Mike Tschebull on Zeikhur Caucasian Rugs

On April 9, 2016, “Mike” Tschebull gave a Rug and Textile Appreciation Morning program on Zeikhur Caucasian rugs, here at The Textile Museum, in Washington, D.C.

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Mike, many readers will know, is a long-time student of Caucasian weaving. 

His early classic “Kazak” exhibition catalog is still referenced usefully.  He has written for what was once the Oriental Rug Review and has written, early, and on a continuing basis, for Hali. 

He has been active in the New England Rug Society and in 2004 curated an exhibition on transport and storage bags, entitled “To Have and To Hold.” (see link at the end of this post). 

Mike has lectured to a number of textile groups and at conferences, here and abroad, and has previously given a number of Rug and Textile Appreciation Morning programs here at the TM (again see links at the end).

Here is the description of Mike’s session in the Textile Museum announcement:

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“Zeikhur” rugs from the NE Transcaucasus have a very distinctive structure, plus complex and varied designs – taken from embroideries, other textiles, tiles, and large carpet designs.  Zeikhur indicators include a blue and ivory “running dog” border and tone-on-tone reds. Sumak Zeikhurs are fairly common. Slit-tapestry weaves and bags are not easy to identify.

Mike’s program consisted of a short lecture and then a number of rugs in the Zeikhur group that we had arranged to have brought in.

Here is his lecture.

Slide 1

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Mike started with this map.

Slide 2

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Slide 2: The Zeikhur weaving area is in the foothills of the Caucasus mountain chain, about 30 km north of the city of Quba, at an altitude where livestock raising would have been common. See the map detail in slide 3, colored in tan. The best known villages in the weaving area are Zeikhur and Alpan, but there were several others. The weaving area is spelled in English variously as Zeikhur and Zeykhur, but not “Seychour” or some version of that. The latter spelling is a German transliteration of the Turkic name. Old rugs from nearby Quba are a bit different, separated from Zeikhurs in time and space, which would not have been unusual in an era when transportation would have been by mule or donkey, and 30 km over rough paths and ravines would have taken a long time.

Here is a closer look at the map on the left (click image two or three times to get an even larger version)

Slide 2 left

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The red and blue arrows in Slide 2 right point to the area of interest and Slide 3 gives a closer detail (click on all of these images to get somewhat larger versions).

Slide 2 right

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And here is a detail that makes the specific areas of interest visible and readable.

Slide 3

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Slide 3: The map and village locations are from a friend in Baku, whose local knowledge is very much appreciated.

Ed:  In our treatment of the following rugs, we will begin with two rugs shown side by side.  This permits direct comparison.  Click two or three times on these two-rug slides to get a somewhat larger image.

Larger versions of the two rug shown in the two-rug comparisons are also repeated below it for ease of viewing.

Slide 4

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Slide 4: Reviewing three of the most interesting Zeikhur field patterns and their origins, the first is fairly easy to unravel.

It is a vase design derived from an Indo-Persian tradition, probably brought to the Transcaucasus from India by about 1800 via printed, painted and resist dyed cotton textiles like the example, right, that were imported into Baku.

The Zeichur rug, left, with a bisymmetrical design, has a woven date which is the equivalent of 1860.  The rug is a good dated example of how high the quality of dyes was when it was woven.

Here is a somewhat larger image of Slide 4 left.

Slide 4 left

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Slide 4 right

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Slide 4 right: Textile catalogued as from Burhanpor. Note that the highly stylized floral arrangement in the rug approximates that in the textile.

Slide 5

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Slide 5: The second Zeikhur field pattern, sometimes called the “Bijov”, probably a Russian corruption of the name of a nearby village called Bijo, has a long complex history.

The ascending design of three columns of palmettes with clasping leaves in the Zeikhur rug, left, seems to have started out on a group of 16th century Ottoman silk and metal thread textiles, sometimes used for kaftans.

The Ottoman design is fairly clearly tulip flowers with clasping leaves, all within an ogival lattice. In later versions, the lattice can fall away.

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Slide 5 left

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Slide 5 right

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Slide 6

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Slide 6: Left, a Bijov Zeikhur with a border made up of rose forms, likely either due to Qajar or Russian influence.

Right, Ottoman kaftan back with tulip form, now palmette-like and the clasping leaves much larger. No more lattice. Stylization is not always linear.

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Slide 6 left

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Slide 6 right

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Slide 7

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Slide 7:  Zeikhur Bijov rug, left.

Anatolian pile rug, right, probably 18th century, with exaggerated clasping leaves and palmettes on stems. An example of further stylization, probably in a village context.

Slide 7 left

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Slide 7 right

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Slide 7 Right: The single column of ornaments fits well in a small format when the weaving technique is coarse.  May be a yastic.

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Slide 8

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Slide 8: Zeikhur Bijov, left, Anatolian pile rug, right, probably 18th-19th century.

In the right hand example, the single column design from previous slides has morphed into a three column repeat, at least in part because of the larger format. The clasping leaves are further stylized. A stiff version of the Ottoman textile lattice has reappeared.

The basic three column version of this design for pile rugs has been established.

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Slide 8 left

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Slide 8 right

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Slide 9

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Slide 9: Left, a “Shirvan” rug, 19th century, with a field design based on “Bijov”, but a bit different.

Right, partial view, Zeikhur Bijov.

The same village rug designs  were interpreted differently in different parts of the Transcaucasus.

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Slide 9 right

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Slide 10

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Slide 10.  Another version of the Ottoman original.

Detail from a Shirvan “shield” rug, left, probably 19th century. The “shields” are pretty clearly a stop on a path of continued stylization of the tulip design. Clasping leaves are almost unrecognizable.

Right, the same design, probably late 19th century, photographed in a mosque in Zakatal, in the NE Transcaucasus.

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Slide 10 right

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Slide 11

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Slide 11: Inwoven dates: left, 1202/1787, the earliest dated Zeikhur Bijov (see top of the larger Slide 11 left image below). But is the date accurate? It doesn’t look like it has been fiddled with, but the rug could easily have been woven at a later date.

Right, Bijov palmette detail with date, 1297/1879 plus an unreadable inscription. From dated examples, it is clear that some real good rugs and kilims were woven late, but generally, earlier times meant better weavings, especially when dye use/color sensitivity is considered.

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Slide 12

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Slide 12: The third Zeikhur field design of interest is based on a tile design, probably originally unglazed floor tiles, as in the right hand slide (two large images below).

The orientation of the slide helps make clear the comparison of the long hexagonal tiles to the diagonal cartouches in the rug, left; the repeat medallions in the rug are represented by the diamond-shaped tiles.

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Details of Slide 12 right

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Slide 13

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Slide 13:  The tile design is to be seen in Isfahan, on vertical columns. But is picked up in the Transcaucasus on silk embroideries, see right hand example.

All the rug elements are present in the embroideries, just that the rugs have more straight lines, reflecting structural limitations. The claw-like elements on the ends of the diagonal cartouches are more complex and curvy in the embroidery.  

Zeikhur rugs and the embroideries were likely produced in the same region, and probably had some time overlap, but the embroideries are generally considered to have been earlier.

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Slide 13 left

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Slide 13 left: This fragmented rug has a bottom border sewn on, which was taken from a later piece with some synthetic dyes; the rug has less disciplined drawing than the previous example. This may reflect age, or maybe not.

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Slide 13 right

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Slide 13 right: Sinuous lines are made possible in fine embroidery.

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Slide 14

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Slide 14: Tile design Zeikhurs rarely have multiple columns of ornaments. This old somewhat battered example on the left, is Transcaucasian, or from NW Iran.

It apes a slightly different embroidery style on the right.

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Slide 15

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Slide 15: Zeikhur weavers also produced floral and sometimes quite abstract designs, on the left, probably at first for a Russian market.

Stylized roses on the right were a favorite.

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Slide 16

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Slide 16: The reasonably reliable identifier for Zeikhur weaving is the pair of borders, left, especially the two-toned inner one. It seems likely that border conventions changed over time.

The inner border concept may be derived from the type of rug seen, right. 

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Slide 17

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Slide 17: There are contemporary versions of old rugs, like this Bijov, woven in the Caucasus with handspun local wool and natural dyes.

They are based on existing rugs. Is a good reproduction as interesting as an original?

It depends on the buyer.

(This is the end of Mike’s illustrated lecture.)

We had arranged for a number of rugs in the Zeikhur group to be brought in and Mike moved to treat them next.

(Click three times on images below to get a larger version)

(Identifying numbers are not always consecutive)

BI1

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Comment on BI1: Zeikhur cross design rug, meant to be a repeat design. Charlie Ellis thought the design was Ukrainian in origin. The floral borders are not traditional, probably as a result of export market demand.

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Details of BI1:

BI1a

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BI6a*

BI1b

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BI1c

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BI2

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Comment on BI2: Cross design with traditional borders. Sometimes these rugs have ivory fields.

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Details of BI2:

BI2a

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BI7a*

BI2b

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BI2c

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BI3

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Comment on BI3: An unusual cross design rug with end borders with different background color.

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Details of BI3:

BI3a

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BI8a*

BI3b

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BI8b*

BI3c

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BI3d

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BI3e

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BI4: The lion may be European origin, but also exists in ME art.

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Comment on BI4: A short vase design rug. It looks almost like a sampler.

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Details of BI4.

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BI4a

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BI4b

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BI4c

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BI4d

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BI5

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Comment on BI5:  An unusual field design for a Zeikhur. The border on green is rare and quite sophisticated.

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Details of BI15:

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BI5a

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BI3a*

BI5b

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BI5c

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BI6

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Comment on BI6:  Standard Zeikhur borders, but with unusual dark wool warps and dense structure. Field design is taken from a class of Transcaucasian kilims.

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Details of BI6.

BI6a

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BI4a*

BI6b

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BI4c*

BI6c

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BI4d*

BI6

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BI15*

Comments on BI6:  Palmette design on dark brown, which is almost all corroded away. The field design is taken from large carpets, but simplified.

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Details of BI6:

BI6a

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BI15e*

BI6b

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BI15f*

BI6c

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BI15d*

BI6d

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BI15g*

BI7 Finishes are intact, colored pile is unworn, which shows the power of dark brown dye corrosion.

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BI16*

Comments on BI7:  Treated in lecture above.

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Details of BI7:

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BI7a

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BI16a*

BI7b

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BI16d*

BI7c

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BI16c*

BI7d

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BI16e

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BI8

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BI14*

Comment on BI8: Treated in lecture above.

Details of BI8:

BI8a

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BI14a*

BI8b

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BI14d*

BI8c

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BI14c*

 

B19

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Comment on BI9:  Apparent older tile design rug with design elements looking closer in style to embroideries, but old style does not always mean the rug is older.

Details of BI9.

BI9a

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BI9b Note partial intact end finish

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BI9c

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BI10

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Comment on BI10: Zeikhur tile design with palmettes introduced. These weavers could often could innovate.

Details of BI1o.

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BI10a

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BI10b

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BI10c

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BI10f*

BI10d

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BI11

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Comment on BI11:   Fragment of a tile design rug, with strong color but one synthetic, which helps date it.

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Details on B11.

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BI22a*

B11b

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BI14

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Comment on BI14:  Fragment of a European inspired field design, but with some local design input.

Details of BI14.

BI14a

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BI14b

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BI14c

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BI15

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Comments on BI15:  Zeikhur-like rug with sumak bag-derived field design

Details of BI15.

BI15a

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BI15b

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BI15c

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BI16

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Comment on BI16:  European market design called “French Rose” in translation. Reflects market demand for these weavers.

Details of BI16:

BI16a

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BI16b

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BI16c

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BI17

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Comments on BI17:  May be a Zeikhur, with an unusual field design.

Details on BI17.

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BI17a

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BI17b

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BI17c

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BI18

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Comment on BI18:  Typical Quba with mini ascending palmettes. Joe McMullan had a similar rug in his collection that is dated the equivalent of 1856.

Details on BI18.

BI18a

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BI18b

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BI18c

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BI19

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Comment on BI19:  Zeikhur cross rug. This was a very popular style in this weaving area.

Details of BI19.

BI19a

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BI19b

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BI19c

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BI20

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Comment on BI20:  Diamond-shaped forms. May be from a bit further north than Zeikhur.

 

Details on BI20.

BI20a

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BI20b

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BI20c

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BI21

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Comment on BI21:  Bijov in a short format. A very stable design, surprising because it is so complex.

Details on BI21.

BI21a

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BI21b

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BI21c

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BI22

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Comment on B22:  Another Zeikhur rug design that can be traced clearly to an embroidery pattern.

Details of B22.

B22a

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B22b

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B22c

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B22d

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A last rug was a little off-topic, but too good not to treat.

BI12

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Comment on BI12:  Terrific Persian Herati design Shirvan. Note that the border varies from the original Persian workshop model. Probably this rug was woven under controlled conditions. 

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Details of BI12.

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BI12d

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Mike took questions

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and adjourned his program.  The usual movement to the front of the room began.

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Mike has been interested in and investigating Zeikhur rugs for a long time.  He wrote a very substantial article on them in 1992 in Hali, 62, pp. 84-95.  It’s worth looking at. 

At the beginning, I also mentioned Mike’s curating of a New England Rug Society exhibition “To Have and to Hold.”  You can enjoy an on-line version of this exhibition using this link: http://ne-rugsociety.org/gallery/bags/index.htm

I want to thank Mike for designing and presenting this program, and for considerable subsequent work in preparing this virtual version.  Thanks also to Jim and Connie Henderson.  Jim took and provided me with many photos, and Connie took notes.

I hope you have enjoyed this authoritative look at this interesting group of quality Caucasian rugs.

Regards,

R. John Howe

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