“Kilims from Your Collection” with Walter Denny, Sumru Krody and Michael Seidman

On October 27, 2018 a program entitled “Kilims from Your Collection” was held here at the Textile Museum.  It was not, strictly speaking, a Rug and Textile Appreciation Morning program, but it was a show and tell held in the usual RTAM day/time slot and so resembled them.

This program was held in conjunction with the current exhibition on Anatolian kilims.

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A Nomad’s Art: Kilims of Anatolia

Detail of kilim

Kilim (detail), Turkey, central Anatolia, late 18th century. The Textile Museum 2013.2.1. The Megalli Collection.
September 1–December 30, 2018
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Originally, the speaker/facilitator of this session was to be Peter Davies, the well-known NYC kilim dealer and author.
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Davies died unexpectedly, on September 12, and the decision was made to go on with the program he would have led.
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Michael Seidman
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organized and facilitated the program, and Walter Denny
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and Sumru Krody
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were the primary describers of the pieces.
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Bruce Baganz
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 spoke to the pieces he had brought.
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We gave Davies’ first edition of his book, “The Tribal Eye: Antique Kilims of Anatolia,” as a door prize,
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Image result for Peter Davies kilims
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and Walter said a few words about Davies.
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He said that Davies had started life with a horrendous, disadvantaged, childhood, but had bootstrapped his way to an education, interesting work in Turkey, and became a prominent textile dealer in NYC.  He was one of those, who, in 80s and 90s, drew attention to the importance of flat-woven textiles, and in his case, Anatolian kilims.  Walter also pointed to a remarkable obit on Peter, that his partner, Mark Scherzer has written, and that I have included, at the end of this post.
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We moved to treat the considerable material that had been brought in.  
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The word “kilim” is used and heard ambiguously and some thought the topic, and the material to be brought to the session, included flatweaves other than slit tapestry.  And also pieces not woven in Anatolia.
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We started with a few such off-topic pieces.
K1
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(Please note that you can click on most of the images in this post to see a larger version.)
Comment on K1:  Denny said that this is trans-Caucasian kilim in slit tapestry.  The lack of borders is an indicator. Likely by a Turkic weaver.  A well-done piece, not particularly old, and with signs of the possible use of synthetic dyes.
Detail of K1:
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K2
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Comment on K2:  This piece was described as “Karabagh.”  It is brocaded. Brown wool warps.  Not seen as old. Likely Kurdish.
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Details of K2:
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K3
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Description of K3:  Owner said it was bought over 40 years ago in Bagdad.  Sumac. Kurdish.  Likely made in the northern part of Iraq. This piece and K4, below, were said to be parts of an unmatched pair.
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Details of K3:
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K4
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Comment on K4:  This is the second, although much larger, part of the “pair” described in K3 above.
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Details of K4:
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K5
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Comment on K5:  With this piece we began to treat the slit tapestry, Anatolian kilims of our topic. 
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A general geographic sequence was followed, beginning with things estimated to have been woven in eastern Anatolia, and then, in turn, to pieces seen to be sourced in central and then western Anatolian.  But sometimes this geographic progression was not followed.
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K5 was said to have been woven in southeast Anatolia, near Syria.  Someone mentioned, after, that it is similar to some published pieces attributed to Ruswan/Rushwan Kurds in the east part of Central Anatolia  
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Lots of cochineal.  The blue-green in the field was noted. White areas are cotton, despite a tan cast.  Could be sunlight or, even, deliberate tea staining.  Lots of slits: a delicate slit tapestry fabric.  Nicely matched halves.
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Details of K5:
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K6
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(Click even on detail images that seem the same size.  Sometimes different large images appear.”
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Comment on K6:  This is an Anatolian storage bag, complete, but opened up.  Its more decorated center panels are brocade and the striped red and blue panels are weft faced tapestry.  The warps are parallel with the horizontal in this image.  Seen as Kurdish and that likely means eastern Anatolia. 
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Similar bags are in “Giving Back the Colors,” on the Josephine Powell Collection.
Details of K6:
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K7
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(Please, click on the image above.  It’s not that small underneath.)
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Comment on K7:  This is a half kilim with a niche design.  A saf-like design, but not an actual saf.  Cochineal, and a good green. Kurd.
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Details of K7:
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K8
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Comment on K8:  Bought in SE Turkey. Madder and cochineal reds.  Green cast to colors.  Halves nicely matched despite intricate design.  About 1900.  Kurd.
The attribution notes for K5, above, apply to this piece as well.
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Details of K8:
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K9
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Comment on K9:  This is another complete Anatolian storage bag, similar to K6 above, but not opened.  S.E. Anatolia. The tablet-woven attached strap was noticed.  
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Details of K9:
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The owner came forward to arrange it as it would be when in use, with the two brocade panels at front together.  A handsome piece.
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K10
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Comments on K10:  Now we’re back, again, with the slit tapestry kilims that were the primary focus of this session. K10 is a complete, two-panel kilim from southeastern Anatolia, Yörük or Kurdish, with weft faced slit tapestry weave and some supplementary weft-wrapping for outlines and prominent use of cotton for white highlights.

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It has an unusual color palate, about 12 colors, including what is likely to be cochineal (cool red) in addition to madder for warm red and orange shades, typical of eastern Anatolia.  The owner pointed out a color of possible interest, asking whether the prominent light green in the center rams-horns “koç boyunuzu” motif might be indigo-sulfonic dye.

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Walter noted that this first synthetic dye was used from the early 19th century (one source says 1740, but P. Davies says indigosulfonic acid came in use in 1780 – but not attributed to a source).  It has an advantage over the usual green, created with indigo over-dyed on yellow, by being a one-step process.  It was widely used in Turkey.  It can fade in light and with washing processes, but the light green color in this piece is strong on both sides. I have heard that some see it as an age marker on Turkish rugs, but have not seen the evidence of when folks in Turkey stopped using it. 

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The owner added that this is at least late 19th century provenance, since it came from a German-Jewish friend, a second mother, who brought it from the family home at the center of Berlin where it had been since about 1900 before the family left Germany in the 1930s.

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Details of K10:
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K11
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Comment on K11:  Its owner said that at first, this seems to be nearly one half of a two-part kilim, but once you get it up on a wall, you find that it is a study piece, showing what happens if a weaver does not maintain uniform warp depression.
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Despite this fatal flaw, it features good color, and drawing.  Chalky whites are cotton.  It is usually attributed to Malatya because of all the cochineal.
Details of K11:
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The next two pieces are similar enough to justify discussing them together.
K12
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K13
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Comments on K12 and K13:  These were small, one piece, white ground slit tapestries with the same, hexagonal, field device and similar border treatments. K12 has bright colors and those of K13 are more subdued, including an unusual darker red in its borders.  These pieces were not seen to have great age.
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They were treated after kilims attributed to eastern Anatolia and those thought to have been woven in central Anatolia, but no firm attribution seems to have been given. K12 is described in one set of notes as “central Anatolian” and in another as “Taurus mountains.”
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In his opening remarks, Denny had talked about how the rise of modern art had made kilim designs, including minimalism, more aesthetically worthy and used the words “minimalist” and “gorgeous,”in his description of these two pieces.  It is true that minimalist designs are getting some increased attention.  We saw in the ICOC 14 ending show and tell that John Wertime and Fred Mushkat are exploring minimalist pieces.
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Details of K12 and K13 in turn:
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K13
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Comment on K14: This is a small kilim with a niche-topped field and a chevron border.  It is described in the notes taken for me as “central Anatolia: and “north central or east Anatolia.” Good colors and a brown-green that attracts the eye.
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Details of K14.
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K15
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Comments on K15:  This is a large, one piece kilim with a niche field design.  It was woven upside down as indicated by the the orientation of the “jewelry” motifs in it field.  This weaving sequence lets the weaver get the hard stuff done first. It was said that it is likely that the weaver had never seen an “arch.”  Good colors, including an unusual blue-brown.
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The variation on the use of scale in this piece, especially in the large devices chosen for the main borders, is effective.
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Details of K15.
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K16
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Comments on K16:  This is a corner fragment of a large kilim.  Its owner said that he owns this humble piece only because of all the green in it.  The colors in it are subdued, likely from age. One attribution comment placed it in central or central-east Anatolia.  The whites are not cotton.
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Details of K16.
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K17
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(Click for a larger image.)
Comments on K17: Its owner said that this fragment of a large Anatolian weft-faced tapestry was given to him by Patrick Pouler, the Rugrabbit dealer.  It is admittedly decrepit, but has good color and that led him to have it couched onto a blue background.
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He said that Marla Mallett, looking at images of it, said that this kind of weaving could have been woven anywhere in Anatolia. One comment in my notes was that this piece likely had a Turkman origin.
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Denny said that you can never tell what will appear in a session like this and that he had not seen a piece like this previously.
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Details of K17:
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There have been some odd attempts at decoration of some stripes, maybe a crude kind of brocade.
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K18
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Click on the image above for a larger version.)
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I want to give you a chance to see K18 completely.  Below is another photo of it, in an entirely different lighting and setting.
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Comment on K18:  This is a half kilim,  A good type. well-drawn.  Some bad colors, but a possible good purple.   
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Its owner attributed its source as “Powell-Böhmer, and, perhaps, c.1900.  Saçikara Yörük (Saçikara Izmirili Hayta, J Powell attribution).  She called the main rectangle as having ‘sandıklar’ (‘storage box’ or ‘trunk”) elements with ‘Memling guls.'”
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Detail images of K18:
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K19
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Comments on K19:  This is a single piece Anatolian weaving with weft-faced tapestry and slit tapestry.  Good, fresh color.  No cotton. The feathering of the “borders” in the panels with lozenges is delicately done.
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Details of K19.
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K20
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Comment on K20: This is a kilim fragment, of a long half, organized in “stripes,”each containing an array of design devices.  Wonderful colors.  Estimated to the 18th century.
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Details of K20.
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K21
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Comment on  K21: Described as: 18th century. A version, as an entire half, is pictured in Bohmer’s book Nomads of Anatolia. His piece has 7 elements, this has three. Both on a camel wool ground.   Warp-fringed.  No white.
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Details of K21.
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Note the S-plied, brown and white warps.
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K22
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Comment on K22:  This is a single-piece fragment.  Beautiful.  18th century. Central Anatolia, Sumru saw a relationship to plate 38 in the Megalli catalogue.  The jagged “sun burst” elements were her connection.

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Detail images of K22.

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K23

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(Please click on the image above in order to see this entire piece in a larger version.)

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Comments on K23: This is difficult to get into a horizontal image, but it is also a piece with a story. 

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In Islamic societies, inheritance eligibility is broad.  So possessions often have to be divided among those eligible.  This includes valuable textiles, of which K23 is one.  The owner indicated that this kilim was divided into several parts and that he has been able to acquire them all.

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So what you are looking at are matched fragments of a complete kilim.

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It is in slit tapestry, has wonderful, clear colors, and is estimated to have been woven 1800 or before (sold as 18th century).    Hotamis, Central Anatolia

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Details of K23.

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K24

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Comment on K24:  This piece is another departure. It is a small, brocaded, Anatolian, textile, a size often used as yastiks.  It is not old. Its dyes seem mostly to be synthetic, and there is some fading.  the notes taken for me do not offer an attribution.

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Details of K24.

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K25

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Comment on K25:  This piece was described as one half of a cover.  Western Anatolia. As you will see more clearly, below, it has very dark brown warps, which have be covered in the weaving by bright wool brocade in synthetic colors.  The drawing is quite good.

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Details of K25.

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K26

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(Please click on this image to see a larger version.)

Comments on K26: With this half kilim, we return to our main topic.

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Its owner said after: 

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“The book by Bandsma andBrandt – Flatweaves of Turkey – describes a few kilims which are similar – plates 14, 20, 18 – and calls them Aydinli Kilims. (Western Anatolia near Ephesus).

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“This kilim half is 33 inches wide and almost 12 feet long.

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“It seems to be extremely, masterfully, woven, and the geometric figures are so regular in execution that, it appears to me, that this must have been woven on a very good upright loom. The two-headed animalistic figures are fully articulated and regular.

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In the main field, slits are extremely short (less than 1/4 “) while larger slits are seen only in the borders. Thus, the piece as a whole is quite dimensionally stable and strong.

The long border is typical – the crenelations are themselves crenelated.

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“Interestingly this piece has two different short border design arrangements. One with large octagonal motifs.

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The other has four borders with smaller stepped designs. The white filed is dotted with tiny brocaded elements.  

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“Many of the dragons and other design elements have very narrow outlines in contrasting colors, often using extra weft wrapping. The white field is also dotted with tiny brocaded elements. 

“Sumru said this is definitely 19th century. Walter said ‘Wow’ and noted the two-headed ‘dachshunds’ in the field.”  This was Josephine’s pet word for this device.

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Much of the owner’s description of K30, below, applies also to this piece. 

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Details of K26.

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Some of the design devices above the blue and red meandering band were referred to as possible “dragons.” I’ve cropped one out and turned it so that you can see it clearly.

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Walter had talked about naming design devices, in an earlier lecture, this week, and said that there is nothing wrong with adopting names for given devices, so that we can refer to them accurately in conversation.  We cannot claim, however, that the weavers saw them as we do, or as we name them.

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K27

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Comment on K27:  This band is part of a camel trapping.  Tapestry woven.  Bought in Turkey in the 1980s.  The band (6’10” long–plus 5” fringe at each end— by 3” wide) probably would have been used to wrap packs on a camel during migration.  The ends were woven at the same time as the rest of the band.

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K28

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Comments on K28:  Eastern Turkey, Vann kilim.   Predominant red, but several shades.  Dense drawing with lots of smaller design devices. Kurdish?

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Details of K28.

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K29

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Comment om K29:  This is a grain bag from western Anatolia.  Lots of tapestry but the most heavily decorated areas on this, the front, are brocade.

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The backs (below) are frequently as interesting as the fronts and are said, often, to be better indicators of attribution.  This back is seen by Pinkwart and Steiner to be like those of very old Bergama-Kilaz backs.  The backs are mostly in weft-faced tapestry with touches of brocade.

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Details of K29.

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K30

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Comment on K30: The owner has given me a fulsome description.  As we said, above, much of it applies to K26 above as well.

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“This kilim is attributed by Josephine Powell to Saçikara Yörük, a group of about twenty allied nomadic tribes (Türkmen and possibly other origins) for whom there is evidence of seasonal migrations in the broad region of southern Anatolia, roughly between Hatai, Maraş and Kayserei in modern Turkey.

“The piece was collected by Harald Böhmer with Josephine Powell, purchased from HB and delivered by JP during a visit to our home in 2002.  It is probably a 19th century piece that is related what was seen in mosques and camp sites during ethnographic fieldwork by JP in the 1970’s and 1980’s. The attribution and design elements are discussed with photos and drawings in her paper, “A Survey of a Group of Recent Anatolian Nomad Weavings”, in OCTS V, Part 1, pages 171-178, from a presentation at the 1999 ICOC in California. She said that these groups generally migrated and diffused eastward over the recent few centuries, and by the late 19th centuries were generally near Adana to Antakya and Aleppo with summer pastures north of this region in the plateau south of Kayseri.  Peter Davies (private communication) attributed this piece to Aydinlı Yörük, Western Anatolia. Josephine suggested that ‘…Aydinlı … is the term used by kilim dealers to describe all kilims they believe to be woven by Anatolian nomads’, her Footnote 5 of the cited paper. 

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“The piece is almost 10’ long with warps of hand-spun light ivory which are also used for the ivory field.  It is made from two well matched half panels sewn side-to-side. The main designs and colors are as in the cited paper, Plates 3 & 4, including the side borders.  There are different end borders and other minor variations. The dominant central motifs are a stack of layered hexagonal motifs that are bounded by serrations and “rams horn” decorations. These are surrounded by a continuous vertical blue zig-zag line which Josephine says are “usually called gökkol” which means ‘arm of heaven’, but more commonly thought of now as ‘blue arm’…”  The other prominent features, between the “blue arm” and the border, are many horizontal rows of “Dragon” or “Simurg” elements. A playful label for this design (ed. as we said above) is ”Dachshund”, attributed to Josephine in Böhmer’s “Nomads of Anatolia” (2008), p. 278 and photo details p. 232.

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“There are about 9 colors, evidently all natural dyes. There are also small decorations in extra-weft embroidery (horizontal S shapes, little blossoms, etc.) sprinkled in the ivory field.”  

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Details of K30.

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K31

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Comments on K31:  Walter says “amazing.” Saf design, but not a real saf.  Very complex tapestry weaving.  There is a seeming “prayer gable” at the right end.  Wonderful colors.

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Owner said: “18th century, from Karapinar or Karaman area. Maybe on natural sheep wool ground.  There is a 19th century example in Bohmer’s book on Anatolian nomads. Both his and ours are photographed on their side, the warps run the length.”

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Details of K31.

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K32

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Comments on K32: It’s owner said after: “This fragment represents a little more than a third of a half. The delicate figures in the stripes that separate the major “fields” are unusual. I have not seen them on other kelims. Excellent aubergine, lots of green.”

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“K32 is pictured in the 100 kelims book, 18th century.  Note the relationship between border elements and the similar motifs in K31.” 

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Details of K32.

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K33

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Comments on K33:  Its owner said after, 

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“K33 is a half of a half. There is a similar fragment in a major North American collection, pictured in Jurg Rageth’s book on Anatolian kelims and carbon dated to the 17th century. This has a red described by the Istanbul dealers as consistent with the 17th century.”

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Details of K33.

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K34

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Comments on K34:  After, the owner said, 

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“K34 is a half of a half. Often described in the trade as “saf” kelim, but certainly not. 18th century.” 

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Details of K34.

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K35

Owner’s Photo

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Owner’s description: Malayta, niche kilim with amulet. Size: 47 x 58 inches. Mid-19th century.  Audience: Kurdish?

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Details of K36 (my camera).

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K37

(owner’s photo)

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Owner’s comment: Hotamis small format kilim, Central Anatolia, possibly could have been used for prayer. Positive – negative effect: are these polygons superimposed on stripes, or are they bisected polygons between solid polygons? Intensely saturated color in both field and borders. Size: 35 x 50 inches. First half of the 19th century.

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Audience: Konya area?

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Details of K37 (my camera).

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K38 

(Owner’s photo)

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Owners Comments on K38:  Obruk, Central Anatolia niche kilim. Size: 33 x 49 inches. 3rd quarter of the 19th century.

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Details of K38 (my camera).

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K39

(Owner’s photo)

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Owner’s comment on K39:  Adana, Southeast Anatolia niche floral form kilim. Size: 40 x 56 inches. Second half 19th century.

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Details of K39 (my camera).

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K40

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Owner’s comment on K40:  Erzurum niche kilim. Wool and metal thread. Size: 45 x 72 inches. Second half 19th century.

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Details of K40 (my camera).

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K41

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Owner’s comment on K41:  Konya niche kilim, Central Anatolia. Possibly a dowry or special commissioned piece with wool, cotton, metal thread and silk. Size: 53 x 72 inches. Second half 19th century.

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Details of K41 (my camera).

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K42

(Owner’s photo)

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Owner’s comment on K42:  Erzurum niche kilim with cochineal border and stylized carnations flanking the mihrab. Exhibited & published: The Sultan’s Garden, Denny and Krody, 2012. Size: 45 x 44 inches. Dated 1304 (1886).

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Details of K42 (my camera).

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K43

(Owner’s photo)

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Owner’s comment on K43: Bayburt niche kilim with elongated blue mihrab and aubergine & carnation border. Exhibited & published: The Sultan’s Garden, Denny and Krody, 2012. Size: 38 x 55 inches. 18th century.

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Details of K43 (my camera).

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K44

(Owner’s photo)

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Owner’s comment on K44:  Sivas niche kilim with red mihrab on blue-green field and apricot border. Size: 144 x 184 cms. 18th century.

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Details on K44 (my camera).

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The last piece of the day was the one below.

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K45

(Owner’s photo)

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Owner comment on K45:  Hotamis, Central Anatolia niche kilim with complex side reciprocal border on oriented red field. Size: 48” x 76 inches. Circa 1800.

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Details of K45 (my camera).

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Sometimes in these posts, I provide a look at the audience after.  The way things went in this session required that I do a “before” audience sequence. 

Here it is:

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It was raining outside.

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Helpers are important in these sessions.

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Almost ready.

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You can go back to the beginning and see it all again.

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Thanks to Amy Rispin, Jim Henderson, Michael Seidman and Bruce Baganz, all of whom gave special assistance in fashioning this virtual version.

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Hope you enjoyed it.

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R. John Howe

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Here’s the wonderful obit on Peter Davies:

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Image result for mark scherzer peter davies

A Life Well Lived

by Mark Scherzer (posted by Mark Scherzer)

Peter Davies, 1937-2018

Peter Davies, of New York City and Germantown, NY, died September 12, 2018. He is survived by two sisters in Wales, daughters Jessica Davies and Heather Cox, in Florida, son Perry Davies in California, and me, his partner of 40 years, Mark Scherzer.

The cause of Peter’s death was acute respiratory distress syndrome, brought on by bleeding he suffered when he lacerated his kidney in a fall a week earlier. It was a painful and ugly end to a remarkable and beauty-infused life.

Born December 5, 1937, in Cardiff, Wales, Peter was the first of three children of the extramarital relationship of Joan Breckon and Richard Davies. Though she had three children, Joan was a woman who fully enjoyed her freedoms, and Peter was raised to a significant degree by his grandmother. Living in Cardiff through World War II, Peter’s most vivid early memories included navigating the bombings of the Nazi Blitz.

After the war, his mother married an American GI, Hank Seesemann. Peter’s sisters were put out for adoption in Wales, but Peter, already apparently quite a handful and not so easy to give away, was moved with his mother to Hinsdale, Illinois, where the tone of his relationship with his new family was set by his step-father’s regular alcohol-fueled beatings. Intent on escaping his second class status in a dysfunctional family, Peter largely raised himself and saw to his own education. Through morning and evening paper routes he created a college fund. When his mother stole his college savings and suggested he could be content working locally and paying rent to the family for his room, or perhaps following family tradition and joining the merchant marine, he doubled down and funded his own way through Northern Illinois University (B.A.), University of Illinois Champagne/Urbana (M.A.) and Yale University (Ph.D).

His university degrees in English Literature and Theatre History led to teaching jobs at the American College of Izmir, Turkey, Loyola of Montreal, Tulane University in New Orleans, and Simons Rock in Great Barrington. He was a great motivator of students and several devoted former students who have remained close to him will be among those most devastated by the news of his death. But the degrees and the teaching jobs do not come close to reflecting the powerhouse of intellectual curiosity and creativity Peter became. He sometimes wrote and frequently directed chamber theatre productions, establishing the Tangled Fringe theatre company in the 1970s in the Berkshires. He oversaw three historic home restorations, designed landscapes and installed gardens of great beauty, led tours focused on the history and culture of Turkey, and engaged in community and environmental activism. He was widely read, and could discuss with authority such diverse subjects as ancient Greek city plans, the plays of Samuel Beckett, early Christian theology, the birth of jazz in New Orleans, and the history of the Ottoman Sultanate.

Peter traveled intrepidly, particularly in the middle and near east. He never stopped kidding me about my fearful response when he insisted we follow a motorbike out to the edge of a small town in southern Morocco to negotiate with some Tuareg tribesmen in an abandoned caravansaray over some potential purchases. (I guarded the car.) He loved recounting how, hobbled by an ankle injury, he sought out kilims in Quetta, Pakistan, by traveling everywhere by horsedrawn cart. His peripatetic life is reflected in the birthplaces of his children: Istanbul, New Haven, and Montreal.

While living and teaching in Turkey in the early 1960s, Peter learned to speak Turkish by sitting in the bazaar talking to rug merchants. He developed a lifelong love for that country (saying he felt “half Turkish”), returning year after year for the next fifty plus years, in later years sometimes with small travel groups he assembled and with me in tow, as driver and aide. His time in the rug bazaars led him, as well, to an appreciation of Turkish flat-weavings (kilims), which he loved for the way in which they infused practical needs with an inspired, collectively developed artistic vision. After several years of financing his summer travel through bringing back and selling kilims and ethnographic artifacts, Peter in 1976 left academia and established Turkana Gallery of Old and Antique Kilims, one of the pioneer businesses introducing this form of folk art to the American market. He wrote an authoritative book about kilims, The Tribal Eye: Antique Kilims of Anatolia (Rizzoli Press 1993), which he expanded and elaborated in Antique Kilims of Anatolia (W.W. Norton 2000).

In 1984, with help from my family we bought the Ephraim Niles Byram House in Sag Harbor, New York. Peter’s vision directed a restoration so complete and true that when we ultimately put the house on the market the East Hampton Star ran an editorial suggesting we donate the house to the Sag Harbor Historical Society. Peter wrote a monograph demonstrating how the house melded Byram’s idiosyncratic scientific needs and local tastes with the architectural teachings of Andrew Jackson Downing that were so influential in mid 19th century America.

Peter was a founder of the Coalition of Neighborhoods for the Preservation of Sag Harbor. He served on the Village planning board, and ran the project to expand the Sag Harbor historic district to include the African American and Native American neighborhoods and landmarks that had been excluded when the first historic district was established. He fought for wetland preservation and against over-development. One of our most entertaining projects was helping defeat the proposal by the international luxury conglomerate LVMH to take over Sag Harbor’s main street for a concours d’elegance. Peter orchestrated a subversive campaign which included street theatre in front of the Louis Vuitton 57th Street store and anonymously distributing satirical flyers describing the plans of Louis Vuitton’s cousin, bag lady Latrina Vachon, for a concours de flatulence.

Diverse as all Peter’s interests and endeavors were, they shared certain themes. Evident in everything he did was a belief that history matters and that we live best when we understand our place in the stream of history. In the arc of history and in the present he favored the underdog. His childhood experience of abuse and neglect and the ravages of war did not make him believe that dog should eat dog, but rather that the most unfortunate among us should be respected and given dignity and help. He was not religious, but described himself as a pantheist who felt a pervasive life spirit around him.

Similarly apparent in all Peter’s projects were his consistent recognition that art and artistic vision must be intertwined with practical life – a marriage of utility and creativity that was reflected in every inch of our home and even in how he cooked – most excellently – our meals. He never stinted on pleasures, joy for him is an important human value to be found everywhere. But he never in indulging in the pleasures of food or drink or travel or personal contemplation time lost sight of what he considered fair or moral or promoting of human dignity.

In 2000, when Peter was already 63 years old, he and I bought the property that is now Turkana Farms. A year later, September 11, 2001, our City world was exploded when our home next to the World Trade Center was rendered uninhabitable and his weaving inventory, to the extent it survived, was buried in ash. In the vacuum created, Peter turned his energy to developing the farm, but in a manner that again reflected his values. Practical buildings and fences also had to be aesthetically pleasing. Heritage animal breeds were chosen in part to preserve and perpetuate historic traits of value. (Peter added to the subjects on which he could authoritatively speak the history of the Ossabaw pig, American Karakul sheep, and various breeds of heritage turkey.) The values of flavor and beauty trumped commercial motives. And the hard work was always, at Peter’s insistence, leavened by time to contemplate and enjoy the environment he had created.

The creation of the farm was another unlikely realization of a vision of the sort Peter had achieved, despite resistance, in such endeavors as staging controversial theatre productions or expanding the historic district in Sag Harbor. It required relentless focus and energy. He could be “difficult” and single minded in pursuing goals, but they were always carefully thought out goals reflecting his values. He had what his son, Perry, describes as a tunnel vision which nevertheless saw everything we generally overlook.

The day after Peter’s death, Perry suggested we take a Circle Line cruise as a means of processing our loss at a remove from everyday life. Perry clearly inherited Peter’s sense that there is nothing more invigorating than reveling in a stiff breeze on the open water. I anticipated it would be a calm, healing voyage, but had not anticipated how the excursion would call forth so many of the landmark events of Peter’s life, as so often recounted by him. We passed the place in New York Harbor where a gentleman passenger on the Queen Mary in 1946 hoisted 8 year-old Peter up to see the Statue of Liberty as he arrived in America, and the place where this young boy, already conscious of his personal dignity, insisted on covering his naked body with a raincoat for the immigration doctor’s inspection. We saw the Erie Lackawanna station where he departed for the Midwest in 1946, across the river from the then dark and disreputable blocks of the West Village where Peter and I first met in a bar in 1978. We passed the site of the World Trade Center, where the cataclysmic attack of September 11, 2001, set us off on a mad morning’s search for one another, each fearing the other was lost, and then from the East River we saw St. Margaret’s House, where later that day Peter and I eventually found each other. Ultimately, as we proceeded up the east side of Manhattan, we found ourselves opposite the window of the ICU room in New York – Presbyterian Hospital where Peter spent his last week, facing out of that window as he died. As Perry put it, these were sites of the major events from Peter’s arrival in America to his departure from the world.

The sight that was most poignant for me, however, was the view just south of the Trade Center of the penthouse Peter designed and lived in on Cedar Street. In his usual manner, Peter had taken a raw space and created a remarkable environment, in the fashion of an Ottoman harem room, filled with the weavings he sold. It was his gallery, where he staged fashion shows, special exhibitions, and parties, including our gala Regatta party for the 1986 Statue of Liberty Centennial. But it was also his home, where on our third meeting he told me he could love me, and which quickly became my home as well. From the water, towered over by massive new buildings on every side, the loft looked small and inconsequential. But into that modest space he brought an entire wider world I never would have encountered on my own, and joys I never would have known how to experience without him. At that moment I was able to see in physical manifestation what I had already been feeling inside: the immensity of the loss of my teacher, mentor, lover and friend.

 

 

 

 

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