  Effective use of yellow in its narrow color palette.  Narrow outside, white-ground borders, on the sides, are unusual.  Nicely drawn field devices, although the top three need centering.

MM49

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MM48*

Details of MM49.

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MM48b

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MM48a*

MM50 was a “heybe,” a saddlebag from western Anatolia.  The long slit allows it, also, to be worn by a person, hanging front and back over one’s head.  This piece is done mostly in slit tapestry with row of small tassels hanging off the front side.  White and red binding at the sides and ends.

This piece is in near pristine condition and raises the question of whether it could be a recent reproduction.  There are stains suggesting some use, but the delicate tassels would not stand the kind of abrasion, nearly unavoidable in regular use, and are undamaged.  This heybe is attributed to a remote area, Kilaz, north of Bergama.  It is reported that such pieces were still being woven there in 1990’s, so maybe it is a young piece still woven within a, long-standing, Kilaz tradition.

MM50

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Heybe1

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Here are some detail images of the front of MM50. (Click on them two or three times to get a larger version.)

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Heybe3a

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Heybe4a

Anatolia heybes have striped backs, said to be a better indicator of where a piece was woven than are the more decorated fronts.  Here is the back on this one.

Heybe8

Beiber, Pinkwart and Steiner, the authors of the only book in English (also German) on heybes, have taken on the claim that the backs are good indicators of where a piece was woven.  They show the fronts of 90 heybes and then present all of the backs, indicating where each of them were woven.  Here is one page from this latter part of their book.

HeybeBacks*

And, below, is the opposite page, indicating where a given back, on the page above, was woven.  Notice that all, but one, on this page, are from Kilaz.  The fact that the authors do this with 90 backs is an impressive presentation of  how this claim would be applied.

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HeybeBacksText*

 MM51 was a Caucasian pile fragment.  It is a niche design with hands in the top corners and a date.   It has good color and the field is filled with botehs arranged in diagonal rows of differing color.  The owner (who was looking for an attribution) said that he has found the minor border only on rugs attributed to Dagestan.  The reciprocal main border also appears on Dagestan rugs, but also on those from other areas.  The knot count: about 100 kpsi is in the Dagestan range of fineness.  The color palette is also similar to some Dagestan pieces.  But the attribution is not at all firm.

MM51

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C1

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Details of MM51.

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C3

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C5borderreselveded

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C11

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C10

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The owner said that he cannot reliably decipher the date, but that, if the first two numbers are 12, the third number must be 9.  This seems a turn of the century (19th to 20th) rug.  The literature notes that a large number of Dagestan rugs are dated.

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C8dateviewa*

The last piece of the day was even more mysterious than MM51. 

MM52 seems to be a cotton fabric with strong graphics.  The owner had bought it “blind” and had no real notion of what it was or where it had been made.  Its colors are white, black, yellow, green, a pinkish red, a stronger red in some isolated places.  Its warps are black.

There has been a suggestion that this piece might have been woven in Nagaland (east India).  Since this session, the owner has consulted someone who travels, widely, in that part of the world and who is experienced with textiles from it.  She reports that the presence of white could indicate the North Eastern parts of India – Naga / Mizo / Arunachal.  She says that some of the designs, like the X’s and the diamonds (see details below) are common in that area and that the “white squid and fish motifs” seem to say something, too.  But, she says, she sees nothing that is conclusive.

MM52

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Naga0comp*

Details of MM52.

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Naga1

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Naga3

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Naga4

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Some of the patterning devices in the image above seem to be brocade.  I am not sure what structure (it seems simple) was used to produce the white designs in the image below.

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Naga5

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Below is a turned over corner of MM52, showing its back and end finish.  The yellow strip in the end finish looks distinctive, but something similar occurs in other areas.

Despite its being humble, this piece is one about which the owner would like to know more.

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Naga6CornerTurnedOverToShowBack *

I want to thank Melissa and Mark for this interesting program presenting aspects of their collections we have rarely seen, or not seen before. 

Thanks to them also for their help in editing this post.

Thanks, also, to Kate Seno for a good set of notes.

I hope you have enjoyed this varied post, as we end the current year and begin 2016.

Best,

R. John Howe