Posted by Tim Adam on 08-27-2004 09:36 AM:

Three Yomud chuvals

Hi folks,

Looks like lots of people are having a good time with this mini-salon. Thanks for organizing this, Steve.

I have been quite new to the rug world; became interested in rugs only last year, and tried hard not to make the typical initial mistakes. But that proved impossible. Below are three Yomud chuvals I acquired over the last year.

The first is from what seemed to be one of the more reputable dealers on e-Bay. He claimed the piece is from the late 19th century, but I have my doubts now. The overall design is fairly simple buy not that bad, and the wool quality is good. The colors are probably all synthetic, even the brown. On the back the colors are significantly more intense than on the front. The bag is in perfect condition, even the back side is there. One gets the impression this bag has been made quite recently, maybe during the last 10 years. I kind of think that even if a bag is 100 years old, but has never been used, one should be able to tell by the condition of the fibers. Or am I way off here? What Id be interested in knowing is if there are people who currently produce Turkmen pieces like this one? The e-Bay dealer seems to have lots of these types of pieces, and they are all in perfect condition ...

The second bag is a little better than the first one. The design and the range of colors are more interesting (the red is less hot in reality). This one has synthetic dyes too, but probably only a few, like the pink highlights. And, based on the condition of the fibers (and other stuff), I can believe that this chuval is from around 1900.

The third chuval I acquired quite recently. The pile is very low, almost gone actually, but the chuval made a magical impression on me. Quite surprising actually, since the design is quite simple and not that uncommon. But what I find so special about this one are the colors. A madder red, glowing green and blue, and all colors fit very harmoniously to each other. I have also not seen any pieces that have different color schemes in the minor borders (red/blue and red/green). Another interesting feature is that the outlines of the guls is in two colors, not just one. Id say if any of these pieces are collectable, then only the third one.

Id be quite interested in peoples honest opinions about any of these pieces.


Posted by Steve Price on 08-27-2004 09:51 AM:

Hi Tim

I like the third one very much. The colors are terrific on my monitor, as is the drawing. The other two look mechanical by comparison.

Thanks for sharing these.

Steve Price

Posted by R. John Howe on 08-27-2004 03:46 PM:

Tim -

Just one, but rather lengthy, thought about the drawing of the major guls on these three bags.

Robert Pinner noted somewhere (I thought perhaps in Turkoman Studies I but it is not there) two distinctive drawing of parts of the interiors of some Turkman chuval guls.

The image above is of the first piece you presented. Notice that at both the top and the bottom of the interior or the major gul there are "bracket-like" forms that move out and curl around on both sides. Pinner called this drawing of this part of a chuval gul a "bracket" usage. (Some folks get very excited about the possibilities they see here and talk in reverent tones about "bird forms" and the like.) The "bracket" drawing has some complexity to it.

Now go to your third piece.

The second usage Pinner pointed out is described as a "banner." Look again at the same areas of the major gul in this third piece. Notice that there are not any "bracket-like" forms of the sort that occur in the first and second pieces. Instead there is something that looks, perhaps like a little flag or pennant and that Pinner described as a "banner" usage.

Now, it seems likely that the "bracket" usage is slightly more difficult to draw than is the "banner" usage and the two of them taken together seem likely candidates for indicators of "conventionalization." That is, a weaver looking at the bracket design might decide that a few knots could be saved and a drawing complication omitted by simply moving from the bracket form to the banner form.

We expect this kind of simplication as pieces get younger and we often look for instances like this on which to hang our age estimates.

But if we are right in thinking that perhaps the third piece is older than the first two, then we must admit that (at least in this instance) the "bracket to banner" simplification thesis is not operating as might be predicted. The "older" piece has the simpler design in this area of its major guls.

In fact, this sort of thing happens quite frequently with this distinction, and Pinner likely knew it, since he does not suggest that "bracket" usages suggest an age older than do "banner" usages.

All this on a Friday afternoon just to let you see that the world is not neat. But you likely already knew that.

It also lets you see why some of us are called "Turkomaniacs."


R. John Howe

Posted by Steve Price on 08-27-2004 06:13 PM:

Hi John

As a general rule, Turkmen wove finer and more detailed pieces after the beginning of commercial demand for their work, around 1850 or so. This is usually seen as more borders, "busier" fields, etc. If we were to extend this thinking to the interiors of guls - and I see no reason not to do so - the "banner" would be the older.

Within the Turkmen at least, simplification didn't increase over time. The opposite occurred.


Steve Price

Posted by R. John Howe on 08-27-2004 06:41 PM:

Hi Steve -

There's certainly something to what you say. There is often a nice, simplicity in older Turkmen design.

And I was, of course, actually making the pont that in this instance at least, the seeming conventionalization of this aspect of these chuval gul instrumentations did not turn out to move as conventional wisdom about that phenomenon might suggest.

But I think that instances of Turkmen conventionalization as things move forward in time exist.

One example. The two-headed "animals" in the "tauk naska" guls are drawn in rugs estimated to be older with visible "combs" off the tops of their heads. (This may reinforce the notion that they are in fact birds, since apparently "tauk" means "chicken.")

Among the first simplifications were the reduction of the details of, and then the loss of, these combs.

A next was the dropping of the "head forms" so that the design becomes an "H."

Similarly, in chuval guls with "X's" in the quadrants of their major guls, the Xs are serifed in chuvals estimated to be older, but are not in versions on rugs estimated to be younger and the Xs become mere suggestions in some more recent renditions.

And some of the detailing of the "candlabra forms" visible in earlier Tekke engsis seems to get lost in rugs seen to be later.

So I think that the Turkmen were not always immune to the tendencies the more broadly held notions of conventionalization might suggest.


R. John Howe

Posted by Tim Adam on 08-27-2004 09:46 PM:

Maybe the key is that the banner and bracket forms are really two different types, rather than derivatives of each other. Otherwise, I think there was simplification also going on among the Turkmens. Just look at the borders of the three chuvals. Maybe good proportions is a better key to age. The guls of the third piece look well balanced to me, while the guls of the first do not (here they are; the third piece, then the first).

Posted by David R.E. Hunt on 09-06-2004 08:01 PM:

Archtypal Gul

Tim,John, and All-
Consult figure 34,pg.63 of Thompson's "Turkmen" for a flow chart of the development of Turkmen guls, and check out the rug in fig. 32 while there. Also, you may find theseGuls of interest- Dave

Posted by Steve Price on 09-07-2004 05:07 AM:

Hi David

Jon Thompson's development of Turkmen guls is plausible and interesting, but highly hypothetical. It's likely to remain that way.


Steve Price

Posted by David R.E. Hunt on 09-07-2004 05:50 AM:


Steve-You'll get no argument from me there,just thought it worth taking a look-Dave