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-   -   Reminiscence of fourteenth century Il-khanid rugs in eighteenth century Iranian ones? (http://www.turkotek.com/VB37/showthread.php?t=1305)

Pierre Galafassi April 12th, 2012 06:39 PM

Reminiscence of fourteenth century Il-khanid rugs in eighteenth century Iranian ones?
Hi all,

Even though the first Persian miniatures were created to illustrate technical or scientific manuscripts, from the Seldjuk school of Baghdad onward (eleventh century), attention to detail, naturalistic rendition of people, clothes and objects were rarely considered priorities by miniaturists when illustrating literary plots and their pigments (gold, lapis lazuli, cinnabar etc..) were often brighter than life.

Thus any ruggie looking for good examples of Seldjuk- or Timurid- rugs in miniatures should take their representation cum grano salis.

However, there are some examples of perfectly credible rugs, especially in miniatures painted during the late Il-khanid period (school of Tabriz). We have already shown two such cases in the Salon «Animal-rugs in old masters paintings».
FIG 1. 1330-1340. Il-khanid period. The bier of Iskander. Tabriz. Freer-Sackler.

FIG 2. 1330-1336. Il-khanid period. Zohnak enthroned. Detail. Freer-Sackler.

It is quite possible that both Il-khanid miniatures below also give a realistic representation of a type of fourteenth century turco-mongol rug, characterized by a narrow border and a field of regular «waves».
FIG 3. 1300-1325. Il-khanid period. Birth of Ghazan. Stadtsbibliothek Berlin.

FIG 4. 1300-1340. Il-khanid period. Ghazan reading the Koran. Stadtsbibliothek Berlin.

This, otherwise unknown, field of «waves» might have survived in two extant rugs, both dated from the eighteenth century, which H. Kirchheim and al. (1) tentatively attribute to northwestern Iran.

FIG 5. North western Iran. Eighteenth century. H Kirchheim.(1)
FIG 6. North western Iran. Eighteenth century. H Kirchheim.(1)

Best regards

(1) Orient Stars. H. Kirchheim. Pages 120-121 (text) and 150-151 (pictures)

Pierre Galafassi April 19th, 2012 06:54 PM

Hi all,
Another Il-khanid miniature featuring a rug with «waved» field has surfaced:

FIG. Ilkhanid period. Tabriz. 1300-1320. Hulagu Khan and wife Doquz

I feel it necessary to comply with Rugdom’s respected tradition of harebrained theories with no trace of a proof:
All three waved rugs enjoy the honor of an Il-Khan ruler’s backside sitting on them.
This particular motif might have had a special meaning for Mongol rulers. Something about the good old times on the shores of the Orkhon ?
Please note that these are no mere waves, there is a strange little appendix too. Anybody has a good idea explaining it?
The border of the third rug contains signs which look suspiciously like writing to me (No provocation intended Horst). Anybody familiar with Uyghur or Mongol script here?


George Potter April 19th, 2012 09:10 PM


The waves could be somthing like the image below, labled (Kirchheim "Seljuk" fragment) at the American Conference on Oriental Rugs - ACOR 7




Pierre Galafassi April 19th, 2012 10:18 PM

Hi George,

Indeed it looks extremely similar! Excellent.:bravo:

Let's indulge in the delights of pure speculation now:
- Why would Mongol rulers enjoy sitting on Seldjuk (Oghuz turks) rugs?
- Rugs which the local moths should have finished munching for some time, by the way.
- Oghuz turks were not (unless I err) part of Hulagu's Turco-Mongol army, the Seldjuk of Rum certainly were cut to little pieces by Hulagu and Co.
- Could these Il-khanide miniatures create a doubt about the identification of the fragment as "seldjuk" ?

Best regards

Filiberto Boncompagni April 20th, 2012 07:47 AM

Hi Pierre,

Could these Il-khanide miniatures create a doubt about the identification of the fragment as "seldjuk" ?
Mmmmh. Maybe...


Pierre Galafassi April 20th, 2012 12:38 PM

By the way, I just noticed that FIG 2 (Zohnak enthroned) too shows a "wave" motif, although not in the field but in the rug border. (The dark blue border just below the red one ( reminiscent of a "leaf and wineglass border").

Martin once complained that he was starting to see the word Allah (in Kufic) everywhere, I fear that I have caught a similar illness (seeing waves). Let's hope it is curable.

Steve Price April 20th, 2012 12:53 PM

Hi Pierre

Seeing waves in rug designs isn't a problem and needs no cure. If you start seeing waves that move around, be very afraid.


Steve Price

Pierre Galafassi April 20th, 2012 08:09 PM

Quote Steve Price."If you start seeing waves that move around, be very afraid"
Ooops, I planned to spend the next vacation on the west coast (of France) but you might be right, let's go to Switzerland instead.

Pierre Galafassi May 24th, 2012 03:14 PM

Hi all,

FIG 1, FIG 2, FIG 3 show some more extant rugs from the seventeenth- to the nineteenth century, all featuring «wave» motifs and, again, woven in the northwestern part of Iran.
Am I wrong thinking that this particular rug motif is not frequent in other regions?

The major Il-Khanid school of miniature painting was based in northwestern Iran too (Tabriz).

This could be a mere coincidence, but could just as well indicate that the Il-khanid miniature-painters took their inspiration from rugs which were popular in northwestern Iran at the time (imported by the turco-mongol conquerors or indigenous), which motifs remained in fashion during several centuries.

FIG 1. Northwestern Iran. XVII XVIII. V & A museum

FIG 2. Northwestern Iran fragment . XVIII. 258X110

FIG 3. Northwestern Iran. XVIII XIX. 556X233. MET

Best regards

Filiberto Boncompagni May 24th, 2012 03:47 PM

Hi Pierre,

As far as I know, the carpets in your last post represent gardens, and the “waves” part should represent watercourses…




Pierre Galafassi May 24th, 2012 08:39 PM

Hi Filiberto,
Yes, it is indeed highly likely that the waves in these rugs were meant to represent water in a garden. IMHO it is also possible that water was represented in the Il-khanid rugs. As we know, water plays an important role for Arabs and Persians, as shown by their poetry, architecture, gardens and even by their idea of paradise. It would seem logical to think that the same was true for other central asian populations as well, especially nomads and oasis dwellers.
Best regards

Filiberto Boncompagni May 25th, 2012 04:33 PM

Hi Pierre,

Waves must be certainly the most universal way to symbolize water. I accept zig-zag lines as "stylized waves" without problem as well.

Fact is that two of the Ilkhanid miniatures show also those devices on the tops of the outer corners of the zig-zags. I don’t know what they are nor what they mean but they detract a bit from the idea of symbolizing water, that is… :baffled:



Pierre Galafassi May 25th, 2012 06:52 PM

I haven't a clue what this little hook on the "waves" was supposed to mean.:confused:

Pierre Galafassi June 20th, 2012 12:49 PM

Hi all,

Two more examples of Il-khanid rugs with the «wave" field-motif in fourteenth century miniatures, can be seen in J.L. Cowen’s beautiful book «Kalila wa Dimna: An allegory of the Mongol Court».

One can safely assume that this type of rug was real and popular in Il-khanid Persia. Perhaps especially in the Tabriz area.

Both rugs feature a kufic-like border.

Cowen calls the «wave» field-motif «Seldjuk», but does not give the reasons for this attribution. It is likely that the author means the «Great Seldjuk» dynasty of Iran, which was destroyed by Kwaresm, which rulers were in turn defeated by Gengis Khan’s Turco-mongol armies a few decades later. And not the « Seldjuk of Rum» dynasty which ruled over part of Anatolia from its capital in Konya (and was also terminated by the Gengiskhanids).

FIG 1 Il-khanid period. Tabriz. 1330-1340. Father teaching his sons. Kalila wa Dimna. Istanbul.

FIG 2 Il-khanid period. Tabriz. 1330-1340. The guest beats the mouse. Kalila wa Dimna. Istanbul.


Pierre Galafassi August 5th, 2012 07:04 PM

Hi all,

Eventually, an extant rug has surfaced (FIG 1) with a field featuring «waves» which are identical to the fragment (labelled «Seldjuk» by Kirrcheim) posted in this thread by George Potter and reasonably similar to the rugs illustrated in our handful of Il-khanid miniatures («waves with hook»).

FIG 1. Eastern Anatolia Kurdish. Kagizman area. Mid-nineteenth century. 260X112.

The extant rug is given by Zipper and C. Fritsche (Oriental rugs Volume 4, Turkish, page 188), as being from Eastern Anatolia ( Kagiszman area ), woven by Kurds and dated from about the middle of the nineteenth century. Unfortunately, the authors do not explain the reasons of this rather precise attribution, which, if taken at face value, would support the hypothesis of the home of this very rare motif being situated in an area covering northwestern Persia, eastern Anatolia and southeastern Caucasus. An area which was under direct control of the Il-khanid rulers of Persia during nearly a century. And before that, for quite a while also under control of the Great Seljuk Persian dynasty.

If the date (mid-nineteenth century) can be trusted, this extant rug is not very likely to have been inspired by mere commercial considerations. Also the rarity of the motif makes this option rather unlikely.

Of course the survival of such a rare motif during four centuries would be puzzling.

Apart from its (field-) analogy with fourteenth century Il-khanid rugs, this extant piece also carries border motifs which are surely more frequent in Turkmen rugs than in Anatolian ones. The well known sainak and the «hexapod» found in onurga- (or is it temirchin?-:confused:) guls.
Borrowed by the ( hypothetical) Kurdish weavers, I guess.

Best regards

Martin Andersen September 11th, 2012 07:29 AM

Hi All
I am just looking around in this highly interesting series of essays and discussions. And can't escape my narrow tunnel vision on the kufic border. With no intention to highjack this tread, I can't help putting in a note regarding "The guest beats the mouse"-rug. As Pierre has pointed out the border looks kufic, and to me it looks very directly related to how the kufic border ended up in the caucasian versions:



Steve Price September 11th, 2012 12:52 PM

Hi Martin

I don't want to inhibit discussion of this very interesting subject, but I have inside information that an essay outlining the timeline of development of kufic borders will appear within a few days. For that reason, it might be easier and less awkward to delay following up on this for a short time.


Steve Price

Martin Andersen September 12th, 2012 10:48 AM

Hi Steve and All

I will save the kufic topics for the new essay, i am sure it will be very interesting.

In the mean time here is a photo related to the wave/zig-zag pattern discussed in this tread:


I am generally convinced that the rugs have been an integrated part of a total setting in which the architecture have played a huge role. The pillars in the Seljuk Eşrefoğlu Mosqu still have reminiscences of their original colour in the top. Lots of ornamentation in stucco and paint have been lost during time. And these perhaps less prominent and luxurious ornamentations is probably slightly overlooked in the published material. One could hope that there still may be old survived material away from the touristic main sites. The problem is were to look for it, hopefully there is an increasing awareness of cultural heritage in all of the Islamic world.

I will (inshallah) be in Konya and Beyşehir next week, bringing my camera and tunnel vision regarding the Seljuk ornaments and the kufic border :)


Pierre Galafassi September 12th, 2012 03:25 PM

Hi Martin,

I agree, there is an interesting analogy between this Il-khanid kufic border and the (500-600 years younger) Caucasian / Kuba rug border.

You must have got an eagle eye,:bravo: indeed the "wave" motif on top of the columns in the mosque is identical, including the odd little hook, with the motif of the Il-khanid rugs shown in this thread. Assuming that the Seldjuk builders of the mosque were also responsible for the painting of the column it would prove that the motif pre-dated the Il-khanid period and that it was used (also) in Anatolia (where, by the way, except for a trail of destructions, the Il-khanid did not stay) .

Enjoy your stay in Anatolia! I am very much looking forward to your pictures.

Best regards

Martin Andersen September 12th, 2012 04:42 PM

Hi Pierre

The Eşrefoğlu Mosque is build 1296, so its very late Seljuk, I suppose one could say its contemporary to the rugs on the Il-khanid miniatures.
The wave zig-zag pattern is not only painted but also carved into the pillars, you can see it at the bottom. Personally I think its original, stylistically it fits in for me (as opposed to the brand new terrible wall-to-wall carpeting:))


Pierre Galafassi September 13th, 2012 06:47 AM

Hi Martin,
I did not know it was as late as that.

Anyway, I suppose that the Seldjuk style did not disappear everywhere shortly after the Mongol/Il-khanid raids in Anatolia, as destructive as they might have been. Unless I err, several Beylicks (the little states which dotted Anatolia between the end of the Seldjuk of Rum Empire and the Ottoman leadership) were ruled by Seljuk offspring. Besides, the artisans of Konya for example could have kept the style alive for a while, independently of the ethnic origin of the new political power in place, just as french artisans kept making furniture in Louis XIII style even during the following reigns in which each successive king tried to impose his own style.

However the presence of the "waves with hook" on Anatolian Seldjuk monuments and on Il-khanid rugs suggests that this motif was known both in Anatolia and in Persia, perhaps imported by the previous (Oghuz) Turkik waves which swept both regions.:sherlock:

Best regards

Martin Andersen September 14th, 2012 07:48 AM

Hi Pierre

Waves and zig-zag are very generic patterns, so unrelated origins is of course a highly likely possibility. But the combination between the zig-zag and the little dot/device at the top of the waves is a bit more specific, so I would agree on an earlier common source.

Totally speculative but one could perhaps suggest a relation to the cintamani motif, which as one of multiply interpretations is often seen as a pearl/jewel floating on the top of the ocean (sorry for yet another tunnelvison topic:))



Martin Andersen September 22nd, 2012 04:49 PM

Hi Pierre

I was wrong about the zig-zag pattern being carved into the pillars - its a painted black contour. Here a few more photos of the pattern which is not only on the pillars, but also as here a panel (almost rug format) and in smaller versions as borders on f.ex pillar heads.


The Esrefoglu Mosque has just in 2011 been put on Unescos world heritage list because of its unique well preserved wooden structures. Supposedly an interior open pit/well has regulated temperature and humidity up till the 1940's. As seen on these photos there has been some restoration/maintenance going on regarding the painted ornaments (there are a lot of interesting painted ornaments, including kufic ornamentation, I will post them in the kufic tread) There seem to be different layers of painted maintenance, some probably not very old, perhaps 20th some much older, but they all seem rather respectful to the original layout, not introducing new styles (except the central Müezzin Mahfili which has a distinctly Ottoman decoration and an inscribed date 1574/75). It doesnt look like that there has been any over-all restoration, its more like continuous patchlike repairs, the latest repair unfinished. This is only my personal judgment, I haven't found any thorough text regarding the painted ornaments.


best Martin

Pierre Galafassi October 11th, 2012 03:49 PM

Hi all,

Could this nineteenth century "Beshir" rug be another rare descendent of the Il-khanid (or Seldjuk-) rugs shown in this tread? It sure features a field of "waves with appendices" too.

FIG. "Beshir khali. XIX. 332X130. U. Jordan. Oriental Rugs. Vol 5. Turkoman.


The ethnic group: Turkik: (Turkoman, Uzbeck, Kirghiz,..), Persian (Tadjik) or even Arab, which wove each of the various types of so-called "Beshir" rugs is a matter of conjecture, but at least we can assume that their region of origin was the former Khanate of Bukhara.

Not that this brings us any further, uuuh?.

Martin Andersen October 13th, 2012 04:58 PM

Hi Pierre

I am of course very tempted to see a connection the between Beshir rug, the Il-Khanied, the cintamani waves and thus for me the Beshir Yilan motif. But I am also a bit uncertain, there are some missing links and the zig-zag pattern is very generic.
But the fact that you have identified a whole group of Il-Khanied rugs with wave pattern and kufic borders is in itself actually totally fascinating :) These rugs with their almost clash like meting between border and main field in my opinion have a completely different aesthetic than the Timurid rugs.
best Martin

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