Archive for the Seidman, Michael Category

Reflections on Harold Keshishian and the RTAM Programs

Posted in Seidman, Michael, Swan, Wendel on February 23, 2011 by rjohn

On November 13, 2010, the Textile Museum’s Rug and Text Appreciation Morning program was devoted to reflections on the late Harold Keshishian’s

fecund relationship to, and work with, these free Saturday morning programs that have been, for nearly 40 years, an important part of The Textile  Museum’s  public outreach efforts.

The Myers Room was full.

Michael Seidman (left) and Wendel Swan (right)

led the efforts to organize, produce and conduct this session.

Via Powerpoint, 150 images of Harold and some of his pieces in RTAM sessions over the years were projected in background during the program.

I am going to try to provide you with an approximation of this session as it was conducted, but am also going to take some liberties with it.

In particular, I am, from time to time, going to:

1.  Show you, without comment,  some of the images from the projected Powerpoint array, and

2.  Use particular images, or groups of them, from the Powerpoint array and, then, repeat an associated Harold comment, or tell an associated story.

As one example of each of these points of punctuation, here is a first set of images from the Powerpoint array.

And here is an image illustrating a comment that Harold frequently made in these RTAM sessions.


Harold comment:

“The weaver of this piece would not recognize it.”

Fading of synthetic dyes is notorious and often obvious, but Harold’s point is different: natural dyes fade too, and often the colors in a given piece with putative natural dyes, have likely changed, sometimes considerably, since the piece was new.


Such comments and stories will, I think, to a degree convey, concretely, the sort of “force” that Harold was in the RTAM sessions.

Maryclaire Ramsey, The Textile Museum Director, and Bruce Baganz, the President of the Museum Board, spoke to Harold’s contributions to the textile world and to the TM in  particular, saying that the Museum today especially wanted to acknowledge Harold’s role in fostering the RTAM programs.

To that end she said, the Rug and Textile Appreciation Morning programs will in the future by presented “in memory of Harold and his many contributions and accomplishments.”

They presented Melissa Keshishian, Harold’s widow, and her two sons and daughter, with a plaque with this indication.

Wendel Swan spoke next.

Wendel said that the Rug and Textile Appreciation Mornings were a rare occurrence in today’s museum world:  a series of quality programs offered to the public free and without reservations.

He acknowledged the presence in the room of some people who had contributed to the RTAMs over the years: Russell Pickering, Michael Seidman, John Wertime and Ed Zimmerman (a long-time president of the TM board).

He further noted the absence of others who had sent their best wishes for the day, but regrettably could not attend: Leonardo Contardo, Virginia Delfico (the head of the TM’s Education Department for 11 years and a brilliant producer of RTAM programs), Jerry Thompson and John Howe (that’s me) .

(Wendel, himself, has worked actively with the RTAM sessions for years, and has presented frequently.  He is, currently very active, in producing them.)

He said that those in the room: trustees, colleagues and friends, were here to discuss and illustrate the contributions of the late Harold Keshishian to the RTAM programs, Harold’s contributions being one example of how individuals help the Museum fulfill its mission.

History recedes rapidly, and the origins of the RTAMs are a little murky.  But the best memories and information  suggest that the notion of the RTAMs originated in 1973, while Tony Landreau, later The Textile Museum’s Director, was a TM curator, and that Harold was asked to implement it.

Wendel said that the TM was managed very differently then.  Generally, speakers would go into the vaults and bring up pieces to show and tell on the floor in the galleries.

Wendel said that he arrived in the Washington area in 1986.  The first RTAM that he can remember is one given by the late Gayle Garrett on yastiks.

This was a time when objects from the TM collection were shown in RTAMs three or four times a year, and Gayle had some Museum material in her yastiks session.  Wendel said that he especially remembers this particular RTAM because he innocently reached out toward one of the Museum pieces, triggering a strong reaction from Gayle.  Wendel said that if Gayle had been holding a ruler, the back of his hand would have had a red welt… possibly his forehead as well.

Harold was a frequent RTAM presenter at that time and in subsequent years.

(Harold and Virginia Delfico)

Courtesy of Barry O’Connell

His programs were always popular and people were sometimes turned away because the capacity of the room had been exceeded.

Wendel said that he had often maintained that Harold knew more about more kinds of rugs and textiles than anyone else he had ever known.  Harold spent a lifetime in the rug business that his Armenian father founded, learning about the production, importation and identification of rugs and textiles from all kinds from various regions of the world.

Harold, Wendel said, owned a lot of rugs and shared them with us, generously.  Scarcely a topic could be presented here to which Harold could not bring an interesting example to share.

Most important, Harold had a passion and enthusiasm.  Passion and enthusiasm for the material,  for The Textile Museum and its programs, but especially for these Rug and Textile Appreciation Mornings.

Harold believed that those who have accumulated a certain amount of experience or knowledge, or who have attained some position of leadership in the rug and textile community have an obligation to participate in the RTAMs and, whenever possible, to present programs.

Wendel said that Harold’s absence in the RTAM sessions would be keenly felt.  His passing leaves a large hole in our access to an extensive and valuable, knowledge and experience.  A question is going to arise in an RTAM, and we are going to turn to the chair at the side where Harold often sat, and be a little surprised to find it empty.


Frequent Harold comment:

“I think this piece is older than we think it is.”

Harold noticed that the most frequent responses to the question of how old a given piece might be were: “Last quarter of the 19th century.” or “Turn of the 20th century.” or “Probably before 1930.”

He said that it was not plausible to him that nearly all of the material we have was woven in years between 1875 and 1930 and that more of the pieces we have, than we might think, were woven before 1875, we just don’t have reliable bases for identifying them.


Wendel called on several folks in the audience to talk about their experiences with Harold vis-a-vis the RTAM.

Russ Pickering noted  that the 70s were an exciting time at the TM.  Good work was done, and they had a lot of fun, despite the fact, Russ said, that they often didn’t really know what they were doing.

John Wertime said that Harold was likely the only person in the world who could identify some textiles accurately.

Michael Seidman echoes this indication, saying that once in a TM session someone brought in a textile that was very unusual, something that even the experienced people in the room could not identify.  But Harold said, “This is an Indian piece, right after WWII.”  Harold did not collect in this area, but he could recognize a great range of things.  As I heard him say once in another context, “If you live long enough, you see everything.”

Bruce Baganz said that it was likely that Harold was the last person still active in The Textile Museum and its programs, who personally knew Mr. Myers, the TM’s founder.  Part of what is noteworthy about Harold’s passing is that that personal link to the TM’s founder has now been lost.

Wendel concluded this part of the program by talking to the audience, even challenging them a bit, about their relation to the RTAM programs.

How, he asked, can you make a contribution to the continuation of these RTAMs?  There are several ways.  You can attend.  You can bring material to them.  You can express yourself in them (the more you give to these sessions, the more you will learn from them). You can encourage others to attend.

He said that Michael was going to take us through some pieces that he and Melissa had selected from Harold’s collection, but that the audience was encouraged to participate with questions such as:

Do you remember your first RTAM?  Tell us about it.

How can we best carry on the mission of the TM and the RTAMs?

How did Harold specifically, or the RTAMs more generally, affect your interest in rugs and textiles?

Michael Seidman now began to treat selected pieces from Harold’s collection.

Comment on the long red piece on the right: 19th century Italian velvet panel, still with an ogival pattern, so typical of the influence of Ottoman design introduced a few hundred years ago.

Here are some closer looks at this piece:

Comment on close-ups: wonderful condition, essentially two colors, aubergine pile and ivory ground.

The next piece was another fragment of what,  given the scale of the devices on it, must have been a huge carpet.

Here is an unobstructed image of it.

Comment on fragment above:  17th century fragment of a carpet from Herat.  Often referred to as Indo-Herat in recognition of carpet production in both India and Herat.  The design is a two plane  lattice formed by two vine systems with palmettes and floral devices.  Note the Chinese inspired cloudband adjacent to the palmette.

Here is a closer detail.

The next piece was the one Michael is drawing attention to below.

Here’s an unobstructed view of it.

Comment on fragment above: Another fragment of a different 17th century Indo-Herat carpet, this with very clear cloudband, palmettes and saz leaf.

Both carpets have variations on the typical  purplish red  ground.

The next piece treated was this one:

Comment on piece above:  18th century Greek island embroidery- Epirus.  A happy piece as Harold liked to say.

One day in an RTAM, when Harold was showing this piece, he mentioned that it was part of a woman’s undergarment.  A lady in the audience asked whether it would have been visible when worn.  Harold smiled and said, “Not usually, but perhaps, on a special occasion.”

Here is one closer detail of this piece.

The next piece was difficult to photograph in this session.  Here is the session photograph.

Here is a series of photos of this piece from another occasion to let you see its qualities.

This is a rare Kerman shawl, fragmented and then reconstituted from several pieces.  Estimated to have been woven in the 18th century.  Persian botehs in field, with a border from another piece.  Note the difference  in coloring between the two elements.

Here are some additional detail images of it.

Michael now moved to a second level of Harold’s pieces on the board, starting with one Harold often described as a real favorite.

Harold believed it to be a Laver Kerman weaving.

A very whimsical, pictorial piece, very nicely woven.

Here are some closer details of this piece.

There was another pictorial rug on the board and Michael discussed it next.

This is another rug that Harold described as one of his favorites.

Michael said Tabriz.   Harold always felt that this piece was probably woven specifically for a client, presumably one who had a valued cat.

Here are some closer details:

Harold often said that 1) collar indicates cat was owned, 2) henna-dipped feet indicate cat was loved, trying to make it especially beautiful, parallel to use of henna by women, 3) Kaiser Wilhelm mustache is a reflection of the fact that, at one time, things Kaiser Wilhelm were all the rage in Iran and many men adopted Kaiser Wilhelm mustaches.

The next piece was a “Transylvanian” rug reconstituted by couching the four quarters (into which it had been divided) onto a backing.

Here is a closer corner:

This is an example of Harold’s range.  he had something from every period.

The next two pieces are from Northwest Persia with very similar boteh designs.

The first of these is a mafrash side panel done in extremely fine sumak wrapping.  It is perhaps the most famous piece that Harold owned.

Here are some closer details of it.

This mafrash side panel was published in the seminal flatweave catalog “From the Bosporus to Samarkand” and drew a full, two-facing-page treatment in John Wertime’s “Sumak.”

Wertime spoke to it and a larger piece with botehs on a blue ground but done in slit tapestry (kilim) technique rather than sumak wrapping.

Below is a detail of the drawing of the botehs in the larger piece that shows how similar their designs are (compare with the detail of the mafrash panel two images above).

My notes on what Wertime actually said about these pieces in this session, are not good, but,

in his book “Sumak Bags,” he gave the bag panel a dramatic, two opposing page, display and said that it is “recognized as one of the masterpieces of sumak bag art.”  He said that the weave is “unusually fine,” and this face “must be one of the oldest of the Shahsevan-Persianate sumak pieces to survive.”


Here is a second set of images of Harold in RTAM sessions:


Harold frequently said:

“The three most important things about a weaving are color, color and color.”

Harold did not claim to have originated this mantra, and lots of folks have said similar things, but it articulates something widely believed.

It is not necessary to ignore other aspects of weaving such as design composition,  drawing, graphic contrast, texture, and even technical quality, to acknowledge the importance, even the primacy, of color to many collectors.


The next piece illustrates Harold’s concern for. and appreciation of, color in his own collecting.

This is an Alpan fragment and was Harold’s most favorite piece.  Wendel said colors are “terrific”  and cited the yellow, burnt orange,  and the dark blue ground as examples of great color combinations.

Wendel further commented that Harold seldom, if ever, made critical comments about pieces that the audience brought in to the RTAMs.  For example, synthetic colors that Wendel or other purists might dismiss or disdain were usually found by Harold to be “happy” colors.

Focus now moved to pieces members of the audience had brought in.  In some cases, a connection of the piece to Harold was described.

The first piece was the item of embroidery below.

Classic 19th century Turkish “towel”.  The kind of piece Harold owned and valued.

Here is a close look at part of it:

Now we moved to a yastik.

Southwestern Anatolian, shown in the RTAM on Harold’s Anatolian collection about two years ago.

Here is a detail of one quarter.

The color in the above image is off.   The green is much clearer and brighter.

The next piece was the one below.

Wendel said that this piece has a Saruk look, but is a distinctive type.  It is a Jozan, from between Arak and Malayer.  Shown in Harold’s last RTAM, with Kirk, on Persian carpets.  It has many colors.

Wendel said that Jozans can be recognized in part by their symmetric knots.

The next piece was a small, embroidered Central Asian panel.

Its owner said that this piece originally belonged to Harold, but once she made the mistake of admiring its colors and Harold gave it to her.

She said that she thinks it is Kungrat rather than Lakai.

The next brought in piece was an item of “zili,” a species of brocade.

Here is a closer detail.

You can see its “corduroy” look.

This is the next brought in piece, had an asymmetrical field design.

The warps indicate that it was woven in the orientation of the image above, but it was turned on the board with its “niche” at the top for a more “balanced” viewing.

Here is a closer look at one corner.

The last piece of the morning was a 4.5 x 6.5 Caucasian sumak, which the present owner acquired from Harold in 1975.  Melissa did some restoration on it.

Here is a corner detail:

Here is a third set of images of Harold at various RTAMs.

I have a couple of thoughts of my own about Harold and the RTAMs.   I was an instructional designer for over 40 years.  So my eye goes to instances of learning.  There were two qualities of Harold’s that continually impressed me.

First, despite his vast experience and knowledge, he was never too proud to continue to learn, and to be visibly interested in doing so.  And he was willing to learn from anyone.  A novice would ask a question that attracted Harold’s attention and he would probe it.  The novice would start to back away and Harold would say,

“No, no.  Let’s look at your question.  I want to learn.”

A second quality is admirable because of its care for less experienced folks.  Harold never forgot, was ever alert for, instances in which basic things that many have mastered long ago could be made clear to novices.  I don’t know how many times I’ve seen him take out his handkerchief and do what he is doing in the image below,

using his fingers as warps and showing newer folks how a symmetrical knot is tied on them.

I’m going to end with another set of Harold in the RTAM images, but first I want to tell my own story about this second admirable Harold quality: being alert to the potential learning needs of newer folks in the rug and textile world.

One morning, when someone else was presenting and Harold was in the audience, one of the pieces brought in was a fragment of  a Bijar runner that had been cut off on one end.

Harold came quickly to the front of the room insisting that this was something we needed to look at.

In many rugs, Harold said, the warps are all level with each other, that is, they are all in a single horizontal plane.

But pile Bijars like this one are famous for having alternate warps fully depressed, that is one set is directly below the other.

Ordinarily, Harold continued, this structure is nearly impossible to see, even on the rug’s back, but the fact that the end of this one is cut off provides a rare opportunity to look directly into a fully-depressed warp structure.

We will be able to see clearly that one set of warps is directly under another.

Now this was not Harold’s program, but he was irrepressible in such situations.

He even got Wendel Swan to look.

For me it is a classic instance of Harold taking care of the learning needs of less experienced folks.

Who would have thought that depressed warps could be this dramatic?

A final set of images of Harold at RTAM sessions.

Unavoidably, this post is a little “in house” in the sense that what it tries to convey has more concrete meaning to those of us who “haunt” the RTAM programs.

But I hope that it has spoken a bit to others as well, and has conveyed both enjoyment and a sense of what it was like to have access to a resource like Harold Keshishian.


R. John Howe

“Potpourri”: by Michael Seidman and Wendel Swan

Posted in Seidman, Michael, Swan, Wendel on May 10, 2010 by rjohn

On February 20, 2010, Michael Seidman (right) and Wendel Swan (left)

conducted a Rug and Textile Appreciation Morning at The Textile Museum here in Washington, D.C. entitled “Potpourri.”

Maryclaire Ramsey, The Textile Museum’s Chief Executive Officer, (the photo I took of her in the room did not turn out),

introduced them.

Since they are familiar figures on these pages and in the TM “rug morning” programs, I will not give the full-faced version of what Maryclaire said.

Michael is a molecular biologist, actively engaged in research.  He and his wife have collected seriously for a number of years.  Wendel is trained as an attorney, but has been engaged in various facets of real estate and is currently an M+A intermediary.  He is a figure in the international rug world and has collected with a visible passion since the late sixties.  He is currently very active in identifying, recruiting and mounting interesting, useful RTAM programs.

Both Michael and Wendel are Museum Trustees.

Now programs with the “Potpourri” title have been given at the TM for years.  The usual practice has been to press this term in the direction of “the speaker will  bring a variety of pieces and the audience is invited to do so, too — no holds barred.”

But the announcement for the version Michael and Wendel conducted said something about “what you always wanted to know,” which seemed to suggest that attendees should mostly bring textiles about which they had questions.

But in the session itself (while everything brought in was examined and commented on)

Michael and Wendel had themselves brought items that focused attention on some particular sets of similar textiles.

These two aspects of their treatment of “potpourri” made me go look the word up again, as we prepared this virtual version of their program.

One dictionary said that “potpourri” refers to “a combination of various incongruous elements.”  Another, perhaps somewhat more authoritative, said more leniently that “potpourri” denotes “an unusual and interesting mixture of things.”

The session that Michael and Wendel conducted was not devoted to “incongruous elements.”  It did seem to meet the “unusual and interesting mixture” test.

But one had the sense that they were a little dissatisfied with the possibility that the particular “potpourri” that might emerge from that label, uncued, could be a shade too unstructured for their taste, and to that end they had designed an improved version, not  dependent on complete serendipity.

Anyway, this program was more shaped and focused in some areas  than the RTAM “potpourri” programs I have attended in the past.

The program began by showing pieces that the audience brought in and the first was the piece below.


Michael said that this pile piece

is a multi-niche, “prayer” design woven in Turkey in about 1900.  He said that the pile and foundation seem to be of mercerized cotton, sometimes used to mimic silk.

It is too small to be used as a prayer rug with devotees kneeling side-by-side in its niches.

The piece has small images of the Haghia Sophia inside some of its end “lappet” devices.

The second piece moved sharply in a different direction.


It was woven in four sections on a narrow loom and then sewn together to produce this larger format.

There were guesses in the room that this piece might have been woven in north Africa, but its owner said that it was made by Pomaks, a group of Turks who speak Bulgarian (there is a Pomak minority in Bulgaria, too).

He said that such pieces have begun to appear in the market only recently and estimated that this one is about 70 years old.

There were questions from the audience about whether this piece is warp-faced as are many Persian jijims which seem similar.

The owner indicated that the weave is a kind of twill.

The third piece was this NW Persian cargo bag-type “mafrash.”


This piece was complete and assembled.

It is completely woven in varieties of kilim.

It exhibits some bright colors that suggest that it was woven in the first half of the 20th century.

The next piece was a single side panel from a similar mafrash bag.


This time the weave is sumak.

It was estimated to have been woven, probably by Shahsavan, in the last quarter of the 19th Century, although somewhat earlier dates are often given for similar pieces.  Wendel commented that it is one of the most common for mafrash side panels, but that it is quite fine and has excellent colors.

The next piece was a carrier bag.


The thinking in the room is that it was likely by the Char Mahal or perhaps by the Qashqai.  It was woven about 1960-70 and features a leather handle and trim.

Jenny Housego shows a very similar piece (leather handle and trim included) as Plate 107 in her “Tribal Rugs,” and gives a similar south Persian attribution.

The next piece was a contemporary Central Asian felt.


There was conversation in the room about the abortive-seeming bottom border and what this might indicate about intended use.

Here are two closer looks.

The colors are from synthetic dyes.

A seventh piece was potentially a puzzler.


Michael and Wendel said that this is not a contemporary piece and that it could be Caucasian.  It is done in a coarse sumak weave.

What can it be?  It has a shape and size similar to that of a Baluch “balisht” or a Kyrgyz “chavadan,” but is clearly neither of these.  Did some other folks make similar bags?

Its  odd border treatment likely provides some hint of the format to which it belongs.

Here are some closer looks at various details of this piece.

Michael and Wendel indicated that this piece is one front chest tab that was part of a horsecover.

In his book “Oriental Carpets,” Jon Thompson provides an example of a similar horse cover in use.  Thompson’s example is Qashqai.

So to see this piece in its likely “in use” orientation, it needs to be turned to a position something like this.

This is how it would have appeared if it is the left front tab on such a horse cover.

Pieces like this can both puzzle and lead to strange attributions when they are encountered.

The next piece was another but smaller cargo-type mafrash side panel.


It features a parade of “animal-forms.”

It was attributed to NW Persia or the Caucasus.  The weave is sumac.

The next piece was the rug below.


The owner believes that this rug looks Caucasian (mainly because of the reciprocal trefoil border, the end finishes and the selvedges), but it is loosely woven and has cotton wefts.

Here are some closer details of it.

Notice darkish warps.

Michael and Wendel thought that it could be either a Persian tribal piece or a primitive Shirvan.  If it is from the Shirvan area, Wendel noted, the weaver was imitating a South Persian gabbeh.

The next piece was a Shirvan.


Wendel said that this piece is classically Shirvan in structure and design and is probably earlier than most Shirvans that we see.  It is prototypical Shirvan because of its

narrow stripes in the field

and a so-called “crab” border.

It is quite fine, even for a Shirvan, with 140 knots per square inch.  There may be some camel hair in it.

The next two pieces provided a seemingly unlikely comparison.

First, was an Afshar pile khorjin face with the distinctive “tulip” design.


Here are a couple of closer details.

This design is seen in very impressive rug versions.

The other piece in this unlikely “pair” was the one below.


This is a carriage cushion cover (called an agedyna) embroidered in southern Sweden about 1825.  It is part of Wendel’s collection of Swedish folk weavings.

Again, some closer details.

Wendel said that the similarities in color usage and design, including, the cruciform devices within a lattice, and the use of tulips, is remarkable.

The thirteenth piece was the one below.


It is a Baluch khorjin face.

The two devices in its field echo Turkmen turreted ‘Salor’ gul usages.

Here are two details of its border systems.

Michael and Wendel said that it has very nice wool.

The fourteenth piece was a Qashqai khorgin face.


Here are two closer details of it.

The colors of its borders give it an overall lighter look than many such Qashqai khorjins exhibit.

The next piece was the one below.


It is a Jaff Kurd bag.

Two closer looks.

The narrow checker board “elem” at the bottom provides interest.

Piece sixteen was also a small pile bag.


It’s owner thought that it had been woven by “Bulgarian” weavers. (Notice the unusual color change in the side borders.)

Michael and Wendel noted that it has a cotton foundation and estimated that is was woven about 1930.  They suggested that it could be Persian, perhaps Luri.

The next piece was the pile rug below.


This is a piece that some would guess might be a Saruk.

Michael and Wendel said that a closer look at its structure indicates that it is a Bijar (of a type usually referred to int the trade as a “Kurd Bijar”), using Saruk motifs.

It has some nice animals (deer?) at the “top” of its medallion.  I have flipped the image below so that you can see the animals right side up.

Animal even closer in the image below.

There is calligraphy at its other end, but I didn’t get it close-up.

The next piece was an unusual, “rare” is probably not too strong, Turkman rug.  This is one of Wendel’s pieces.  He is not a Turkmen collector, but this appealed to him because if was so unusual.  Wendel is reluctant to use the word “unique” but he hasn’t seen anything else like this.  Turkmen experts who have seen it say that it is clearly from before 1850 and might be 18th Century.


This is the sort of piece that we used to call “Ersari,” but about which “Middle Amu Dyra” is the current recommended description.

Despite a seeming fragmented character,

it is “complete” in the sense that its very narrow borders

are visible and intact in areas on all four sides.

There are traces of pile elem on both ends.

The next piece was held up by someone in the audience.


It was described in my notes as (ed: part of?) a bedspread.  It is crocheted.

A closer detail.

The next four pieces comprise  one of the small focused groupings I mentioned at the beginning.  This is a grouping Wendel assembled of pieces thought to contain some camel hair.

“Wool” is usually said to be composed of three distinctive fibers: wool, hair and kemp.

But I think Wendel’s reference here is to “camel wool.”  Camel wool, Eiland says, is “made up of extremely fine fibers, and it is distinguished from sheep’s wool mainly by a characteristic scale pattern and by the distribution of pigment granules.”  Both of these are visible only by microscope.

This makes Eiland suspicious of claims of “camel hair or wool” in rugs without microscopic test.

Nevertheless, there are many who believe that there are tactile and visual indicators of “camel’s wool” that often permit its detection without resorting to microscopic.  I think Wendel is likely one of these.

And there often seems something to it.  For example, it is often held that “camel’s wool” is detectably “softer” than sheep’s wool that may surround it (this despite it being known that the softness of sheep’s wool varies widely even that taken from a single sheep).  It is also held that “camel’s wool” will often have a “fuzzy” appearance in relation to surrounding sheep’s wool.

What follows is the kind of thing that can make a claim of non-microscopic identification of camel’s wool plausible.

A few years ago a Turkmen lady I met here in DC (she is a scholar and lives in Turkmenistan) gave me a contemporary plied strand of what seemed like wool.  She said that one of the strands, the tan one, was “camel’s wool.”  Here is that strand.

And here is a closer look at one end section of it.

This plied piece is compose of five differently colored strands.  There are black, white, orange, red and tan strands plied together.

I think you can see that in the braided areas there is visible fuzziness.  More the character of the braid used has the effect of placing the tan sections in a kind of line along the cord.  I have just looked at this braided strand with a magnifying glass and can testify that the fuzziness seems entirely to emerge from the tan strand areas alone.

I have also felt the individual strands at the ends of the plied cord where they can be felt individually and can testify that the tan strand IS very much softer than the other four.

Now I do and say all this, not to doubt the need for Eiland’s caution, but to show the plausibility of these two non-microscopic tests to some.

Wendel pointed out that there are that there are two kinds of camel hair.  One is the outer, coarse layer that is usually called guard hair and the second is the fine, soft undercoat.  The latter lacks the scales of sheep’s wool and therefor does not spin as tightly.  This accounts for the obvious fuzzy appearance that we sometimes see on the backs of rugs.  Camel wool most commonly comes from the Bactrian, or two-humped camel.  Camel hair can be sheared or it can be plucked or gathered from the ground during moulting season.

Anyway, I think it is such non-microscopic indicators that Wendel is relying on when he suggests that each of the following pieces likely have some “camel wool” in some areas.

Wendel brought in this minimalist prayer rug with a “ghostly” mihrab.  He indicated that it could be late 19th or early 20th Century, but fixing a date is very difficult because it is of an extremely rare, perhaps unique, design.


This piece is austere in the extreme, with a Persianate border surrounding a tan field.

There are six small animal forms (probably goats) along both sides of the field.

And the “ghostly” niche-like device at the top.

Wendel believes that the ground of the field of this piece contains camel hair.

A second piece has a similar coloration but is actually very different.


Experienced folks have suggested that this is a leg wrapping (a “puttee”) used to protect the leg and possibly to keep debris out of one’s shoes or boots.  Puttees were a frequent item of 19th century military dress and may have been picked up primarily from such usages although the format is so simple and the need so obvious that it seems likely it existed in traditional societies before European contact.

This piece is decorated with twining and sumak at particular points

and with pile bands on both ends

(these pile bands are woven like Turkmen mixed technique tent bands, that is symmetric knots tied on alternate raised warps; the pile design is very faint on the back).

Wendel has since found the pair of this piece

and believes that the tan ground areas of both of them are of camel’s wool.

The seeming presence of camel wool also unpins the attribution of these two puttees to East Anatolia, where it is known to have been used.

Wendel brought in this third example – an unusual small, complete khorjin with what he believes may be a plain camel ground.

The colorful decoration is in sumak.  Notice the long connecting section and the absence of closure systems on the two bags.  Both of these features, as well as, what Wendel believes, is the presence of camel’s wool in the tan ground fabric, press this piece toward Eastern Persia and possibly to the Lurs.

One more piece thought to have some camel’s wool in it.

This is another piece that Wendel brought in.  He attributes it to the Shahsavan, based upon some the sinuous warps and what he fells is almost certainly camel hair used very sparingly.  The Shahsavan owned camels and used them for transport.  They were the most valuable of all the animals.

Wendel believes that some of the tan areas in it are likely camel’s wool.

The next piece examined was the one below.


It was felt that this piece might be Persian.

Here are some closer details of its field and border systems.

The next item of the morning was the coat below.


Here is a closer detail of what was called, in the room, its “piano-key” design.

In his book “Persian Flatweaves,” Parviz Tanavoli provides a photo of seven men wearing such coats.

The caption provides most of what we might want to know about such an item.  Wendel said that it is done in a fine and very tight slit tapestry that may even be water repellent.

Two kilims and a pile rug from Central Anatolia provided another area of seeming focus that Michael and Wendel had assembled.

The first of these was the kilim fragment below.


This piece is nearly a textbook example of the glorious use of color.  It is one of four known fragments from a larger whole kilim apparently divided between family members.

Here are two closer details of it.

The wonderfully clear, saturated colors of this piece are difficult to capture in photographs.  This piece is estimated as 18th century, conservatively ca 1800.

A second Central Anatolian kilim, below, was small, intact, and younger, with a dating  estimate of late 19th or early 20th century.  ca 1900.


The marked bluish-red in this piece is from “cochineal” and tempts one, perhaps, to think of the more eastern part of central Anatolia.

Here are some closer details.

The third piece in this central Anatolia grouping was this pile fragment below.


This is the top part of a long rug that may have had three large medallions.

Its design echo some kilim usages and

This piece has a good aubergine and a strong yellow that Wendel described as a “quercetin yellow,” which occurs in a variety of Anatolian plants.

Quercetin yellow, while readily available is not by itself very light fast.  Bohmer reports that its light fastness can be improved with alum or calcium salts mordants.  To be light fast, Wendel said that quercetin requires copper sulfate, which could have been introduced intentionally by the dyer or unintentionally by reason of imperfections in the tinning of copper pots.

Since this fragment is estimated to have been woven in the 18th century, an appropriate mordant has clearly been used and has made it possible for the strong yellow in this piece to retain its power.

The next piece was another kilim.


This piece was thought likely woven in southeast Turkey.

Here are some additional details of it.

One orange in this piece was suspected as a synthetic.

Piece number 30 in this Potpourri session was the one below.


Its owner, who had the earlier pieces that he thought were woven by Bulgarian-speaking Turks, thought that they may have woven this one too.

Here are closer details.

Notice that while this piece exhibits some suspicious colors it also has generous use of what appears to be a good aubergine.

Michael provided another area of focus, by presenting the following two embroideries.

The first of these was the Central Asian suzani panel below.


Again, the color is simply marvelous and the embroidery is of a very high quality.

Michael’s second embroidery example is much harder to convey with photographs.


He described it as Indian export embroidery,

made in a commercial workshop,

in about 1750,

for the English market.

He called particular attention to the fine needle work and the skillful way that close colors are used side-be-side, often without intervening outlining, to portray shading.

The next piece was a table block-printed table cloth.


This piece is also Indian with floral motif reminiscent of Mughal usages.

Another printed table cloth was also offered.


This circular piece was described as a “Tehran” table cloth.

Three pre-Columbian pieces comprised a final area of focus that Michael and Wendel had selected.

The first of these was a narrow band that Michael owns.


It has been mounted in a “back and fourth” mode for more accessible display and appreciation.

Here are some closer details.

This piece is estimate to have been woven in 500. A.D.

You can see its split tapestry structure clearly.

Wendel brought in two pre-Columbian pieces.

The first one you may have seen in my recent post, but it is unusual enough to examine again.  It is a narrow, “furred cord” from the Nazca culture in Peru and probably woven between 200 and 500 A.D.


This piece is made by tying a single row of knots (perhaps as long as 40 or 50 feet) on a pair of warps.  The colors are changed at intervals.  When the length estimated to be needed to make the furred cord desired the single row of pile is wound around a core.

The second pre-Columbian piece Wendel had brought was the one below.


This is a complete, intact headband decorated with typical iconography and is attributed to the Huari culture in Peru, circa 500 – 900 A.D.

It is decorated with god figures and birds.

Despite its age, it is in pristine condition.

Michael and Wendel took questions

and brought the session to an end.

The usual ensued.

One of the TM docents was wearing a striking sweater that she let me photograph.

She said that it is quite old.  Not all of the interesting textiles in the room are always on the board.

I want to thank Michael and Wendel for permitting me to construct this virtual version of their program and for some editorial assistance that involved.

Again, I owe Amy Rispin for a good set of notes.

I hope you have enjoyed have enjoyed this version of “Potpourri.”


R. John Howe

Afshar Rugs and Textiles, Part 1

Posted in Seidman, Michael on September 9, 2009 by rjohn

Dear folks –

On May 9, 2009, Austin Doyle and Michael Seidman


gave a Rug and Textile Appreciation Morning program on Afshar rugs and textiles.

This post is one of three that provides a virtual version of this program.

Part 1 is Austin’s lecture.

Part 2 presents the pieces that Austin and Michael brought in to illustrate particular aspects of Afshar weaving.

Part 3 is devoted to the pieces that members of the audience brought to this session.

The Myers Room was full, again, for this program.



Tom Goehner,


the TM’s Curator of Education, introduced Austin and Michael, saying that Austin is a medical doctor specializing in oncology. He is also the president of the Washington area rug club, the International Hajji Babas.

Michael is a molecular biologist, employed in research, and is a member of The Textile Museum board.

Both have presented previous “rug mornings,” and both of them collect Afshar weavings.

Austin began


with a lecture on the Afshars and their weavings.


I have presented a virtual version of it below in some detail. Because we do not have permission to include the images of examples used to illustrate particular points, this lecture is presented entirely in text.   Still, I would suggest that it is worth “plowing through” a bit, since Austin has summarized a lot of the current literature on Afshar weaving conveniently.

Austin first said that Afshari weaving has not been studied much because few westerners have visited the Kerman area in south central Iran where the largest numbers of Afshars have been located.

iranmap Here is a closer look at Kerman and its surroundings taken from Edwards’ The Persian Carpet.


Notice that Edwards seems here to place Afshars to the south of Kerman. Opie, in his book Tribal Rugs of Southern Persia, places them more to the southwest.

Centuries before the arrival of the Afshars in Kerman province, the area was inhabited by a variety of Persian, Turkic and Arabic-speaking tribes. Among the most important were three Baluch tribes, two Lori tribes, as well as some Lak tribes.

This diverse background, Austin said, is reflected in the immense complexity of various pastoral nomads that moved about in the Kerman area, among which Afshars were numbered.

A sense of this complexity can be seen in the following brief description. Sirjan (see at extreme lower left in the Kerman map above) is usually seen as the major collecting point for Afshar rugs, but also for those of the Buchakchis (a tribe less well known to rug collectors). In his respected book, The Persian Carpet, Cecil Edwards indicates that he thinks that Bam was actually the Afshari trading center, and that the Doragahis, another tribe, greatly outnumber the Afshars in the Sirjan area. Edwards also notes: “The Persian weavers of the Sirjan valley far outnumber the 40, 000 nomadic Afshari and their rug production is greater.” (ed.: Edwards retired from the rug business in 1947 and was writing in the later 40s.)

One additional sign of the diverse background of Kerman Afshars is that the weavings they produced are the most varied of any of the Persian tribes.

As indicated above, the Afshars were (in the past) pastoral nomads. They were among the “black tent” variety.


Austin said that those in the Kerman area migrated between the cool Jabel Barez mountains (which sometimes reach 4,500 meters) in the summer, and warm winter encampments in the lowlands (which extend west to the Persian Gulf).

He said that the Kerman Afshars are now mostly sedentary, with only a few thousand still living as nomads. There are a dozen Afshar villages where a traditional Turkic dialect is still spoken. Most Afshar descendants have mixed extensively with the Persian people in the villages south and west of Kerman.

Although Afshars are generally thought of as a Kerman area tribe, in fact, Afshar populations exist in a number of other areas as well, notably in Khurasan in northeast Iran, and in the Bijar area of Iran’s northwest.

Next Austin sketched some of the deeper historical background of the Afshars.  He said that the Afshars have roots in the Turkmen Oghuz who left Turkmenistan, east of the Caspian Sea, in the 11th century. They traditionally spoke a Turkic dialect, and some settled in eastern Turkey. but the majority of the tribe settled in Khuzestan at the head of the Persian Gulf.

At the beginning of the 16th century, the Afshars were instrumental in assisting six other tribes, all members of the Kizl Bash Confederation, in placing Shah Isma’il on the throne of Persia (1499-1524). By this time important segments of the Afshar tribe had migrated again to Azerbaijan in the region of Lake Urmia.

Also in the 16th century, the Afshars were forced to migrate from Azerbaijan and were resettled in several parts of Iran. Still in the 16th century, Afshar khans were given control of important parts of Persia and gained considerable power.

Their constant rebelliousness led Safavid shahs and rulers of later dynasties to command the tribe’s dispersal and resettlement.

Nadir Shah, who ruled Persia for about 10 years in the mid-18th century, was an Afshar.

The few remaining Afshars in Azebaijan, who had not migrated, have lost their tribal identity. Afshars of the Khamseh area around Hamadan were powerful until the 19th century.  They have now mingled with other Turkish speaking groups.   Some claim that the best Bijar rugs were woven by Afshars.

P.R.J. Ford indicates that Afshar groups in Khorasan and Mazandaran are loosely associated with the Kurds and their weavings are usually classified as Kurdish.  Afshars in Yaz, Fars and Khuzestan imitate local styles and techniques and are indistinguishable from local production by others.

Austin next listed some of the indicators, most of them structural, that are used to attribute particular weavings to the Afshars.


Afshar Attribution Indicators

Afshar pile rugs tend to be square-ish: 4 feet by 5.5 feet is a frequent approximate size.

Tribal Afshars are all wool (city woven workshop rugs are woven on a cotton foundation with depressed warps). Woolen structures tend to predominate generally, until the 1930s, when cotton was adopted.  There are numerous exceptions to these rules, in which cotton foundations can be seen in very old Afshar rugs, which have other characteristics of rustic origin.

The warps of Afshar rugs are usually ivory wool.  Warps are invariably depressed, usually about 45 degrees, but town rugs tend to be more deeply depressed than tribal rugs.

Afshars usually have two orange-red weft between the rows of knots, which help to distinguish them from Khamseh pieces, although single-wefted weavings are encountered.

Tribal rugs are usually symmetrically knotted, with the presence of asymmetric knots indicating either a village rug or a strong village influence.

All old Afshar rugs have long, flatwoven end finishes between 10-15 cm deep.  Generally. these are done in plain-weave stripes using a few colors. Occasionally extra-weft wrapping is used.  The presence of a row of diagonal bars in the end panels done in extra-weft wrapping strongly suggests an Afshar attribution.

Afshar rugs woven in towns tend to have a firmer handle than do tribal Afshars. In general, Afshars have a somewhat less flexible handle than do Khamsehs. They are somewhat more flexible than are Qashqa’i pieces.

Nearly all Sirjan rugs, whether Afshar or not, tend to have two picks of blue cotton weft between each row of pile knots. Almost all Sirjans have some degree of warp depression.  There is little evidence that either pattern or structure distinguish Sirjan Afshar weavings from those woven by non-Afshar weavers.

Tribal Afshars almost always have reds based from madder.  This is true despite that fact that reds from towns the nearby Kerman area are often derived from cochineal dye.

Some colors are seen to be Afshar indicators. The reds used tend to be distinctive, as is a particular shade of electric blue. A distinctive rosy-brown is used in Shahr-i-Babek rugs.  Color in Afshar rugs also benefits from the fact that the sheep in the Kerman area produce a nice white wool that takes dye very well.

Silk Afshars are rare (See Hali 29, page 77).

Afshar rugs tend to have geometric designs. There is sometimes a visible design influence from Kerman, especially in the form of the boteh.  Kerman, like India’s Kashmir, was a major producer of shawls in which boteh designs were heavily used.  Some of the earliest Persian pile rugs with boteh designs were from the Kerman area, including apparent Afshar products.

Afshar rugs frequently have seven borders.  Border designs include some with diagonal stripes and double boteh borders separated by a serrated column.

There is no real demarcation between designs in rugs by indigenous Afshar weavings and more commercial types.  Nevertheless, some frequent Afshar design usages can be listed. They include:

Afshar rugs often have over-sized hexagonal medallions, hanging lamps and 2-1-2 designs with substantial corner brackets. (See Pacific Collections, p.70; Opie’s Tribal Rugs of South Persia, p.183; Hali 126, p.24).

Afshar rug designs include infinite repeats of oversize vases. The likely source of this usage is a Kerman city design described as the gol-e-bolbol pattern which dates back to the Safavid period. (See village rug examples in Pacific Collections, p. 87 and in MacDonald, Tribal Rugs, p. 111. See tribal rug examples in Opie, Tribal Rugs, p. 224; Sovereign Carpets, p. 82; Hali 139, p. 87. For classical Kerman vase carpets see Hali 112, p. 83; for Lady Baillie Kerman vase carpet, Hali 128, p.111. For early Afshar rug with city influence see Hali 136, p. 46 and Hali 114, p. 85.)

Boteh repeat designs are also frequent in Afshar rugs. Afshars were among the first tribal weavers to use the boteh. As mentioned above, one Afshar boteh design usage featured double botehs with serrated columns (See Middleton, 118). Afshar boteh usages mimicked those of the fine shawls both imported from India and woven in Kerman. These shawls were seen to be the finest garments for tribal chieftains.

Large Afshar botehs often have an interior device that appears to be resting on a butterfly. (See Hali 34, pp. 17 and 65; Pacific Collections, p. 84; Tribal Rugs of South Persia, p. 195; Sovereign Carpets, 81. There is also pre-1800 Eastern Fars carpet fragment from the Burns Collection, Hali 120, p. 82, with a later derivative in an Afshar rug in Hali 140, p. 129.)

Afshars also weave a large latticed “tulip” design, usually on a dark blue ground. Donald Wilburg and David Milberg divided tulip Afshars into two groups. Type 1 with six narrow borders, and Type 2 which features a wide main border flanked on either side by several narrow guards (See Pacific Collections, p. 85.)

Shield designs are also notable in Afshar rugs. These shields are reminiscent of those in rugs from East Anatolia which borders the traditional Afshar homeland in Azerbaijan. They are probably derived from palmette devices. (See Hali 34, p. 18; Pacific Collections, p. 83; Opie’s Tribal Rugs, p. 221; Hali 120, p. 50; Hali 127, p.57.) There are also shield-shaped cartouches that often contain a palmette; and shield separated by a spikey shrub (Antike Orient-Teppiche, p. 97).

We have referred above to the fact that lattice designs are included in “tulip” Afshars.

Afshars also use compartmented designs, which divide field into rectangles or lozenge-shaped compartments (See Hali 57, p. 98; Antike Orient-Teppiche, p. 97).

Murgh (chicken) designs are also encountered in Afshar rugs, but less commonly than in Khamsehs. The usual version seen is that of chickens opposing one another around a vertical pole (See Hali, 29, p. 39).

Afshar rugs also sometimes exhibit Phoenix and Dragon designs (See Hali 116, p. 45; Opie’s Tribal Rugs of South Persia, p. 181; Antike Orient-Teppiche, p. 96).

The influence of Kerman city usages on Afshari weaving is visible, but not overwhelming.  As mentioned elsewhere the Afshars did adopt boteh designs that originate in Kashmir Indian and in Kerman shawls.  Cotton was grown in Kerman province and its presence in the foundation of some older, but more frequently in younger Afshar rugs is likely another sign of Kerman influence.

Kerman city production was marked by large rugs with realistic floral designs, cotton foundations, asymmetric knots open left, used in a distinctive fully depressed structure that included multiple wefts, and reds frequently derived from cochineal.  In contrast, the archetypal production of the Afshars features smaller rugs, closely clipped pile, geometic designs, which is symmetrically knotted on a wool foundation, with reds derived from madder.  While it is not unusual to have apparent tribal Afshar pieces with asymmetric knots, this usually indicates the presence of a Persian villager weaver.

Some nineteenth century Afshar rugs are exceptionally large and have European-style floral designs. They also have asymmetrical knots, deeply depressed warps and cotton foundations, suggesting that they are products of town workshops, although their coloring is distinctly Afshar.

Proximity allowed the Khamseh tribes of Fars and Neyriz to the west, to exert considerable influence on Sirjan weaving, so many of the latter, especially the flatweaves, are hard to distinguish from those of the Khamseh. Striped rugs and those with tree designs are made both in Sirjan and Neyriz.

Afshar designs are frequently variations on hexagonal schemes and stylized flower and foliage motifs. There are also frequently stripes in the spandrels of Afshar rugs.

Next Austin talked about the regional groups who are implicated in Afshar weaving.


First is the Sirjan area, mentioned frequently above. This area is a large valley west of Kerman city in Kerman province. It has the greatest production of tribal and village carpets in Kerman province. Here are the largest concentrations of Afshar weavers, who are outnumbered by Sirjan Persians who also weave.

Jabel Barez and Afshar-I-Kuhi are a mountainous area stretching southeast of Kerman all the way to Baluchistan.  Its rug collection center is Bam. The rugs are termed Afshar Jebel Barazi or Kuhi.  Afshars co-existed with Lak and Baluch tribespeople.  Afshar-I-Kuhi rugs are easily distinguished from other Afshar rugs, being deep-piled with soft, shiny wool in dark colors reminiscent of Baluch rugs (See Hali 58, p. 105). Old Kuhi rugs are symmetrically knotted with two shoots of weft between rows of knots, with depressed warps. Their foundation is either all wool or a mixture of wool and cotton. The Kuhi have a unique khorjin in which both the front and back are piled. Kuhi means “from the mountain.”  Flatweaves resemble those of Sistan Baluch (MacDonald, Tribal Rugs, p. 122.)

Shahr-I-Babak and Dehaj are areas located in the extreme Northwest of Kerman province. Dehaj is a village north of Shahr-I-Babak with a long history of excellent weaving, generally by Arab residents. Rugs have a high-quality weave with blue wefts and symmetric knots (See MacDonald, Tribal Rugs, p. 120; also the boteh rug in Ford, p. 69).

Pockets of Afshar (also Khamseh) are found in the neighborhood of Neriz, a town in Fars province to the west of Kerman. Designs peculiar to Neriz include triple-trunk trees supporting angular flowering, bows with numerous birds.  Saffron or white fields are noted, as well as deep indigo botehs and sophisticated flower borders (Hali 34, cover; Hali 20, p. 30; MacDonald, Tribal Rugs, p. 115; Hali 113, p. 34; Middleton, p. 119).

“Outback Afshars” (See Hali 117, cover) is a term popularized by Tom Cole to refer to primitive and archaic Afshar rugs, often with lazy lines, which have turned up in the bazaars of the Pakistani province of Baluchistan. These rugs have a structure similar to that of Azerbaijani weaving with cotton or mixed cotton and wool foundations, coarse weave, with uneven backs and slightly exposed wefts. Some of the oldest Afshar rugs known have a similar structure (Tanavoli).  Some rugs in this group have an asymmetric knot open to the right. Warps, in some cases, are cotton twisted with animal hair. Colors include very saturated reds and greens and an electric blue, plus peach.

Afshar weaving includes the following formats/weave techniques:

Khorjin: many pile saddle bags were woven.

Namakadans : salt bags used to carry salt or grain.

Jol-i-ash: horse covers

Qur’an bag: for carrying a Koran volume

Dozar: a rug two meters by one and a half meters or less

Zaronim: a rug one and a half meters by one meter, an older format.

Sofrehs: and similar flatweaves; mostly in concentric or zigzag pattersns. Done in a mixture of plain tapestry weave and double-interlocking brocade with delicate patterns in weft wrapping and weft substitution techniques. Sofrehs were used in a variety of ways, among them, for wrapping (there are “bread” sofres), and as eating cloths.

Sumak: less common than in the Caucasus but some technical similarities between Afshar gelims and Caucasian sumaks suggest a common origin.

Shiraki peech: another square-ish format, a flatwoven cover about five feet by eight feet, with a complicated structure in which plain weave is combined with weft wrapping, brocading and weft substitution to produce images and motifs that are often diamond shapes.

This is the end of Austin’s introductory lecture.

He and Michael now moved to examine some “in the fabric” pieces they had brought in to illustrate particular aspects of Afshar weaving.  To go to this Part 2 double click on the link immediately following or copy and past it into your browser.

Please note that there is also a Part 3, in which pieces brought in by members of the audience were examined.  This third part is at the following link:

Afshar Rugs and Textiles, Part 2

Posted in Seidman, Michael, Uncategorized on September 9, 2009 by rjohn

This is the second part of a three-part virtual presentation of a Textile Museum program on Afsar rugs and textiles conducted by Austin Doyle and Michael Seidman.

It is likely advisable to read through Austin’s lecture in Part 1 since it provides context for the illustrative pieces in this part.  Here is the link to that lecture:

A third part is devoted to piece participants brought in.  This link takes you to Part 3:

Austin and Michael had brought a number of Afsar pieces


arrayed on the front-of-the-room board.

Michael began, preliminarily, with some older pieces Harold Keshishian had brought that were possibly relatable to Afshar weaving.

The first of these preliminary pieces was the mounted shawl fragment below.


Here are some closer details of this piece.


The botehs are on a silk ground.


Harold estimated this fragment to the 18th century.


It is not clear whether this fragment is from an Indian or a Persian shawl, but Kerman shawls (and this is the possible link to our Afshar topic) were noteworthy and are thought by some to compete favorably with the more famous Indian shawls of Kashmir.

A second piece that Harold brought WAS a shawl from Kerman.


Here are some closer details of this colorful piece.



Its stripes with their finely detailed ornamentation are reminiscent of the similarly colorful and embroidered pantaloons of Zoroastrian women.

A third piece that Harold had brought was the Kerman brocade below.


Harold dated this richly textured textile to 1750 and said that it had been reconstituted from several pieces.

Here are some closer details.




You may recall that we saw some other images of this fine piece in our virtual treatment of the textiles at a party that Harold and Melissa held during the holiday season in 2008

Harold had also brought in an image of Nader Shah, the great Afshar military leader and somewhat less distinguished ruler of Persia in the mid-18th century.


Michael treated the material on the board, beginning with a series of Afshar bags with botehs used prominently in their designs.

The first such piece was a complete khorjin set.


This piece was attributed to Afshars in southwest Iran.

Notice that the botehs in its respective field areas are reflected so as to be seen upright on both sides when the khorjin is in use.

Here are some closer details.

First of the bridge, with chevron designs common to many SW Persian tribal groups.


And then of a corner of its lower half.


The back of this piece is a plain, brownish shade.

The next piece was a single khorjin face with a rural version of the boteh device.


The effect is subtle because of the close colors, but notice the diagonal use of color in its botehs leaning to the right.

Here is a closer look at one corner.


I mentioned from the audience that Afshars often seem to have a distinctive blue in their palette and Austin and Michael agreed that there seems an identifiable Afshar color palette.

The next piece was the smaller bag face below.


The scale of the botehs in this piece are somewhat larger and add to its appeal, as does the framing effect of its white ground main border.  The spiky floral meander of the white border is very characteristic of Afshar weaving.

The next piece was a khorjin face of the more usual size.


Notice again the use of the distinctive blue mentioned above. The intricacy of the designs around the closure system draws attention.


Here is a closer, more comprehensive look at this upper right corner.


The next piece was the interesting bag face below.


Here, an effective striped border frames a field with large-scale, instrument botehs, alternating with forcefully colored armatures.



The next “boteh” piece was a sizable rug.


As with the previous piece, colorful, instrumented botehs are placed in colums between a meandering lattice of substantial armatures.


This piece was described as featuring “serrated leaf forms.” The heavy armatures alternate between sections that do seem to be clear plant forms to others that may well be also, but that seem nearly mechanical.


The field is framed by two major borders. The outside one with its white ground is especially effective and quite characteristic of an Afshar border design.

The next piece was the very small bag below.


It was described as “finely woven” and its virtues are captured in this single image.

The following piece was a salt bag.


Skillful use of red and a yellow-orange enrich this piece, especially in areas where is is combined with a dark ground.


Note that the lattice of the field emphasizes the rectilinear while both the forms inside that lattice and the main border move toward the curviliner.

The design combinations used in the top opening-flap are unusual.


Again, there is a rectilinear-curvilinear field-border contrast, but this time is it reversed.

The bag of this salt bag is also unusual


Attractive striped flatweave is combined with a pile treatment of the opening-flap similar to be distinctive from that of the front.

The next piece was a classic, published Afshar rug, now locally owned, but once in the Ralph Yohe collection.  Rugs with this “tulip” design are thought to include some of the oldest known Afshar rugs.


Multiple sets of four richly drawn tulips are opposed on a dark blue field and bracketed by an intricate lattice.


Three smaller scale borders frame the dramatic field without competing with it.


This design is seen to be drawn from the shawl tradition and a dealer in the room said it looked Kerman to him.

There were some other examples of this “tulip” design in the room. The piece below


was this khorjin face (closure slits at the bottom in this image).

Here is a sightly closer look.


A third piece with this “tulip” design field was a small rug.


A distinctive white-ground main border with polychrome medallions frames its field.

Here are some details of it.




The next piece was the large rug below with a field of diagonals.


The colorful diagonals a composed of abstracted plant forms. The main border is an Afshar striped usage.


There was some question about whether this rug was an Afshar. Some thought that this rug, which had somewhat darker warp threads, might be from Fars province.

The next piece has a distinctive zigzag field design.


It was seen to be a Sirjan valley town rug, with depressed warps and a stiff handle, woven in the early 20th century.

Here is a closer corner detail.


And one that shows its “stars and blossums” field devices.


The next piece was the small bag below.


Its field features a large star and a number of smaller stars in background.

This time the zigzag designs are on the back.


And on the small panels between the slits in the closure system on the pile side.


The next piece was another khorjin with star devices arranged diagonally.


Here is a closer top center detail, showing the decoration of the closure system area.


There was some question about whether this piece is Afshar or Khamseh.

A further piece was the rug below.


This piece has seven or eight borders.

Here is a closer detail of one lower corner.


And his is a closer look at its field devices.


This rug was seen to be a city product.

The next was also a rug, this time a three-medallion design.


It has brown wool warps and a “eye-dazzler” field design surrounding its medallions,


and a subtle. but well instrumented, system of borders that frame the field effectively.


The careful composition and controlled execution of this piece suggests that it was woven following a cartoon.

We next turned to another khorjin face.


It has larger-scale floral-like devices in its field.


The stark white of its border contrasts dramatically with the strong colors of the field.


The colors of this piece are strong and beautiful.


Despite its careful composition, the spacious drawing of the main border design projects, for me, an unusual vitality.

In my view this khorjin face is one of the best of an aesthetically strong group of pieces presented in this session.

The next piece was a pile panel AM22

with Memling guls.


It has the shape and size of a Turkmen torba, but its border systems seem Persianate.


It could conceivably be a side panel of a small, pile cargo-bag type mafrash but that, too, could be questioned.

The next piece had a single Memling gul


but this time it occurred on a salt bag.


The colorful bag face below was attributed to the Fars province.


It “chickens” might suggest a Khamseh weaver, but it has white warps and a distinctive border that might license an Afshar attribution.


The next two piece were khorjin faces with similar designs.  The first khorjin face has a field of tiny boteh and a very fine weave.


These field designs are very similar to those sometimes seen on pieces attributed to the Qashqua’i.

Here is a closer look at details of the first one.


And here is a detail of an upper corner of the second one.


It was thought that both of these pieces are probably Afshar, with their white warps and characteristic borders.

The next piece was the rug below.


This rug was described as a rustic version of a “vase” design.

It has a camel hair field, which is unusual for Afshar production.


and an asymmetric knot.


The vase designs have the appearance of faces.  A local rug dealer of Persian extraction claimed that the faces were intentionally drawn and representated “div” or demons.  Here is a closer detail of its side border systems.


The following piece was the rug below.


It features a large central stepped medallion.



It was described as having a classic Afshar design.

Here is a closer look at a lower corner of it, with a classic Afshar spandrel design.


The next piece was, to my mind, one of the prettiest rugs of the day.



This is a Kerman area city rug with a lovely boteh white border.

Its indigo field effectively recedes to give the impression that its center medallion


and corner devices



“float” on it.

It has an asymmetric knot open to the right and “vase” motifs. It was estimated to have been woven in the 3rd quarter of the 19th century.

The next piece was yet another rug.


It was described as having a “medallion and vase” field design.



Its reds are from madder.

And it has “niche” spandrels.



Its knot is asymmetric open to the right. It was estimated to have been woven about 1900, but had classic Afshar colors of peach, electric blue, and a strong green.

The last piece among those that Austin and Michael had brought in was the one below.


Here are closer looks at its field.



Among its colors are an apricot and a peach shade.

It has star medallion corners.  The 2-1-2 design of the medallions in the field may be a more archaic version of the medallion and spandrel design seen in the other rugs of this design, shown above.


The knot is asymmetric open to the right. It was estimated to have been woven in the 19th century.

Perhaps its most interesting feature is that it exhibits “lazy lines.”



This rug appears to have the weave, colors, and lazy lines described as characteristic of “outback” Afshars, in the Hali article by Tom Cole, and certainly does have a primitive and archaic appearance to its drawing.

Folks in the audience had brought in a number of related pieces.  They can be seen in Part 3.  Here, again, is the concluding link to that material:

Afshar Rugs and Textiles, Part 3

Posted in Seidman, Michael, Uncategorized on September 9, 2009 by rjohn

This is Part 3 of a Rug and Textile Appreciation Morning presented at The Textile Museum here in Washington, D. C. by Austin Doyle and Michael Seidman on Afshar Rugs and Textiles.

Part 1 is Austin’s lecture in which he summarized the literature usefully.  The link to his lecture is here:

Part 2 is devoted to the pieces Austin and Michael brought to illustrate various aspects of their topic.  Here is the link to Part 2:

In Part 3 we moved to look at pieces others in the audience had brought in. The fist piece was a small bag the field of which was dominated by a flower form.


The next brought in piece was the rug below.


Again flower forms dominate the field. Here are two closer looks.



The floral forms in both of these pieces are seen to be instances of western influence in oriental rug and textile design.

The next piece was the bag face below.


Here is a closer look at the abstracted floral forms that populate both its field and borders.  The meandering floral main border is a characteristic Afshar design, and this particular floral border was seen in several Afshar rugs in Part 2.


The next piece was a “mystery rug.”


It was described as having been woven in Khorasan. It is full of Turkmen usages, mostly Yomut, but as drawn by a member of another weaving group.

Here is a closer look at an upper corner.


And here is a lower one.


Notice that there are pile elems at both ends, a sometime Yomut usage.

The guls in the field are a conventionalized version of the “tauk naska” gul


in which the “animal” forms in the quartered major guls have become “H’s,” (this happens with some Turkmen pieces too).

The gesture at a minor gul is a “beach ball” device seenon some Middle Amu Dyra Turkmen weavings, but more frequently on Caucasian rugs and textiles. This same device is employed as minor borders flanking a meander main border that lacks any recognizable Turkmen roots.

It was estimated that this odd rug was likely to have been woven by Afshars about 1930. This is plausible since the Khurasan Afshars live close to both Kurds and to Turkmen groups. A few years ago Michael Craycraft drew my attention to another piece with Turkmen designs that he attributed to the Afshars.

The next brought in piece was the one below.


This bag face was described as 20th century with Kurdish designs. Here it is reversed top to bottom.


Its feature of most interest, of course, is the unusual elem-like panel on a seeming khorjin face.

The next piece was also a small bag.


It was attributed to Kurdish weavers.


Here is a closer detail.


The next brought in piece was the large sumak below.


Here are some closer details of it.



Notice that the central part of the “bird-on-a-pole” devices contain “Greek keys” often seen to signal an Armenian presence.


The attribution of this sumak piece was uncertain, but the border designs and colors were thought to be possibly consistent with Afshar work.

The next piece was a very small, vanity-type bag.


European style flower forms are heavily abstracted.


There was conjecture about whether this piece is better attributed to the Afshars or the Bakhtiaris.

The next piece was another large sumak.


It had a field composed of left-leaning “stripes” of small poly-chrome medallions.


Here is a closer look at the internal intrumentation of these medallions.


A number of sofrehs had been brought in and the piece below was the first of them.


Sofrehs are distinghuished by a variety of uses. This one is seen to be for carrying bread or bread dough.

Here are some closer looks at parts of this piece.


My notes draw attention to the side edges of this piece.


It was attributed either to the Afshar or the Khamseh.

The next piece was another “bread” sofreh with lovely colors.


Again, a closer detail image.


The attribution conjectures about this piece paralleled those of the previous one.

The following piece was also a sofreh, but of a different type.


It is an “eating cloth” type and was put down on the ground for meals. “Eating” sofrehs are also sometimes called “bridal paths” because they were apparently also on occasion used in wedding ceremonies.

This is a substantial textile, 12 or 14 feet long, with a gray-abrashed camel ground field, inward pointing zagged black borders and


heavily decorated ends.


Once with it in his hands, Tanavoli initially opined that this piece was likely Kurdish. When I indicated that some others had thought it Afshar he immediately agreed that it could be that as well.

In his lecture, Austin mentioned that one frequent Afshar color usage is a distinctive blue and this piece (although it is not readily visible in these images) has enough of it to suggest to me that it is mostly likely Afshar. You will see this distinctive blue more readily in some of the other sofrehs that follow here.

The next piece, another eating sofre, with a design very like mine immediately above, but shorter, WAS attributed to the Afshars.

Note: From this point forward the owner of these pieces has, at my request, supplemented the descriptions, made in the text from my notes, with captions of his own.  Since his knowledge of these pieces, and access to them for purposes of description, is far superior to the indications in my notes, his captioned indications should be taken to be the accurate ones.

Afshari dining sofreh from Khorasan, NE Persia

Here are some closer details of this piece.

Beautifully decorated end panels of Afshari dining sofreh from Khorasan

The distinctive Afshar blue usage is more visible in these end panels.

Here is a detail of a device in its field.

Characteristic dendritic zig zags on borders of Afshari dining sofrehs

The next piece was also a sofreh attributed to the Afshars, but with a very different palette.

Afshari sofreh or cover from Jiroft, south central Persia

The caption above provides the indicated attribution.

Here are some closer detail images.

Detail of border design in Afshari sofreh or cover with Luri/Bakhtiari influence
Detail of Afshar sofreh or cover showing Lori/Bakhtiari design influences

The next piece was a Sirjan-valley sofreh.

Afshari bread sofreh with simple yet powerful graphics

Again some closer looks at parts of it.

Detail of Zig zag border of Afshar bread sofreh from Sirjan
Detail of playful central field of Afshar bread sofreh fron Sirjan

A next piece was yet another bread sofreh below.

Afshari bread sofreh from Sirjan in typical design format

Again, the caption provides the attribution.

Here is one closer detail.

Typical highly decorated end finish to Afshari bread or flour sofreh

The next piece was this complete khorjin set.

Complete Afshari khorjin in soumak technique

Its field is a tesselated version of the “bird-on-a pole” design with internal “Greek key” instrumentation.

Detail of Afshar khorjin in soumak technique, bird design with a short bridge.

The last of the brought-in pieces was the one below.

Piled large bagface or sofreh woven by Afshars or Veramin

It owner attributed it to Veramin…Afshar Veramin.

Here are some closer details.

Heavy brown wool warps star design border typical of Afshari weaving from Veramin
Unusual Afshar weaving of a large bag or a piled sofreh from Veramin

Austin and Michael answered questions,

the program was adjourned and folks moved to the front.


others compared notes on pieces in hand.



My thanks for Austin and Michael for permitting this virtual version of their program and their considerable editorial assistance in producing it.

Pat Reilly provided a good set of notes and Tom Xenakis helped editorially as well.

I hope you have enjoyed what seems to me an ambitious program, well executed.


R. John Howe

18th and 19th Century Anatolian Carpets: Keshishian and Seidman

Posted in Keshishian, Harold, Seidman, Michael on March 13, 2008 by rjohn

On March 8, 2008, Harold Keshishian and Michael Seidman gave a “Rug and Textile Appreciation Morning” at The Textile Museum here in Washington, DC. Their subject was “18th and 19th Century Anatolian Carpets.”


This session drew a crowd. Standing room only in the Myers’ Room.

Daniel Walker, the TM’s Director, introduced them


saying that Harold is a long-time dealer and collector in the Washington, DC area. That Michael is a molecular biologist who is also an experienced collector. Both Harold and Michael are long-time friends of the Museum and members of the TM Board of Directors. Harold is one of the founders of the “RATM” programs. Both are frequent presenters in them.

Such a program requires a lot of joint preparation.


Michael (right) took the lead in presentation, but Harold (left) was equally active. The materials presented are from Harold’s extensive collection.

Michael began by saying that “late” is a word that collectors sometimes apply to pieces owned by others do not want applied to their own. What they (we) would prefer, of course, is the word “early.” Michael said that one thing to be noted about the pieces presented in this “rug morning” is that they legitimately merit the word “early.”

Michael also referenced the organization of Dennis Dodds’ recent RATM program on yastiks, noting that it followed a frequent pattern in treating Turkish rugs and textiles, a geographic one. West, central, and east. Michael said that he and Harold had decided to depart from this more usual organizational arrangement and would treat the rugs they presented primarily in terms of similarity of design regardless of attribution.

They began with rugs with “niche” designs, popularly called “prayer rugs.”


Michael said that this particular niche design is of the “head and shoulders” variety.

This rug, repeated unobstructed immediately below, is a 17th-18th century Kula rug with “Transylvanian” overtones in its “Ottoman” style border.


Rug 1

There are several things to be noticed about this rug. First, as is the case with many niche designs, the rug is woven upside down in relation to its pattern. That is this rug was started at the top of the image of it presented here.

The decision to begin the carpet at the mihrab end is thought to reflect the option available to the weaver of stopping the design as dictated by the warp length in the open field part of the design. If she starts at the other end she will encounter the mihrab towards the end of the rug and may not be able to fit it in completely.

Despite the level of skill displayed in executing the fairly complex curvilinear design in the spandrels, the weaver of this piece seems not to have been able to weave the ewer under the niche upside down so that it would appear right side up when the rug is oriented with the niche pointing up. The result is that the ewer is upside down in this piece.


Rug 1 has an “Ottoman” border containing a rosette and very stylized leaves.  Variations on this theme, sometimes more sinuously drawn, are characteristic of “Transylvanian” carpets.

This rug once belonged to Mr. Myers and was part of the TM’s collection. Myers sometimes withdrew rugs and gave them away or sold them. Rug 1 still has the tag with the TM inventory number on its back.


The second rug was also attributed to the Kula family and is estimated to have been woven in the 18th century.


Rug 2

Rug 2 has three implied arches marked off by two blue, decorated “column” forms. Notice that the “columns” are abstracted so that their pediment bases are mostly gone below the points. This abstraction will continue in some pieces we will see later.

Another thing to notice about Rug 2 is that, like Rug 1, it has a “cross-panel” compartment above the niche.


Cross-panels are fairly rare in oriental rugs, but they appear on some Turkman pieces (like the engsi) and they occur quite frequently in Anatolian rugs.

The border of Rug 2 has the Ottoman flavor of that on Rug 1, but with more color.

Rug 3 was a Ladik, also estimated to the 18th century.


Rug 3

This rug has great color. The blue is especially striking and it has a purple. Compared to the first two rugs, it shows a progressive movement of design toward geometric abstraction.  The border becomes more stylized on the Ladik, as are the  serrated leaves in the spandrel.

It has the characteristic “tulips” pointing down, another instance of weaver inability to draw a device reflected 180 degrees.


Harold noted that there are faint floral designs in the lower corners of the red field of this piece.


He said that it seems likely that at sometime in the past these floral device area were were rewoven with the field color.  They are likely visible now because of the way in which the color of the repair wool has changed with age.

As we went along sometimes pieces, additional to those on the front board, were held up and discussed. The first of these “held up” pieces was the Ladik below. (I will label these held up pieces with letters.)


Held up rug A

It shows further conventionalization of design, especially in its main border

The next rug was also held up. It is an 18th century Ghiordes.


Held up rug B

Harold said that this piece has elements that are similar to the Kulas. It is paper-thin and has lots of cotton. Note the cross-panels at the top and bottom of the field.

Harold said that he bought this piece, in part, because of its nice green.


Asked from the audience, he described the field color as “apricot.” He added that the colors in this piece have changed dramatically since it was woven, demonstrating that some natural dyes also fade with age.

Rug 4 was a Melas, that like Rug 1 above, has a  “head and shoulders” niche design.


Rug 4

The patterning is conventional for a Melas. Colors are a little faded, but the composition is good, the drawing is precise, and it exhibits a good purple.

The next rug was held up and was a third example of a “head and shoulders” niche design.


Held up rug C

Although this piece has features that would place it in various parts of Anatolian (for example, the “jewelry” devices in its field and the “Memling” guls in its border), Harold placed it in central Turkey.

The next rug was also held up.


Held up rug D

This piece has good colors and is full of interesting designs. They are so varied that no attribution beyond Anatolian was offered for it.

In an exchange after this session, Michael Seidman observed: “Rug D has a very coarse weave, lots of single wefting (unlike every other rug in the program).  If the borders had been wider I might have thought it to be  North African-19th cent, in the Anatolian manner.  As it is, we are unsure of its provenance.”

A further held up rug was this Makri.


Held up rug E

Makri is a reference to a bay in southwest Anatolia. Harold described this piece as “Greek”


and I think made reference to “the Dodecanes,” that is, to the Greek Islands closest to southwest Anatolia.

Michael Seidman’s handout was drawn in part from Walter Denny’s catalog prepared in conjunction with Denny’s TM exhibition “The Classical Tradition in Anatolian Carpets.”

In that exhibition Denny put up together in sequence four rugs that began on the left with a coupled-columned niche format piece, moved right to a fairly abstract Ushak, still with columns, but with “lozenge” shapes emerging. The sequence ended with two smaller pieces in which the niches and the columns have disappeared and in their place are vertically oriented lozenge shapes much like those in Held up rug E.

This may seem a bit of a stretch, but look back at Rug 2 above and notice that the “columns” with their pointed bottom ends begin to resemble incipient vertical lozenges.

If this analysis is correct, some designs with vertical lozenges may echo, in radical transformation, the earlier “columned niche” designs. This illustrates how weavers can manipulate the design vocabularies they inherit.

Michael and Harold provided one additional examples of a rug with vertically oriented lozenges.


Held up rug F

The piece above is described as 19th century from the western Bergama area. In it three vertical red ground lozenges float on a white ground that is attractively ornamented with crisp, spacious devices.

At this point Harold surprised me by recommending Jacobsen’s old chestnut on oriental rugs as a useful source on Turkish pieces. I would have said that Bohmer and Brueggemann, Peasant Rugs of Anatolia, 1983 would be best, if one could afford its current price of over $600, and that the J. Iten-Maritz volume, Turkish Carpets, 1975 is a good fallback. But I went and looked and, sure enough, Colonel Jacobsen has some modestly useful things to say about Turkish rugs.

One held up rug was actually treated later in this program, but I’ll slip it in here because it also has a niche design.


Held up rug Re-entrant design

Re-entrant design rugs are among those that appear in 15th century European paintings. This one is estimated to have been woven sometime during the 19th century in the Bergama area. The red used in the field is corrosive and produces an embossed effect. Red wefts were noted.

One last piece was held up, ending the “niche” design series.


Held up rug G

The held up piece above was said to have been woven in Kirsehir in central Anatolia. Its European flavor is said to have been the result of a trip to France by a Turkish sultan in the 1860s.

In an email after this session Michael Seidman gave me the specifics:  “Rug G is a Mejid prayer carpet from Kirsehir. Sultan Mejid (1839-1861) was much influenced by European style, was taken by things French.  He built and lived in the Dolmabache palace.  There is an entire genre of weavings with the European influence from various parts of Turkey.  They are called Megid, or Mejideh.”

Harold said that the “handle” of this type rug is very distinctive and aids in its attribution. The red seems likely from cochineal.

Michael said that the next group they would treat would be rugs with “medallion” devices of various sorts.


The first medallion group rug was the large one below from western Anatolia.


Rug 5

This is a remarkable rug. One experienced collector suggested to me that it is the best of those presented, and in a note to me after this session Michael Seidman agreed.  This is what he said:  “Rug 5 was indeed the best of show.  Great green and yellow. At least 1700, if not earlier. An example in the McMullan Met collection, later example in the Denny TM exhibition.   Well drawn extended leaf elements in the green region flanking the main medallion.  the same extended leaf found in the adjacent carpet- the Cannakeli large pattern Holbein.”


Rug 5 has a spectacular major border with a graphically powerful, quartered and hooked “diamond-shaped” device.


Harold also called attention to the outside minor border. He said this diagonal stripe and medallion border is characteristic of Bergama. He agreed with Michael’s indication that this piece might have been woven in the 17th century.

The second medallion rug was the large-pattern Holbein below.


Rug 6

This rug features two large medallions. Both of them are constructed with large, internally instrumented arms reaching out from a smaller central hub-medallion to give a radiating effect. These rugs are great crowd pleasers with their strong contrasting colors and great graphic punch. Again, the red is corrosive and bevels below the blue.


The major border is of the sort that can be, and sometimes is, halved to form something distinctive. We will talk more about this with a later example.

This one was attributed to Cannakale in Anatolia’s far northwest corner.

The next piece is the one I would have liked to take home, had Harold been weary of it.


Rug 7

This was a piece about which I regretted the understandable need to overlap these large rugs to get them on the board together. I wanted badly to see it all.

The wonderful color and the crisp drawing of the large Memling guls make it a joy. A narrow yellow-ground border, with a delicate design, frames without any interference at all. There is a red kilim ending with a stripe, a Turkmen usage carried to western Anatolia. It is estimated to the 18th century.

This rug had one additional interesting feature: a sharp change in weft color partway through. Sometimes this is done deliberately by weavers to have the structure color close to pile color so that there will be little color change as the pile wears and the structure begins to show through. In this case, the weft color change did not seem intended for that purpose. It seemed that the weaver just ran out of one color and had some of the other.

The rug on the far right at this level on the board was the one below, a small pattern Holbein design, woven in western Anatolia. This is a large, compartmentalized version. 

In his subsequent note to me Michael Seidman said: “Rug 8 has an endless knot motif that defines the compartments, same as the center of rug 6.  This carpet is from the Yuntdag area.  Also 18th -early 19th cent.  The pattern has been very stable for a long time, much like  number 6.”


Rug 8

Something to notice in the main border above Michael’s head in the image above is that this is a full-faced version from which the so-called “wine glass and leaf” border seen in lots of Turkish and Caucasian rugs was derived. We will see this border in another piece and say something further there about it.

Here is a closer look at a detail of Rug 8.


The next rug was held up.


Held up rug H

The rug above has the same basic field design as does Rug 8 above, but the instrumentation of the octagon centers is different.

It is younger, has heavy pile and colorful lappets. And it is a better example of the full-faced major border half of which becomes the “wine glass and leaf” border mentioned previously. Although it seems likely that this border and its elements are geometric rather than representational (Wendel Swan gave an ICOC presentation to demonstrate this point), the “wine glasses” in this version are shaped more like “martini” glasses.

Harold indicated that the narrower border on the top of this piece, and especially its much smaller top lappets, suggest that the weaver “ran out of warp.”


Rug 9 below is a “stripped down,” compartmented design woven in the Erzurum area of eastern Turkey.


Rug 9

A nicely graphic white-ground border frames its field effectively.  Michael Seidman wrote later: “Rug 9 has a field filled with corner devices – the stepped, multi-colored squares – often seen in the corners of compartments.”

Rug 10 below is a classic “Transylvanian” rug in four pieces.


Rug 10

Harold described it as an “Ushak-type” with very open, spacious drawing and an attractive “cartouche” main border.

Rug 11 below is a very narrow and fragmented piece with a classic Lotto design.


Rug 11

Despite its narrow width, Harold said, it is complete, having been woven “for a ‘minbar,’ the narrow stairs and platform in a mosque on which an imam lectured.” 

Michael Seidman added for me later:  “The pattern is a rectilinear version of  arabesque patterns seen in Timurid tiles. Also seen in very abstracted form in the first yastik.”

Here is a closer look.


Harold estimates it to the 17th century.

Rug 12 below is attributed to Melas in southwestern Anatolia.


Rug 12

The field of Rug 12 is marked by extended spiky leaf-forms. The effective main border is composed of countered halves of a larger-scale cruciform device.

The next move in this program was not to a different design, but to a different format: the yastik. Seven examples were held up.

The first yastik was attributed to Kirsehir.


Yastik 1

It is predominantly red and green with lacy drawing.

The second yastik below is one Harold brought recently to Dennis Dodds’ yastik program.


Yastik 2

It is a very attractive, spaciously drawn piece with a “flower and vine” meander border decorated (as are the delicately drawn end panels) with pinpoints of red, likely from cochineal.

My notes do not contain a specific attribution, but Morehouse, in his book on yastiks, includes very similar pieces (Plate 22-24) in his central Anatolian section, saying that they have Ladik and Mudjur features, but lack the warp depression of most Ladik yastiks.

In his invited comments to me after the session, Michael Seidman said: ” Yastik 2 is probably from Kirsehir, and with a border reminiscent of the “Ottoman ” border of the first series of carpets.”


Yastik 3

Another Kirsehir example with large open areas decorated with floral devices. The red seems likely to be from cochineal.

The next yastik type shown was represented by two side-by-side examples.


Yastik 4 (two pieces)

Morehouse provides a very similar piece in his Plate 93 and attributes it to Kirsehir. He suggests a likely Armenian influence because of the presence of Armenians in Kirsehir and Zara. He also notes that this design also appears on both kilims and in pile carpets from Kirsehir.

Yastik 5 below exhibits what Morehouse calls a “baklava” design.


Yastik 5

Harold pointed to a “Greek cross” device placed centrally on a small white-ground device in the field of this one.


Harold dug briefly at his collar and then asked his son to show his own “Greek cross” charm on a chain round his neck.


Yastik 6 was a “baklava” design of the sort that actually looks a bit like a tray of pastries, the source of this name.


Yastik 6

Morehouse says this design is frequent in eastern Anatolian. Harold suggested Gazianteppe. Both suggest that it was likely woven by Kurds.

The last yastik was was this red ground example.


Yastik 7

My notes do not include an attribution and nothing in Morehouse resembles it closely. If the red is cochineal one might suspect eastern Anatolia.

Michael Seidman had warned at the session’s beginning that eventually their organizational scheme of presenting pieces in terms of design would break down as variations became too great. That happened, momentarily, approximately with the next piece, one of the few flatweaves shown.


Kilim (only one)

This kilim has has good colors and great graphic punch. I know of other longer examples composed of three or four such compartments with this dividing horizontal border.

Although no specific attribution is given in my notes, the literature seems to suggest that this kilim was woven north of Konya in the Karapinar area.

We now moved back to pile pieces, but to some visibly related to flatweaves.


Rug 13

Michael said that the piece above and the one that follows below are examples that illustrate a point Marla Mallett makes, that pieces woven in less restrictive techiques (pile weaving is one such) often retain shapes in their designs that would be required if they had been woven in more restrictive flatweave techniques, for example, slit tapestry.


The frequent use of diagonals in the designs in this piece would be entirely unnecessary in pile weaving and are likely resonating effects of the source of such designs in flatweaves.

Harold had a second more geometricized example of this design.


Rug 14

Harold indicated that these pieces were woven in eastern Turkey. He said that pieces with this design are quite rare.

Michael Seidman added after to me: “The apricot color of number 13 is excellent.  It is much finer and substantially older than [ed., Rug 14].”


Rug 15

This rug was another that was once likely part of the TM collection and Harold told the story of how it came to him.


The strong graphics in Rug 15 are very impactful and the white-ground border with small Memling guls frames and complements without competing. The colors are very good and the color use is very skillful. There is a lot of a good purple.


The field seems to me to be an example of a tessellated design (although there is outlining). A “tessellation” is a design element that can be fitted together to cover a given area without any gaps of overlaps.

In my notes this piece is indicated as estimated, by the presenters, to the third quarter of the 19th century.  My own sense, from my memories of the Istanbul and Konya rug museums, is that this is a very old design.  In his after session comments to me, Michael Seidman said: “Rug 15 is, I think, rather older than late 19th cent.  The colors are too clear. There is one in Orient Stars dated to the 18th cent.  I have seen that piece, Harold’s is not quite as old, but still quite respectable.”

Harold and Michael finished their program with a category that might be called “curiosities.”

The first of these was a pictorial rug.


Harold said that this is one of a series of pictorial rugs made once capturing the images of various figures of royalty. This one is of Edward VII, King of England, in the days when he was Prince of Wales.

This rug was woven in Sivas in 1902. Harold said that a member of his family bought a number of these rugs and gave him this one as a present. This piece has a lot of writing on it and very faded colors.

Before showing the last two rugs Michael Seidman said, smiling, that “we don’t usually talk about money” here at The Textile Museum, but that on this occasion they were going to make an exception. He then proceeded to unveil the two rugs below, which were pinned one above the other.



These are sizable wool pile rugs woven in the precise designs of Turkish bank notes of their time. Michael said that, although they make us smile, the top one is very fine and has a Hereke quality.  The lower was, simply, tourist material.  

Harold and Michael said that was the end of their program but that we’d look at the material folks had brought in.

I’ll deal with the pieces I brought in first, since I know I have permission to do that.

The first piece is a fragment of a yellow ground Anatolian village rug from Konya.


Brought in 1

This piece is from a group of Konya rugs, all with a yellow ground. Most have three or four horizontal rows of Memling guls. This one has good color, including a purple, an “old” border and good wool. It could be either 18th or 19th century.

The large Anatolian village rug fragment below has a soft red ground, a vivid blue used in a huge double-niched and instrumented, rectangular central medallion.


Brought in 2

the drawing is awkward, even sometimes crude, but the effect is powerful.

Early indications were that this rug was made in the Konya area, but Dennis Dodds suggests it’s from further west. It may be early 19th century, but some experienced folks think it is earlier. It is very coarse with only 25 kpsi. When I was working, it dominated one wall of my office and I got to look at it every day.

The piece below is a niche design attributed to Ladik despite lacking the usual downward-pointing flowers.


Brought in 3

For me there is something archaic about the spare treatment of the drawing in its field. Its “stripes and medallions” main border frames nicely with the aid of two different white-ground minor borders. The pile in this rug points down, indicating that it was not woven upside down. This results in two right-side up ewers in its spandrels. 19th century.

The simple rug below is off-topic in the sense that it is a 20th century piece.


Brought in 4

The reason for bringing it is that it was woven in the Siirt area of eastern Anatolia using one of the oldest structures known. This piece is flatwoven using a soft goat hair. After weaving (as a flatwoven piece) the wefts on one side of it are teased out using strong hooks to form a “faux pile” (there are no knots). This structure preceded pile weaving and those interested in very early rugs are often interested in these for that reason.

They always have undyed natural colors and the “pile” is very soft. The designs are more complex than their simple stripes initially suggest. Here the striping is arranged to form a niche at one end, but if you look closely, you will see that the faux pile has been pulled in different directions in particular areas. These areas of directional “colic” form a subtle lattice effect under the niche in this piece. So there are actually two “levels” of design in this simple rug.

Bob Emry had brought a large, intriguing Anatolian rug.


Brought in 5

Although quite worn, it shows itself surprisingly well in these photographs. It has several interesting features. First, it has triangular devices that seem to function in niche-like ways.


Sometimes these triangular forms are placed at the edge of the field, but in other cases they are placed at the top of, and are seemingly integrated with, squarish devices.


This rug also has a larger-scale meander border that resembles some Turkmen “boat” borders, including visible “boat” devices.


This rug originally had very good color and quite a bit of it remains. The consensus was that this rug was woven in eastern Anatolia. Harold said that his only hesitation is that rugs from eastern Turkey are almost never this large.

Wendel Swan had brought in two pieces.  The first was the large, handsome Bergama rug immediately below which he believes dates from around 1800.  The field is based upon architectural motifs rather than a “garden design” as is often stated in some of the earlier rug literature.


Brought in rug 6

This is a classic piece with a deeply saturated red and a border that is of the type often halved in later usages.


Here is a closer look at the field of this nice old piece, showing a considerable range of color. 


Wendel’s second example was the striking Karapinar fragment below:


Brought in rug 7

This piece has impactful graphics in its design and good colors, the most interesting of which is an old purple. In fact, the wefts of this piece are dark purple


a feature a number of experienced folks say they have not previously encountered.

In an email after this program Wendel reported that “I’ve found some other information to possibly indicate that the fragment may be older (maybe even quite older) than the 1800 – 1850 I estimated during the program.” 

Someone brought in a piece (that I can’t show you) that had pile with noticable patina.  Harold took out his handkerchief to fashion a symmetric knot –


– and explained that when a rug is newer the pile sticks up above the knot node on the rug’s front. But as the pile wears down the knot node is exposed to wear. Patina is not the result of wear on the brushy ends of the pile, but rather that of abrasion on the exposed knot nodes (on which the wool strands lay on their sides). Abrasion on the sides of the knot node strands produces rug patina, “like when your pants get shiny on the seat,” Harold said.

The program ended and the conversations and examination of the pieces “hands on” began.


My thanks to Harold and to Michael for permitting me to share their session with you, as well as for their considerable editorial assistance with this posting. 

Harold has said to me, recently, that the extent and excellence of Michael Seidman’s preparation for this session is not adequately recognized in what we have said above and this comment is an effort to correct that.


R. John Howe

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