Gordon Priest on “My Starting Line-up”

On February 8, 2020, Gordon Webb Priest, Jr.

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(the above photo is from an earlier RTAM in the former Textile Museum building)

gave an RTAM here at the Textile Museum in Washington, DC. 

Lori Kartchner, the TM Curator of Education, introduced him, saying that

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

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Gordon would be showing us pile rugs, wagireh, khorjin, and yastiks from the late 19th century tribal, village, and nomadic production of Persia, Kurdistan, the Caucasus, and Anatolia, from his collection, and would tell us why each is on his first team.

She said further that Gordon is a semi-retired Baltimore corporate lawyer and long-time textile collector, now living in Delray Beach, Florida. He has served as President of The Washington Textile Group, and has frequently presented Rug Mornings at The Textile Museum.

She added that his other interests include doubles squash, wine-collecting, thoroughbred racing, and international travel.

This is John Howe, intervening after the fact.  Gordon has done something unusual in his descriptions of the pieces he brought to this session. He talks about how these pieces came into his collection: something not often shared in these sessions.

Gordon began with this piece:

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Textile 1 is a complete Qashqa’i (southwest Persia) saddle bag (khorjin) set, acquired at an Alex. Cooper & Sons auction in Baltimore. It is in near mint condition, and I fancy its asymmetry.

Full sets like this are relatively scarce, because at the time these pieces were coming into the western world 100 years ago, they had little commercial or even folk-art value, and were just thrown in with shipments of room-size rugs as sweeteners for the importer. Since freight cost is determined by weight, and the largely unadorned flat-woven backs had little aesthetic interest, they were frequently cut off and discarded, and the 2 pile-woven fronts were shipped off, almost always becoming separated from each other over the decades.

Here is a visual aid I constructed to demonstrate that these are produced on one continuous set of warps:

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The piece is woven from the bottom up. So the bottom red portion is woven first in pile (notice that the design on this section is woven upside down).

Then the lower blue piece which will become one of the backs is woven (usually in flat weave).

Next, the yellow bridge section is woven, including part of the closure system.

Then, the other blue back is produced.

Last, the top pile face is woven, this time with the design right side up.

The complete bag is assembled by taking the bottom red panel back and up behind the blue back and sewing it up on the sides. 

Similarly, the red top portion is folded back and down behind the upper blue panel and the sides are sewn up. 

The saddle bag will now be complete with the front of the pile sections facing to the back. 

It looks like this:

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The whole assembly is turned around to show the pile front panels of the two pockets and their designs, and we have returned to our first image of this complete saddle bag set from the front:

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Below is one lower quarter of the upper bag showing the slits in its closure system:

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Then there is a full look at the entire width of the closure system:

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Last, there is a detail of the field of the pile face without its borders; a riotous melange of floral motifs:

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2

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Textile 2 is a Qashqa’i sofreh (bread cloth).

Despite the more limited English translation, these are flat-woven textiles in various sizes for a number of different uses concerning food-production and serving. This example is, in fact, one used to cover and serve bread.

The embroidered end finishes here are a dynamic contrast to the open field and simple deep indigo border. Procured from an Oregon participant at the legendary annual Buena Vista Motel Oriental Rug Dealer’s Fair in San Francisco’s Marina District.

Detail of 2:

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3

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Textile 3 is a Qashqa’i wagireh (sampler), one of my 5 favorites of any type in my collection; acquired, perhaps 30 years ago, from John Murray, a collectible rug dealer who worked the mid-Atlantic antique-show circuit, and a very nice guy.

It has 5 different border samples (including the wonderful forest green section on the right center), 3 separate field panels, and a classic 4-armed medallion that serves as the trademark of this tribe.

Murray Eiland and his son have identified in their books 4 types of wagireh:

(1) The most prominent type (of which this piece is an example) presents all design elements necessary for at least one complete rug;

(2) One that has a few of the possible design elements, but is primarily dedicated to reflecting the colors and textures that could be employed in a full rug to be ordered;

(3) A piece that features no designs, but consists of numbered color blocks; and

(4) A precise replica of a full rug (exact designs and colors in the same juxtaposition), but in a considerably smaller scale (which they refer to as a “strike-off”).

Details of 3:

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4

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Textile 4 is a Bakhtyari (southwest Persia) khorjin face. Good color and attractive asymmetry. Another nicely framing white-ground border. A very good green.

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I was most captivated by the over-lapping waves, or flying bats, in the field; the established term in the rug literature for this element is “split-leaf”.

I’d been keen to acquire one of these, and, coincidentally, about a decade ago, John Murray was liquidating some of his more-treasured inventory to finance a reunion trip to Vietnam to celebrate with the survivors of his Marine Corp company. I was happy to come away with this specimen while supporting his effort.

Another detail of 4:

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5

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

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Textile 5 is a Bakhtyari wagireh.

Typically, as with this piece, Bakhtyari pile weavings are single-wefted. Possibly the rug world’s most diminutive example of the genre, and in addition, it’s limited to 3 border designs.

Out of the inventory of an Ankara dealer via Rug Rabbit.

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6

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Textile 6, another khorjin face, is abit of a puzzler; perhaps a Khamseh (southwest Persia), but plenty of room for other opinions.

The whirly-gigs appear to hover above the darkened sky of the field, and are reproduced in the closure panels. It has significant warp-depression, and thus a fairly stiff handle.

Picked up in a private transaction with Cooper.

6a is a close-up of the whirly-gigs, or pin-wheels:

6a

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6b shows the complementary application in the small spaces between the loop slits at the top:

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6c, below, shows, in close-up, the 4 borders that surround the field.

A white-ground, striped, and instrumented main border is flanked on both its sides by red-blue “checkerboard” minor borders.

Outside that array is a narrow border in which 2-1-2 (“quicunx”) elements alternate with solid-colored squares, each with a contrasting center dot:

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7

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Textile 7 is my most recent acquisition, having been bestowed upon me by the creator and devoted steward of this long-running virtual series, John Howe himself, as a gift of gratitude for our having driven up here from Delray Beach, our Volvo loaded to the rafters with the core of our collection, to make this presentation.

He’s seen (and photographed) enough of our stock to recognize that it would hit most of my hot-spots — as it does: A tiny jewel with primitive power.

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And here’s the back, with the same quantity of design, but with sufficient variation from the front to provide an interesting contrast.

Because it is made of one continuous piece sewn up the sides, there has always been a suspicion that it is a “constructed” piece cut down from something larger. However, its assembly has suggested to most knowledgeable examiners that such is not the case, and that it appears in the mode in which it was originally made.

It has vibrant natural colors, is woven in very coarse sumak, and its drawing has an undisciplined character that is indicative of Luri (southwest Persia).

Harold Keshishian observed, upon looking closely at it, that he had seen a piece, in quite a similar coarse sumak stitch, which was known to have been from the Chahar Mahal sub-region:

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Textile 8 is an Afshar (south central Persia) “main carpet”, fairly large, as the name implies, for a “tribal” (as opposed to urban workshop) weaving.

This is obviously the product of a very experienced and talented weaver, as evidenced by the highly-effective juxtaposition of colors, the uniformity of proportion in the elements, and the corner resolutions.

How do we know it’s an Afshar? As Harold used to say: “Look at the hubcaps; they scream “Afshar!”.

He meant the creamy warps, the orange wefts, the midnight blue field, the white-ground main border, the ample use of orange (in this case, in the lattice framing the botehs), the alternating cornflower blue, white, aubergine, and scarlet in the botehs themselves, and the barber-pole selvages.

I’d acquired a significant amount of my collection over the years at Alex. Cooper Sons auction house in Baltimore, and one day about 15 years ago, Jon Levinson, who ran the rug operations, called me up out of the blue and said that their companion retail sales department had just taken on some stuff out of the trunk of an itinerant picker who came by a few times a year, and he wanted me to have the first crack at something he thought would interest me. This was it. He demanded a very fair price, and I closed the deal without a whimper.

Further detailed images:

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9

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Textile 9 is another textbook Afshar, in this case a khorjin face.

The 4 latch-hooked diamonds and the whirly-gigs surrounding them seem to float above the midnight blue field that surrounds the central medallion.

Like most Afshars, it has a pleasantly floppy handle (the main carpet, no. 8, has an unusually stiff feel).

The white-ground main border with the meandering vine dramatically frames the piece. The most distinctly artistic feature, however, is the intricate embroidery in the closure panels, as well as the horizontal multi-color barber poles above and below.

This was the first of a few pieces I acquired over the years from Peter Papp, who always had very high quality, but priced accordingly. I felt very pleased to get this one at a modest number, figuring it was a get-acquainted deal.

Some detail shots:

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10

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Textile 10 is another khorjin face, with the same size, handle, horizontal orientation, and color combinations as No. 9, placing it firmly within the Afshar lexicon.

This time, however, the field features an entire barnyard of ornamental fowl, what are referred to as “morge” (presumably in Farsi) when they appear, as they frequently do, in Khamseh rugs and bags.

This came from a Pacific Northwest dealer at the San Francisco ACOR. I got to the dealers’ fair early, and, in a rare happenstance, the guy had both face halves of the khorjin set, and I had my pick.

Aija Blitte, a fellow Hajji Baba Society member, turned up about 20 minutes later and snagged the other half. I was hoping she would attend today, so we could have a side-by-side comparison and note the subtle differences, as we did at an earlier TM Rug Morning.

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11

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Textile 11 is an Afshar chanteh (vanity bag) face.

As contrasted with khorjin, these bags are more diminutive, and only have a single pile face with a single flat-woven back, normally with some sort of cord-like woven handle, long enough to drape over a shoulder, as with a woman’s purse.

I fancy the asymmetrical treatment of its field design, as well as its Art Deco look. Its white-ground border also frames it effectively. It came from an Istanbul dealer through Rug Rabbit.

Details of 11:

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12

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Textile 12 is a smaller Afshar chanteh face. This one lacks a border, other than the truncated polygons at the bottom. The dominant kinetic flower form in the field, however, is nearly identical, in this case offset in the northwest corner.

A follow-up sale by the same source as 11.

Details of 12:

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13

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Textile 13 is a large Kazak (southwest Caucasus) “long rug” (the length roughly twice the width) with the bold coloration typical of rugs from this region.

This was a fairly recent acquisition from a Cooper auction.

The multi-toned mother-and-child latch-hooked diamonds in the field give it a lot of energy, and the 2 white-ground minor borders create a pleasing framework.

Details of 13:

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14

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Textile 14 is another Kazak scored from a Cooper auction recently.

A bit smaller than 13, but with the same vivid tonality and the same duplicative minor white-ground borders (this time with a meandering vine, rather than stars).

I’m a sucker for a diagonal format, particularly here, where the ribbons are over-sized.

The sense of the borders marking off a random sample snapshot of an infinitely repeating design is a ubiquitous device in the Oriental rug vernacular, and here there is an interesting twist manifested in the bottom of the field, where it’s revealed, by the 90-degree angle, that we’re actually looking at what may be a tilted rectangle.

Details of 14:

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Textile 15 is a Genje (southwest Caucasus) long rug. Its field features multi-colored renditions of the pear-shaped device, known as “boteh” and ubiquitous throughout the Oriental rug cosmos, particularly so in this Caucasian genre.

I love the bold simplicity of the main border, the white figures on which are highly-abstracted dragons. The yellow inner border is a very attractive contrasting touch.

Check the many little floaters in the blue field: The oft-observed horror vacuui, but in this case, they don’t distract from the purity of the format.

From a Cooper auction about a decade ago.

Details of 15:

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16

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Textile 16 is a Shirvan (northeast Caucasus), with the characteristic white one-cord edge finish, a floppy handle, almost no warp depression, as evidenced by the flat back, and more squarish dimensions than encountered in the southwest.

Other than the stepped-polygon main border, it is a study in carnations.

This was my only epic “steal” in decades of collecting. It had come into the large shop of a Baltimore dealer in UK and French furniture, along with a few chests and tables from the same source in West Sussex.

It was so filthy that one could barely discern the colors and, of course, the proprietor hadn’t a clue what it was. She was content to take a few hundred to get it out from underfoot.

I ran it through the bathtub a few times with Orvus Paste zero-PH textile detergent, and those big white blossoms just exploded off the field.

Details of 16:

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17

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Textile 17 is a Kuba (northeast Caucasus), with the usual 3-cord selvages, usually in blue or, as here, in red, and a stiffer handle due to more warp depression.

The dominant elements, and what drew me to this piece, were the powerful “shield” devices (actually, impressionistic pomegranates) arising from the seldom-seen jet-black field, with the white-ground quartered-diamond main border lending a crisp contrast.

Another Cooper auction.

Details of 17:

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(top border)

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18

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Textile 18 is a Kuba of the Seychour sub-variety, characterized by the meandering carnations in the inner and outer borders, with the latter on a seafoam green base.

The unusual bit here is the central field and inner border, as a unit, dropped down like a separate 3-dimensional object on top of what would have otherwise been a much larger field consisting of diagonal ribbons of alternating colors.

The clueless furniture dealer from whom I acquired it at the Hunt Valley Antique Show had it marked as a Talish, probably because a just-enough-knowledge-to-be-dangerous rug dealer buddy told him that’s what it was based on the entirely open field surrounded by medachyl devices, the sine qua non of those southeast Caucasus rugs.

This is all wrong, because the structural aspects are Kubaesque, and the piece is also much smaller than the nearly invariable “long rug” dimensions of Talish.

Details of 18:

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19

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Textile 19 is in the top tier of my inventory. This small-scale gem is a Seychour Kuba of the Bijov sub-subset, characterized by the symmetrical array of abstract floral and leaf designs on a royal blue field. It has a very supple handle.

The macrame end finishes are typical, but it’s rare for them to have largely survived what may have been 150 years of multiple ownership.

The simplicity of a single white-ground border creates an impact. The weaver started out with a more elaborate border formulation, but then abandoned it as she moved northward in favor of a straightforward chain of “S” shapes (but in “Z” orientation on the right side), and then in favor of an interlocking “running dog” motif in the top border.

There is also an interesting amount of abrash in the background of the field. About two-thirds of the way up, she runs out of the royal blue dye lot, and has to substitute a much lighter shade that only carries on for about 3 vertical inches of pile, before that runs out, and there follows several different sections of only a few inches each, culminating in the nearly white stripe all the way at the top.

Of course, it’s frequently the case that these contrasts are accentuated as the colors mellow with age.

I’ve had this one for several decades, acquiring it from Peter Papp. I’d seen it in his inventory twice before, but had not been prepared to pull the trigger on those occasions.

The third time was at a Baltimore antique show at which he annually exhibited and I figured it was going to get away from me if I didn’t make a move. I avoided paying it any attention, and walked the dog for about 20 minutes asking about other stuff in which I was only mildly interested.

Finally, I gave him an “oh, by the way”, and gestured toward this lot as if I’d never seen it before. Peter was born at night, but not last night. He wouldn’t budge on the price, and I didn’t blame him, as it was a superb piece in and of itself, and my lust for it was way too much for my Oscar-losing performance as “Mr. Casual” to contain!

I was content to consider this as my comeuppance for the good deal he gave me on the Afshar khorjin face (no. 9) a few years before.

Details of 19:

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20

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Textile 20 is something relatively unusual, a khorjin face from the Caucasus (where most of the pile weavings are rugs). In this case, Karabagh, the historically-embattled, Armenian enclave detached from the main body of that nation and entirely surrounded by predominantly-Islamic Azerbaijan.

The 2 white guard borders successfully set off the scarlet-ground main border. But the real genius lies in the vivid colors employed in the single Herati motif which constitutes the bag’s focal point on a midnight blue field, the most dramatic of which is the purplish red in the central medallion of the Herati.

Many thousands of tiny beetles called cochineal (and only the females of the species) sacrificed their souls to produce this magical dye-stuff.

A Seattle dealer had this in his booth at the Denver ACOR. Understandably, it got a lot of attention, but he declared it was not on offer.

He must have been gradually worn down, because on the last day, I pressed him as to whether there wasn’t some price at which he couldn’t afford to hold on to it any longer.

After some hemming and hawing, he gave me a number and I coughed it up (wondering to myself how long I was going to have to hide this in the attic to obviate a marital crisis).

All these years later, I have no regrets, and have had a lot of offers.

Details of 20:

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21

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Textile 21 is a Bijar (northwest Persian Kurdistan) wagireh, produced in and around the rug-market-center city of that name.

These are referred to as the “rugs of iron” due to their extremely stiff handle (they can’t be folded, only rolled up) and consequent durability. This structure is the result of employing at least 3 weft shoots, and pounding them down very tightly with a mallet striking a comb-like device resting on the top weft of the set.

This large-format sampler features 5 border examples and 4 field specimens, with a multiplicity of floral motifs and a bit of the Bijar trademark arabesques (“strapwork”) in the lower left mustard field. There are at least a dozen colors, even though the predominant tonal theme is earthy.

The provenance was as compelling as the piece itself. It had been in the William Randolph Hearst collection at San Simeon. As was my custom at New York auctions, I dropped a modest absentee bid at the Sotheby’s weekend preview, so as to avoid coming back at mid-week for the sale itself.

I was not optimistic, due to the back-story, so was pleasantly surprised when it succeeded.

Details of 21:

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22

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Textile 22 is large Kurdish double-medallion khorjin face in a horizontal format. It came from a Connecticut rug dealer who exhibited at the Baltimore Museum of Art Antiques Show about 25 years ago.

As always, the white-ground inner border provides sharp framing. I have another one in the same format, but with a mustard inner border, and with contrasting medallions (blue on red v. red on blue), and more compartmentalized.

They are fairly common, and Jim Opie published one nearly identical to it in one of his books. I brought this one instead, because it’s more unusual.

Details of 22:

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23

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Textile 23 is a Saj Bulaq Kurdish mafrash side panel. It also includes about half of what would have been the top (if situated in the tent) or the bottom (if tied to the flank of a pack animal).

These are 3-dimensional bags that are for transporting and storing bedding. In its complete manifestation, there would have been another side panel more or less identical to this one, and 2 end panels each about half this size but in the same design, and, of course, the flat woven top/bottom.

I acquired it from London/Vienna rug dealer James Cohen at the last Boston ACOR.

I was drawn to the deeply saturated reds, and their contrast with the indigo and yellows; I’m also addicted to aubergine, as featured in the central medallion and some of the border leaves.

The preponderance of mafrash tend to be entirely plain flat weaves or soumac, so this pile example is more esteemed.

Details of 23:

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24

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Textile 24 is a Kurdish salt bag, obtained from a Midwestern dealer through Rug Rabbit.

It’s a garden-variety version of this utilitarian weaving, with a successful use of complementary colors.

Details of 24:

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25

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Textile 25 is a Kurdish wagireh, bought at a silent auction at the Chicago ACOR, where it had been donated by an upstate New York dealer.

It’s got thick, lustrous wool, 4 different borders, and an array of field devices, including the striking off-center diamond medallion. The buttery main border and chocolatey field (with some abrash about two-thirds the way up) combine for a very earthy appeal.

Details of 25:

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26

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Textile 26 is a petite jewel, a Senna wagireh, woven in the Kurdish rug market town of that name, and having the characteristic cotton warps, single wefts, and fairly high knot-count.  This gives them a delicate look and feel and the ability to achieve something closer to curvilinear designs, such as the blossoming flowers on the southeast quadrant of this piece.

I got it from a Boston dealer at the Denver ACOR.

27

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Textile 27 superficially presents itself as another wagireh, but it’s far more likely a Kurdish child’s practice piece.

The 2 diamond and latch-hooked medallions turn out off center, and the stepped polygon on the left gets truncated.

And you know she’s working with left-over dye lots, because she runs out of the beige about a third of the way up the top border, and has to swap in the red that had been used in the field.

The unintended result is something of considerable primitive charm.

I picked it up at the now long-defunct Sloan’s auction house in D. C. It was sitting under a lamp on an end table off in a corner of the preview room, so I doubt many others noticed it, and there was only one other half-hearted bidder.

Details of 27:

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28

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Textile 28 is a Kurdish khorjin face, purchased at a Cooper auction, featuring a zoom-in on a Mini Khani design.

I was particularly keen on the apricot in the bottom and top blossoms, and the cornflower blue in the center one, all of which popped quite smartly after I gave it a bath.

Details of 28:

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29

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Textile 29 is the first in a series of Kurdish khorjin faces from the Jaff tribe (predominantly in northeastern Iraqi Kurdistan).

Their trademark is the multi-colored latch-hooked diamonds, each enclosed by a larger diamond lattice.

If I had to pick 3 out of the whole collection to go into the coffin with me, this piece would probably get the call (along with 3, Qashqa’i wagireh, and 19, Bijov; and maybe 20 and 43, but I have to leave room for some doubles squash trophies).

It was also acquired from James Cohen at the most recent Boston ACOR.

It’s loaded with unusual elements that distinguish it from the typical production of the Jaff canon: The horizontal proportions (most are either square or more vertical); the Carolina blue lattice (I graduated from Chapel Hill, so that grabbed me straight away); the stepped-polygon border in earth tones (most are either floral blossoms or octagons in primary colors); the overall autumnal vibe; and the relaxed irregularity of both the diamonds and the surrounding lattice, which lends it a kinetic quality.

This was not the work of a master weaver, as evidenced, for example, by the pumpkin latch-hook within the brown diamond on the right side, which gets a bit mangled where it meets the border, but even these flaws contribute to an overall primal power.

Details of 29:

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30

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Textile 30 is a Jaff khorjin face found in the inventory of a New England dealer via Rug Rabbit.

I like the relatively large and vertically-elongated diamonds, and the unfussy alternating octagon and mini-barber pole border composition.

Details of 30:

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31

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Textile 31 is the first Jaff khorjin face that I acquired, from a Maine rug dealer at the Baltimore Museum of Art Antique Show.

It has perhaps the softest and most luxurious wool of any rug I own.

The proportions of the diamonds and of the piece overall are about average for this type, but note that, when she has to abandon full diamonds as she runs into both the left and right side borders, she eschews the ubiquitous latch-hooks in favor of up to 5 straight-forward half-diamonds within half-diamonds.

And then there is the strange vertical line of knots inside the right inner border (but not matched on the left, as if she was more concerned about showing the same portion of disappearing diamonds on the right as appears on the left, even if it meant encroaching on the field with this ham-handed space-filler).

Details of 31:

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32

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Textile 32, the next Jaff khorjin face, is done entirely in what I think of as Williamsburg pastels, including the powder blue border, which unfortunately would have been more effective in white.

A D. C. rug dealer traded me this for a large Peking rug that he intended to carve up into pillow covers.

If one looks at a substantial number of these over time, one notices a fair number with a single yellow or gold diamond, at or near the center. Some sort of totemic significance? Who knows?

Observe that the weaver here employed the same diamonds-within-diamonds design, rather than latch-hooks, on the 3 half-elements on the right side, just as was done on 31.

Details of 32:

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33

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This Jaff khorjin face, appearing as Textile 33, has the ubiquitous white dots-on-black lattice, but more pronounced here than usual.

The hexagons in alternating colors, enclosing opposing snakes, elongated on the bottom and top but of uniform proportions on the sides, create a bold surrounding for the field.

Details of 33:

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34

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Textile 34 is a Melas prayer rug (western Anatolia) and a textbook example of the genre: The bricky red, angular “arrowhead” mihrab, the mustard-ground main border with aubergine floral elements, and the quartered rosettes on the outer minor border.

Even in more exotic incarnations far removed from the prayer theme, the color palate reveals these rugs as Melas from a mile away (I was enamored of a stunner, which I couldn’t afford, in a cane design, that an Oakland dealer had for a few years back in the 90s).

This came from a Christie’s auction, previewed in New York, but with the sale held at the deceased owner’s Bucks County farm to exploit a Pennsylvania sales tax exemption on dispositions by executors.

It was primarily of his collection of Americana, including the catalogue cover lot, a pair of mid-19th century hand-painted wooden fire house Dalmations which brought a quarter of a million (back when that was real money).

But he had accumulated a modest quantity of Oriental rugs, as well, many of admirable quality.

I was delighted to get this on a left bid, but my principal quarry had been a Konya village prayer rug in striking saturated colors and “German” condition. Jim Ffrench told me he hadn’t seen much activity around it, or had many inquires, and opined that an absentee bid modestly above the high estimate might well bring it home.

I did just that, and when we got back from whatever extended weekend trip we were on, I called the Christie’s recording (this was way pre-internet) that would recite the successful bids on all the lots that sold.

What I heard was a number about 5 times what I had bid. I was sure it was some sort of clerical cock-up, and called for a warm body the next day to get the real story.

Well, that was the real story. Turns out that Eberhardt Herrmann, a Munich collector who published an annual catalogue of his spectacular world-class acquisitions for about a decade before he ultimately crashed and burned (putting the rug departments of the international auction houses and their consigners on suicide-watch), had taken a shine to the Konya and emerged the winner (as he always did) in a fierce bidding war over it.

Details of 34:

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35

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Textile 35 is a heybe (the Turkish version of a khorjin) face from Kozak, in the Bergama district of northwestern Anatolia. It came from a down-market country auction in Baltimore County.

The designs are crudely drawn and poorly aligned, and thus it may be a child’s tutorial piece like 27, but its rustic charm is undeniable.

Note the abrash in the top third.

Details of 35:

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36

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Textile 36 is the first in a series of 4 faces of yastiks, which are Anatolian cushion covers.

This one is considerably more impressive than what you’re seeing in these photos, which oddly turned out darker and with a brownish tint, belying the attractive orangey red that actually predominates.

This piece, unusually long and thus encompassing 4 connected medallions, is likely from central Anatolia.

Out of a Cooper auction.

Details of 36:

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37

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Textile 37 is a central Anatolian yastik face.

Despite its distressed condition, the juxtaposition of its motifs and the combination of its colors create a whole equal to more than the sum of its parts.

The yellow-ground border is a stroke of genius through simplicity.

From a West Coast dealer on Rug Rabbit.

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38

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Textile 38 is a Konya (western Anatolia) yastik face, obtained from a Chicago dealer at the last Boston ACOR.

It’s entirely given over to a highly abstracted manifestation of the frequently-encountered dragon-and-phoenix theme, with the exception of the red bottom and top borders, which are referred to as “lapetts”, in this case with pentagons.

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39

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Textile 39 is a western Anatolian yastik face, acquired from James Cohen at the last D. C. ICOC.

I was instantly drawn to the contrast of the powder blue and raspberry.

Check the abrash: She runs out of the blue about three-fourths of the way up, and subs in a seafoam green.

The circular boteh in diagonal formation lend a sense of tranquility.

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40

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GB33

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Textile 40 is a Shahsevan (northwest Persia) long rug, sold by a San Francisco dealer at the Los Angeles ACOR.

The fascinating aspect here is that it’s in pile, but the weaver was copying the design of one or more plain flat-woven rugs and covers from the area, since all of the devices are drawn at right angles, as is mandated by the structure of such flat weaves.

It has a very supple handle, and a harmonious range of colors, including cerulean blue, cornflower blue, seafoam green, and 3 shades of yellow. The mordant employed to fix the probable walnut husk dye in the borders has caused a corrosive oxidation that give it a bas relief effect.

Details of 40:

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GB33a

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41

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Textile 41 is a Shahsevan khorjin face, and what I call my “calamari” rug, in reference to its central medallion.

The fact that it was woven in pile is unusual, as so many bags from this Turkic tribe appear in soumac. Also seldom seen is this border pattern of boxed-in opposing sets of rabbit ears. Further note the odd outlining of the medallion with a very fine surround of red knots.

Bought at a Sloan’s auction in D. C.

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Details of 41:

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42

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Textile 42 is a Shahsevan khorjin face, woven in the more characteristic soumac stitch.

Very crisply drawn, and the forest green field is quite compelling as accentuated by the white-ground border.

Found in a Frederick antiques emporium.

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43

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Textile 43 is a pile Shahsevan khorjin face.

Harold sold it to me about 15 years ago, in part perhaps because of my long-running expression of admiration for Wendel Swan’s very similar piece.

Harold used to opine that the primus inter pares of the 4 rugly virtues is “colora”, and, given the simplicity of the overall pattern, cruciform devices within a diagonal lattice, surrounded by a single white main border, that’s the name of the game here.

Every one of the diamonds is a separate minute masterpiece of tonality, and a testament to the dyer’s art that preceded that of the weaver, who reveals her own genius in the way the contrasting hues feed off each other.

Details of 43:

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44

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Textile 44 is a face of a Balouch (Balouchistan) balisht, which is this Central Asian tribe’s (or, more accurately, broad set of tribes’) version of the Anatolian yastik.

It came to me from a Cooper auction. I felt bad about it, because when I walked into the auction room, a guy who worked there on the sales side, and whom I’d befriended as a fellow collector, asked me what I was after, and when I said “that little balisht”, he looked crestfallen, knowing that he couldn’t bid against a customer.

As befits the Balouchi lexicon, browns and dull reds predominate, but the blue, orange, and brighter red caught my eye as a deviation from that standard palate.

Details of 44:

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45

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Textile 45 is a Balouch rug with a “crab” main border and a profusion of stepped polygons on a camel-colored field.

It has the characteristic 4-cord goat-hair selvages, but what seems quite odd is that, despite its pristine condition, the ubiquitous 3-4 inch flatwoven end finishes are non-extant.

The wool is luxuriant, and it has a wonderfully floppy handle. It’s the work of a very skillful and experienced weaver, as evidenced by the corner resolutions on the border, and perfect uniformity of size, shape, and spacing of the polygons.

Note particularly the uniformity of the partial polygons as they disappear beneath the framework on the bottom, top, and both sides.

One of my earliest Cooper auction acquisitions.

Details of 45:

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46

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Textile 46 is one combination face, back, and closure panel of a Balouch khorjin set.

I have the other half of the set at home. I acquired them as pillows (at a country auction in Baltimore County) , and the reason they have remained together is presumably that they were stuffed many years ago and just moved from hand to hand as companion decorative accessories at either end of a sofa.

It’s well executed with rich wool, and achieves a bold effect despite the inherently limited palate of rugs from this area.

Note the “zipper” has survived (a rare occurrence), and is presented in the “closed” position.

Also observe another example of the sculpted effect from corrosion of the mordant in the brown stars.

Details of 46:

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47

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Textile 47 is a Malayer or Hamadan (northwest Persia) wagireh, sold to me by the late Roger Cavanna at his Jackson Square shop in San Francisco.

It’s single-wefted, but with a fairly stiff handle. There are 4 different borders, and 4 or 5 field designs, including a quadrant of a large yellow central medallion. The salmon is unusual in the overall rug universe, but more prevalent in this weaving area. Lots of abrash in the cocoa field. Here it is vertically reversed:

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48

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Textile 48 is a pile Camel Caravan long rug from northwest Persia.

I picked it off for next to nothing at an Eastern Shore antiques auction. It’s 4.5 x 9 feet, and most of the red-ground field is unfortunately as distressed as the small bit that’s shown here, but the blue-ground border around all 4 sides (varying from navy to cornflower in hue) is in pretty decent health.

The only other one like this that I’ve seen was in the flesh at a dealer’s booth at the San Francisco ACOR. It looked like it had just come off the loom, and was magnificent, along with a second-mortgage price tag.

Some of the elongated rectilinear dromedaries have riders, and there are other abstracted animals and humans scattered about. Note the “dice” inner and outer minor borders.

That concludes the pieces which I’ve brought. Following are those which came in from collectors in the audience. I unfortunately did not take notes on these, and can now only guess at their ethnographic identities based on the photographic images:

49

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Audience piece 49 appears to be a Kurdish long rug, with an unusual and fascinating 5-color border, and a very striking combination of aubergine and emerald in some of the field motifs.

Details of 49:

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50

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Audience piece 50 appears to be a Malayer wagireh (although it may be a Bijar, but I’m not now able to feel whether or not it has the rug-of-iron structure and handle which would indicate the latter).

Three different borders and a profusion of impressionistic floral designs in the field, but the salient features are, of course, the various surprisingly naturalistic tigers in pursuit of antlered prey.

Here’s the right-side-up version, and then some details:

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51

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Audience piece 51 looks like a Bijar wagireh.

The absence of any border samples is unusual, but if it is, instead, a fragment, somebody would have gone to a lot of trouble to add the end and side finishes.

With no tactile or structural insights available, the Bijar case is furthered by the general coloration and floral design elements, including the arabesque “strapwork” in the southeast corner; and I get a hint of tightly-pounded wefts peaking through the worn-down pile along the right side.

The various shades of madder provide a vivid contrast to the midnight blue field.

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52

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Audience piece 52 is a small complete khorjin set, a micro-treasure in a state of perfect fitness.

The multi-color barber-pole side finishes suggest southwest or southern Persia, the latter what the trade calls “Shiraz” when it can’t make a more specific ID.

The cartoonish animalistic and humanoid figures are quite charming, and I find the border scheme very attractive, reminiscent of the field in the Shahsevan khorjin face, no. 43.

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53

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Audience piece 53 is an even tinier titan, another full khorjin set, also looking like it had been squirreled away from human and elemental interaction since bestowed as a dowry piece.

I’m again guessing Shiraz, but in any event, the rich colors and geometric figures on a white canvas give it an archaic power.

Gordon took questions and brought his program to a close:

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I want to thank Gordon for driving over 1,000 miles, each way, bringing this strong material, and taking us knowledgeably through it. I’ve tried to recognize that a bit by giving him the modest bag he described above and a book he didn’t have on Kurdish textiles:

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I hope you have enjoyed Gordon’s session.

“Til next time”,

John

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