Wendel Swan, Michael Seidman and Austin Doyle Lead a “Grand Potpourri” RTAM on Caucasian and Anatolian Textiles

On July 20, 2019, Wendel Swan

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Michael Seidman

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and Austin Doyle

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led a ” grand potpourri” RTAM at the Textile Museum, here in Washington, DC, focused on Caucasian and Anatolian textiles.

They began with a short, Powerpoint-illustrated lecture, Wendel first.

(Click, sometimes more than once, on most images below to get a larger version)

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Although  Turkey and the greater Caucasus Mountains are in fairly close geographic proximity and branches of Turkic are spoken widely in both and both produce rugs and textiles with bold geometric designs with vivid colors, there are significant differences in the products of all of Turkey, the Northern Caucasus and Greater Azerbaijan, which includes the Transcaucasus. 

(Please do click on the image below more than once)

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Azeri is spoken in greater Azerbaijan, indicating a cultural connection between the Transcaucasus and Persia that resulted in much greater variety in their textiles, and closer to Persian traditions, than is found in the Northern Caucasus and all of Turkey.

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A commonly held belief in much of the rug community has been that textile designs spread from the East to the West along with the Turkic language.

In fact, many geometric designs and motifs from the West and the Mediterranean were used in the Near East long before the Turks arrived.  The octagon and eight pointed star eventually became identified with Turkic weaving, with the early 19th Century Cannakale rug from Western Turkey on the left below being one example.

Note, however, that the with the medallion with eight squares around its center is almost exactly what was used in this Roman mosaic (from Jerusalem) at the upper right and that octagons and eight pointed stars were coincident in Roman mosaics (lower right).

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The 2-1-2 or 2-1-2-1-2 infinite repeat pattern was in Egypt and in Western Anatolia long before the Turks.  In the first slide below the Bergama from Northwest Turkey and the Kagizman from Eastern Turkey share this pattern.  In the second slide below, the Karachopf Kazak on the right is the same format, but the colors and the border system are distinctively Caucasian.

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The ubiquitous Memling gul design is similar, whether in Western Anatolia (above) or in Zakatala (below) in the Caucasus.

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The  so-called prayer rugs of Turkey are most commonly variants of architectural design, which can clearly be seen in the rug on the left. 

The minbar (stairs) and columns are representations of what would actually be seen in a mosque.  Because of all the religious symbols in it, we could quite rightly refer to it as a prayer rug, although the niche eventually became just another commercial rug design in both Turkey and the Caucasus.

The niche in the rug on the right below is a geometric version of a full niche, even though simplified.

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Rather than using a full niche, those of the Caucasus frequently employ a simpler form of the mihrab or niche shape, as you see on the left above. This was actually easier for the weaver to fit into the allotted length of the rug and keep the proportions correct.

The field of the rug on the left, from the Eastern Caucasus, resembles a Persian textile pattern.  It also uses some cotton, which is almost never found in Anatolia or the Northern Caucasus.

The rug on the right has a variation of the full niche, but the re-entrant notch at the bottom distinguishes it from the appearance of a niche within a wall.

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The classic dragon rugs (above) are often called Caucasian, but with their cotton warps and sturdy construction, they are almost certainly Azerbaijani, most likely from around Tabriz.

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Turkish horse covers are rare.  The Ottoman example on the left is very formal with silk and metal thread, while horse covers such as the Bordjalou on the right are common in the Caucasus and Azerbaijan.

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Turkish rugs and textiles almost never depict animals or humans, but they are common in Azeri weavings.

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The Turkish heybe (left, above) is worn over the shoulders with the head going through the slit in the bridge and there is no closure system for the pouches.  The Karabagh khorjin on the right (like other khorjin from Azerbaijan) has a closed bridge and

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Cords that are sewn on to close the pouches.

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We do not often see salt bags from Turkey, as we do in the Caucasus, this one being brocaded.

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Brocading is commonly used for Karabagh and Azerbaijani mafrash, but we don’t see mafrash bedding bags from Turkey.

(Click on the image below for a larger version.)

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Nor is sumak wrapping found in Turkey, except for what are called weftless sumak (on the left here) made by the Kurds in Eastern Turkey.  The sumak rug on the right was produced in a workshop in the Caucasus.

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I will conclude by showing a large pile rug from Central Anatolia that was woven almost certainly no later than the 18th Century.  It’s a masterpiece of color.

Michael Seidman continued, emphasizing Anatolian material.

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He started by providing this detail map of Turkey.

(Click to get a larger version)

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Here are Michael’s Powerpoint images:

First was this niche piece.  He called attention to its border, which we’ll see again in a later item.  The border items look like houses.

Slide 22

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The piece above was described as a “Sivrihisar Niche kilim.”  Woven in west central Anatolia, Eskisehir province. 120 X 90 cm.  Mid-19th century.

(Click on image below for a larger versiion.)

Slide 23

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Michael’s comment on Slide 23:  This image is from Harold Bohmer’s book on Anatolian nomads. Described as from Karaman. 

It is is NOT a saf and is from the 19th century. White ground.

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Slide 24

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Michael’s comment: Slides 24 and 25 are from Aksaray, a town in Central Anatolia. These were in the Aksaray museum which we visited this past May.

I called attention to the border design, and the colors of the border (yellow ground etc.)  24 is probably older than 25.

Slide 25

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Slide 26

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Michael’s comment on Slide 26: This is from Orient Stars.  Late 18th early 19th. 

Note an Ottoman floral motif, very stylized.

Slide 27

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Michael’s comments on Slide 27:  This is 19th century from the Aksaray Museum. 

Note the lamp motif in center of field and the architectural design of the arch and flanking elements.  

Mid 19th century.

Slide 28

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Michael’s comment on Slide 28:  This is 17th century West Anatolia from Orient Stars.

Note the stylized crescent at top and the re-entrant motif at bottom.

Slide 29

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Michael’s comment on Slide 29:  This is an example of a very common central Anatolian medallion pattern.  

Wendel showed a Roman mosaic precedent for the same motif, repeated immediately below.

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Slide 30

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Michael’s comment on Slide 30:  This is a divan cover from Sivas. 

This is the complete weaving, it is not missing a border. Divan covers were woven with borders on three sides.

18th century

Slide 31

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Comment on Slide 31:  This is a 17/18th cent Transylvanian carpet showing stylizes serrated leaf/palmette motif in border, same as in the field of the Sivas divan (Slide 30).  

NOT a rams horn, although commonly described as such. 

Slide 32

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Comment on Slide 32:  This is from Orient Stars.  A long rug from Karapinar.  18th century.

Probably workshop, in light of the careful execution and strong similarity to others of this type- a known pattern. 

Michael and Wendel now moved between these Powerpoint images and pieces that had been brought in (some of which were theirs).

CA3

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Wendel first showed his fragment of a coarsely woven rug with long pile from Central Anatolia (the Konya/Karapinar area).  It has a color palette and structure typical of that region, but quite different from anything from the Caucasus, even though, to some, the geometric style may, initially, seem comparable to some Caucasian rugs.

In particular, the aubergine and yellow have an intensity and pairing not often seen in the Caucasus, while they are common in Central Anatolia. There is also a pink color (perhaps from a second bath of madder) that is seen in older Turkish rugs and in some very old Caucasian rugs. The border system is rather simple, but the dyeing and color juxtaposition are quite sophisticated.

The fragment is probably from the very early part of the 19th or late 18th Century and the rug would have contained four of the octagonal medallions, making it approximately 15 or 16 feet long.

Details of CA3.

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CA4

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Below is another Sivrihisar niche kilim,” with features like those in Slide 22 (see below).  Woven in west central Anatolia, Eskisehir province.

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Slide 22

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Comment on CA4:  This piece had similarities with those shown in Slide 22 immediately above, here. Houses-like border motif was mentioned.

Michael said that all of the pieces he had brought were 18th century and that 18th century pieces have a much different color sense and palette, characteristically, softer than later pieces.

Details of CA4.

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CA5

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(Click image below for larger version)

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CA5 is similar to the piece shown in Slide 23 repeated Immediately below, here.

Karaman.  Note the niche devices on the right side of both of these kilims.

CA6 (Slide 23)

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Details of CA5.

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CA7

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Comments on CA7:  Michael had another kilim with a multiple-niche design that was also not a saf.

Details of CA7.

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CA8

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Comments on CA8:  This was Michael’s Central Anatolian, Aksaray, niched-field, pile carpet. Most likely early 19th century. He said that it has typical colors also seen in the rug in Slide 24, repeated immediately here below.

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Details of CA8:

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Wendel noted that the lack of outlining with brown of the floral figures in the upper corners (see immediately below) is something that is found in Central Anatolia pile rugs although it has been a universal practice for more than two thousand years to prevent the perception (not actual) color bleeding by the eye.

It is called “kilim” style since elements in a kilim are not usually outlined.

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CA9

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CA9 is ca 1800.  It has a much better arch than the piece in the Aksaray museum.

The motif in the center of the carpet is a stylized reduction of the lamp shown more clearly in the version in the Aksaray musuem.  The weaver had two different border elements: sides different from the top.

It is a much better example than the one in the Aksaray museum.

Details of CA9.

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CA10

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Michael’s comment on CA10: Late 17th early 18th, Central Anatolia, possibly Cappadocia. re entrant element at bottom, double arch.

Woven as shown from bottom to top.

Details of CA10.

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CA11

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Michael’s comment on CA11:  Aksaray, 18th cent, excellent wool and color. poor, indecisive weaving.  We look for color, wool and weaving quality. CA11 has excellent wool and color but poor weaving.

The medallion in this rug strongly relates to the Roman mosaic motif shown by Wendel and repeated here below.

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Details of CA11

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CA12

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Michael said that CA12 is an Aksaray, 18th century, divan cover comparable to an Istanbul example in Slide 30, repeated immediately below.  He said that the designs are the same, and that the elements described as “rams’ horns” are actually depictions of palmettes with serrated leaves.  An example of this is shown in Slide 31.

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Details of CA12.

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CA13

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Michael’s comment on CA13: 18th century, Karapinar, long rug, similar to the example in Orient Stars shown in Slide 32, repeated immediately below here.

Slide 32

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Comment on Slide 32:  This is from Orient Stars.  A long rug from Karapinar. 

Probably workshop, in light of the careful execution and strong similarity to others of this type- a known pattern. 

18th century.

Details of CA13.

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Next, Austin Doyle

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treated some Caucasian rugs he had brought.

CA14

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Austin said that CA14 is a Karachov/Kazak carpet with niches at both ends and three stars in its field.  It has a “long rug” size.  Austin noted that it has corrosion in brown areas.

Details of CA14.

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CA15

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Austin said the CA15 is a Zakatla rug (identified with S-spun and Z-plied wool, a mode not used in any other Caucasian varieties).  He said that it has a typical Moghan design, featuring large Memling guls.  It’s dyes are very saturated but its colors are rather cool.

Details of CA15.

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CA16

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Austin said that CA16 is likely a Fachralo rug with a niche at the top of a floating field element which also has a “re-entrant” treatment at its bottom.  It has a scarab main border design.  It is finely woven, with two cotton shoots of weft between each row of knots.  It may have been woven elsewhere than in the Kazak area.

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Details of CA16.

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CA17

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CA17 is a Talish long rug with a “star and lattice” field and a typical Talish border with rosettes alternating with four star-like elements in brown.  It has a long, narrow shape and exhibits pale blue wefts extending from the selveges into the knotted area of the rug (this latter feature is said by some to be the “sine qua non” of a Talish attribution).  There are some beige knotted areas that may be camel hair.

Details of CA17.

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A lot of material had brought in and Wendel, Michael and Austin moved next to treat it.

CA18

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CA18 is a mafrash side panel, described as probably Karabagh.  Mid-19th century with good color.  Mostly slit tapestry.

Details of CA18.

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CA19

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CA18 is a complete cargo-type mafrash.  This slit tapestry weave from the Shirvan area has the same design around all the sides with a simple striped, plain weave bottom.

CA20

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CA 20 is a Shirvan rug with a latticed white-ground field and niche feature.  It is dated.

It has an “old back,” low pile and white cotton selvege.

Its inner border has a swastika design and the outer border is a Kufic variety.

Details of CA20

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CA21

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CA21 was described as an Ordutch Khonaghend rug (north of the Baku-Shirvan area in the eastern Caucasus).

It features eight white-ground octagons separated by red-ground, yellow-bordered, “tongues” that move in from the sides but do not quite form compartments.  This was described as a “geometric ‘keyhole’ meander.”  There are four birds in each octagon, sometimes upright in this view and sometimes opposed.

The main white-ground border is sometimes called a “wine glass and calyx leaf” type, despite it being part of an entirely geometric design.

Details of CA21.

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CA22

Wendel brought in a rare pile khorjin face below that he acquired long before the breakup of the Soviet Union (when many smaller utilitarian textiles came into the market).  Both the field and the border are often seen in Shahsavan flat weaves, but the weave, including the cotton selvedges, is classically Shirvan.

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This bag face raises the questions as to how we can tell whether any particular textile has an urban or a nomadic.  This little bag face suggests that perhaps we cannot always do so.

Details of CA22.

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Early on, in the examination of pieces brought in, were the following two rugs.

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CA1

(note numbers are not always sequential)

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Comment on CA1: 

Kris Atchley brought in a Turkish Mudjur prayer rug from the second half of the 19th Century, with a typical wide range of wonderful colors and a plain red mihrab. He said that, unfortunately, he did not realize when he bought it that the outer border had been completely removed, reducing its value considerably. With so much missing it could be considered a fragment, but the colors are still glorious.

Wendel pointed out that this rug, as with most Turkish prayer rugs, was woven “upside down”, that is, it was begun at what we see as the top in this image.  The reason for doing so it that it is most important to have the top of the niche appropriately placed and at the right angle within the field.  If the weaver would begin at the base of the niche, it might be that she would run out of space as the rug was nearing completion and have to flatten the arch in an artistically unsatisfactory manner. 

Details of CA1.

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The next two rugs were brought by Kris Atchley.

CA38

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CA38 is a Melas from Southwestern Turkey, from the second half of the 19th Century. 

This one, as is true of virtually all Melas rugs, has all natural dyes. 

While many are made in prayer rug format, this one is comprised almost entirely of meander border patterns.  The two large borders are the same pattern, just done in different colors. 

The small, narrow field contains carnations that are usually seen in borders, but the field itself is not a border pattern.

Details of CA38.

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CA39

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CA39 is a prayer rug from Northwest Turkey, probably from near Bergama.

At the top of the mihrab is what is known at a lam alif motif, which uses the word Allah symmetrically.  This, then, is a form of calligraphy, not architecture. 

What seems to be a meander or leaf border is actually half of a medallion that circumscribes the field.

Although the colors of Bergama and Melas rug are similar, the designs in each are distinctive and not very similar to anything woven in the Caucasus.

Details of CA39.

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CA2

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Comment on CA2:  Wendel Swan brought in this Kirshehir (Central Anatolia, near Mudjur) prayer rug which he acquired “decades ago” but would not do so today. Like the Mudjurs, they have a distinctive appearance that is quite unlike anything from the Caucasus. 

This one was probably made around 1875 and has both cochineal and madder reds in combination with other colors typical of Central Anatolia. Multiple borders had come into fashion at that time, resulting in a comparatively small mihrab.

Details of CA2.

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(my camera)

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(Numbers are sometimes not sequential)

CA23

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CA23 is an eastern Caucasus Kuba with a Khirdagyd field pattern and a Kufic border.  It shows the date of A.H. 1312, approximately 1875 or 1895,

Details of CA23.

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CA24

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CA24 was described as a very individual Kuba with blue selveges and a design in rows, including European roses, insects and scaly birds.

An uncommon use of yellow was noted.

There is only a single border, a common “barber pole” variation.  The wool is very soft.

Details of CA24.

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CA25

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CA25 is a late 19th century “dragon” carpet, including the X motif.  Strong graphics.  The colors include a lovely dark green.  The wefts were unusually darker.

Details of CA25.

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Lack of border makes one wonder about its being a fragment but side selveges seem original.

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CA26

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Bruce Baganz brought in a pair of Shahsevan sumak pieces from mafrashes (but not likely from the same mafrash). 

They are different in color and structure from other Shahseavan sumak weavings and were  identified as “Baghdadi” Shahsevan. 

They have both been purchased previously, at the same auction in Paris, and had been owned, one by Robert Pinner, and the other by Siawosch Azadi.

Wendel observed that they were quite thick and heavy, very Bijar-like.

Details of the two CA26 pieces.

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The detail below is the left side of the longer of the two panels.

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Below is the right side of the longer panel.

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Below is an image of the entire shorter panel

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CA27

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CA27 was a Transcaucasian/Eastern Caucasus carpet, likely late 19th century.

It has an ivory ground and unusual major border.

It was estimated to the late 19th century, despite having some seeming synthetic dyes.

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Notice seeming fading and possible transfer of red in the detail above.

Details of CA27.

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We had a lot of material to show and Wendel tried to to accerate by putting up four Anatolian yastiks at once.

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But we do not have this stricture here and so can go more leisurely.  Here’ they are, one at a time.

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CA28

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CA28 is mine and I bought it blind at an estate sale in N.J.  I knew it was a yastik and it seemed familiar but when I researched it and found that it is very like the cover piece on Brian Morehouse’s catalog on yastiks.  But closer examination shows that there are instances of conventionalization (the lappets on the Morehouse cover piece have four blossoms but those on mine have only two) that suggest that my piece is younger.  This is a frequent design from Karapinar.  The “insect” border is noticeable.

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CA29

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CA29 is also mine. It has good color and precise drawing. Low pile. The field design is kilim derived.  It seems Central Anatolian but there are no precise Morehouse comparators (Number 85 seems closest, including its border, although the Morehouse piece lacks lappets).

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CA31

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CA30 is Wendel’s.  It is pile faced, almost certainly in the first half of the 19th Century, but possibly earlier.  Oushak in in the eastern area of what cold be called Western Anatolia. It is all wool and measures 36″ x 22″.  It has deeply saturated colors, including a madder orange.  Only about three Oushak yastiks are known to exist.

The use of large medallions is typical of the room-size carpets of Oushak.  The white dots are characteristic.  It has end borders at both ends beyond its lappets.  The yastik is actually rather coarsely woven, but it does not appear to be so, thanks to the skills of the weaver.

CA31

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CA31 was brought by Aija Blitte.  Its designs are close to Number 93 in Morehouse.  He attributes it to Kirsehir in his central Anatolian grouping.  The palette of this piece is different from Number 93.  Aija said that she bought it because she likes this pattern in yastiks.

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CA32

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CA32 is a yastik-sized pile piece with with a nice yellow ground, also owned by Aija Blitte.  She says that she has never seen it as a yastik and there is reason to think that it may just be a small Anatolian mat. 

It has small, deeply lobed, medallions arrayed on the field diagonally by color.  Morehouse says that such a field design is unusual in yastiks and difficult to attribute.  The pieces in his catalog with field designs closest to CA32 are Number 20, in his western grouping, and Number 57 in his central group.  In neither of these pieces are the medallions arrayed diagonally. 

Aija asks why I don’t talk about its lack of lappets, but the truth is that lappets are not a defining characteristic of yastiks.  There are a great number of yastiks that don’t have them (neither of the two closest yastiks in Morehouse do).  If a yastik-sized piece has lappets, it is likely a yastik (but lappets also appear on larger rugs).

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CA33

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CA33 was another of mine. I bought this fragment of a large rug from Patrick Pouler who attributed it to eastern Anatolia.

Details of CA33.

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CA34

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CA34 is another fragment of mine.  I bought it locally here in DC and had it mounted on a blue backing.  It is, of course, from a “star” Ushak long rug.  It has good color and drawing and its age has been estimated consistently, with it in hand by experienced folks, to be 1600.

Details of CA34

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CA35

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CA35 is a large fragment of a rug.  No borders but a field of eight momunmental-size “Memling” guls.  Full pile in a number of places.  It was sold to me as a Zakatalan rug, an attribution that has crept into those used for Caucasian pile pieces.  I’ve not been able to identify any Zakatala indicators in it and have wondered “Why not Kazak…or even Konya?”

Zakatalan attributions are now widely accepted, but still seem shaky to me.  One indicator cited is that wools are S-spun and Z-plied, something that is pretty rare, for example, seen in Egyptian linens.

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Wendel looked closely and reported that the wools in this piece are not S-spun and Z-plied. So we might call it “Kazak,” or even “Konya,” and wait for contradiction.

Detail of CA35.

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CA36

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CA36 is another of mine.  This design is a famous type.  Schurmann shows a brilliantly colored one he attributes to Bordjalou-Kazak on pages 74-75 in his well-known “Caucasian Rugs,” 1974.  My rug is dated “1319” about “1901.”  It’s condition is suspiciously good, and drew Wendel’s attention.

He is correct.  Although I have not altered the date, I sent this piece to Turkey and had it extensively repiled. (I’m not interested in selling it as an older piece; I just wanted to look at it in a condition closer to the way it looked when it came off the loom).

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CA37

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CA37 is a type Genje rug that I found in the Virginia countryside and had some repairs made to it, although not nearly those made to CA36.

Bennett shows a similar piece as 155 in his Caucasian book.  He says this latticed field design with stars is one of the most ancient Central Asian carpet designs but had also been depicted in Europiean paintings of the 15th century.

I like the yellow ground (and its colors, generally), the lattice and the stars, as well as the unmatched minor borders and the white ground major border.

Details of CA37.

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Wendel, Michael and Austin took questions and brought what was a “grand” Caucasian-Anatolian potpourri session to a close.

Thanks to Nancy Landson who took and typed a good set of notes on this fulsome program.

‘Til next time.

Regards,

R. John Howe

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