The Caravans, Covers and Containers section
There were quite a number of what collectors would call "tribal" pieces in
the exhibition. Many would be considered more accessible to the average
collector, since they are available in the marketplace and do not cost as much
as a house. The section in the catalog containing many of these pieces is
Caravans, Covers and Containers.
There are several wonderful historical photographs, many which were from the Pitt Rivers Museum at the University of Oxford and the Royal Geographic Society, London.
Here is one from the Pitt Rivers Museum showing a Bakhtiari woman and a double bag similar to the next piece, which is plate 46 from the James C. Morel collection, 19th or 20th century:
It is only evident from the photograph that the pile woven area of this type of bag is readily visible in its entirety when the piece is in use, filled, on the donkey. When photographed or displayed, only half of the pile section is visible.
This next piece, plate 44 from the Judith Brick Freedman collection is a horse cover from Ferahan, 19th century. These are a bit harder to come by than the previous piece. This one may have been "for the use of the wealthy", since it could have been commercially woven due to the similarities between this piece and commercial carpets from this area.
And this unusual saddle cover from the Judith Brick Freedman collection was determined to be from Azerbaijan, 19th century:
It is a dandy, colorful piece and must have made quite a statement when paraded down the road.
The saddle cover is a knockout. It reminds me in many ways of Uzbek saddle blankets.
The woman in the first picture looks kind of annoyed. I wonder if she's just been told to get her ass off someone's property.
Worse than that
No, I think someone wanted to take her donkey because the price of gas is so high.
Thompson thought the cover looked like Iranian Rasht work, but Cyrillic characters with the name "Guyla" embroidered on the back turned him towards Russian territory, and some observers suggested Uzbekistan. Ultimately, a matching example was found in an article by Patimat Gamzatova, at the time the director of the Museum of Applied Art in Makhachkala, the capital of Daghestan and wife of Rasul Gamzatov, the famous Daghestani Avar poet: http://www.gamzatov.ru/bioeng.html
Her example was "worked in Azerbaijan".
G'day Patrick, Steve and all,
The expression on the face of the working woman with the donky is probably chagrin at having been told to accept the ministrations of the photographer - she is likely thinking how to protect against the 'evil eye', in this case the lense of the camera, itself probably a bit earlier than a Box Brownie
The Exhibition 'cattledog' with its compilation of fascinating stuff from the Hajji Baba's is a nice book and bears a similarity to other books by Thompson - great photography, interesting enthnographical snippits and terrific pieces put together with nothing interrupting the flow of interesting information.
Ive had some pretty good saddle blankets on my nags myself but nothing as flowery as we sometimes see from the carpet world, and as for the above saddle cover - wow! It certainly does make a statement. A good piece of black plastic has usually served to keep my saddle dry in more modern times... but I wouldnt knock back something like this one but not sure I would be game to use it.
Good guesses by you guys on the lady with the donkey. Of course, none of you have the benefit of my special scanning software, which can actually analyze the picture, pick up the very speech she was uttering at the moment, and even provide a rough translation from the original Bakhtiari. Pretty amazing. Anyway, she was saying, apparently incredulously, "What do you mean, how about the orange on my saddlebags??!"
Patrick, a picture is really worth a thousand words. That way the pile section on such Bakhtiari (and Luri?) bags would wrap under was always puzling to me. Seeing it on the donkey, one realizes it is the most logical thing in the world, and shows that (usually) powerful design element off to best advantage. It needs a donkey with a nice fat belly to push out the bottom of the bag where it really can be seen. Was that phenomenon news to you before you saw the photo?
I have a similar Bakhtiari bag and a couple more half-khorjins. The usual explanation for the pile in that area is to absorb the abuse the bags get on the ground. And they do often wear there, especially in the corners. But since the backs (usually not seen either) are often striped plain weave, there would be no reason to pattern the bottom so nicely unless it could be seen to advantage, such as when filled and placed on a fat donkey. The photo enlightened me to that possibility. And the photo also has had the effect of making me less likely to bother a nomad Bakhtiari woman in the midst of pressing duties.
I also have one of those nice, long "malband" pack animal bands that can be seen draped over the back of the donkey. She may be wondering why the photographer doesn't help her by passing the end of the band under the donkey to her. It also appears that the load on the donkey has shifted towards the poor woman and may be in danger of falling off.
Now, I shall try to find a donkey to put my bag onto for showing to the best advantage.
A cow will work. Their bellies stick out a mile.
That is a great photo for functional woven items in the field. Have you posted the malband piece in the past? Is it figured or plain?
BTW, that Feraghan saddle piece is gorgeous, not the least feature being that very nice pistachio border.
As for the woman wondering why the photog doesnt help, you've gotta be kidding! She would faint in shock! What self respecting man in those regions would lift a finger to help a mere woman - jeez, fair go!
BTW, my special software (see above) is also capable of debriefing the donkey. Study the look in that dude's eye. Obviously, he is eyeballing the photographer in a very particular way. It won't surprise you to know his message was, "Yeah, just come over here. I can't wait for us to meet." I think it accounts for the photog's reluctance to help the good lady with the cinch band.
What is he thinking?
We would probably have about as much success limning the thoughts of Steve as we do the donkey here in question. Steve, though, does respond when queried and not as often with a kick to the rear end of the inquisitor. Today he has sent me these photos to insert into the Salon:
This is a probable Qashqai malband which would be used as shown by the dour Bakhtiari woman with her voluble beast of burden.
This next close view shows the end which would be tied onto the other, closed end. The closed end would have been equipped with a wooden device to allow cinching the band tightly around the load and the animal. There are five colors, including a natural white and natural brown wool, madder red mixed with an orange/red, blue and a blue-green.
This photo shows some of the designs along the length of the band. It is around 30' (9 meters) long and 3" wide (7 cm), not easy to display without the fat donkey.
We need to remember that there were no automobiles when these things were in common use, so these were some of the things the nomads used to pimp their ride. And they looked good in the tent when not being used on their traveling companions, too. Once settled, nomads had little use for these things and there was also probably very little collector demand, so they may have gathered dust in a shed for generations.
Nice. I see that mix of red and red-orange is by way of twisting or aligning different plies of the differing color (in the proportion the weaver thought right, apparently 3 to 1 in this case) in the bundle. The same strategy was done with the blue; and with unlike colors as well a little bit (e. g., brown and blue). I think of it as a Kurdish technique, and we sometimes find it done by them with pile yarn. The effect is to make the piece hum when viewed from a middle distance.
Fred Mushkat hosted a salon on bands some time back, and we got off onto malbands in one of the discussion threads:
Nuts & Bolts
I really like that Morel collection bag. And, I'm surprised that the embroidered saddle blanket isn't Uzbek. Fooled me.
Unless the attribution of the other is wrong...
Nice link. Looking at those bands up close, one wants to become a collector.
What's the deal about the Morel bag? Did I miss something? I used to know a guy named Morel (r. i. p.), and I used to have a secret source of the mushrooms. Both were excellent. What about the bag?
Did Morrels grow in Iran?
There are a couple of Uzbek horse covers in the exhibition, too. I will post a photo to show the difference.
I sometimes see a band like these available, but most of the bands on the market are central asian, later, narrower and shorter.
I, too, have a Morrel mushroom collecting bag (though I suspect the mushrooms you were collecting may have been of a different type). I keep it hanging in the root cellar with the mushrooms, onions and potatoes:
It is large enough to collect a couple of bushels of them,
being 41" x 53", (105 x 135cm). It retains a couple of tie-down loops, seen in the middle attached to the closure tabs at the far right.
Most of these bags have a rather intricate design in the white "patch" on the back of each bag, but this one has a rather simpler design:
And there are a couple of field repairs which can be seen at the lower edge of the top half as seen from the back.
The lighter colors and less busy design may indicate a different tribal group of Bakhtiari than the more common darker and more intricate pieces such as the Morel bags.
Here is one face. The left edge is covered with a goat or horse hair wrapping which is no longer extant on the right side:
It has the typical Luri-Bakhtiari widely-spaced sumak work which allows the ground wefts (red) to show through:
I have speculated that the designs on the back can be used to identify the weavers family, but have not studied enough of these to discern any distinct patterns yet. And I believe the major border of both this bag and the Morel bag to be derived from Kufic-type borders found in urban/court designs. You can see this border type here, in photos #7,8 and 10:
The rosette has become four inward-pointing arrows and the brackets between the rosettes have become stylized.
Since I have both a set of donkey bags AND a band, all I need now is the donkey.
Hi Pat, Rich,
OK, my list of "me-likeys" for the Bahktiari sack:
1) Sharp drawing and balanced layout of main design elements
2) Balance of colors in the main design area
3) Timing of color shifts in finely drawn minor border
4) Neatly rendered crossbar in plie area
5) Failure to use ghastly pistachio green-yellow
6) Full but uncluttered main border
7) White field in minor border
All in all, a very attractive bag.
When complete, the malbands have a large wood buckle that is used to cinch the strap. Those bands are incredibly strong; you have to hand it to the manufacturers - that's a lot of strain to handle with wool fiber.
I'm not kidding, what is the "Morel collection bag" reference in Chuck's original post? Was there a reference to such a thing in one of the links; or did Chuck make it up right there, imagining his readers had the wit to operate at that altitude? (I realize that the good lady with the donkey probably wasn't collecting morels, then or ever; and neither were her family. I'm just wondering what bag was being alluded to. Ditto, the Uzbek comment. Did I miss a link?)
Chuck, I'm trying to envision a "ghastly" pistachio green-yellow that is apt to turn up on Bakhtiari work. I'm not getting the color, and I'm hard pressed to believe it could be ghastly. I assume it is a (shudder) synthetic dye you are thinking about. Is there such a common feature among many of these Bakh bags? I am thinking about a light bright greenish yellow that is apt to turn up on Kurdish bags, but I wouldn't call it ghastly.
Patrick, that flag woven right into the striped field of the Bakhtiari bags has always cracked me up. I saw pictures before I had the things in hand, and I wondered whether the thing was a paste-on (decal?) or sew-on. Crazy, and unique to these weavers, as far as I know. Your idea that it is a family identifier is interesting. Any evidence or data for that, or just a notion?
Read the first post
Mushroom in plain sight
The original post notes that the Bakhtiari bag is from the collection of James C. Morel.
I did not meet Mr. Morel at the conference, but I would certainly like to spend a while inspecting his collection while sipping from a snifter of brandy and smoking a Cuban cigar. I expect he lives in a top-floor Park Avenue apartment with walls decorated in 19th century impressionist paintings, the billiard room floor covered in a Saryk main carpet from the 18th century and his Bakhtiari bags carelessly covering the back of a Chippendale chair.
Now, as to the "flag" on the back of the bag. The backs are weft-faced plain-weave stripes, but the weft is white wool in these areas, with sumak designs. I believe some of these bags use white cotton as the weft for this area, although I do not have one at hand to inspect. My suggestion that this flag is an identifying feature is pure, rampant speculation. I have seen photos of migrating Bakhtiari with these large bags upside-down on the donkey. The "flag" would be exposed to view from a distance - especially since it is on a white background - and this would be the only time the flag would be visible during "normal" use. It is perhaps equivalent to a "luggage tag" on your suitcase when it comes cascading down the conveyor belt in a herd of other suitcases. Bakhtiari tribal migrations include numerous families and this would be a quick identifier.
OK, boys, I'm duly admonished. Patrick, I'm with you in the billiard room with that guy, Morel. You neglected to mention the fabulous hors d'oeuvres, made to a secret old Bakhtiari recipe, prominently featuring the mushrooms made famous by the gentleman's grandfather.
I can't put my hand on the source, and doubt that the evidence is definitive, but the notion that those white panels are family emblems goes back for quite awhile. My guess is that it's accurate - those things were still being made when anthropologists had the opportunity to ask the weavers about them.
Here is a nice Iranian recipe with mushrooms, from http://www.iranmania.com/
Ingredients: (4 servings)
Sheep hearts, 4
Mushrooms, 250 grams
Cheddar cheese, 50 grams
Medium carrot, one
Medium onion, one
Herbs (parsley, tarragon, dill, mint), 100 grams
butter, 100 grams
Bring some water to boil. Add sheep hearts and allow them to turn whitish in color. Remove any blood with the tip of a knife, then wash and dry the hearts. Fry in oil over medium heat on all sides for a few minutes.
Peel and thinly slice the onion. Wash and peel the carrot, then cut into thin, round slices. Wash and finely chop the herbs.
Add onion, carrot, herbs, salt, and black pepper to hearts. Follow with a cup of hot water and cook over low heat for about 40 minutes. A bit of juice should be left when cooking is over. Allow the hearts to cool.
Cut hearts length-wise taking care not to separate the two parts. Wash mushrooms and slice. Fry mushrooms in butter for about 10 minutes, while adding some salt and black pepper. Add mushrooms to the sauce prepared earlier and mix well.
Pour some of this sauce inside each heart and over them. Close the hearts to return them to original shape. Sprinkle grated cheddar cheese on top and serve with Iranian or middle-western bread.
The recipe does not specify what type of mushrooms to use, though. Maybe this would be good to take to your next rug club meeting.
The sheep heart sounds a bit intense. For an Asian morel treat, I'd go with the Kashmiri version where morels are chopped and tossed with basmati rice and a little salt and butter. Around here you have to find a clear cut where the loggers burned the waste...A couple of years ago after a new building here at WSU was landscaped, for some reason the cedar mulch they used was loaded with morels. We ate like gods.
Clear up the Confusion
There has been some question about the Azerbaijan saddle cover appearing to
be Uzbek, and this was what Thompson originally thought, too.
This first picture, from the Library of Congress, is shown in the book with the minimal description "Central Asian horse gear".
The horse cover in the photo looks quite a bit like these next two examples. They are both from Uzbekistan, 18th or 19th century, from the Judith Brick Freedman collection. They are both 41" x 52", about the same size as the Azerbaijan saddle cover. Thompson links the style of the lotus blossoms with that of robes worn by the elite and suggests this piece was commercially woven.
This one is also suggested to be commercial work. Both of these examples have a different appearance than the more rounded Azerbaijan piece.
The size leads to an interesting point. Most saddle bags are around 50" to 60" from one end to the other. They often differ in width, though, from 20" to 50". It is like the airline industry telling you that your carry on can only be a certain size. The pack animals can carry greater weights, as determined by the width of the bags, but the height is much more limited. You don't want your bags hanging too low. I suppose if the load was to swing too much, the poor donkey would fall right over sideways.
Here are a couple of flatweave pieces from the exhibition.
This first one is from the Vinay Pande collection and is Qashqai, 19th century, 57" x 86 1/2" (145 x 220 cm).
From the book: "...almost invariably the stack (uk) of bedding and other items piled up at the back of the tent is covered during the daytime with one or more of these weavings....Inside the tent they are not found on the floor." I really like this piece:
I have a large Luri cover in remarkably good condition for the age. I expect that many of these kilims were used in the west as floor coverings, but those which remained in the east could have escaped significant wear.
The next one is labeled "Tapestry, Kurdish Eastern Turkey 19th century, Caroline VonKleeck Beard Collection. It is 32" x 19" (81 x 48 cm) It is in slit-tapestry technique.
Thompson notes the burgundy-red is an insect dye and the light blue-green appears to be indigo-sulphonic. "It's function is also uncertain. While it could have served as a cushion cover, it seems more likely to have had some other specific use. Such items are rather uncommon."
The size is a bit smaller than typical yastiks, but about the size of a Baluch balisht. Slit-weave tapestry would rule out a grain bag and no closures are evident. It mimics the design of the Qashqai piece but without the diagonal color designs.
Thanks for posting all this great stuff. That Qashqa'i is especially fabulous. We need an "I bow down" smilie. Maybe in the new format...
Originally posted by Paul Smith
We need an "I bow down" smilie. Maybe in the new format...
Bravo! is right. The two kilims are terrific. Can you recall having seen another in that small format as exemplified in the Kurdish piece?
Reminds me of John's Colour, Colour, Colour! - all these certainly belong within that exhortation. Absolutely beautiful. Its just so very sad that all these pieces seem to come from what could be called 'elite' quality, taking them from the realm of ordinary folk.
Must admit though, Im much pleasured to be able to even gaze upon them and their ilk, whether on screen or book page.
Funny about the tie downs; while that shown may have been put aside, if it/they were here in Oz, certainly they would be utilised in some fashion. Nearly all of us have need of straps and the like, to even the ubiquitous bungy cords taking some of the strain. We go to the tip fairly often with garden refuse, things growing out of control here on the Tweed year round, and rather than a fine for losing stuff off the trailer, we use tarps and tie downs - mine are sewn together old seat belt straps from the wreckers.
Its unlikely though that Oriental straps such as these would be found in Australia from our period of camel packing, carried out mostly by 'afghans' even though they were actually India or Baluchi men, here to make money, and away from their women who would have made these things.
When their packing was finished because of the truck era, any and all equipment was further used by various means unto death, leaving little even for the museums.
Also Patrick speaking of how the bags sit across the animal has me finally realise why the bridges between the two bags on mine differ so often - probably made for either donkeys or camels or mules, each necessitating a different width of bridge.
Being the purist that you are, I'm sure you can advise. Is it acceptable to substitute on the sheep hearts? I was thinking of kielbasa, an homage to the Polish Carpets.
The sheep heart thing reminds me of my first visit to Germany. I was pretty good with German in those days, didn't use English for much of anything while I was there. Anyway, in a restaurant in Munich, one of the menu items was Schweinesherz. Pig hearts? No, I thought, it must be a local idiom. Like "hot dogs" in the US - they aren't really dogs at all. So, I called the waiter and asked: "Bitte, was bedeutet Mann, Schweinesherz?" He drew himself up straight, looked at me as though he could see through my head. "Schweinesherz ist Herz (and here he began beating his chest) vom Schwein."
We'd rather starve.
Please tell me you didn't order any.
No, I didn't. Probably went for Weisswurst or something equally unchallenging.
I am once again impressed by your ability to go to the heart of the matter.
There were a number of bags in the exhibition, including this 19th century
sparkling reverse soumak Khorasan Kurd from the Dr. Arline J. Lederman and Dr.
Edward A. Friedman collection:
The pattern is described:
"A strict fugal relationship has been followed in which the same sequence of colour combinations has been maintained throughout."
"...a musical composition for a definite number of parts or voices, in which a subject is announced in one voice, imitated in succession by each of the other voices, and developed contrapuntally
PSYCHIATRY a state of psychological amnesia during which the subject seems to behave in a conscious and rational way, although upon return to normal consciousness he cannot remember the period of time nor what he did during it; temporary flight from reality."
OK, I can relate to the "state of psychological amnesia" and "temporary flight from reality" description. It was described as reverse soumak, but I do not remember it as reverse, but as standard soumak. I was not allowed to take photos, so I cannot confirm the construction. Perhaps when this piece is exhibited at the Textile Museum someone can get close enough to determine the actual construction. Just tell them I said it was OK.
Here is a somewhat related piece from my collection. It is a soumak grain bag or storage bag from the same Khorasan area, 17th century. Well, probably 19th or early 20th century:
Here you may be able to see the standard soumak construction:
This delightful piece brought a bit of the rural chicken coop to the New York venue. It is a "possibly Khamseh tribe 19th century reverse soumak" from the Mark Feldman collection. I am not aware of many Khamseh reverse soumak pieces, so this may be a pile weaving with a misnomer in the description:
And this is the Timbuktu from the title of the book, Timbuktu to Tibet.
I shall search the book for the Tibet piece and report back soon!
I really like the colors in your Khorasan bag, particularly the use of orange. In fact, this thread has been a veritable festival of orange in recent posts.
Orange you perceptive
One thing that impressed me in Turkey was the orange in extremely old rugs and kilims. Most of it was probably from madder, although I have heard of other ingredients, (no, not sheep hearts) such as persimmon.
It was noted that madder is not grown in many rug weaving areas so it would have been imported. As soon as synthetic orange was available it was snapped right up. It is possible that the unanticipated garishness of the synthetic orange caused a negative reaction in commercial carpets and it is not as prominent any more. The Qashqai are fervent believers in orange.
I don't think the <shudder> synthetic orange </shudder> was conspicuously garish at the time of weaving. It just didn't "mellow" with time the way the natural dyes did.
Orange you being provocative?
I don't see any orange in Patrick's 17th century (or thereabouts) storage bag. There's yellow, with possibly a slight pumpkin cast; and there's red, a hair to the orange side of the spectrum. Am I missing something?
The orange you find in old Anatolian rustic pieces, that I used to call "Yuruk," but which may now be more often called Kurdish, is glorious, and, by the way, is barely orange. Amber is more like it. As for the synthetic orange that we all know what we are talking about, puhleez!!! I'll be among the more recalcitrant in your efforts to bring salvation to the benighted.
Overcome orange denial
As a fellow New Englander, you'll have to advise me where I can get that yellow pumpkin for Halloween next fall.
You have to look inside the pumpkin; and do it quickly, because the color will turn bad before you know it!