“Potpourri” by David Zahirpour

On January 12, David Zahirpour 

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gave a “potpourri” program here at The Textile Museum, in Washington, D.C. 

David is a long-time dealer and active member of the DC area textile community.  He knows his rugs, and is often a Textile Museum resource on textile repair demonstrations, since his is a skilled textile and oriental rug restorer.  He also has the only total immersion rug washing facility in the Washington, DC area.

David said that his own take on “potpourri” would be that all the pieces he had brought were bags or parts of one.   He said that the weavers of these pieces were migrants and moved from place to place.  Wool was plentiful to folks who were largely shepherds.  Bags could hold things and were not breakable. He said that it seems likely that such pieces were made for the weaver’s own use that that she would select the best materials and lavish her skill on them.  Such things made bags interesting and, often, they could be quite beautiful.

He began with a large, mixed technique Tekke Turkmen chuval.

D1

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The skirt is pile as are narrow bands above it.  This piece is very fine and the literature says that impression in the areas of narrow bands is, in part, because they have only one shoot of weft between rows of knots.

David says it is likely that the orange in this piece is from synthetic dyes but that he is not allergic to them, if they seem to be of the stable “carbon” variety, and do not, noticeably, run or fade rapidly.  He estimates it 1920-30.  He said that he’s not sure that the blue-red ground, in the tapestry areas, is from cochineal.

Details of D1.

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The next piece was a large, complete Bakhtiari chuval, with mixed technique

D2

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The field area of the front is sumak.  The “bottom” of both halves of this chuval are done in pile.  This is to permit them to tolerate abrasion and so extend the useful life of the chuval.

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This piece has an unusual and interesting back.

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Opie wonders why a weaver would invest this much creativity and care in the back of a textile that will not be seen much.

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You can see in the image above, that the closure system is one of slits and loops.  This is seen to be a Persian attribution indicator.

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The next piece was a small, complete, Shahsavan khorjin.  Again notice the slit and loop closure system.

D3

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The two faces of this piece are in reverse sumak.  In reverse sumak, Marla Mallett says, the “normal front and back faces are reversed”…but that this term describes the front-side appearance of the structure, and does not indicate the side of the fabric from which it was worked.

Reverse sumak is very sturdy and tough.  It will take a lot of wear.

Here is a detail of the plain weave, back of this small khorjin.

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D4

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D4 is a complete half of a Shahsavan khorjin. Sumak.  Good drawing and color.  David said that although complete khorjins are found, half khorjins and khorjin faces are more usual.  The white ground border frames nicely.  This border is seen on some Turkmen textiles.

Details of D4.

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The next piece is a sumak side panel from a small cargo-type mafrash.  A complete piece of this type would have a back panel of this same size and shape and two end panels that would be smaller and squarer.

Good drawing and excellent color.  

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Notice that this side panel has borders all around it.  Many Shahsavan mafrash bags have designs that are basically horizontal stripe arrays that continue all around on both ends and the other side panel.  Mafrash side panels with borders all around are preferred by collectors. Mafrashes with a side panel with borders all around often have three other panels without designs.

Here is this panel turned to let you see a slightly larger version of it.

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Details of D6.

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The piece below is a Bakhtiari salt bag. (This is, likely, the back.  I’ll show you the “front” shortly.)  It is done in brocade with some twining visible.

D7

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David explained the the top narrower mouth the bag extended so that when salt was in it, it would flop over and down, close the opening, and preserve the salt.

Here is a large detail of the, likely, more decorated front of this salt bag.  Again, mostly in brocade with some tapestry striping.  David estimated it as 1920-30.

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Note that there is a narrow band of pile along the lower edge of this bag, a Bakhtiari usage we saw above.

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Details of D7.

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The next piece was a complete khorjin opened up.

D8

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It was folded and held together to show what it looked like when sewn up.

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Here is the front side when together.  I have also turned it to give you a large image of it.  The faces are done in sumak with a plain weave back and area with the slits.

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Next was another complete khorjin opened up.  This one was Qashqa’i with some visible synthetic dyes.  The faces are pile and the backs are plain weave edged with pile.

D9

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Here is how this complete khorjin looks put together.

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Details of D8.

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The next piece was a Yomut Turkmen spoon bag. Pile with edge decorations.

D10

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Such spoon bags are woven with the warps parallel to the short sides.

The small piece below is a complete Qashqa’i school bag.  Done in tapestry decorated with brocade.

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D11

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Details of D11.

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The back of D11 is less interesting but has a different design.

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Next was the very nice Turkmen pile piece below. (click on the image)  David says it has an asymmetric knot open left and a fineness of 225 knots per square inch.  It has a velvety handle.

D12

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David described it as a Salor chuval, woven in the 19th century, in Char Juy on the Amu Darya River in Turkmenistan.  The modern name of this town seems to be Turkmenabat.  The literature now indicates that there were a great many tribes along the Amu Darya and that the Salor were visible among them.

Here is a map that shows Turkmenabat on the right center. (click on this map to get a larger image)

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This piece deserves a closer look.  Here are some details of it.

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This bag has a lot more color in it than you see at first.  There are several reds, one of which looks to be from cochineal.  There is a strong green, a white, and what seems a black. 

If the cochineal is real and on wool, rather than silk, we should check to see if the pile threads have more than two plies.  Jurg Rageth found that the dying with cochineal on wool, with more than two plies, faded out about 1850, so its presence is a pretty clear age indicator.

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Sometimes you can see colors better on the back.  Here, below, is a large detail of the back of this piece.

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There is some ridging of warps in the detail below, indicating some warp depression, something you would expect with a Salor weaving.

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All in all a very nice piece.

The next piece was Baluch in a format we do not see frequently: a rifle cover.  Done in pile with some flatweave varieties at both ends.  Lots of tassels.

D13

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Details of D13.

The image, below, is of the top where the rifle is inserted.

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The piece below was a small, complete, miniature, half khorjin.  Pile face with hanging cords at the top corners.  Probably Tekke about 1910.

D14

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Detail of D14.

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David said that the next, interesting, small, pile, Yomut, Turkman, bag: same design on both sides, could have been used in a variety of ways, but one likely one would be as a koran cover. 

Someone has said that this piece is most likely a pair of camel knee decorations that have been sewn together.  David has checked the selveges and says they seem to be original, but agrees that knee decoration indication is probably correct.

D15

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The next piece was an unusual set of bag in more than one way.  David said that it was a Quashqa’i bag set with long connecting panels that fit over the head in a way like Anatolia heybes do.

D16

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Here is a Turkish child wearing a heybe

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The faces of this Qashqa’i bag set are woven with areas of plain weave interspersed with those of long pile.   These areas of pile are arranged in vertical rows and terminate at the bottom in similar tassels that hang down below the bottom edge of the bag.

The colors seem chosen for dramatic and graphic effect.  Some synthetic dyes seem certain.

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The connecting “shoulder straps” are done in weft-faced, tapestry with a zigzag design.  Notice the long “slit’ for the head.

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I had seen lots of Anatolian heybes worn, with the head through slit, and the bags handing front and back, but I had not see a similar Persian example.

The next piece was a tall and relatively narrow Baluch mostly pile piece.   There was comment in the room that it had the shape of a Baluch balischt, but David said a balischt is a pillow and this seemed to him to be a bag.

D17

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It has a back in mostly slit tapestry but also some brocade.  Here is a detail of this back.

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Notice that both the top and the bottom have flatwoven decorations but are different.

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Additional details of D17.

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Some pieces had been brought in and we dealt with them next.

The first of these was a Heriz in a scatter carpet size.  It has nice, fresh Heriz colors and a “plant in vase” field design.

Heriz rugs are woven in far NW Iran about 50 miles east of Tabriz.  They are woven with symmetric knots and longer pile.  Edwards says that Heriz weavers can do something he has not seen other weavers do.  They can look a a scrap of a curvilinear design (often something from nearby Tabriz) and weave a version of it that is rectilinear.

D18

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Detail of the back of D18.

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The next piece was described by its owner, at David’s question, as a Caucasian bag.  David examined it closely, saying that the side selveges are not original.  He called attention to an unusual red and the edges of the central medallion.  He agreed that it is Caucasian.

D19

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It has this back that might seem a little incongruous but which is woven on warps that continue, from the front pile face, without interruption.

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The next piece was a nice Veramin bag face.  David liked it a lot.  Good drawing and colors.  A great many groups moved through the Veramin area and so lots of influences are visible.  Someone wrote that even some Tekke Turkmen were seen.

D19

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(click on the image above to get a larger version)

 

Some has suggested that this panel is not that of a torba-like envelope bag but rather the front panel of a cargo-type mafrash bag.  David agrees.

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Details of D19.

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Its owner said that the next piece was a Saryk torba.  It is well drawn and, as is often the case with darker pieces, has a wider range of color than one initially thinks (there are several reds and a striking blue).

D20

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(click on the image above to get a larger version)

It did not have some classic Turkmen Saryk features, like a symmetric knot and cotton whites.  But there were Saryk weavers in Afghanistan.

Below is a detail of a map Schurmann supplies in his “Central Asian Rugs” which shows Saryks in Turkmenistan and Afghanistan in the Pendeh area.

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(click on the image above)

I had thought the the major gul form seemed less that typically Saryk, but Jourdan shows a 19th century Saryk torba with precisely this same gul (p. 87, item 29) as well as the rectangular blocks below and above it.  So this piece may well be a late 19th century Saryk weaving.

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Next was a small Caucasian mostly slit tapestery Shrvan kilim, with nice fresh colors.  David liked its small size that would make it easier to display variously.

D21

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Details of D21.

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David had suggested that one test for the kinds of things we should bring to this potpourri RTAM would be pieces that we had not been able to part with.  I tried to follow this rule.

A first piece that I brought was the “penny rug” below.

D22

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I have written about this piece and others like it,before, on Turkotek, in early 2004.  It might be best just to give you the link:

http://www.turkotek.com/salon_00104/s104t2.htm

One caution about making a post like this one on Turkotek.  At the point that I wrote it, I had seen a few other penny rugs, but owned only this one.  But, quickly, after making this Turkotek post, I began to get contacts by groups making penny rugs, asking me to come and speak to them.  I had to confess that I had only one and was not at all an expert.

Today, while writing this, I looked around the web and found this treatment that may provide some additional information.

https://pennyrugsandmore.blogspot.com/2017/02/a-history-of-penny-and-sewn-rugs.html

Enough about penny rugs,

A second piece I bought was this flat-woven Baluch strip that my wife bought in Berkeley, CA over 20 years ago.

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Here is an end detail of the back.  You can see that it’s a strip of mostly sumak, folded over and sewn down on the sides.

A first question is what is it? It’s clearly taken from something but a lot of people have looked at it and we have not had certain answers.

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A second question is about the design.  We have not seen it before.

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David proposed an answer to the first question.  He said that he was certain that this was a center connecting strip from a Baluch khorjin.  The two bags hung down from it.

He agreed that the design is unusual.

The last piece of the day was an instance of my discovering I was mistaken about something I thought I had researched successfully long ago.  The piece in question was this small weaving.  Flat-woven mostly in sumak with some plain weave.  It has good crisp drawing and fresh colors.

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I’ve owned this piece for over 25 years and, as I say, I thought I had researched it.  It seemed to me likely an item of Kurdish weaving from northeast Iran, Kurasan, about which Wilfried Stanzer had written the book “Kordi.”

In his book shows the piece below that seems very similar to mine. 

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He describes this piece as a “Kordi Tobreh Posti.”I had read somewhere (I thought perhaps in Stanzer’s book) that “poshti” was sometimes translated as “small rug,” 

When I said that to David before our session began, he immediately said that my piece was part of a bag.  This turned me around because I thought I had researched it. 

So after this session I went back to confirm my research and the results have been humbling. 

First, “poshti” is nowhere translated as “little rug.”  The seeming preferred translation is “back.” 

Next, I turned to Stanzer to see what he said and he also sees “poshti” as part of a bag.  In his description of the piece above he uses the terms “Kordi Tobreh  Poshti.”  He says that a tobreh poshti could be part of a khorjin, and he shows khorjins similar to the two pieces above.  Here is one with the same side borders.

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But he says a “tobreh poshti” is more likely to be a “small shoulder bag for provisions and utensils.”

It has taken me at least 25 years but maybe, finally, I’ve got something right about my little Kordi piece.

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Thank you, David.

Stanzer ventures that “the palette, the clear and accurate design and the structure of (ed. his similar piece above) are typical of the Lain area.”  He gives a good map that shows Lain to be on the far eastern side of north Kurasan, near what was once the USSR border.

I probably should not tempt things with a geographic speculation.

David answered questions and brought his session to a close.

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I want to thank David for preparing and giving this useful potpourri program.  David also worked with me, after, to fashion this virtual version.  I also had excellent help from other experienced folks who want to be anonymous.

Sometimes not a lot of structure is needed to put on a program that is both entertaining and that results in real learning.  I can testify in this case.

I hope you have enjoyed, even learned a little from this RTAM.

‘Til next time,

R. John Howe

 

 

 

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