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Turkman Now, Part 1, The Lecture

Posted in Uncategorized on November 22, 2017 by rjohn

On April 22, 2017, Bob Emry and John Howe gave a Rug and Textile Appreciation Morning, reviewing research, since about 1980, on Turkmen weaving.


This program was inspired, mostly, by the publication in 2016 of the long-awaited “Turkmen Carpets: A New Perspective,” by Jurg Rageth.

The program began with a survey by Howe of Turkmen research, since about 1980, excepting the two Rageth volumes.

Slide 1:  Serious study of Turkmen weaving has been going on since the first of the 20th century and with some visible exceptions, before.

But our central purpose in this session is to focus, mostly, on Turkmen research from approximately 1980 to the present.

(You can see larger versions of each of the slides below by clicking on them three times.  The resulting image will have a blue ground.)

Slide 2: Above is an informal listing of the literature before and near 1980.

Slide 3: Since the late 1970s and especially intensifying after 1980, we see the following four broad progressions:

Slide 4:  The first important progression, we see, was the move away from such descriptive terms as “Bukara,” (a marketing center for a variety of Turkmen and other Central Asian weavings) or pointing at particular Turkmen pieces with dealer usages like, “Royal Bukara” or “Princess Bukara.”   

Instead, it was argued, tribal designations were more appropriate, although some debate has continued about instances in which geographic rather than tribal designations might be more accurate.

The tribes usually listed in the literature were: Salor, Saryk, Tekke, Yomut, Ersari, Chodor, Arabatchi (although Wood, in a serious Turkmen ethno-history, in 1990, listed 12).

The research of this period also brought to attention a number of Central Asian non-Turkmen tribal groups (e.g. Uzbeks and Kyrgyz) that are not our concern here.

Slide 5: Another facet of more recent Turkmen research has been the systematic use of differences in textile structure as an aid to attribution.

Walter Hawley used the tribal designations Tekke and Yomut and had presented systematic information on structure in Central Asian rugs, as early as 1913.

But beginning in the late 1970s, and especially after 1980, technical analysis was done at new levels of detail and sophistication and in terms of tribal designations.

Several Turkmen books were published in 1980.

Slide 6: The most important exhibition of Turkmen pile weavings of that time, Turkmen, was held at The Textile Museum and the catalog written for it, by Louise Mackie and Jon Thompson, and also published by The Textile Museum, became seen by many as the standard Turkmen pile textile treatment.

Slide 7: Below is what Louise Mackie’s technical analyses of the pieces in the Turkmen catalog looked like.  Note that she described materials, weaving structure and colors used.

Slide 8:  Dyes were not talked about much yet, in scientific terms, but, Mark Whiting, foreshadowing things that were to come, included an article on them, at the end of the Turkman catalog. 

Whiting even talked, briefly and generally, about what the presence of given dyes can tell us about the age of a given textile.  But the tests, then, for the presence of particular dyes in pile textiles were expensive and destructive and so not really within reach for students of Turkmen weaving.

Slide 9: In 1990, Paul Mushak analyzed the dyes and mordants used in six Turkman pieces. 

He was interested in whether the dyes were natural or synthetic and what the various dyes and mordants were.

(Incidentally, Mushak once worked with Ananda Barodofsky to create a kit that would let one determine whether there were synthetic dyes in a given piece.  It could be marketed for less than $200, but they found that neither the dealers nor the collectors were interested in determining for sure whether their pieces had synthetic dyes in them.)

Slide 10:  The Yomut and the Ersari tribal groups were seen to be large and diverse.  So a next task was to attempt to define their components.

Slide 11:  Let’s look, first, at the efforts to specify more closely the sub-parts of the Yomut family group.

Both Chodor and Arabatchi had been acknowledged as outside the Yomut family.

Slide 12: The need for further specification was indicated by an 1855 Persian census of Turkmen tribes living under their authority.

You can see that the information about Yomut subgroups reported in this census is very detailed.  It does not include, of course, any indication about which subgroups wove which rugs.

Slide 13:  Igdyr, Abdal, Karadashli, and Goklan were some early names proposed either as possible Yomut subgroups or separate Turkmen tribes that could be related to specific weavings.

The bases for these attributions is not always clear and some of these varieties have since been absorbed into other later formulations like the “eagle group,” described below. 

But you can still find Turkmen rugs being offered for sale under these names.

Slide 14: Thompson, in the 1980 Turkmen catalog, made, and then immediately withdrew, a claim that the “Imreli” could be recognized as a separate tribe, not part of the Yomut group. 

There were folks who called themselves “Imreli,” and they wove pile rugs.  But Thompson was not able to establish either what rugs they wove or that the pieces he named “Imreli” had been woven by them.

Slide 15:  A more successful effort to delineate one aspect of the Yomut complex was undertaken by Rautgenstengel and Azadi (1990) who identified an “eagle gol/ fine brown Yomut group” mostly on the basis of structure and materials.

You can see in these high knot counts the reason for the “fine brown” designation.

Notice that this is a group of seeming Yomut textiles, defined mostly by structure and materials, but there is no further tribal or sub-tribal label offered for them (although Azadi did say that he thought that Group I and III had been woven by the Goklan).  So while this was an important breakout, it was also less than satisfying, and some still describe it as “provisional.”

Slide 16:  Beginning in 1998, the late David Reuben, an English collector of Turkman weavings published three volumes Gols and Guls I, II and III.

Because most Yomut pile pieces have symmetric knots, he decided in the third of these volumes, to look closely at Yomut pile chuvals with asymmetric knots,

seeking to determine whether they were a Yomut sub-group on other grounds as well.  (He focused on this bag format because he felt that it was more likely that they would have been made for use than would Turkmen rugs and so would exhibit traditional features more accurately.)

He says that he set out to identify and examine all the Yomut chuvals with asymmetric knots that he could find. 

He found and analyzed more of them than he could include in his published report: Gols and Guls III.

In his report, he provides color photos and technical analyses of 46 Yomut pile chuvals with asymmetric knots (he includes two “eagle group” pieces).

His findings are modest.

There is a considerable number of Yomut chuvals that have asymmetric knots open to the right.  These pieces sometimes also have other features similar to Tekke weavings (e.g., major chuval guls are often identical). 

Yomut pieces with an asymmetric knot open to the left are quite rare. 

And if members of eagle groups with this knot ( I and III) are removed, they are rarer still.

But no further Yomut sub-groups were identified.

Slide 17: Actually, this kind of thing had been done before.  In his translation of and commentary on Moskova, O’Bannon reports on a comparison he made on the presence of asymmetric knots in Yomut weavings. 

He did a survey of 407 published pieces and compared the results with those reported by both Moshkova and a German Turkmen scholar, Troost.  A wide variety of formats was included.  No effort was made to distinguish open right from open left asymmetric knots.  Both the Moshkova and Troost analyses were based on material estimated to be younger.

A majority of Yomut pieces in all three groups use the symmetric knot. The asymmetric knot seems to be used more frequently on pieces estimated to be younger.  Asymmetric knots were used much less frequently on floor carpets estimated to be older.

Again, no Yomut sub-groups identified.

Slide 18: Elena Tsareva, the current leading Russian Turkmen authority is, for our purposes here, a transitional figure.

She has always paid close attention to technical features like materials, structure, dyes and colors.

Slide: 19: Here is an example of her work in this area in her most recent book on a large English Turkmen collection.

Slide 20: But Tsareva, a disciple of Moshkova, has begun to recommend that a strong “historical” component be included in Turkmen textile research.

Slide 21: Here is a statement she made about this approach in her study of the Hoffmeister Collection in 2011.

Slide 22:  She characterizes this historical approach, again, in 2016 in her book on the Kingston collection.

 She thinks that too exclusive a focus on things like structure becomes sterile, detached from the lives, culture and history of the weavers.

She writes that “…nothing ever disappears from our culture” and argues that a close study of Turkmen history gives us access to information that makes it possible to say where and by whom given Turkmen pieces were woven and to say something about the origins and meanings of Turkmen design devices.

Part of this approach was an accenting on the importance of geography: which Turkmen tribal groups were where, when.

Slide 23: As we shall see there was a general shift away from terms like “Ersari” in the direction of a “Middle Amu Dyra” designation.

Slide 24: She also says that Moshkova is one of the few to investigate seriously the meanings and origins of Turkmen designs.  She is pointing here to the assiduous way that Moshkova documented Turkmen designs,

but also to Moshkova’s controversial claim that some main carpet gul-forms (“gols”) are “owned” by particular Turkmen tribes.  So much so that weavers in conquered Turkmen tribes are reputed, sometimes, to have been required to weave the “gol” of the conqueror rather than their own.

She says that few students of Turkmen textiles have focused their attention on this aspect of Turkmen research, but lists Robert Pinner as one who has. 

Slide 25:  Pinner’s lengthy article in Turkoman Studies 1, 1980, on the “animal tree” device is a virtuoso performance, drilling deep and comprehensively.

Tsareva argues such an approach lets us draw on historical information about the origins and meanings of Turkmen design devices and lets us determine which tribes were in what geographic locations, when.  The latter sometimes lets us explain such things as color differences, since particular natural dyes sources vary by geography (she says she always lists specific color descriptions in her technical analyses).  Both of these areas of historical research, she says, can be an aid to attribution.

Slide 26:  In her emphasis on the importance of history, Tsareva has not moved away from technical analysis. Here is an example of her technical analysis of a particular Turkmen piece in 2016.

As I just indicated, she argues that her careful listing of colors can be combined with historical information about which tribes lived where and when and that about what the water and dyes sources were like in a given area can aid attribution.

In this 2016 catalog on the Kingston Turkmen collection, Elena demonstrates how she currently uses geography, design, dyes, structure, and especially history, to sort out the Yomut group. Not just where a given piece was woven, but what its designs mean.

As we shall see, Tsareva is not alone in this new emphasis on history.

Slide 27:  But to continue describing Tsareva’s current work with Yomut sub-group attribution, here is a summary of her geographic and subgroup attributions for the Yomut pieces she examined in the Kingston collection.

Slide 28: She places most of them in what she calls the “Aralo-Caspian” area,

and then, usually offers either a subtribe attribution, or

Slide 30: a sub-geographic one.

Slide 31: In one instance, she has revived the Imreli attribution (2011 and 2016, p.74, Fig. 45) and, in her treatment and argument for it, you can see this historical approach full-faced. 

The piece below is the one she calls “Imreli” in the Kingston collection.

Slide 32: Toward the end of her treatment of the Tekke pieces in the Kingston collection Tsareva cites the following indicators on which she bases her assertion that pile textiles in the “eagle group I” were likely woven by the Imreli.

  • Color palette indicates weavers were on the southeastern Caspian coast close to and sometimes over the border with what is now Iran.
  • Structure of the weavings indicate that the weavers were settled people.
  • But ornaments point to an “archaic tribal” genesis.
  • Variability of designs suggest that some of these weavings were “commercial craft.”
  • Some design features of Turkman “eagle” group carpets are similar to those of the Transcaucasian “eagle” carpets, likely woven on the opposite Caspian Sea shore. Seems not a coincidence.
  • Weavers not only partly sedentary but also wealthy, strong and a large group.
  • All rugs in the “eagle group I” are estimated to have been woven in the 18th century.
  • The weavers disappeared from the historical stage in about that time.

Slide 33:  She then asks the question below and gives her answer.

She admits that it is a reasoned assumption and applies only to textiles in “eagle group I), but when I questioned her about it she said “We must be brave” (Azadi has claimed that eagle groups 1 and III were woven by the Goklan). 

If one surveys all of the writing on rugs in the 20th century, one will find that design evolution and the meanings of designs are its centers of gravity. 

But with the rise of interest of structure and the increasing ability to analyze technical features of weaving and the character of dyes, and to use carbon-dating in some instances, one would think that this traditional interest in history and design development and meanings (which is often very erudite, but also often seems speculative) would recede.

And it did to some extent.  But a “historical” perspective and approach is being revived by some of the leading Turkmen scholars now.

I am not a Turkmen textiles scholar and not able, at all, really, to offer any real critique of this new historical approach.  But there are aspects of it that make me uneasy, in a “déjà vu” sort of way.

Tsareva has even argued for the advantage of what she calls a “romantic” approach to textile scholarship.

The image below is not one Tsareva recommends, but is a possible example of where a romantic approach to Turkmen research can lead.

We have one picture, a drawing of a Saryk engsi in use on the door opening of a trellis tent, made near Pende, in 1885, by a known artist for The London Illustrated News who was covering the Afghan Boundary Commission. 

For a long time, this image was seen as the only one we had of a Turkmen engsi in use on a trellis tent door.

This is a drawing, not a photo and is in some respects an instance of “orientalism” in that the scene is acknowledged by the artist to be to some extent “composed” of human images seen elsewhere, but the picture is seen by rug scholars as authentic in its depiction of the engsi “in use”on a Saryk tent door opening.

We now have some actual photos of Turkmen engsis in use, but this example suggests where a romantic approach can take us when we lack actual photographic evidence. 

Slide 34: The desire to connect to the weaver’s culture is something to be praised, and Tsareva’s presentation and use of historical information seems careful and is impressive, but a “romantic” approach seems to me likely to take things in wrong directions: analysis and findings too dependent on the, sometimes, uncertain information contained in historical sources, may lead to conclusions that draw importantly on assertion and speculation rather than evidence.

“Bravery” driven by a tendency toward the romantic, seems, often, likely to lead one away from an evidentiary basis for knowledge. 

Tsareva argues, as if it is an agreed point, that “nothing is ever lost from our culture.” 

We have the textiles and sometimes, if we look closely enough, we have a surprising amount of history…but one wonders whether we can use them together to, accurately, “see” what is there.

I think it important to remember that the cultures we want to observe and study, and the people we want to talk to, have been gone, in most cases, for 200 years or more.

 Jurg Rageth, the Swiss textile scholar has also adopted and emphasized a “historical perspective.”  We’ll see what Bob’s evaluation of this aspect of his effort is.

Slide 35: Now let’s move to look at the efforts to break out the very large Ersari group.

A great many sub-group names have been proposed and used.

Slide 36:  Murray Eiland wrote long ago:

This suggests that the people who wove the textiles we call “Ersari” have tribal identities at some sub-Ersari level.  This is not always true in other instances. 

The Rabaris in western India are an ethnically diverse group, some migratory and some settled, but they all retain a strong Rabari tribal identity. 

If you ask any of them what tribe they belong to, they will unfailingly say “I am Rabari,” often, with a visible pride.

Slide 37:  I had an experience that counters Eiland’s report about no self-identifying Ersaris. 

I was doing some lectures for Chris Walters in a Smithsonian Folklife Festival demonstration tent for his Ersari project.

I was starting each lecture with the word “Ersari.”  One day, after one of my lectures, a tall lady with auburn hair and blue eyes, came up to me on the platform and asked “Do you know what “Ersari” means?”  I said that I did not. 

She said it means “yellow husband” and “do you know the source of that usage? “  Again, I confessed my ignorance.

Slide 38: ”Alexander the Great,” she said. 

He conquered Afghanistan, as part of his movement east, and established and left Macedonian villages. “A great many Ersaris, like me,” she said, “are tall, and have blonde or red hair and blue eyes.”

My God! I thought.  Kipling wasn’t entirely making things up in his stories about colonial, Indian, England’s forays into Afghanistan.  He reports battles in which they were fighting blond, Afghan “giants.”  Clearly, they were facing Ersaris.

Slide 39: There have been at least two serious visible efforts to examine the contents of the Ersari pile textile complex.

The first is a Hali article published in 2006 by Peter Poullada, who had analyzed and researched chuvals attributed to the Ersaris and claims to have defined two new Turkmen tribes in the Middle Amu Dyra area.

The second of these is by David Reuben, whose work building a data base of Yomut pieces with asymmetric knots, we’ve already talked about.  He did the same thing with pieces having an Ersari attribution.

Slide 40: Poullada has made what seems the most determined effort to break apart the “Ersari” complex, but I think he would disagree with that description.

It’s useful to follow the focus and sequence of his thinking and work.  What follows draws heavily on Poullada’s article in 2006 (Hali 148, pp. 66-73).  He says that it summarizes his findings of twenty years of research.

He starts with indications in the literature that strongly suggest that the “Ersari” complex has for some time been seen to include two distinctive groups of weavings. One that he calls a “western Turkmen or Salor tradition.”  The other groups usually also called Ersari is much more diverse.  There are pieces with an “ikat” style and another group described as “Beshiri.”

He says that a useful way to examine the Ersari complex is to give up at the general level, the broad tribal term, and to move to indicate where most of these people lived.

With Moshka and more recently Tsareva and the Soviet ethnographic scholar, A. N. Pirkulieva, Poullada notes that most of the folks called “Ersari” live on or near the banks of the Amu Dyra River.  It flows to the northwest to the Aral Sea.

The “western Turkmen” lived on the left bank and the more diverse “ikat” group lived on the right bank.

 Slide 41: Following a local Persian term “lebab” that means “waterside,” Poullada recommends that we should move to the term “Lebab Turkmen,” and away from the traditional broad “Ersari” usage.

Poullada next draws on the ethnic mapping of Pirkulieva, who found that there were 35 ethnic groups in the “Lebab Turkmen” complex and that only four of these sub-tribal groups: the Kara, the Bek-Aul, the Ulugh-Tepe and the Gunsesh are main Ersari tribal sub-divisions.  (I had personally never seen these four “Ersari” sub-tribal names until I read Poullada’s article.)

Now Poullada decides to pursue his researches focusing on chuvals and other bag formats.

As a result of his researches he says that he has:

Slide 43:  Here are Poullada’s indicators for a Kizil Ayak attribution.

(click on the image below to get a readable font size.)

Note especially that Kizil Ayaks have an asymmetric knot, open right, and a knot count of about 95 to 150 kpsi.  Their “evenly spaced vertical rows” and the “perfectly square shape of their knot nodes,” contribute to “uniform knotting” and “crisp, clear designs.”

Slide 44: Here is a closer look at his classic Kizil Ayak example above.

Slide 45:  Below is a second Poullada Kizil Ayak example.

Slide 46:  Poullada’s second non-Ersari Turkmen tribe is the “Ali Eli.”  Below are his attribution indicators for it. 

Note that the Ali Eli have an asymmetric knot open left.  In addition, at 300 kpsi, the Ali Eli pieces have about twice the knot density of Kizil Ayak pieces.  If the silk in an Ali Eli piece includes some in its foundation, this group resembles some “eagle group” types.

On the basis of these two sets of indicators, the Kizil Ayak and the Ali Eli are readily distinguished

Slide 47:  And here are two Ali Eli examples Poullada provides. 

This first one a  “stacked” guls and spacious field arrangement that do not occur in the Kizil Ayak examples Poullada includes.  The major guls in this first Ali Eli piece are about as tall as they are wide.  Notice also the density of the minor-major-minor border complex that reads as a single element.

Slide 48:  This second Ali Eli example has the wider, shallower major chuval guls that we see in many of the chuval guls of Kizil Ayak, Tekke and Yomut pieces. 

So neither the squarish gul shape nor the “stacked gul,” spacious field arrangement, seems to be a reliable Ali Eli indicator.

Slide 49: I’m not sure when Reuben’s Gols and Guls III CD, in which he analyzed a number of “Ersari” pile weavings with asymmetric knots, was published,

but he cites Poullada’s article in some of his comments on the attributions he is making, so he clearly had access to Poullada’s work. 

And Reuben does use the terms “Middle Amu Dyra, “Kizil Ayak,” and “Ali Eli” in his descriptions, so he was aware of these distinctions, but he also uses “Ersari” in an unselfconscious way.

Slide 50: Reuben includes 36 “Ersari” pile pieces in his Gols and Guls III, CD.  He presents data on 16 carpets and a variety of other Ersari pile pieces mostly in juval or other bag formats, but he also includes some engsis, asmalyks, wedding rugs, even one okbash. 

This is the first page of a descriptive listing of these pieces.

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Slide 51: And here is a second.

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(Click below to get a larger image)

 

It’s important to remember that Reuben is primarily building a data base of available information on “Ersari” pile weavings.  

His method is one sometimes characterized as “barefoot empiricism,” that is collecting data on various aspects of something and then looking at it and doing sorts on particular factors, looking for correlations without any particular guidance by theory or hypothesis.

This leads to some unexpected ways in which he organizes his reporting on the pieces he treats.  He says:

Slide 52: To repeat what the slide above says:

The pieces (ed. “carpets”) attributed to the Ersari were listed according to the colours of the gol quarters.

Other properties such as the knot, knot count and structure are possibly more important. However, these properties are usually not listed in many publications especially auction catalogues.

There are 3 main colour schemes as well as 2 others to be mentioned later. The first scheme uses orange alternating with blue and or green. The second uses orange alternating with white as used by the other tribes. The third is likely to be a transition between the other two and uses orange and blue alternating with orange and white.

Reuben goes on in this passage relating such color schemes to major gul types and sometimes adds knot type and density indications.

These are unusual sorts and I don’t think they go anywhere in particular.

While saying this, I should also acknowledge that some others see Reuben’s distinctions as worth citing.

The Tekke torba below is included in the New England Rug Society’s on-line bag exhibition “To Have and to Hold.”

They draw on Reuben in their comment on this piece.

According to David Reuben1, there are three design families for 6-Gul Tekke torbas. The first has elongated centers, with a small rectangle at the very center. The second has rosettes at the gul centers. And the third family, to which this piece belongs, is the most variable. This particular torba illustrates some of the many design variations that occur. The center of the gul has an eight-pointed star, not found in other examples. Other aspects of the major gul are very unusual, with a parallelogram in each quarter of the major gul – most other examples have a square, or possibly multiple small shapes.

Slide 53: Here’s another passage that lets you see how Reuben’s analysis proceeds and what he says his findings are.

Slide 54:  Below is a chuval from Reuben’s data base with the information he provides about it.  A nearly unbelievable knot count, for a Turkmen piece, of over 500 kpsi, even if it is mostly silk.

(Click on the slide below to get a larger image)

Slide 55:  Below is another chuval with a different look.  He estimates it to the 18th century and unselfconsciously attributes it to Ersari weavers.  Again, 279 kpsi is a very high knot count.

Slide 56:  Reuben has collected a lot of weavings attributed to the Yomut and the “Ersari,” and has done a lot of analysis, primarily of design and related color features, but does not help us much in breaking apart these two large groups.

Slide 57:  We have one further recent effort to press Turkmen pile scholarship and Bob is going to describe and examine it now.

It is the two-volume “Turkmen Carpets: A New Perspective,” published in 2016 by Jurg Rageth.

This work was a long time in its making and it might be useful to say how it came to be.

(Click on this slide for a more readable version)

Slide 56

The “New Perspective” consists of combining three principal approaches:  Radiocarbon dating,  Dye analysis, Historical and Art Historical information.  The two scientific/technological approaches (carb0n dates and dye analysis) both greatly expand our understanding of the history of Turkmen weaving, and also serve to debunk some of the assumptions that have become entrenched in the rug lore (I’ll try to mention some of these as we go along).

Slide 57  The slide below was used to help explain why some carbon dates have two or three ranges of dates with differing probabilties.

The next series of images show a number of the weaving published by Rageth, along with the dates obtained, and also show the range of weaving formats that were dated.

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Slide 68  The Tekke carpet shown below is one that would seem to debunk an often-promulgated article of rug lore, which holds  that in earlier Tekke rugs, the octagons that are the principal border motif  lack the “rays” extending from their perimeters, that these “rays” were a later introduction, and became longer through the 19th century.  The rug below is missing its side borders, and has a seam down the center where one column of guls has been removed. The end borders remain however, and these show rather prominent rays around them.  Clearly this is an old rug, with greater than 70% probability of having been made before 1826, and this probability becomes even more compelling once we realize that the 19.7% probability of it having been made between 1918-1960 cannot seriously be considered.

The results reported in these volumes show beyond a reasonable doubt that many existing Turkmen weavings were made before 1800, and some of these are even 200 years older, predating 1600.  

It also shows that those who have experience in collecting and/or studying Turkmen weavings can reliably recognize the older pieces.  Many who have looked at and handled lots of old Turkmen rugs could order them into a series representing oldest to youngest, and most often another collector would put the same rugs into the same order.  

But these progressions would be a chronology without a scale.  Rageth’s studies add some numbers to such a chronology, and also confirm that collectors really can reliably recognize the older rugs.  

The samples that were dated were not randomly drawn from the whole universe of Turkmen weavings–they were selected as rugs thought to be very old, and the results show that many of them were indeed 18th century or older, and some are among the older Turkmen rugs known to still exist.  None of the pieces clearly predated AD 1450, but 18 of them dated before 1650 (12 of these 18 are carpets, the others tent bands, bagfaces and other smaller items).  Many others dated to the later 17th century through the 18th century.

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Slide 72  The following image is something of a non sequitur—-I remembered that when I visited San Antonio, Texas, a few years ago I noticed cochineal insects on the nopal cactus growing at The Alamo.  A finger pressed against one of those white blobs shows how concentrated the dye compound is.

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Slide 74  The next slide is of a Yomut asmalyk (camel bridal trapping).  At first glance there is nothing special about it.  It has the most common field design seen in asmalyks, and is not an especially noteworthy piece, except that it does show how the results of dye analysis can be used.  

I acquired it after seeing it listed in an internet auction, and the images posted with the listing were good enough to show that it has cotton wefts.  These can be seen here in the third image below, which might be good enough to show, at the fraying edge, that rows of knots are separated by alternating shoots of cotton and camel hair.  Cotton wefts also show in the mage of the back.  

After acquiring it, I also noticed that it has small pile elements of insect dyed wool.

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Slide 76 The two images below show the of insect dyed pile wool.  They are small elements, consisting of six knots each, toward the right and left ends of each “gul” center, and also some of the small parallelograms in the lattice.  

After reading Rageth’s book, I looked at these small elements with magnification, and found that this pile wool is multi-ply, at least 4 plies.  

Rageth concluded that until about 1850 cochineal-dyed pile wool was purchased in small amounts as commercially spun and dyed wool.  After about 1850 cochineal dye was sufficiently inexpensive that it was purchased as dye and applied to the same native, hand-spun, 2-ply wool used for other pile colors.  

So by that criterion, this asmalyk is likely to be older than 1850, which is consistent with its cotton wefting indicating an older piece.

Slide 77  The detail below might be good enough to see that the insect dyed knots are multi-ply.  If the plies can’t be made out, the smoother surface texture of these knots also suggests more plies.

Slide 78   The small Tekke rug shown in the following three slides is another piece that has small pile elements dyed with an insect dye, most probably cochineal.  

I have long known that the insect-dyed pile wool is multi-ply, and assumed that it was commercially spun and dyed yarn that was purchased for the highlights in this rug.  But before Rageth’s work I hadn’t realized that this indicates a date before 1850.  

This rug also has many small elements of cochineal-dyed silk, most obvious in some of the small triangles in the hexagonal gul centers.  The format of this rug is very rare.  One was offered at the Thompson sale at Sotheby’s in 1993, and Jon Thompson, in his description in the sale catalog, noted its rarity while also noting, and citing, a few other examples that exist.  

This rug must have been made for some special person or some special occasion.

Slide 79  Insect-dyed pile wool occurs in small amounts elsewhere in this rug, but is best seen where it occurs as the ground color of some small octagonal elements in the elem, arranged diagonally by color (upper left to lower right in the following mage).

Slide 80  The image below shows these insect-dyed elements from the back.  Magnification is probably insufficient to show the multiple plies, but the smoother surface texture of these knot-loops is evident.  

Slide 81  After mentioning these examples to John Howe, we then inspected John’s Beshir (or MAD) chuval fragment that has lots of insect-dyed silk, and also insect-dyed wool.  

Slide 82  Not surprisingly, the insect-dyed wool in this piece is also multi-ply.  It is the diagonal, lobed, element (brighter red in this image) arranged upper left-lower right in the following image.  It’s probably not possible to make out the multiple plies, but it clearly differs from the 2-ply madder-dyed wool at upper right, and the blues elsewhere.  Pink silk is at lower left.

Slide 83   The evolution of the Kepse gul is one design progression that can be followed in Turkmen weavings, and the carbon dates now available show that this progression correlates quite reliably with time.

Slide 84   Some have postulated that Safavid Persian carpets might have been prototypes, or models, for some early Turkmen carpets.  The following slide compares a very old Safavid Persian carpet (left) to an early Turkmen rug (right), of the genre referred to as multi-gul Turkmen carpets.  

At first glance the similarities might not be so obvious.  But notice that both rugs have bilateral symmetry, or reflection symmetry–the left half of each rug is a mirror reflection of the right half, and neither has colors organized into diagonal patterns.  

The main elements of the Safavid carpet are floral, some being “rosettes” (open flower viewed straight-on) and others “palmettes” (flowers in lateral view).  The Turkmen carpet can also be seen as having stylized rosettes and palmettes; those individual elements that are themselves bilaterally symmetrical (eg., the “C” guls) are rosettes.  Others are not bilaterally symmetrical about a vertical axis, but are symmetrical (more or less) around a horizontal axis; these are palmettes.  

These could represent the beginning stage of the kepse gul.

Slide 85  This map shows the extent of the Safavid Persian Empire.  Notice that at the time these early multi-gul Turkmen carpets were being made, Safavid Persia overlapped what is today Turkmenistan.

Slide 86 The following slide shows another early Turkmen multi-gul carpet (left); note that it also has reflection symmetry around its vertical axis, and no overall diagonal color pattern, except that here some of the individual motifs are not themselves symmetrical (eg., some palmettes have alternate colored elements on their right and left halves).  

The right hand half of the slide shows details of individual palmettes.  The left-hand column of individual palmettes are details from the Safavid Persian carpet.  The palmette at upper right is in the elem of a Qaradashli Turkmen carpet shown as No. 88 of Rageth’s books.  Mid right is from the multi-gul carpet shown above, and bottom right is a detail from the carpet shown at left.  

Slide 87    The slide below shows what can be considered a further step in kepse gul development.  

The fields of both these carpets are filled with “C” guls and what are now easily recognizable Kepse guls. The carpet at left might still be labeled a multi-gul carpet, as it has, near the top, one row of guls that are neither “C” guls nor kepse guls.  

Notice that the kepse guls in both are not symmetrical about a vertical axis, but are symmetrical about a horizontal axis.  And notice also that the field also has reflection symmetry, with color all organized (reflected) horizontally, except that lower elem of the carpet at right has some obvious diagonal color arrangement.

Slide 88  The slide below shows further progression.  

The carpet at left has only “C” guls and kepse guls, and has bilateral or reflection symmetry about its vertical axis.  The kepse guls, with prominent white elements, are organized into the beginning of a 2-1-2-1 pattern (from top  to bottom) that persists into later carpets with only kepse guls. Its kepse guls have become symmetrical about their vertical axes, but still lack the central vertical bar typical of later kepse guls.  

The center rug below has only “C” guls, larger ones as the primary guls and smaller ones as secondaries.  Notice that the “C” guls with white centers are arranged into the 2-1-2-1 pattern, which can also be read as a diagonal pattern.  Here the overall design lacks reflection symmetry (the minor “C” guls (smaller ones) alternate colors from the left to the right side of the rug, and the elems show distinct diagonal color patterning.  

At right is a carpet with only Kepse guls and they have acquired the central longer vertical bar that becomes standard in later carpets. The guls with prominent white elements are arranged into the 2-1-2-1 pattern, whereas the colors of the remaining guls are arranged into diagonal (lower left to upper right) color patterning (some exceptions at the sides).

Slide 89  The carpets shown below could be seen as further progression.  

The one at left has only kepse guls, and the color patterning has become rigidly diagonal, upper left to lower right, both in the field and in the elems.  

The “C” gul carpet at right has guls all of one size, and like the kepse gul carpet at left, color is arranged strictly diagonally, upper left to lower right, in the field and elems.  

Continuing through the 19th century this rigid diagonal color patterning persisted in Kepse gul rugs (though the diagonal color patterning can also be lower left to upper right).  Through the 19th century the kepse guls become more crowded, with less intervening space, so that in some late 19th century kepse gul carpets the kepse guls virtually lose their identity as separate elements, and the field appears as an over-all pattern.

Slide 90  I show the carpet in the next three images because it is one that I once owned (regrettably no longer do), and it clearly fits somewhere into the progression followed above.  It has the look and feel of a very old carpet.

Its border isn’t quite unique, but is very uncommon.  Its large kepse guls have small “C” gul centers.  The guls with white elements are staggered, but are not in the strict 2-1-2-1 pattern.  However, the color patterning can be read diagonally, upper left to lower right.  The diagonal rows alternate as follows: a row having all guls of the same color pattern, followed by a row having guls of two different color patterns alternating, one of which has white elements, and then repeat.  

I can imagine this carpet as an intermediate between those with the strict 2-1-2-1 pattern and those later ones with all guls arranged diagonally by color.

Slide 91

Slide 92

 

What this whole discussion of kepse guls (and incidentally also “C” guls) and color patterns shows is that graphic changes in design elements and the arrangement of their colors can be organized into series or progressions that make sense logically, and that these changing patterns can now be constrained by carbon dates that allow them to be interpreted also as chronological sequences.

This is the end of the Lecture by Bob And John.

They had brought in a number of pieces and to see their treatment of those, you need to go to Part 2 using this link:

https://rjohnhowe.wordpress.com/2017/11/22/turkman-now-part-2-the-pieces-brought-in/

Regards,

R. John Howe

Turkman Now, Part 2, The Pieces Brought In

Posted in Uncategorized on November 22, 2017 by rjohn

This is Part 2 of a Rug and Textile Appreciation Morning program that Bob Emry and John Howe



gave on Turkmen research, since about 1980, at The Textile Museum on April 22, 2017.

Part 1 was a lecture that you can view at this link:  https://rjohnhowe.wordpress.com/2017/11/22/turkman-now-part-1-the-lecture/

We will show and describe the pieces Bob and John brought into this session, sometimes relating them to aspects of the lecture.

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T1

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Comment on T1:

Bob:  I brought two mixed technique tent band fragments because the Rageth book had dated some tent bands of this type.

I brought these to show anyone who might not be familiar with such tent bands what they are like.

T1, above, is, I believe, Saryk. It has some elements in magenta silk–for example two triangles in the lower eight-pointed star shown in the detail images. 

Details of T1:

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T23 (numbers are not always sequential)

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Bob:  The second mixed technique tentband fragment, T23, is, I think, Yomut, though it might be Tekke.

I say “Yomut” because most bands I’ve found illustrated with animal images are called Yomut.

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This one also has many small silk elements—the rows of little rectangles, for example, in the image above, and the vertical stripe in the “asmalyk” on the larger camel in the image immediately below.

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T2

This is a Tekke pile rug of a size like those that the Turkmen used as “wedding rugs.” They were just big enough for the couple to stand on.

There were Turkmen wedding rugs, but we don’t know which of the rugs like this were actually used in Turkmen weddings.

This piece is full-pile with what looks likely older traditional Tekke weaving.  The only hesitation about it is that some say that the narrow white borders at the top and bottom are nearly signature indications of Soviet era weaving.

Here are some detail images of T2.

 

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We have asked about this narrow white border in the image below and have been told that the Soviet era border has a “bow tie” shape and is different from this one.  We’re still not sure how to treat the presence of this one.

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T3

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Comment on T3: T3 is a fragment of a Yomud chuval (no lower elem).   Good range of natural color.

Detail images of T3:

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The major gul has a squared outside perimenter.

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On one upper corner of the back, there is a sewn-on tag that reads: “Bokara, Dec. 3, 1910,” and an indication that it was purchased, then, for $15. 🙂  If we see this tag as made by a first purchaser, this is likely a 19th century piece.

T4

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T4 is a Middle Amu Dyra chuval fragment with a great deal of silk.

Details of T4.

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As Bob said in the lecture, his examination of the area with the orangish shade in the image above suggests that this are was wool dyed with cochineal.  The wool in these areas has more plies than does that in others.  This is an age indicator, likely before 1850.

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The opulent use of silk in this piece makes one wonder who would dare to cut it up, but, of course, we know that this happened frequently.

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T5

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T5 is a full-pile Yomut mafrash face with very soft wool.  Its owner says that it is the only Yomut piece he has seen, with an asymmetric knot open left, that has no other “eagle group features ( Troost  is said to have published some others).  David Reuben’s study of Yomut weavings with asymmetric knots suggests that this is a rare piece.

Damaged hanging cords still attached.

Details of T5.

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T6

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T6 is one face of a Middle Amu Dyra saddle bag (khorjin).  The Turkmen wove many chuvals, torbas, and even a number of small mafrash bags, but not many saddle bags.

This piece has a deceptively simple design.  One sees new features in it as one continues to look.

Details of T6.

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T7

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T7 is a nine-gul Amu Dyra chuval face.  It is a classic instance of what Poullada calls “Kizil Ayak.”  Both Pinner and Azadi have, with it in hand, estimated it before 1850.

Details of T7.

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Notice in the major gul, in the image above, that the Xs are serifed.  This is the kind of feature likely to be dropped as designs become conventionalized.  Noticing these serifs is the kind of thing that make others call some of us “Turkomainiacs.”

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T8

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T8 is a fragment of a Tekke chuval.  Someone cut this piece to use it as the seat cover for a chair (note the notches for the chair’s legs).  The current owner found it no longer part of a chair, put a back on it, and has used it as the cover for a bed-side table.

Details of T8.

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The weaving is fine and of a high quality. The drawing is precise. The owner thinks it has some age.  

Here are two looks at its back.  

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T9

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T9 is a Yomut saddle cover (the type that would be placed on top of the saddle, with the pommel (horn) sticking through the slit at the bottom.

Details of T9.

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It has a dark purple and a blue shading toward green.

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T10

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T10 is a large, seriously fragmented Middle Amu Dyra chuval with an “ikat” field design.  It is professionally mounted on a blue backing cloth.

The ground red is in places of the “glows from within” type, but there is also a band of ground red in the top of the field that is a different, faded shade.

Here are some details of T10.

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The owner thinks that the spacious, drawing of the major gul (below) seems an archaic usage.  The use of blue in the center is also effective.  The character and crisp drawing of the borders, in the image above, also seem possibly older.

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The cluster of “minor” guls (below) has graphic punch.

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We think this piece is older, but can’t point to anything excepting, perhaps, the gul and border drawing, to support that estimate.

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T11

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T11 is a large fragment of an Middle Amu Dyra main carpet.  We think this piece is older, in part, because of its narrow borders.  It owner says that he has only seen two other similar examples.  It has been published.

Notice that the ground color within the compartmentalized areas seems almost random, except for a diagonal sequence (left to right) of dark ground compartments and a right to left sequence of white ground compartments.  These diagonals cross in the approximate middle of this rug.  Bob noted that the red-ground squares are also in diagonal lines (lower left to upper right) and that the white also forms lines lower left to upper right—i.e., the white forms diagonal lines in both directions.

Details of T11.

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Notice in the image below that this piece has very bright orange wefts.

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Notice the “tuning fork” border that separate all of the compartments.

The pile on this fragment is very worn down and the bright orange wefts show through on the front in some areas of the white ground compartments.  

This piece was purchased already sewn onto a tan backing and there is clear transfer of red to this backing in a number of places. We think this piece is old, but don’t have a ready explanation about why, what would need to be a natural red, transfers to this backing.

T12

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T12 is an fragment of a Middle Amu Dyra chuval.  Its major guls are about as tall and they are wide and are “stacked” on a pretty spacious field.  Looks similar to one Eli Ali Poullada example (below) that we saw in the lecture.

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But a quick look at structure disabuses us of that possibility.  T12  has an asymmetric open right knot and a kpsi far below 300, at about 60, a frequent “Ersari” count. Looks can be deceiving.

Details of T12.

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Notice the plastic side selvedges. 🙂

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T13

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T13 is a Yomut main carpet with major “tauk naska” guls and a white ground meander border.

Below is another overall photo that is a little closer and maybe better

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Here are two details of T13.

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Notice, especially in the photo below, that the drawing of the “tauk naska” devices retain the “combs” on the heads.  This is the kind of detail that would likely be left out in later conventionalized drawing and may be a sign of age,

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T14

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T14  was mentioned in Part 1.  It is one of very few rugs known in this long narrow format. It might have been made for some special occasion, or for a special person. It has lots of small silk highlights (see the small triangles in the hexagonal gul centers). The main reason for mentioning it in the talk was that it also has multi-ply pile wool dyed with an insect dye (probably Mexican cochineal). 

Details of T14.

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The third picture (below) shows this wool (ground color of the octagons in the diagonal row between the arrows). One of the conclusions in the Rageth book was that pile-wool dyed with cochineal was multi-ply (seemingly commercially spun and dyed wool obtained in small amounts by the weaver), up to about 1850. After that, cochineal dyed pile wool was the same two-ply, homespun wool used for other colors. By the mid 19th century, cochineal had become readily available, and sufficiently inexpensive, that weavers could buy the dye and dye their own two-ply wool. In this rug, the cochineal-dyed wool is multi ply (at least 4-ply, probably more), suggesting that the rug is pre-1850. The insect dye here is mildly corrosive, so that these elements have shorter pile.

 

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T15

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T15 is a torba with unusually good colors. It is also unusual in having only five of the vertical bars (with anchor motifs) in each kepse gul. Seven is the usual number of vertical bars, although in a few rugs each gul has nine.

Detail on T15.

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This torba also shows that the weaver was indecisive about which border design to use.

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T16

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T16 (above) and T17 (below) are Tekke torbas.

The main point is just to show the two main types of Tekke chuval-gul torbas: 12-gul in 3 x 4 format, and 6-gul in 2 x 3 format.

T17

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Another point worth mentioning is that in the 6-gul torba, the animal heads (near the right and left ends of each gul), have two “horns” in most instances, instead of the single one most commonly seen.

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T18

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This one was also on the board but didn’t get mentioned during the talk.  It is a small torba or mafrash with nine chuval-guls, but the main point of interest is that the minor guls are composed of two back-to-back “C” motifs (the motif seen in the “c” gul carpets).  Easier to see in the detail below.

Detail of T18.

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T19

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Bob:  I’ve never been sure of the tribal assignment of the chuval above. The design has staggered rows of chuval guls, with no secondary elements. Most of the guls have silk elements in the hexagonal centers. It has some characteristics of Salor—i.e., borders, especially the connected “S” minor borders, and the knot it asymmetrical open left. If it is not Salor, then it is a mystery.

John:  Is it fine enough (about 300 kpsi) to be Ali Eli?  

Bob:  No, it isn’t especially fine–I haven’t counted knots, but it is probably no more than 150 kpsi.

Detail of T19.

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T20

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The fragment above, T20, is an example of an old Tekke carpet.  It is missing probably 3 rows of guls (the lower border is reattached), so is a fragment.

I think this rug dates from before 1800. It has the old esthetic, and a prominent German collector who saw it agreed that it was most likely 18th century.  The border octagons have short “rays” surrounding them.  At about 30 centimeters wide, the tekke guls here are among the largest you could expect to see.

Here are another, likely better, image of T20, this one in direct sunlight.

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T21

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Bob: T21 is a chuval from the Yomut family.  A collector with a keener sense of observation and a greater level of self-assurance might make a more specific assignment — perhaps Karadashli.  I think it has good age: at least early 19th century.

Detail of T21.

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T22

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As I said, during the talk, this is not an exceptional asmalyk, and it has the design most-commonly seen seen in asmalyks.

I bought it on eBay years ago, because the images posted with the auction listing were sufficiently good to show that it had some cotton in the wefts, and I had just been reading that Yomut carpets with cotton wefting seem to be older than those with all wool wefts.

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The reason I brought it to the talk is that I discovered that it does have small elements of insect-dyed wool knots (probably cochineal), and that this wool is multi-ply. In the detail above the three red elements with six knots each, are dyed with cochineal, and are multi ply.  

One of Rageth’s conclusions is that cochineal dyed wool used in pile is multi-ply up until around 1850 (presumably commercially spun and dyed wool purchased in small amounts by the weaver), and after that time, cochineal-dyed wool is the same two-ply, home-spun wool as that used for the other pile colors.

In this asmalyk, the cochineal-dyed wool is very limited—just to the six small diamonds elements in most of the gul centers—indicated by the arrow in the image below, and a few other small elements mainly in the striped lattice..

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The cotton wefting is also obvious in this same image.

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T23

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T23 shows a carpet that I would have called a Yomut “family” rug with the open spacing characteristic of older rugs.

Then this last spring I saw the catalog of the Austria Auction Company, Fine Antique Oriental Rugs VII (Auction of April 22, 2017). Lot 11 of that auction is a carpet labeled Karadashli, and is so similar to this one that one might believe that they were  made by the same weavers, in the same place at the same time. If you go to this web page http://www.austriaauction.com/index.php?id=222&L=1 and then go to lot 11, you can see the similarity. Both rugs. have features, especially details of the border and minor guls, that I have not seen in other rugs.

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I thought the secondary guls in my rug were unique until I saw the catalog, where they are the same, except that the catalog rug has some extra rectangles interposed between the secondary guls and the main guls.

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The complicated curled leaf borders are the same, even to having the little “tauk nosca” animals in spaces between the curled leaves.

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End borders are also the same in both rugs.

The main tauk nosca guls in both rugs have “rotational” symmetry—that is, if you were to put a pin through the center of the gul and rotate the gul 180 degrees on the pin, it would look identical. If color is taken into account, there is no reflection symmetry.

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This is possible only because these rugs have one of the rarer kinds of tauk nosca guls, wherein the tauk nosca animals in the lower half of the gul are upside down, and those in the upper half of the gul are right-side up.

It is much more common to see tauk nosca guls in which all of the animals are right side up, and rotational symmetry is not possible. The major guls in T13 above (repeated here) are of this latter sort.  

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In these more-common rugs, even reflection symmetry is not possible if color is considered.

Bob treated the “kepse” gul seriously in his lecture and we ended with one.

T24

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Comment on T24:  In the evolution of kepse gul carpets mentioned in the talk, this would fit with the earlier ones with only kepse guls.  Here the guls with white elements are organized into the 2-1-2-1 format.  The overall arrangement is diagonal in the following pattern: a diagonal row (upper left to lower right) of guls that are all alike (same color and pattern), followed by a row having guls that alternate, ones with white and other all of the same color and pattern, then repeat.   There is some minor confusion of this pattern at the beginning  (bottom) of the field.

Details of T24.

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Bob and John took questions and brought their program to a close.

I want to thank Bob for working with me both to fashion and give both the actual session at the Textile Museum and subsequently these two virtual version posts.

We hope that you have found some useful things in this brief picture of where we see Turkmen research now.

Here at the end we want to recognize the work of Jurg Rageth (here with his wife Ester),

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who has produced two monumental volumes that we think, most will agree, will be the standard treatment of Turkmen pile weaving for the foreseeable future.

These volumes were produced in very limited numbers in German and English and we think are sold out.

Most will know that Jurg died, recently, at a young age.  In a last act of generosity to the textile world he made an electronic copy of these two volumes available worldwide without cost.

You can find them here:

http://www.turkmencarpets.ch/

Regards,

R. John Howe

Tim and Penny Hays on Kilims of The Former European Territories of the Ottoman Empire

Posted in Uncategorized on November 7, 2017 by rjohn

On October 14, 2017, Tim and Penny Hays,

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who are collectors here in the Washington, D.C. area, gave a Rug and Textile Appreciation Morning program here at the Textile Museum in Washington, D.C.

Tim and Penny have focused their collection primarily on Balkan kilims. but have broadened their interests somewhat.  As the title says in this program, and as Wendel Swan

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said in his introduction, they presented and talked about kilims in their collection woven in former European territories of the Ottoman Empire.  They have traveled extensively in these countries and have assiduously explored the history, records of border and ethnic group movements, and other related aspects of the literature, sometimes arranging translation.

The map below presents the countries near the Mediterranean and Black Seas.

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The map below crops out the “countries” in which the kilims, Tim and Penny treated, were variously woven.

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Tim made these introductory remarks:

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“Penny and I appreciate those attending today’s presentation. Balkan kilims are not well known in North America and, in our view, under appreciated. We hope to remedy that a bit today. But we also want to take this opportunity to show how our collecting interests evolved over time.  The first misconception we wanted to address is the common perception of the Balkans as a cultural and political hinterland. This is far from a correct view. The Balkans, especially what today are the nation states of Bulgaria, Macedonia, Albania, and Serbia, were a key part of the Ottoman polity, and the breadbasket of the Empire. This remained true until the mid-19th  Century, when everything began to change. Perhaps the perception of the Balkans as a hinterland comes from our shared Western and Central European cultural heritage.”

Now Tim and Penny moved to treat the kilims for the first country.

The first piece was this monumental constructed saf.

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TP1

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This is a re-constructed Ciprovtsy (NW Bulgaria) saf from the 18th Century. Its a piece we assembled over a period of five years from a group of fragments of  varying sizes.

We know there are only five or six Ciprovtsy safs in existence from the 18th Century period. Although these fragments have not been dated individually, it is possible they may date from the 17th Century.  This particular design and color scheme is among the earliest known for the West Bulgarian weaving group. This group is often attributed as Sarkoy or Manastir in the rug trade. This is not correct. Bulgarian textile art historians characterize such example as of the Constructionist period  (late 17th Century to about 1820). Penny and I have had these fragments conserved and mounted as we believe they might have appeared when new.  

Safs usually comprise three, five, or seven niches in two or more tiers. Because this example is fragmentary, we had it reconstructed as a single-tier. Very careful examination suggests some of the smaller fragments may be from a different original. All the fragments in this piece were obtained from a family of Bulgarian muhajir (returnees to Turkey) whose mutual ancestor was an imam or hoja in Northern Bulgaria.

The detailed images below demonstrate the color scheme common to all the known examples of this class of weaving. They all have brown, indigo blue, green (from overdyed yellow and blue), ochre tones; and in this example, gold in the triangle forms. The weaving is very fine and its likely its was woven for the Ottoman or Rumelian market as a prestige textile.

Its unknown if the original weavers were Orthodox Christians or Bulgarian Muslims, or both.

We are pleased with the way this reconstruction and conservation looks. Our Turkish repairmen did a good job.

Details of TP1.

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A second piece was a departure: the only woven pile piece they showed.

TP2

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This rug, in prayer format, is a later example of the Manastir rug group.

Early pieces of this group were produced in Macedonia and used by Macedonian Turkish families in their homes. When these Macedonian muhajir returned to Turkey, they seem to have retained this particular pile weaving tradition.

We believe this piece is an example produced in Turkey as it has white wool warps.  

But there are characteristics that align with Balkan originals; including multiple weft shots, typical Manastir rug design format, and the eight-lobed blossom motif  The brocaded strips are also common in this group. The pale pistachio green is unusual and suggests a Balkan affinity.

We believe this piece can be dated to the late-19th Century or very early 20th Century. Pile is long and the handle is floppy.

Details of TP2.

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Here is the back of TP2.

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The next piece was difficult to display and to photograph. (Color differences are due to lighting and the operation of three different cameras.)

TP3

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This is a large fragment from a  Pirot (West Bulgarian Group) kilim of the mid-late 19th Century.

The field design is that of multiple trees of life with typical Pirot floral and vegetal motifs. The colors are consistent with the wine red, greens and blues seen in such (Sarkoy) kilims. Although the town of Pirot is now in SE Serbia until 1868 it was part of the Ottoman province of Bulgaria.

Again the weave in this large fragment is fine (almost like shirt cloth). We estimate the original kilim was probably 3.5 M X 3.0 M. 

Pirot produced kilims in many sizes from doilies to large floor coverings or wall hangings.  Pirot production was based in workshops or ‘factories’. Initially the weavers were a mix of Christian and Muslim women, but by the late 1860’s weaving was a Christian occupation. Production was market driven. Pieces as large as 10.5 X 6.5 meters have been produced.

A late example of such a weaving is currently being offered on the Istanbul market.  It appears to be a later Yugoslavian era piece previously used in a public venue.

More details of TP3.

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The next piece was TP4.

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German and Austrian travelers in the Balkans in the mid-19th Century (Kannitz among others) documented a booming trade in Pirot kilims to both Ottoman territory and to Europe. He reported Pirot kilims were so popular that other weaving towns and villages in West Bulgaria produced their own versions of the ever popular Pirot prayer kilim. These were traded by the bale at the annual Pirot trade fair known as the panajir. 

This group of weavings were known as Pirotsko or Pirotskoi . This example may be one of those weavings. In any case, its a nice example of the West Bulgarian weaving genre with period natural dyes and a rather appealing design.  It has a rustic  in-your-face prayer kilim composition. Probably Decorative Period ca 1850-1860.

The wine color ground is striking.  Origin likely Ottoman province of Bulgaria (Rumelia) or SE Serbia.

As the images below show, this kilim has some interesting details-especially at the top of the prayer arch.

 

Details of TP4.

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TP5

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TP5 is an example of a rare group of Romanian kilims from the region of Moldavia (NE Romania on the west bank of the Dniester River). 

Although today’s Romania was not an Ottoman province, the three Principalities (Wallachia, Transylvania, and Moldavia) were Ottoman vassal states with Phanariot Greek Princes appointed by Istanbul. As the Principalities had relatively few Turkish residents and we believe these kilims were woven by Christians.

The sparse motifs are skeletal floral designs (especially tulips).

These weavings are borderless and were meant to be used as wall hangings and viewed on the horizontal.

These pieces are late 19th Century with something of an Art Deco feel. We have not seen other examples of this group outside museums in Romania. Thanks to Stefano Ionesco for his assistance in identifying and properly attributing this kilim.

 

Details of TP5.

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TP6

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TP6 is an early example (18th Century) of a West Bulgarian Chiprovtsy prayer kilim of the Bakamsky/Garabalda design. 

This is one of the earliest type of Balkan kilims known. Along TP1, it is an example of weavings of the Constructionist Period.

The Bakamsky kilims were produced in large numbers in NW Bulgaria with similar designs and two color schemes indigo blue, green, ochre and brown and indigo blue green, brown and red. This piece is an example of the latter. It has interesting zig-zag panels at the top and bottom of the central field, such elaborations can be an indicator of early examples of the genre. This particular piece has old repairs and reweaving in a pale brown tone. 

Typical of most West Bulgarian weavings the kilim is finely woven of wool from Zackel sheep from the Stara Planina Mountains.

The double-headed arrows in the central green field are known as popuks  (butterflies) by local weavers; or as Sarkoy arrows or whirling dervishes by European collectors. The double headed arrows are also seen on Central and South Anatolian kilims. But this kilim, and others like it, were woven by Orthodox Christians for he Ottoman market.

The Bakamsky design was widely used in the 18th Century as far afield as the Principality of Walachia.

Details on TP6.

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TP7

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TP7 is a probably our favorite Manastir prayer kilim. This classic type has either red, yellow or rarely blue, grounds. From Eastern Bulgaria, this piece is slightly larger than normal with  a red ground and rich yellow central field.

With five rows of Anatolian like borders at the top and bottom, and decorated with rows of hacilar amulets in the central field and borders. The slender prayer arch has tendrils sprouting from its sides and a red inverted triangle at top.

Note the few stray blue threads on the lower left side of the field. We believe the blue here is derived from the indigo of the woad plant, and the yellow from Dyers Weld. This kilim probably dates to the third quarter of the 19th Century.

When collectors think of Manastir prayer kilims, they probably envision pieces like this.

Details of TP7.

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TP8

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TP8 is an excellent example of a medium size West Bulgarian kilim. We are not 100% certain of its full attribution, but believe it to be a Pirot or Samokov weaving of the third quarter 19th Century, or earlier.

Wonderful bright colors and fine weave. T he use of green in this piece leads me to think it was Bulgarian in origin. Samokov is in Southwest Bulgaria near the famous Rila Monastery. Reference works on Pirot and West Bulgarian kilims indicate weavings from these two locations are nearly indistinguishable. Such is the case here.

Certainly woven by Orthodox Christians this kilim maintains the 2-1-2 design so common in Islamic weaving. In prayer format, the Bulgarian and Serbian weavers refer to the niche motifs  as mirrors. The tops of all the niches/mirrors have hooks on the upper edges and rams horn elaborations at the apex. the figures in the interior of the kilim are particularly attractive and the color combination is pleasing.

Produced in SW Bulgaria or SE Serbia. Again Zackel sheep wool from the Stara Planina Mountains was used is this attractive kilim.

 

Details of TP8.

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TP9

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TP9 is a Manastir kilim from the Deliorman Region of eastern Bulgaria. It was collected there in the town of Shumen in about 1990.

Although it is in prayer kilim format, visually it is pure landscape with the rows of triangles forming an array of mountain ranges.

The general impression of the piece is rather Anatolian, replete with spandrels at each corner of the central field. The three border strips on either end are reminiscent of pieces we have seen from the Nigde area in Anatolia. Multiple prayer arch figures at the top of the field continue the mountain theme.

Seven colors are used: two reds, white, yellow, blue, black, and green. The green used here is in a tone we particularly associate with Balkan weaving. (previously published as Plate 25 in Stoebe and Mizrahi, Manastir Kilims:In Search of a Trail) One of the reds used is an attractive rose tone we see frequently in South Balkan kilims.  

The kilim dates from the 19th Century.

Details of TP9.

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TP10

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TP10 is an example of a Manastir prayer kilim with its red ground and yellow field.

The top and bottom borders are constructed in an unusual manner. There are four inner border strips which only run the width of the inner field, then a brocade stripe, another full width border strip, and the another brocade stripe. The entire assembly of borders are outlined with a continuous run of dark thread. This may be a characteristic of a particular weaver or village.

We know Manastir prayer kilims were woven for personal use by Muslim women in Eastern Bulgaria, either for devotional use in the home (used to indicate the proper direction for prayer like the qibla in a mosque). or for use by their menfolk when conscripted into the military. Ottoman soldiers were required to have a prayer kilim in their bedroll on campaign.

There are probably only about 150-200 Manastir kilims of all types known to exist-this format is the most common.

The kilim has the normal layout of prayer arch and protective amulets.

Details of TP10.

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TP11

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TP11 is a Manastir kilim collected in the Deliorman Region of Eastern Bulgaria in 1991.  It was previously published as Plate 13 in Stoebe and Mizrahi, Manastir Kilims: In Search of a Trail.

TP13 is one of a small sub-group of Manastir kilims with finger stripes and an elongated oval shaped open field. All the members of this  group of Manastir kilims incorporate narrow stripes of varying colors framing a central field which is open or decorated with amulets. Each of the finger stripes terminates at the central field with a fingernail-like cap.

The previous owners of this kilim read the design to represent a woman’s fingers protectively shielding a womb-like space. Given that Manastir kilims were made by Muslim women for personal use, or for use within the confines of the home, we believe this is a reasonable, if romantic, interpretation of this fascinating design. This example has a central field with rose color tones and with an exuberant scattering of colorful amulets.The finger stripes themselves are pale yellow green, red, brown, and blue. 

There are triple end borders comprised of interlocking crenelated blocks of complementary colors. This 19th Century piece is in a traditional Manastir prayer kilim size of  about 1.8 meter X 1.0 meter. A graphically powerful piece with its own sense of wonder.

As with many of the Manastir kilims in our collection this piece has had a significant amount of repair. When the pieces came from Bulgaria they frequently were stained and worn.

Details of TP11.

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TP12

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TP12 is related to TP11 in both design and color scheme.

The most interesting aspect of this kilim is its size (100 X 60 cm). Its the only example we know of a true Manastir prayer kilim in a reduced size (about 40% the size of a traditional example).

The colors and wool used are consistent with normal size examples. Rose ground, finger stripes enclosing an oblong central field with amulets and triangular stacked stylized prayer arches. The blue dye used may be indigo from woad. The warps are tightly spun dark brown wool. 

This was a recent acquisition and shocked both of us when we first saw it. Although we were originally suspicious of this piece due to possibility of  faking, upon careful inspection it seems legitimate. When we handled this kilim the first time, we noted the wear at the base of the central field. Could this be an indication that it was used as a prayer mat?  For a child or small woman?  

From the Deliorman Region of eastern Bulgaria, second half 19th Century. Finding this piece was a collecting highlight for 2017 and an exciting addition to our understanding of the Manastir weaving tradition.

Details of TP12.

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TP13

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TP13 is a Pilot kilim of the West Bulgarian Group (Sarkoy). 

This is a piece from the Decorative Period (1830-1875) with wonderful colors and a fine weave. The size is about 2.5.M X 2.2 M. In this case we believe this kilim is Serbian production.

The composition is with a squarish central field with a vegetal tree of life pattern with an out compartment of multiple trees of life. The outer border contains multiple niches (or mirrors or houses) which have sprouting branches. The interior of each niche has a floral or vegetal occupant.  Inner borders and the narrow outer border are typical for the West Bulgarian weavings and have comb and figures with three stacked triangles. The overall impression is of a compartmented kilim with well executed construction and design, and saturated colors.

This is obviously the workshop production of skilled weavers. The use of yellow in this kilim suggests it was produced by Orthodox weavers in Serbia rather than Bulgaria. 

This kilim was acquired in Austria directly from a local collector who purchased it in the mid-1990’s from a prominent dealer in Vienna. We enjoy seeing this kilim everyday hanging in our home. We hope you like seeing it here.

Details of TP13.

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TP14

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TP14 is a Vojvodina kilim from the Serbian Banat. Formerly part of the Kingdom of Hungary (until 1918) and before that an Ottoman possession, as the Banat of Temesvar (Banat indicates the territory was governed by a military officer). The region is now divided between Romania and Serbia. 

This kilim was produced in the northern Serbian portion before 1920. The population of this entire is quite diverse and the Serbians living there originated from Kosovo, from whence they fled in the 17th Century. Being part of the Kingdom of Hungary and linked to the Austro-Hungarian Empire since the 18th Century, the Serbs living here were very much influenced by European culture, fashion, and arts. The Vojvodina Serbians were also very conscious of European political ideas and nationalist thinking, this made them leaders in the Serbian independence movement. The mix of European and turkic Albanian influences is reflected in Banat weaving. It is far more European in design and style, and reflects European vernacular weaving trends of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. 

This piece is a garden design which was very popular at the turn of the last century. Kilims such as this were woven in two strips and then sewn together. They were made as part of a young Serbian woman’s dowry, either by the woman and her female relatives, or by a woman working as a kilim weaving specialist for hire. The general layout of this kilim is consistent with other South Balkan kilims.

The dyes are a mix of natural and synthetics and the pieces use, wool, cotton, flax, or hemp which are grown extensively in the region. This piece, like several others in our collection, was purchased in the Vienna flea market. This example seem to have been used as a bed or table cover, with the lappets attached separately. 

This weaving came with a pair of matching chair back covers (anti-macassars) also with lappets. The weavings from both sides of the Serbian and Romanian border have distinctive features which would make a detailed study and documentation worthwhile.  They all reflect a mix of European and Turkish elements.

Details of TP14.

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TP15

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Were it not for the plain yellow striped kilim ends we would be inclined to ascribe the kilim sbove (203 X 132 cm) to Central Anatolia.

The rich red central field on a golden yellow ground definitely incorporates Anatolian influences.  However, the yellow stripes on the kilim ends associate this piece with East Bulgaria and the Manastir weaving culture.

The recumbent S or dollar sign figures at the top of the red field are also an Anatolian feature. Were they placed in that position to provide directionality for its use in religious settings?  The overall impression of this piece is that it emerged from a rustic setting made by less experienced or less skilled weavers. We believe it was used as a wall hanging ,or perhaps a sofreh.

TP15 was collected in the Deliorman Region in 1991. It has been published previously as Plate 17 in Stoebe and Mizrahi. The previous owners visualized this kilim as a flowing river of lava.

We know of no other Manastir kilims with this design.

Details of TP15.

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Tp16

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TP16  is a Romanian kilim from the Oltenia region of the former Principality of Wallachia (SW Romania).

The piece is very finely woven and crammed with people, birds and other animals, flowers, and folk motifs. It is truly the work of a master weaver, as the kilim is the size of a dish towel.

We have other Oltenian kilims in our collection with these same motifs and figures, but those pieces  are about 2 M X 2 M in size. We believe this example is 19th Century and could have been used as a small table cover or a sampler-like wall hanging.

And although it has suffered somewhat from fading and wear, it remains a weaving tour-de-force (as shown in the detail images). This small beauty teems with life and joy. We have not seen another like it.

Oltenia is just north of the Danube from northern and western Bulgaria and there are obvious borrowings of West Bulgarian (Sarkoy) weaving motifs and formats. The weavers on both sides of this border are Christian (either Orthodox or R0man Catholic).

Details of TP16.

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TP17

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The pieces which follow are definitely not Balkan. In fact they are respectively Syrian and Anatolian. But they demonstrate how collector’s interests can shift or expand into subjects somewhat far afield from the original.

The next three pieces are examples of Syrian weaving workshop production from the late 19th or early 20th Centuries. Our interest in Syrian textiles was initiated during a 2010 tour of Syria led by Stefano Ionesco.

On that tour my classical archaeologist wife and I became familiar with the Arabic, Crusader, Roman, Ottoman, and Hittite culture and history of this part of the Levant. I was able to indulge my long standing interest in learning how the Ottoman and Arab cultures interacted. Of course, I started my exploration in the textile domain.

Replacing the wool weaving culture of the Balkans and Anatolia with with the silk, cotton, and metallic thread culture of the Arab Levant. TP17 is an example of a so-called Aleppo silk, cotton and metallic thread weaving which originally comprised two portieres or draperies; which were repurposed as a bed/table cover or wall hanging.

Although called Aleppo, these silk weavings were likely woven in Hama or Homs Syria from silk threads produced in Lebanon by Armenians.  The market has always called these pieces Aleppo as they came to it in that great ancient city. But they were produced elsewhere. Alas Aleppo has now been largely destroyed in the Syrian civil war.

TP17 has a metallic gold colored ground with inwoven floral or vegetal motifs typical of the Levant. The piece has a faint outline of a prayer arch, so the original intended use may have been as a devotional wall handing.

We believe this weaving probably dates 1880-1920.

Details on TP17.

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TP18

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TP18 is another so-called Aleppo weaving with metallic gold silk and cotton thread.

The motifs in this example are stylized vegetal designs which resemble ears of wheat. Greens and reds predominate in the figures.

The size and shape of this weaving suggests it originally was intended for use as an inlaid table cover.

We suggest this piece dates from the first quarter of the 20th century.

The glittering metallic thread of TP17 and TP18 appeal to he Arab aesthetic of the Levant, but would also have attractive to the European market during period when Eastern and Orientalist designs were in fashion.

 

Details of TP18.

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TP19

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TP19 is a silk and cotton short-sleeve robe (aba) with a kufic inscription reading ‘Masallah’ . The exact meaning of MASHALLAH is “what ALLAH wanted has happened”; and it  is used to indicate something good has happened (past tense).

The robe has blue and reddish gold vertical stripes. Our collection includes only a few pieces of costume, mostly Bulgarian and Macedonian embroideries. However we are very fond of these silk and cotton textiles usually attributed to Aleppo, likely woven in Hama and Homs, and tailored in Damascus, Aleppo, or Gaziantep. 

This piece with its subdued colors and kufic inscription is very attractive and representative of Syrian folk costume.

Details of TP19.

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TP20

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TP20 is further demonstration of how collecting interests and taste evolve over time.

We became interested in Central and Western Anatolia kilims  after collecting Balkan kilims for several years. The weaving aesthetic, the colors,  and the motifs drew us to these textiles because of their obvious connections to Balkan kilims, Manastir kilims in particular. Clearly, the ethnically Turkish residents of the Balkans retained their social and cultural links to Anatolia for over 500 years.

TP20 is a Central Anatolian kilim half with color and design links to Balkan weavings. The kilim dates from the 2nd half of the 1oth Century. It has hacilars, amulets, and double headed arrow motifs all used extensively in Manastir kilims and in kilims from Kosovo, Albania, and Bosnia.

These pieces all are the products of domestic production, not workshop weaving for the market. The animating force behind their design in that of the weaver herself, focused on her particular outlook and needs.

The rich colors used in Anatolia informed the dyeing of Balkan textiles, but there is not complete continuity. Many Balkan weavings incorporate locally available natural dyes instead of those used in Anatolia-particularly the use of yellow from Dyers Weld, the creation of unique green shades from Balkan plants, the use of indigo from woad, and more limited use of madder.

Details of TP20.

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TP21

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Comments on TP21: Even individual collectors can make contributions to our understanding of historical weaving cultures.

Since we began collecting and researching Balkan textiles in 2007, we have wondered about the lack of horse trappings from the region. In the 10 years we have devoted to this genre of weavings we visited dozens of ethnographic museums and ethnography collections in national museums in Bulgaria, Serbia, and Romania. Museum curators informed us the horse trappings such as the ubiquitous khorjin (double saddlebag) were not woven in these areas.

We did acquire ‘shepherd’s bags’, or shoulder bags, in both Bulgaria and Serbia, but these were produced using fabric woven on a draw loom. Kilim woven bags in any format were unknown in collections or literature.

That is until 2015, when one of our Bulgarian contacts, traveling companion, and translator, gifted us TP21 which she had found in her Mother’s home in south eastern Bulgaria.

TP21 is a double saddle bag, of standard dimensions, woven entirely of natural color goat hair. This bag had belonged to her Grandfather who lived in a village of mixed ethnicity. Goat hair production and weaving was practiced on a commercial scale in southern Bulgaria until the 1960’s.

TP21 is now the first documented example of a woven saddlebag in the region.  The construction is natural white and brown goat hair woven in a twill-like format. The bag dates to the first quarter of the 20th Century.

Recent literature research  has also revealed the evidence of the weaving of saddle covers in several areas in southwestern and southern Bulgaria. Such covers were produced for ceremonial purposes or  for bridal ceremonies.  Our most sincere thanks to Ms. Zhecka Dimitrova for enabling us to expand our understanding of Bulgarian weaving culture. Her assistance is invaluable.

Details of TP21.

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TP22

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TP22 is a late example of Albanian kilim weaving from either Kosovo or Albania proper.

This small kilim with its bright synthetic colors and Anatolian derived design shows vernacular weaving from the western Balkans in the second half of the 2oth Century. Synthetic dyes have replaced natural ones throughout the Balkans today, and we still await a natural dye revival such as occurred in Turkey.

As with many of our later examples of Balkan weaving. this piece was found in a flea market in Vienna. Most tourist kilim production in Bulgaria, Serbia, Bosnia, and Romania is of this quality, even though better quality weaving is available.

Details of TP22.

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TP23

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TP23 is Pirot prayer kilim from the end of the Decorative Period (probably around 1900). May well include a mix of natural and synthetic dyes. 

The weaving is typically fine, but it is not as skillfully woven as earlier examples. The weaving of the outer border is a bit stiff and crowded. The central field is stepped niche format with a tree-of-life with floral motifs.

The most interesting element of this kilim are the two confronting fish in the bottom panel. This is a rare, but not unknown decorative element in Pirot kilims. The first Balkan kilim we purchased at the Dealer’s Fair at the 2007 ICOC in Istanbul, had such a pair of fish. The bottom panel had the same confronting fish and elaborated diamond shape as this later example. Perhaps the fish are placed on the kilim to symbolize a wish for plenty?

The green in the field is a typical Balkan feature.

Details of TP23.

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The last piece of the day was this one.

TP24

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Comments on TP24: Collectors always have a favorite piece or type of piece.

We are especially fond of open field kilims from western and north western Anatolia, like this Balikesir example. We don’t know if  TP24 was produced by Yuncu, Karakecili, or some other tribal group in the area between Balikesir and Bergama. But we find it very appealing.

The rich red, spacious open field with a scatter of cicim ‘s’ or double hook shapes and the brocaded stripes ay either end draws us in with a powerful visual impact. This utilitarian kilim was likely used around the weavers house or tent, as a utilitarian cover or for wrapping goods for storage. The intense red of the central field  and the narrow blue stripes provide the necessary visual contrast.

The visual effect of this West Anatolian weaving probably explains why we are drawn so powerfully to the equivalent visual aspect of the yellow, red, and blue open fields of Manastir and other Balkan weavings.

We hope you enjoyed our brief survey of Balkan and other kilims from the Ottoman domain.

Tim and Penny Hays

Details of TP24.

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Penny and Tim took questions and brought their session to a close.

 

 

 

Thanks to Tim and Penny for preparing this interesting and authoritative program and for their considerable help in fashioning this virtual version of it.

Thanks also to Aija Blitte and Michael Kaplan who took and provided some of the photos here.

We do not thank, frequently enough, volunteers who assist in these programs.  For this one there were three.

Marthaa Strikland (above left) and Margaret Hardy (above right).  Paul Durn (below).

I hope you have enjoyed this virtual version of a sound program on textiles from an area a rather neglected until recently.

R. John Howe

 

 

Remembering Ralph Yohe

Posted in Uncategorized on May 16, 2017 by rjohn

 

 

(If you click on most images in this post, you will get a larger version.)

Ralph Sandlin Yohe, was an important U.S. collector of oriental rugs and textiles during the approximate period from 1945 to his death in 1994.  He is one of those who is gradually disappearing from historical view and this program is an effort both to make his work visible and to lay down a documenting marker about it.

 In 1965, Yohe was an early member of the International Hajji Baba Society, in Washington, D.C.  He was also a member of the NYC Hajji Baba Society, co-founder of the New York Rug Society (1970), and of the Moroccan Rug and Textile Society (1991).  In 1989, he received the Joseph V. McMullan Award for Scholarship and Stewardship in Islamic textiles.  In 1994, he was honored as a Life Member by the Chicago Rug Society.  He was a long-time Trustee of the Textile Museum.  At the time of his death, he was President of the Near Eastern Art Research Center and a Trustee Emeritus of the Textile Museum.

Yohe was born in 1920 and reared on a family farm, near Mount Erie, Illinois. 

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He graduated from the University of Illinois, School of Agriculture, in 1943.  He then served three years as a naval officer in the Mediterranean.

Yohe established a career reporting on agriculture.  In 1946, he became the executive secretary of the Illinois Poultry Improvement Association.  In 1948, he joined the staff of the Prairie Farmer, as science editor.  For a number of years he was Editor of the Wisconsin Agriculturalist.

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Yohe took jobs, but may not have needed one much.  He had independent means that enabled him to work, as he seems, often to have done, as a free-lance reporter, traveling internationally, and writing, largely, as he pleased.

bookwhatusfarmerscanlearnIn 1953, Y0he published a book, “What Our Farmers Can Learn from Other Lands.”  The dust jacket says that “in 1949-50 he traveled through 15 European and Middle Eastern countries.  He returned to Europe for five months, in 1952, a trip that took him to the Arctic Circle.  Over a period of three years, Yohe traveled more than 40,000 miles abroad gathering material.

Yohe had a crisp, clear, journalist style, easy to read, and he wrote in areas beyond agriculture. 

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I found a geography-sociology-history textbook ,“Exploring Regions of the Eastern Hemisphere,” that he wrote, seemingly, as the lead author, with three associates, sometime after 1965.  It treats the countries of the eastern hemisphere, broadly defined.  Great Britain, France, Germany and some countries of Eastern Europe, are included. 

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Interestingly, there are sections of this book that treat northern Africa, so Yohe had some familiarity, then, with Morocco.  As many readers will know, Yohe, Pickering and Pickering’s daughter, Brooke, subsequently, did seminal work on Moroccan rugs and textiles that resulted in two important books.

Pickering reports that Yohe’s interest in oriental rugs began in 1948.  One day, Yohe noticed a Persian rug, over the bar, at the famous Shepeard’s Hotel in Cairo.

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(The Persian rug may have been “over the bar,” in 1948, but apparently, nowadays, one is on the floor.)

Jerry Franke,

an important figure, himself, in the Chicago area club, says that Yohe’s initial interests were in more “classic” rugs.

Yohe must have been collecting seriously in the 50s and the 60s because he is one of ten businessmen-collectors featured in a Fortune magazine article, May, 1968. 

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Mike Tschebull, looking at this picture, could identify many of the rugs in it and even the plaques on the wall at the back left.  Mike sees only one “city” rug in this array: a solitary Saruk, so Yohe must have before 1968 broadened his collecting interests well beyond “city” rugs in the direction of more “tribal” varieties

That same year he and McCoy Jones of Washington, D.C ,curated an exhibition of Turkish Rugs at The Textile Museum here. 

They also published a catalog for this exhibition under Textile Museum aegis. 

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This catalog, mostly in black and white images featured material from the TM collection, but also that from a number of noted collectors.  Yohe owned two of the rugs in this exhibition and one of them (on the right above) was one of only three selected for treatment with a color image.

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In 1969, Russell Pickering and Anthony Landreau curated and wrote the catalog for the ground-breaking exhibition “From the Bosporus to Samarkand,” the first effort to treat flat-woven textiles seriously. 

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Four of Yohe’s pieces were selected for this traveling exhibition, none of them in color, but here, above, is one with good graphics.

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And here is another, an Anatolian kilim with some complexity.  Woven in two pieces.

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In 1971, Yohe and McCoy Jones were joined by Jeff Boucher to curate another Washington Hajji, Christmas exhibition, at the TM, this time on “Persian Tribal Rugs.”  A catalog was published entirely in black and white.

Yohe contributed eight pieces to this exhibition.

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Here, on the left is an Afshar rug with a “tulip” design that Yohe contributed.  The image on the right is of a very similar piece in color that lets you see its richness.

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In 1971, Mike Tschebull published his still admired and useful catalog, “Kazak.”  Mike says that Yohe was one of a group of collectors who “knew much more than I did.”(Joe McMullan wrote the Introduction for “Kazak”)  

Tschebull says that Yohe was very helpful as Mike prepared this first ever study, strictly focused on Kazak rugs. He was impressed with Yohe’s interest in and knowledge of textile structures and with the “anthropological” perspective he took on textiles. He was interested not just in the weavings, but in who the weavers were and how they lived. 

Yohe contributed two rugs to “Kazak.”

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This is one of them.  Tschebull says that it is precisely drawn, has wonderful color and is entirely unworn.

Beginning in 1973, Yohe joined Anthony Landreau, a curator at the TM (who would eventually be acting TM Director) and Landreau’s family to conduct field research in Turkey.

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They were studying a particular group of Yoruks in coastal, south central Turkey.

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The group of Yoruks they were studying lived in coastal areas during the winter and migrated north into the mountains during their summer yaylas.

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This Landreau-Yohe field work continued for a number of years, with several more trips, culminating in their curating the traveling TM exhibition “Flowers of the Yayla.”

They also wrote the catalog for this exhibition.

I’d like to delay saying more about their effort, until we get to 1984 in the chronology, but it is important to note here that both Yohe and Landreau were among the last collectors and TM curators who did actual field research.  I mean that they did not just travel to weaving areas, and observe weavers, but that they conducted systematic, structured, field research during their stays.

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Russell Pickering reports that in 1976, he and Yohe took the first of many collecting trips to Morocco.   Russell’s daughter, Brooke, joined them in a number of subsequent trips.  These trips would, eventually, produce two or three collections and two important books.

I want to defer treatment of these books on Moroccan weaving until we get to the dates on which they were published.  The first, “From the Far West,” came out in 1980.

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In 1977, Pickering published his remembrance of Joe McMullan, entitled “Don’t Forget to Smell the Flowers Along the Way.”  This volume contained a series of “portraits” of McMullan by people who knew him.  Yohe wrote a wonderful Introduction, so good I want to include it here.

(If you click on each of the two images below you will get an image with legible size type.)

Here is the first page.

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And here is the second.

slide23There’s a story that goes with this Introduction. 

In 1976, Yohe and Pickering stayed in the MaMounia Hotel in Marrakesh.  This was during their first trip to Morocco – the only time Brooke was not able to come with them – as she did for the next 12 years.

Russell says: “On the second evening, we met a charming and attractive lady from Paris in the cocktail lounge and invited her for drinks in our suite.”  He says this suite was quite something, with a balcony overlooking the hotel’s larger garden, and a view, beyond, onto the High Atlas Mountains.

En route to the suite, Russell says he is thinking “How do I get rid of Yohe so I can take the lady on a moon-lit carriage ride around Marrakesh?” Russell was making the drinks and admits he may have “loaded” Yohe’s.  

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After dinner, Yohe decided that he would write his introduction for their book on Joe McMullan’s life (Russell said that he’d been pressing Yohe to do this).  So Yohe headed for the garden and Russell and the lady had the carriage ride (Russell says that this carriage ride is a must for anyone who goes to Marrakesh.)

After the carriage ride and back in the lobby, the lady turned and said in her attractive French accent, “Roosell, I sinck you are very attractive, but my boyfriend arrives from Paris tomorrow morning and I do not think he would like to see you around.  Good night!” and she disappeared into the elevator.  So much for Romeo Russell.

Upon his return to the suite, Russell found Yohe asleep on the couch with the draft of the Introduction: “The Second Day of Ramadan.”  As you have seen, it begins “At my back a fountain splashes in a small pool, edged with bright spangles of mosaic tile…”  It goes on in that vein for a page and a half.  Russell says often that he thinks it is the best piece of writing he has ever seen in a rug and textile book.

So while “Romeo Russell” struck out, the “Flowers” Editor in Chief, Russell, struck gold.

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In 1980 (a year full of important rug books), the first 20th century book on Moroccan weaving, “From the Far West: Carpets and Textiles of Morocco,” was published. 

It was edited by Patricia Fiske, a curator at the TM, and by Pickering and Yohe.  There were, also, important contributions by a number of other students of Moroccan weaving.

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Pickering wrote the introduction, saying in part that “this book is the most definitive work on Moroccan carpets in over half a century.”  He also said that it was the result of “interest, travel and study by representatives of The Textile Museum over the last ten years.”

Yohe wrote a 10-page contribution, entitled “Al Maghrib Al Aqsa: Islam’s Far West. 

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He said, in part, that Morocco is “further west than Spain or Portugal, or even Ireland.”  His writing is concise and accessible, even elegant, and a bit poetic, in places.  It is another instance in which he has demonstrated that he can write.

A number of Yohe’s pieces are included in this volume in color.  Here are three.

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On the left is an older High Atlas pile rug, Ouaouzguite.

On the right is its back.  The structure of this rug is such that the bright colors used for the wefts show only on the back.

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Above is an Oulad Bou Sbba pile carpet.  A 4-1-4 plus 2 array of diamond devices with small human figures.slide30

A third carpet is wonderfully abstract.  Its design resembles those of some paintings, such as the work of Mondrian (we’ll see this rug again).

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In 1980, Yohe became an active breeder and promoter of the Turkish Akbash dogs, a large white breed that lives with and protects livestock (not a herding breed).  These dogs are familiar with their owners, but wary of, and alarming to strangers. 

Jerry Franke tells of visiting Yohe at his “farm” with some other rug collectors.  Yohe told them, “When you arrive, stay in the car.  I’ll come get you.”  Yohe had a number of these dogs and continued to work with them until his death in 1994.   

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Now let’s return to the 1983 exhibition and catalog, the result of Landreau’s and Yohe’s field work with Yoruks, in the south central Turkish coast and the mountains immediately to the north.

There are a number of pieces in this catalog, presented in color, but there is no ownership indicated for any of them.  They seem to be older Yoruk material. 

Here are two of them.

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Strong graphics.

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Yohe, of course, contributed a number of pieces to this catalog.  They are all in black and white.

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The Landeau-Yohe field work also illustrates how difficult it is to do this, unless one is a near member of the group being studied.  “Outsider” field researcher, especially males without the language of the studied group, are, unavoidably, and seriously, dependent on others to facilitate their research. 

Landeau and Yohe openly state that a primary facilitator of their research was an Anatolian dealer.  They say in their beginning Acknowledgements that this dealer “…traveled with us, along many dusty roads and frequently treacherous miles, through the the “yayla,” and on roads clinging to the sides of the mountains. He introduced us to the people in the Yoruk villages and camps; he acted as friend, guide, adviser and activator.” 

Now every field researcher needs such a facilitating resource, but there are signs that those on whom Landreau and Yohe were dependent had objectives distinctive from those at which they aimed in their field work. 

Some familiar with Turkey and this research effort say that the folks helping Landreau and Yohe took them to ostensible “Yoruk” villages in which there was no longer active weaving, and may have sometimes “seeded” them with possible “Yoruk” weavings to be bought (Landreau and Yohe acknowledge that some of the “yayla” locations they visited had no looms set up).

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On the other hand, Landreau and Yohe show several women, held to be Yoruks, spinning and weaving.  Here is one example.  This woman is said to be weaving at Narhkuyu on the Mediterranian coast, using a vertical frame loom (as we have said, some Yoruks lived on the coast part of the year, but migrated to the cooler mountains during the summer).

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Above is another piece woven in the area that Landreau and Yohe visited.  Good color. (From their article on their Yoruk field work in Hali, Vol.3, Issue 3, p 184)

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Now about Landreau and Yohe being dependent on their Yoruk hosts, here is a seemingly, telling example.  The catalog caption for this piece says that it’s a Yoruk weaving from the Kozan-Digne area.  Digne is in eastern Anatolia due east of Konya.

Now one needs to remember how relatively little was known about textiles, even in the early 1980s, but this piece would now be firmly attributed to the Fars area of Iran.  It is not “Yoruk.”  It is not even Anatolian.  It is the kind of thing that indicates how dependent field researchers are on their cultural facilitators.

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There is also some of Yohe’s “Yoruk’ material visible in Walter Denny’s Hali review (32, 49-51) of a 1986 exhibition curated by Jerry Franke and displayed at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee gallery.

Denny described the piece, above, as a Yoruk “keyhole” rug from east central Anatolia.  He said that it has some age.

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Denny described this Yoruk rug as one with a “sensationally sober, multiple-gul field from the Malatya area.”  He praised its colors and said that, despite its late age, it was “one of the most evocative and beautiful pieces on exhibition.”

We need to back up a little to see something else that Yohe was participating in in 1983.

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The Mary Block Gallery at Northwestern University, in Evanston, Illinois, in conjunction with the Chicago Rug Society, staged an exhibition entitled “Discoveries from Kurdish Looms.”  A catalog was published, edited by Robert D. Biggs.  Yohe contributed seven pieces to this exhibition.  Here are two of them.

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First, is this interesting Kordi bag shown in a black and white photo.

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Second, is this Kurdish kilim woven in the Malatya area of eastern Turkey.

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In 1987, Jerry Franke curated an exhibition in Chicago, at the Nahigian Bros. Gallery, and two of Yohe’s rugs appeared in it.

The first of these (above) is a Yuncu kilim from western Turkey.

 

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The second of these is a crisply drawn, spacious, niche-design kilim from the Sivrihisar area of Turkey.  Note the pale green ground.

We talked to a number of people who knew Yohe.  (Some of what we report below, from these conversations, will echo a bit what we’ve said above.)

Mike Tschebull was one of these.  Here are the questions we asked and the answers he gave. 

When did you first meet Yohe?

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Through Russ, probably in 1969, when we lived on the Upper West Side in Manhattan. We had a blowout rug collectors’ party around then with Joe McMullan and Ralph included. A lot of gin was drunk (it doesn’t stain rugs when spilled). At that formative event, I got a polite bit of feedback that what I thought was good in the rug world really wasn’t.

What was Yohe collecting then?

Ralph was on an eclectic collector. He had great Remington bronzes, and all sorts of other applied art.

Howe: Let me stop here a moment at the beginning of my interview with Mike to show you something of Yohe’s eclectism.  Mike has already said that there were Remington bronzes, but there was much more. 

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Joe Fell, another close friend of Yohe’s, pointed me to the catalog for an exhibition put on by the The Art Institute of Chicago, but that drew on items from a number of collectors, including Yohe.  This exhibition included textiles, paintings, ceramics and metalwork.

Yohe had 20 pieces in this exhibition.  Some textiles from Yohe’s collection were included.

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But a number of the metalwork items were also his.

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The piece on the left, above was the back cover of the catalog. 

On this page, alone, 14 of the metal objects included in this exhibit were Ralph’s.

Back to my interview with Mike Tschebull.  (This is Mike talking, again.)

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Yohe had at least two world class Caucasian rugs and lots of early Turkish pile pieces, bags and kilims from all over.

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Yohe had been in Iran before “Bosporus” exhibition and catalog (1969) was put together.

He had a set of attributions for a class of Fars nomad bags, from the Bassiris in Shiraz, that may still be the be the most accurate available, because it was gotten way before these things were popular and people formed unfounded opinions. The type of bag in question is #91a in Bosporus (see above).  Yohe owned this piece. 

I still use his attribution indicators for these “complementary weft” (Marla Mallett’s recommended term) bags, even though names coming out of Iran for these have changed.

 What kind of person was Yohe?

He was a valuable look-over-the shoulder editor for the Kazak catalogue. Lent several pieces,
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including a drop-dead gorgeous, large rug with Memling gulls. He seemed diffident to me, but there was an age and experience gap between us. He helped me a lot.

 Yohe loved gin. It made him make sniffing sounds.

 What is your evaluation of Ralph’s collection?

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We had a collectors’ weekend in Racine in 1972 and we got to see everything in his apartment. Pretty, pretty good.

What are some other things you can remember about Yohe, about which I should ask you?

Early on, he put up a multimedia presentation entitled “People of the Horse.”  He had video, stills, and a tape recording: horses running – hoof beats, snorts, etc. – all in coordination.  It was a fabulous, way ahead of its time, experience.

Howe: a number of people remember this program, but no one seems to have the materials.

Jerry Franke,

shared a number of images of pieces that Yohe owned.

The next few slides feature shots that were taken to select pieces for an exhibition and are often not full “all edges” photos.  But they give a further sense of what Yohe collected.

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Howe:   I have been asking what the textile in the center above is, but have not yet found anyone who can tell me.  I’d be curious to know.

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I think it not inaccurate to suggest that the acme of Yohe’s career as a collector and student of oriental rugs is marked by his work with Russell Pickering on Moroccan weaving. 

The publication of “The Far West…” volume was an important step into this world, but its culmination is unavoidably, the publication, with Brooke and Russell Pickering, of “Moroccan Carpets”

Here, in turn, are Brooke’s, and then, Russell’s remembrances of Yohe, and of their time with him.

Brooke’s remembrances:

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I knew Ralph from early childhood, and from those years remember him as one of the many beloved rug-world characters who came through our apartment.

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I really got to know him, though, as a teenager and later in my twenties on our trips to Morocco.

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The typical routine after a day of pouring over rugs in the medina, was for Dad and Ralph to settle into the hotel room’s balcony at drinks time with a bottle of scotch and some olives and nuts, with their latest purchase draped on the nearest chair or laid out on the floor of the room.  

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As the daylight downshifted in that special Marrakesh way, they’d review the events of the afternoon while admiring the latest great buy.  

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This object would, of course, always grow more fabulous and beautiful as the evening went on.

Ralph had such a spirit of camaraderie – he made these evenings a celebration of our collective eye and of the fact we hadn’t let a “great” one get away.  

What strikes me looking back on those times is not just his joy, but also the fact that, even when I was just a teenager, and still called him “Uncle Ralph”, he always wanted to hear my opinion and treated me as a full, equal member of the crew.   He really seemed to enjoy the idea of our team of three.

Traveling with Ralph was much more than an education in rugs.  

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His knowledge of agriculture and rural life was deep, and for me, born and raised in the city, it was hugely helpful to hear Ralph explain what we were seeing as we drove through the Atlas Mountains.  

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What were they growing/doing/selling over there in the field or by the side of the road?

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Ralph almost always knew the answer.  And because of this, he was able to connect the art with the people who made it and with the way they actually lived. We gained so much from his perspective.  He often related things back to his travels in Turkey.  And so we learned about Turkish rugs and Turkish people too.

He always wore a no-nonsense button down the front, usually short sleeved shirt (white or blue) – very mainstream 70’s – with at least two big cameras around his neck. 

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We frequently had to stop the car, at a moment’s notice, usually at a perilous curve in the road, on the side of a cliff, so that he could take pictures.

I don’t know how much attention my father and I were paying to these photography sessions – we were probably thinking about lunch or dealing with the army of little kids that would inevitably come running towards Ralph (he was, interestingly, kind of a little kid magnet).  

In the early nineties, when I started giving talks on Moroccan textiles, in typical Ralph style, he gave me an enormous box of his slides of trips to Morocco.  

Well, with that I started paying attention!

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There were photos of animals on hillsides, 

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shepherds in the fields,

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women at looms,

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donkeys, 

slide81children,

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craftmen,

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misty mountainsides,

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women,

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people selling jugs,

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loads of produce….

Ralph had the eye of a poet, and of a person who appreciates, not just physical beauty, but the soul behind it.

Here are some photos Ralph took during our Moroccan trips that I put in this poetic category.

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This is a tannery in Fes.

And here are four more that I like.

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This is the road to Chichaoua.

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A view of Fes.

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This is a man clipping the pile of a finished rug with scissors.

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It’s funny about this photo, because I can’t see it objectively.  That’s because I was there for it.

 It was very early in the morning (1977) and we were driving in the Atlas Mountains outside of Marrakesh.  We came around a curve in the road and saw this girl and her donkey in silhouette against the clouds. It looked as though she was walking along the edge of heaven.  

When I see this picture I see my full memory of the scene and I have no idea what it looks like to someone who wasn’t there!  

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I used to love hearing Ralph talk about his dogs, which he did often, as he missed them greatly, when he was on the road.  

I remember him becoming teary one night, talking about one of the dogs he trained as service dog for a woman in a wheelchair.  I loved that about him.

 I think along with Ralph’s understated Midwestern straightforwardness, came an open minded and artistic free spirit. In fact, this combination may be what made him a great rug collector.

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He loved the good traditional pieces.

(Plate #75 From the Far West: Carpets and Textiles of Morocco, TM).

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But he was also charmed by the playfulness of animal motifs (Plate #82). 

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And then there is plate #87.  This one just about says it all.

Russell:

When I bought my first oriental rugs (like many collectors) I was just trying to decorate my NYC apartment.

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But I happened onto a group of folks, who, it turned out, were helping U.S. rug collecting and scholarship get to its initial “feet.” 

We often didn’t quite know what we were doing, but some of it turned to be pretty important, and we had fun – as Mike has pointed out, it was good that we were usually drinking gin, because it didn’t stain the rugs.

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There were some members of this group that were particularly important to me.

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I’ve, long ago, now made my tribute to Joe McMullan, in my remembrance “Don’t Forget to Smell the Flowers Along the Way.” 

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And with the able help of the then TM Librarian, Lydia Fraser, we’ve, recently, tried to make sure that the contributions of Arthur Jenkins are not forgotten.

slide104Ralph Yohe was another of these people.

He had done a lot of work in the world of collecting, before we first met, and since he was a journalist, he could flat out write.

And, like me, he was particularly interested in new things – textiles that had not been collected or treated much in the literature. 

He contributed importantly to the Textile Museum exhibition and catalog “From the Bosporus to Samarkand, Flat Woven Rugs, that drew attention to flat weaves and made it legitimate to collect them.

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He was, as we have said, one of the few collectors, who (with the then Acting-TM Director, Anthony Landreau, left above) did real field research on Yoruk weaving in Turkey’s Toros mountains. 

And when I happened onto Moroccan rugs and textiles as the result of a chance family vacation there in 1971, Ralph joined me (and subsequently Brooke and me) in a number of trips to Morocco, during which we assembled one of the first serious collections of Moroccan rugs. 

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This work also resulted in an exhibition and two books: “From the Far West” and “Moroccan Carpets.”

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I first met Ralph in 1967 at a New York Hajji meeting.  We almost immediately became fast friends, which continued until his death in 1994.

As I said, one of the reasons that we began to work together is that we were both interested in new things:  textiles that hadn’t been treated much.

Secondly, he was one of the practitioners of a kind of collecting creed that I’ve tried to recommend to other collectors. 

I have argued that it’s not sufficient to assemble an array of interesting, even noteworthy textiles.  One should also examine them closely, record your findings, compare them with those in the literature, and even write about your collection, if only for yourself.  This credo underpins the McMullan Award. 

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I see it as a triangle, moving counter-clockwise from the lower left.  First Search and Seizure.  Then across to Study and Analysis, before moving to the acme of Stewardship.

As Brooke has said, Ralph was a real and generous human being.  He had real skills and ability.

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He traveled widely and had seen a lot of the world and its cultures.  He was curious and open to new things.  And he had a record of accomplishment. 

But he was also truly interested in people.  He liked working in a team.  As Brooke testifies, even when she was young, he treated her and her opinions seriously.  You can see why he was a “kid magnet.” 

He genuinely cared about his fellow creatures.  Not just his big, white dogs, but also the lady in the wheel chair that he was training one of them to help. 

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And he was fun, especially, when the gin made him make sniffing sounds.

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Yohe was one of the best people I have known and I’m still daily grateful for our experiences together and our great friendship.

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In 1994, the year in which Yohe died, we published the “Moroccan Carpets” book, based on material Yohe and Brooke and I had collected over nearly 20 years.

It is a fitting epitaph.

John Howe: 

Brooke Pickering wrote me, the afternoon before I was to give this presentation at the Textile Museum, saying that her dad had passed away early that morning. 

Russell was the driving force behind this remembrance of Yohe. 

I gave it to him repeatedly, in practice, and know that he was pleased with the result.

His last phone message (probably the day before Russell died) said that he was not well and apologized for not being able to be there.

Paul Kreiss: Using Books to Learn About Rugs and Other Textiles

Posted in Uncategorized on March 21, 2017 by rjohn

On March 11, 2017, Paul Kreiss gave a Rug and Textile Appreciation Morning program, here at The Textile Museum, in Washington, D.C. on Using Books to Learn About Rugs and Other Textiles.

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Tom Goehner, the Textile Museum’s Curator of Education introduced Paul.

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Paul is one of the few book dealers in the U.S. who specializes in rug and textile books.  He lives in Baltimore, Md. His firm is The Rug Book Shop. He has a web site:

 http://www.rugbookshop.com/

but also sends out periodic listings to a mailing list.  He has been operating his business for over 40 years.  He knows something about rug and other textile books.

Paul is trained as a biologist, and taught biology at the college level for a number of years, so he has an appreciation for information about rugs and other textiles that is grounded in scientific evidence.

Paul began by saying that there are a number of different ways to learn about rugs. 

You can look at some, with them in hand. 

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Looking at a rug, in hand, you will be able to see the colors and designs accurately, be able to feel the wool, and tell whether the handle is firm and thick or thin and floppy. 

But looking at a rug won’t tell its you age, its site of manufacture, the meanings of its motifs, what its quality is, or how much to pay for it.  For these you need to consult additional sources.  Dealers are one such.

  • Dealers will give you prices and may be willing to talk to you about what they think they know about rugs.  If, a given dealer knows anything, and if he/she is analytic enough to tell you how they know what they say they know, they may be able to answer questions like:  
  • Why is this rug Persian? 
  • Why is this floral-designed Persian a Nain and not an Isfahan, Sarouk, Qom, Kashan, Kerman or Tabriz?
  • How can you tell that this rug was woven in the early 19th century?
  • Why do the 5 flowers in the corner ward off evil?
  • Why is this a “princess Bokhara?”  Another dealer told me that it’s a Tekke ensi.

Rug and textile collectors are another source of such information.

A further way to learn about rugs and textiles is to consult books, and other textile literature, about them. 

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Although the information about rugs in books has its own problems of accuracy, one advantage of learning about rugs from books is that you can, very efficiently, see a great deal of information about a lot of them.

And that’s what we’re going to talk about today: using books and related literature to learn about rugs and other textiles.

A first question might be: “How many books are there on Oriental Rugs and other textiles?

The first book, solely on rugs, was published in 1877 by Julius Lessing.

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There was a rapid translation in 1879.

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Since then a great many rug and textile books have been published.  Paul said that he estimates that the current total is about 3,000.

The components of this estimate are as follows.

In 1994 George O’Bannon published an extensive Bibliography.

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He listed about 2100 items.  Paul said that about 400 have been published since and that perhaps an additional 500 are missing.

In addition, he said there have been about 1500 auction catalogs, about 400 issues of magazines on rugs and about 200 articles in journals.

So that’s the estimated universe of rug and textile books and related publications.

The balance of Paul’s talk was taken up with discussion of particular books or groups of books.

He said that to return to the question of why consult books to learn about rugs, an early book by Mumford is relevant.

Mumford had some ideas about why it’s advantageous to consult rug books:

1. to consider the deep and enjoyable meaning of Oriental floor coverings

2. to throw light upon the life and work of the weavers

3. to place the reader in possession of such information regarding the rugs, both genuine and spurious, now  generally offered for sale, as shall deliver him from the mercy of the decorator, the salesman and the auctioneer

4. to emphasize the superiority of the old vegetable dyes

5. to give an idea of what constitutes the value of, of the comparative worth of the various Oriental weavings, and the means of distinguishing them.

Mumford’s ORIENTAL RUGS.   1900, 1st edition, 284 p., 32 illus., 16 in color, 28.5 x 20 cm, is one of the standard early works on Oriental rugs. 

The author was associated with Kent Costikyan, one of New York’s major Oriental carpet importers and dealers.  So he knew much more about rugs than  many other authors of      that period.  So this book is still useful today.  

The plates are useful for illustrating rugs available at the turn of the century and they have to be 19th century or earlier.  Mumford’s description of modern rugs (i.e. circa 1900) is  useful, since these rugs are today’s antiques.

Attributions are not always accurate.  He started the erroneous notion of “Kazak” being related with Cossacks.   He uses the term “Bokhara,” and says that they were woven by Tekke weavers, but says that he’s using it only because he doesn’t want to add new terms.

There are a number of editions.  The 1900 edition is the 1st.  But there are also editions in 1902, 1905, 1915, 1923, 1925, 1929, 1937 and 1981.  This book contains an Index, and two folding maps.

Paul said that his own list of the advantages of consulting rug literature is different from Mumford’s.

1. to get an idea of prices for rugs

2. to see what variety of rugs is available

3. to see rugs which are not commercially available, e.g.  classic rugs in museums

4. to explore a weaving area: Turkey, the Caucasus, Iran, Turkestan, East Turkestan, Tibet, China, Belouch

5. to explore a specific area, as for example,  Turkish kilims, Persian pictorial rugs, short pile Caucasian rugs.

Paul added:

To get an idea of prices for rug (very few books give prices) use auction catalogues, rug dealer’s stocks, and the internet.

These sources will also let you:

see what variety of rugs is available, lots of color pictures from a variety of areas

(for a beginning collector) see 19th & early 20th century rugs, so you can determine whether you want Persian Heriz carpets or Anatolian “prayer” rugs

see plates of rugs that are commercially available 

see rugs from all over, something it is hard to do in person 

see the range of designs for a given area.

For books in general, it is desirable to have an author: 

who grew up in given areas, or who has traveled to them, 

who speaks the languages, 

has good taste,

knows about rugs themselves, 

has knowledge of the related literature, 

is able to evaluate what he or she has heard with a fair amount of skepticism

are able to explain the reasoning behind his or her statements  

is able to illustrate the rugs, in color

Paul divided the balance of his talk into three groups of books.

  • More general introductory books
  • Books about rugs that are not usually commercially available (e.g. rugs in museums)
  • To explore a particular weaving area: Turkey, the Caucasus, Iran, Baluch, Turkestan, East Turkestan, Tibet, China

General Introductory Books

He started with a listing of general introductory books. (Note: Paul will often refer to books not treated here in his comparisons.)

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Eiland, M.L.  STARTING TO COLLECT ANTIQUE ORIENTAL RUGS.  2003, 192 p., 178 illus., 170 in color, 24 x 19.5 cm.  A book for the beginning collector, with sections on where to buy, what to look for, care and restoration, materials and techniques, dyes and designs, and then coverage of the major rug producing areas: Iran, Turkey, the Caucasus, Afghanistan, India and China.  Flatweaves and modern rugs are also covered.  Hardcover.

Next was a book by Bennett.

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Bennett, I. RUGS AND CARPETS OF THE WORLD. 1977, 2000 printing,  351 p., 500 illus., 160 in color, 33 x 24 cm. 

An advanced introduction to rugs, comparable to Eiland’s or Hubel’s in depth & tone, but tending to emphasize older rugs more; also a section on Navajo rugs. Hard. also a 1983 printing.

Howe insertion:  While we are talking about general treatments of oriental rugs, I can’t resist inserting one of my own.

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Here is Paul’s description, from his web site, of this book and its several reprints.

Hawley, Walter A. ORIENTAL RUGS, ANTIQUE AND MODERN. 1970 reprint of the 1913 ed., 320 p., 87 pl., 11 in color, 23.5 x 15.5 cm. A standard early work, which was one of the two best general guides for about a 30 year period; it is now mostly useful for the illustrations of rugs which predate 1913. Hardcover and paperback reprint. Out of print.

Howe:  I have a large format 1937 edition of this book.  The reason I’m inserting it here is that it seems to be one of the earliest systematic treatments of technical aspects of oriental rugs.  I was not sure that these technical descriptions were included in the original 1913 edition, but Paul says they were.  Here, below, is one instance of the technical information Hawley provides:

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Hawley includes a technical summary of this sort at the end of each of most of his treatments of rugs from a given area.  It seems to me a remarkable thing that he may have published such technical information as early as 1913.  The general rug literature seems mostly not to have begun to include it until the 1970s.

I’ll stop messing with Paul’s listing now.

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Thompson, J.  ORIENTAL RUGS. 1988, 2nd ed., 175 p., 159 illus., 148 in color, 29 x 21 cm. Exhibition catalogue, with rugs which vary from commercial to antique.

The text is a nice introduction to rugs, dividing them into tribal, cottage industry, village/city workshop, and court rugs; the rugs are nicely supplemented by pictures of rugs in use and being made; the text serves as a useful general introduction to Oriental rugs.

The second edition is the same as the first except for added sections  with some advice for buyers and sellers, a glossary, and some notes on rug and flatweave construction. Paper.

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Ford, P.R.J.  ORIENTAL CARPET DESIGN. 1981 (1989 reprint), 352 p., 800 illus., 400 in color, 33 x 24.5 cm. An advanced introductory book, based on the idea of identifying rugs by first examining the complexity of their designs and not by the country of origin. It is extremely well illustrated. 

The author was a buyer in Iran for  OCM, the Oriental Carpet Manufacturer company in the UK, and the book relects the knowledge he gained from that.  Chapters are based on designs: border designs, boteh, herati, tree, vase, prayer rug, garden, picture, geometric designs with and without medallions, and floral designs with and without medallions.  

Within each chapter Ford describes production of that type of rug from about 200 different villages, cities, and regions in Turkey, the Caucasus, Iran, Turkestan, China, Tibet and to a lesser extent Pakistan, India, and Romania.  As might be expected from his buying background, there is more detail on rugs from Iran.  The focus is on current production, that is the middle of the 20th century, so there is coverage of manufacturers in Pakistan, India, China, and Romania.  19th century and earlier rugs are illustrated mostly to show the evolution of designs.  

More so than many other books on identification, Ford bases a lot of the identification of the origin of a rug on the construction: color and composition of warps and wefts, feel of the wool, tightness of weaving, colors of the rug and sizes.  Ford also does not hesitate to comment on prices, on the quality of a design, of wool, and of colors. 

This, along with the books by Thompson, Bennett, and Eiland, is one of the best general books on Oriental rugs.  Paperback.  Originally a hardcover.

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Eiland, M. L. Jr, & Eiland, M. III.  ORIENTAL CARPETS. 1998, 4th ed., 368 p., 365 illus., 330 in color, 31 x 24 cm.  The first three editions were excellent for their times; this one follows the footsteps of the earlier ones. 

There is more emphasis on attribution and the text reflects the developments in rug scholarship that have occurred since the previous, 3rd edition. 

As with the early editions, there have been major changes, and this is an essential book for every serious rug collector.  Hardback.

They have traveled in Turkey, the Caucasus, Iran, and Central Asia. They  do know the literature, and comment on things accurate and inaccurate.  They are a psychiatrist and an archaeologist, which means some degree of a science background and thus some awareness of why evidence is important. 

Lots of illustrations and color is good. Much of the time gives evidence for attributions or explains why there is none. 

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MacDonald, B.W. TRIBAL RUGS. TREASURES OF THE BLACK TENT. 1997, 1st edition, 302 p., more than 200 color plates, 28 x 22 cm. 

A survey of tribal rugs: Turkish, Turkmen, Caucasian, and Persian, although the focus is on Persian, reflecting the author’s fieldwork in Iran.  The specific areas are Turkmen, Anatolian Yuruk, Kizil Bash, Caucasian areas, Shahsavan, Afshar, Qashqa’i, Khamseh, Lor, Bakhtiyari, Baluch and Taimuri.   Most of the examples are 19th century and many are localized to specific tribes or sub-tribes.  Colors are good; quality of the rugs are good.  Rugs include carpets, kilims, bag faces, sofrehs, and bags including salt bags.  The comments on the textiles have some focus on symbolism.

For example, a small Shirvan bag with 8 deer or gazelles in the field “here we see the interpretation of life in paradise – the light colored animals representing the males and the dark colored animals representing the females”. 

There are brief sections on the historical background of the areas.  One chapter on modern rugs to show the contrast with older ones, and one chapter gives advice on what to look for and what mistakes to avoid.  Hard.   There is a new edition coming out in 2017.

Rugs Not Commercially Available,

(e.g., Museums)

Paul’s next set of rug books was those not commercially available: for example, museums.  Visiting museums can involve a lot of travel, and arranging to get into storage areas.

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Metropolitan Museum of Art: Dimand, M.S. & Mailey, J. ORIENTAL RUGS IN THE METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART. 1973, 353 p., 318 pl., 19 in color, 28.5 x 21.5 cm.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has one of the best 3 collections of rugs in the US; this is the catalogue of this  collection, with discussion of the major rug producing areas.  The text is informative and puts rugs in the context of other Islamic art.

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Victoria and Albert Museum: Kendrick, A.F. and Tattersall, C.E.C. / Victoria and Albert Museum / Department of Textiles.   GUIDE TO THE COLLECTION OF CARPETS.  1931, Victoria and Albert Museum, 120 p., 52 black and white plates.  Third edition. 

68 pages of text describing the rugs: Persian, Caucasian, Turkish, Central Asian, Chinese, Spanish, North African and European; then plates of them.

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Museum fur angewandte Kunst Völker, A. DIE ORIENTALISCHEN KNÜPFTEPPICHE IM MAK (Oriental Carpets in the Museum for Applied Arts, Vienna).  2001, 436 p., 168 illus., 160 in color, 31 x 22 p. 

A catalogue of 150 rugs from this major museum, ranging from Mamluk rugs (5 of them!) through 16th century Persian and Turkish to 19th century Turkmen and Moroccan.  There is a 30 page introduction on the museum; most of the book consists of the plates with brief comments about the rugs.  In German.

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Iparművészeti Múzeum  / Museum of Applied Art Batari, F.  OZMÁN-TÖRÖK SZŐNYEGEK (Ottoman Turkish Carpets).  1994, 216 p., 184 color illus., 28.5 x 19.5 cm. 

A catalogue of the Turkish rugs from the Iparmuveszeti Museum; there are 176 of them, from the 15th – 19th centuries; all are illustrated.  This is a major collection of Turkish rugs, and this is the major description of this museum’s holdings.  

The text describes all the rugs, with technical descriptions and references to previous publication; there is also an extensive bibliography.  Colors look good, but maybe a bit pale.

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M.H. de Young Museum Cootner, C., ed. FLAT-WOVEN TEXTILES. THE ARTHUR JENKINS COLLECTION.  Vol I, 1981, 221 p., 62 illus., 40 in color, 31 x 23 cm.

An analysis of the 62 flat-weaves in this collection; the flatweaves are from Iran, Turkey, and the Caucasus.  Cootner provides an extensive essay on flatweave production in Iran, Turkey and the Caucasus and on the specific textiles. 

The second part of the book contains  5 essays: Cootner: Flat-weaves and knotted pile: An historical and  structural overview; Bierman: Medieval flatweaves in the Urban Middle East; Beattie: A note on zilu; Wertime: Weft-wrapping in in nomadic and village flat-woven textiles from the Near-East and Central Asia, and Wertime: A guide to flat-woven structures.  

This is volume 1; there was no volume 2.  Hardcover.

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Cootner, C.M.  ANATOLIAN KILIMS. THE CAROLINE & H. MCCOY JONES COLLECTION. 1990, 275 p., 172 illus., 115 in color, 32.22 (hard), 30.5 x 21.5 (soft) cm.  Colors are good; kilims are mostly pre-19th century. 

The text describes the colors and designs of each kilim; this is done briefly, which is just as well, since the reader can see the colors and designs him- or herself; the major part of the text attempts to analyze kilims as art and in the context of other crafts: basketry and pottery

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St. Louis Museum with Ballard’s rugs Denny, W. B. and Farnham, T. J. THE CARPET AND THE CONNOISSEUR.  THE JAMES F. BALLARD COLLECTION OF ORIENTAL RUGS.  2016,  240 p., 279 illustrations, 272 in color, 28 x 24 cm. 

Ballard was a wealthy drug manufacturer, who collected rugs in the 1st quarter of the 20th century, when 16th, 17th, and 18th were readily available (to wealthy individuals).  He at one time had some 300 rugs.  

This catalogue accompanied a 2016 exhibition at the St. Louis Art Museum of the rugs Ballard left there.  The exhibited items are the most important of Ballard’s rugs: 50 carpets and 2 Persian tents.   All have interesting comments about them by Denny, and are illustrated in full with smaller illustrations of details of the back.

The rugs are 16th to 18th, with a few later ones.  Most of the rugs are Turkish: Lottos, Ushaks, a variety of classical prayer rugs, but there are also Persian, Caucasian, Mamluk, Turkmen, and Mughal examples.   An appendix has illustrations 51 more items of less importance. 

Chapters: one on Ballard as a collector by Farnham;  the general topic of rug varieties in this collection in a larger art historical context by Denny; and introductions to each geographical area by Denny.

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Vakiflar Museum Balpinar, B. & Hirsch. U.  CARPETS OF THE VAKIFLAR MUSEUM ISTANBUL / TEPPICHE DES VAKIFLAR-MUSEUMS ISTANBUL.  1988, 343 p., 83 color pl., bl & wh illus., 31 x 22.5 cm. 

The long-awaited sequel on carpets of this museum.  Most of the carpets are Turkish.  There are two 13th century Seljuk carpets; most of the rest are from the 15th – 17th centuries.  There are two 17th to 18th century Iranian carpets, and ten Caucasian carpets including four Dragon carpets from the 17th and 18th centuries.  Dating is done in part by comparison with similar rugs in dated Western paintings and illustrations in manuscripts, and with designs in woodwork and other Islamic arts. 

The text describes the museum and the origins of the collection; then analyzes each carpet illustrated, in detail.  Many of these rugs are well known in the rug literature and the text summarizes what other authors have said about them.   Hard. 

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Balpinar, B. & Hirsch, U. FLATWEAVES OF THE VAKIFLAR MUSEUM ISTANBUL.  1982, 295 p., 120 color pl., 32 x 22 cm. Catalogue of the rugs collected from the Vakif (Pious Foundation) mosques throughout Turkey.  The kilims are impressive; the text describes possible tribal origins & flat-weave techniques. Hard.

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Russian Ethnographic Museum / Rossiiskii Ethnographicheskii Muzei Tzareva, E. TAPPETI DEI NOMADI DELL’ASIA CENTRALE.  CARPETS OF CENTRAL ASIAN NOMADS. 1993, 142 p., 66 illus., 30 in color, 27.5 x 21 cm.  

Based on an exhibition of rug, tent bands, sacks, felts, suzani from the Russian Ethnographic Museum, St. Peterburg; detailed technical descriptions, including analogous published examples.

Many were given to the museum by Bogolyubov, who collected them before 1900, and Dudin, who bought them between 1900 and 1902; thus many are clearly 19th century or before. 

There are short sections on the museum, on Turkmen, Kirghiz and Uzbek nomads; on yurt furnishings; on the symbolism of red; on textiles for weddings.  This is an  interesting look at Turkmen textiles from a major Turkmen collection. Italian / English text.  Hard.

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Philadelphia Museum of Art Ellis, C.G.  ORIENTAL CARPETS IN THE PHILADELPHIA MUSEUM OF ART.  1988, 304 p., 182 illus., 76 in color, 31 x 30.5 cm. 

The Philadelphia Museum of Art has one of the top 5 collections of rugs in the US.  This is a scholarly discussion of  81 15th to 19th century carpets.  Most of the rugs come from the collections of two wealthy Philadelphia businessmen: McIlhenny and Williams and were bought in the first quarter of the 19th century. 

For each rug, there is a detailed description of the pattern, comparison to other rugs with the same or similar field or border designs, summary of and comments on earlier mentions of the rugs, a list of European paintings with this or similar rugs (which gives information on the age of the rugs) and technical descriptions.

The color illustrations are of the rugs in the Museum; the black and white illustrations are of paintings and similar examples.  The text is interesting, as are the rugs. Hardback and paper.

And then there are the books on the Textile Museum rugs.

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The TM has nothing on the entire collection:  Kühnel, E. & Bellinger, L. CAIRENE RUGS AND OTHERS TECHNICALLY RELATED, 15th CENTURY – 17th CENTURY.  1957.    

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Mackie, L.M. & Thompson, J. TURKMEN TRIBAL CARPETS AND TRADITIONS.  This is the catalog that accompanied a 1980 exhibition of Turkmen rugs at The Textile Museum. 

It was one of the books that marked the shift to tribal names and increased attention to technical descriptions of materials and structure. Text by Thompson, detailed technical descriptions by Mackie.  This is the book in which Thompson proposed some Imreli attributions (questioned and quickly withdrawn).

Articles at the end: Hans Konig on Ersari Carpets; Robert and Leslie Pinner on Tekke chuvals; and Mark Whiting on Dyes in Turkmen Carpets. Hardback. 239 pages.

This catalog was considered by many, until recently, to be the standard treatment on Turkmen rugs and other textiles.

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Mackie, L.M. THE SPLENDOR OF TURKISH WEAVING. 1974, 86 p., 48 pl., 4 in color, 25 x 18 cm.

Exhibition catalogue from the Textile Museum of Turkish silks & rugs from the 13th to 18th centuries

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Landreau, A.N., & Pickering, W.R. FROM THE BOSPORUS TO SAMARKAND: FLAT-WOVEN RUGS. 1969, 112 p., 113 pl., 9 in color, 28 x 20 cm. A good exhibition catalogue, with an introduction to flat-weaves in general. From the Textile Museum.

Seen by some to be the first U.S. publication that treated flat-woven material seriously.     

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Landreau, A.N. & Yohe, R.S. FLOWERS OF THE YAYLA: YORUK WEAVING OF THE TOROS MOUNTAINS.  This Textile Museum catalog reports on an effort by Landreau and Yohe to do systematic field work on “Yoruk” weaving in Toros Mountains of Anatolia.  One of the few attempts to do serious field work by a U.S. curator and a U.S. collector.

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Ellis., C.G. EARLY CAUCASIAN RUGS. 1975, 112 p., 37 pl., 10 in color, 28 x 22 cm.

Exhibition catalogue from the Textile Museum, with an extensive introduction to early Caucasian rugs; 37 rugs, mostly from the Textile Museum.    

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Krody, S.B. FLOWERS OF SILK AND GOLD. FOUR CENTURIES OF OTTOMAN EMBROIDERY.  2000, 160 p.,180 color illus.,  29 x 24 cm.   This accompanied a Textile Museum exhibition, and provides a detailed discussion of Ottoman embroidery, including techniques used in making them, as well as the social, political and economic factors influencing their production and consumption.

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Al-Sabah Collection Spuhler, F.  PRE-ISLAMIC CARPETS AND TEXTILES FROM EASTERN LANDS.  DAR AL-ATHAR AL-ISLAMIYYAH.  THE AL-SABAH COLLECTION, KUWAIT.  2014, 160 p., 112 color illus., 28.5 x 22.5 cm. 

As might be expected, these textiles are fragments; they include Sassanian carpets and flatweaves and a variety of Sogdian textiles.   They come from  Central Asia or China and Eastern Iran and range in age from 4th to 12th centuries, as determined by radio-carbon dating. 

The text describes the textiles in the context of history of art in Sassanian and Sogdian cultures.   Hardcover.  

Two minor collections with special interest:

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Smith Collection McMullan, J.V. & Reichert, D.O. THE GEORGE WALTER VINCENT AND BELLE TOWNSLEY SMITH COLLECTION OF ISLAMIC RUGS.  n.d.(1970), 169 p., 75 illus., 12 in color, 25 x 18 cm.

Most of these were purchased in l893 and l897-l898; the rest were purchased by 1905, so nearly all are l9th century; most are village or nomadic rugs from Turkey, the Caucasus & Turkmenistan, with a few Persian. This is then an invaluable documented record of 19th century village and nomadic rugs.  Paper.

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Allen Memorial Art Museum Roberts, E.H.  ISLAMIC CARPETS.  In Bulletin, Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College, 36:4-113, 1978.  71 illus., 5 in color. 

About 50 of these rugs were donated to the museum from the estate of Charles Hall, one of the two inventors of the Hall-Heroult process, used to make aluminum from aluminum ore.

Hall died, quite wealthy as might be expected,  in 1915, so these rugs are 19th century. 

4 more came from another donor in 1904 and the other examples in this exhibtion are also 19th century, including a 19th century Caucasian dragon sile flatweave used as wrapping to ship an archeological altar from Pergamon to the Berlin Museum. 

The rugs are mostly tribal and village.  The collection is unusual in that at this time, many collections were of classic and city rugs, so this is an interesting snapshot of what village and tribal rugs were available around 1900.  

There are 20 Persian, 22 Turkish, 10 Caucasian, 13 Turkmen, and 6 Indian and Chinese.  Illustrations are sometimes fuzzy. New. Paper.

To get depth on a weaving area:

The next reason for reading books is to explore, in depth, specific weaving areas: Turkey, the Caucasus, Iran, Turkestan, East Turkestan, Tibet, China, Belouch

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