July 4th, 2009, 04:27 PM   1
Patrick Weiler
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Pile Pictures

Here are some photos of pile weavings attributed to Shahsavan weavers.

This first piece is 3'5" x 3'11", from Hali 53, in a preview to the 1990 ICOC, from the Baktiari Gallery. Note the mostly dark wool warps. It has a design reminiscent of some diagonal-striped Gendje weavings.

Next is a piece from James Opie's Tribal Rugs, plate 14.11. It is 2'1" x 7'1". It uses a tessellated pattern of "bird-head" motifs often found on Shahsavan flat weaves. Could all those little crosses indicate an Armenian-Shahsavan origin? Some Shahsavan originated in Armenia, as well as Azerbaijan.

Photo #3 here is also from Opie, plate 14.14. It is in a jajim pattern and "The Shahsavan attribution is advanced tentatively in this case, but seems likely." I see Afshar and Bakhtiari designs in some of the stripes.

This one is 1'4" x 1'3", Opie plate 14.15. It has white cotton threads. It also uses a diagonal Gendje-type pattern. I would have at first glance called it Qahsqa'i due to the main border looking similar to the flatweave backs on numerous Qashqa'i bags.

Here is a photo from the MacDonald book Tribal Rugs, plate 60. It is attributed to the Shahsavan tribes of Azerbaijan, early 19th century.
As with many pile rugs of Shahsavan origin, it looks familiar yet different, with features from both Kazak and SW Persian sources.

Another rug from the MacDonald book, plate 59, is "Shasavan tribes of Moghan, Azerbaijan, early to mid-19th century (8'3" x 3')"
Notice the Memling guls common in Moghan rugs in a more formalized pattern.


The conclusion is that so far a consensus type, design, construction and size does not currently exist for pile weavings known as Shahsavan. They are not easily assigned. As Jenny Housego lamented in her book Tribal Rugs, "...tribes themselves have forgotten what their ancestors wove, and may be unaware of the work even of a neighboring group. A piece found in one place may be unrecognizable to someone perhaps only a few miles away."

Patrick Weiler
July 7th, 2009, 09:32 AM   2
Lloyd Kannenberg
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Hi Patrick and all,

I agree with opinions (in the other thread) that attributing pile weavings to the Shahsavan or Kurds is a dicey business at best. For the record, here are a couple of images of a pile mafrash side panel (all of the front and a sample of the back) that has as good a claim to Shahsavan origin as any:





Size is 44 in by 18 in, undyed ivory wool warps not depressed, red wool wefts, two shoots between adjacent rows of knots, knot density 9v x 6h or 54 KPSI, which is coincidentally the same density as the mafrash panels illustrated in Tanavoli's HALI article. Colors seem more saturated than your piece, at least on my monitor. But is it "really" Shahsavan? It would be nice to know, but I think all these pieces can be appreciated on their own excellent merits!

Lloyd Kannenberg
July 7th, 2009, 10:05 PM  3
Patrick Weiler
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Why Knot?

LLoyd,

With pile pieces such as yours which bear a remarkable resemblance in both appearance, format and construction to Shahsavan flatweaves it stands to reason that an argument can be made that they ARE Shahsavan, especially since they do not conform to other common production. The preliminary research into Shahsavan weaving is now a quarter century old. Tentative conclusions regarding Shahsavan pile weaving was cautiously proffered twenty five years ago, but a critical mass of consensus was not forthcoming and additional studies were neglected.
The topic has been pretty much off limits since then because a forceful, confident study was not made at the time. Without this imprimatur, we are left to live the remainder of our lives just like the straw man in the Wizard of Oz, without a testimonial to confirm his status.
I hereby present to you a commission to bring us out from the wilderness.

Patrick Weiler
July 8th, 2009, 11:26 PM   4
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A search of "the literature" for pile weavings attributed to the Shahsavan is not entirely fruitless. Here are a few photos.
The first is from an Abraje Art Gallery Hali ad in issue 139 from 2005. It has the diagonal-striped field which is one of the designs often described as Shahsavan. It is 4'3" x 7'11", mid 19th century. The iconic border may have been an indicator of the Shahsavan origin:

If you removed the central medallion from this piece published as plate 94 in Oriental Rugs From Atlantic Collections, the catalog from the 8th ICOC, this rug would be labeled NW Persian. It is 3'3" x 10'3":

The third piece is from a Wertime Hali ad in issue 128 from 2003. It is 2'7" x 2'10". It, too, has the diagonal design, with a nice floral meander border, 19th century:

#4 is from Hali issue 126, in an article describing a Berlin ethnographic/textile art fair, Ars Terra Icnognita, displayed by Hans Eitzenberger. No data were available, but it looks like motifs and the design are from jajim weavings known to be Shahsavan.

The final two pieces are very similar.
This one is from the Jon Thompson book Oriental Carpets From the Tents, Cottages and Workshops of Asia, aka Carpet Magic. It is 168" x 56" and is described:
"It is not known for certain what sort of piled carpets the Shahsavan wove, but this piece, probably made before 1880, could be one of them. It has , in common with their known weavings, stylistic features which relate it to Turkey, Persia and the Caucasus, and in appearance is almost certainly of tribal origin."
It has a "Talish" look about it and is very striking in appearance:

The last piece came from a Hali Auction Price Guide in issue 76 from 1996.
It is 4'6" x 6'2" and was sold at Skinner. Hali says "Not Anatolian as catalogued, but Shahsavan from northwest Persia or the southern Caucasus..." They remarked on the similarity to the piece above.


None of the entries remarked on the construction, dyes or handle of these pieces, but the common thread is that they look "kind of like" other weavings from the southern Caucasus or NW Persia. It is quite likely that many more Shahsavan weavings have not been identified as such, similar to all of them being labeled Caucasian as recently as From The Bosporus To Samarkand, 40 years ago.

Patrick Weiler
July 13th, 2009, 10:20 PM   5
Chuck Wagner
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Hi Pat,

Sorry for the persistent silence, but truth be told, I don't have enough knowledge on the topic to say anything beyond ...uh huh... now & then. It's an interesting but frustrating topic given the lack of available resources (for me), the general lack of agreement amongst folks who have done field work in the area, and the lack of input from what have - in the past - been rather verbose Turkotekkers who seem to have dropped off the planet.

A diverse cultural environment doesn't help. If the Shahsavan were insular sociophobic nomads who lived in a single isolated valley far from anything that anyone is interested in, this would be a simpler exercise. They would also be from Kentucky.

We just wrapped up a similar process with that NW Persian/NE Turkish/SE Caucasian mat that I posted a few weeks ago, with Rich pretty sure it's Kurdish and me saying ...uh huh...


I'll sit quietly and wait until the flatweaves come out...

Regards,
Chuck Wagner
July 14th, 2009, 10:17 PM   6
Rich Larkin
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Hi Patrick and all,

Whew! You should have sent someone else for these Hali images from the 1989 Tanavoli article (HALI 45) on Shahsavan pile weavings. Thanks to some timely assistance from our sitemaster, Steve, I was able to manage the following. The reported wide variety of styles in the greater Shahsavan portfolio is illustrated very well by Parvizís examples. It should be noted that his attributions were somewhat tentative, which seems to be the case across the board in this group. Iíve scanned about half of the images he published.

The first one, attributed tentatively to the Khamseh area, is quite believable as Shahsavan, with the two-tailed, no-head birds one might expect on a flatwoven piece. Tanavoliís image was of a nice double bag covering a two page spread in HALI, but the central joint was buried in the binding of the magazine, so I was limited to the one side.



Another Khamseh would probably pass as Kurdish for many observers. He reported double wool wefts dyed red.



Tanavoli said that the structure from all areas was similar, with very soft wool, flexible weave, and typically, double wefts of light to medium red, occasionally natural. However, he noted that some Khamseh area pieces were single wefted.

Two pieces attributed to the Moghan area seem quite different between them. The khorjin face is familiar, and a number of similar pieces have appeared in the market in recent years, often attributed to the Shahsavan. The long rug is hardly believable as a pile piece, though the analysis makes clear that it is in pile.



Another small bagface attributed to the area of Saveh would probably have qualified as a mystery rug on Turkotek had Parviz not illuminated the question. Apparently it varies between one or two shots of weft between rows, an unusual feature in any rug.



Two pieces attributed to ďNorthwest PersiaĒ (I thought they were all from there!) line up very well with the idea that many Shahsavan are ďCaucasian-esque,Ē the khorjin being reminiscent of a larger diagonally striped rug posted earlier by Patrick.



Finally, I thought I would post the two rugs proposed as Shahsavan candidates by Jenny Housego in Tribal Rugs (1979) (first image) and John Thompson in Carpet Magic (1983).



Patrick had already posted the latter, but I thought the color in my scan was about 3.17% more saturated, so I went with it. I find it interesting that Thompsonís attribution to the Shahsavan in 1983 was very tentative (as was Housegoís); but in 1996, HALI was stating emphatically that a similar rug sold at Skinner was not Anatolian, but Shahsavan. One wonders whether they had verified the attribution independently by then, or whether it was a case of Thompsonís speculation developing legs.

Tanavoli wondered in the article why it was that there had been a sudden cessation of pile weaving by the Shahsavan in 1910. He noted that the few examples he could confidently attribute to them from the late 19th century were masterfully woven, and that they were continually surrounded by renowned pile weavers, such as the Kurds, the Afshars, and Southern Caucasian weavers. Ultimately, he was unable to explain it, though their output of high quality flatwoven material continued apparently unabated after 1910. A revival of pile weaving occurred among some of them in 1950 in the form of the rugs marketed, rather successfully, as Meshkin and Ardebil.

Iím so thrilled at having finally got the goldarned images under control, I may take a run at the remaining ones.

Rich Larkin
July 15th, 2009, 09:16 AM   7
Steve Price
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Hi Rich

Your post reminds me that Tanavoli is among those in the "Shahsavan DID weave in pile" camp. He is a very credible source on this subject, being an Iranian scholar/artist with extensive knowledge of the history and culture of the Shahsavan peoples.

Regards

Steve Price
July 16th, 2009, 10:51 PM   8
Rich Larkin
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Hi all,

Following are most of the rest of the illustrations from Tanavoliís article in Hali 45. The first two are assigned to the Hashtrud area. The striped bag pair resembles Patrickís posted image of July 4, of course, but the two below donít bear much resemblance between them, as seems to be the case with many Shahsavan examples from discrete areas.



The following pair is described as Khamseh, and though I donít have the magazine handy, Iím pretty sure it is listed with single wefted construction.



The next two are Moghan.



They exemplify a property common to many of these pieces, which is that they look ever so much like rather direct copies of flatwoven rugs. The apparent dearth of pile weaving among the Shahsavan continues to be puzzling, and it may well be that they simply didnít do it much, and when they did, they grabbed a nearby item from their larger inventory for inspiration.

The next on the left is another Moghan, and its partner is identified as ďNorthwest Persian.Ē The latter is especially striking, and especially impressive , if coming from occasional pile weavers. It also echoes strongly a flatweaving tradition.



This last image is flatwoven, a saddle cover or blanket from Jenny Housegoís Tribal Rugs (1979). I included it out of deference to Chuck, and to further illustrate the conventional Shahsavan design vocabulary of critters. I apologize for posting it upside down, and hope no one is hurt viewing it.



I agree with Steve that Parviz Tanavoli seems to be a very credible observer and commentator in this area; and I donít doubt that some, if not all of the pieces he has illustrated are the work of the Shahsavan. It doesnít look as though we will soon have a handy key with which to parse them out, however, but thatís OK. It would be interesting, though, to have an insight into why Shahsavan weavings were produced in these apparently skewed ratios of flatweave to pile.

Rich Larkin
July 17th, 2009, 06:10 AM   9
Steve Price
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Hi Rich

The preponderance of flatweave in Shahsavan utilitarian pieces is generally thought to be a reflection of the fact that flatweaves are lighter in weight and just as functional as pile. It's also said that Turkmen wove much more flatweave than pile for the same reason, but Turkmen flatweaves are much less interesting to most collectors; this has to do with colors, I'm sure. Some Persian groups use mostly flatweave for their bags, but put a short length of pile at the regions most subject to abrasion.

Regards

Steve Price
July 17th, 2009, 08:09 PM  10
Patrick Weiler
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Why Not Much Pile

Rich,
Thanks for posting the Tanavoli Hali pieces. The theme seems to be Shahsavan pile pieces often have similarity in designs and configurations to their flatweave pieces, but also quite a diversity of designs.
I recommend reading your post on a laptop, as it is easier to turn a laptop screen upside down to view the horse cover than it is to turn a desktop computer upside down.

The two wide, short mafrash-style pieces you posted and Lloyd's piece along with mine may indicate a trend for Shahsavan weavers to translate their flatweave mafrash pieces into pile.

Steve is correct that a pile piece is heavier than a similar size flatweave, usually. Nomadic tribes needed to keep things light-weight and some experts say Baluch weavers did not weave much pile, either. One reason is the area they live in is so hot that heavy pile weavings would have been more of a burden to carry and live with. I am not sure the Shahsavan areas are as warm as Baluchistan, but less to carry is better in either case. I was not aware that Turkmen in general wove more flatweaves than pile, but the tribes in more arid regions may have done so. Those in the Amu Darya river region might have been able to weave more pile for a couple of reasons. One is that they were more sedentary and another is that water was available. The same goes with people living in oasis regions.
I have always been curious about the amount of water needed for dyeing and washing wool and rugs. There was not likely enough water, much less dye plants or dye experts, in some areas to properly prepare the wool for weaving. This would mean a commercial dying enterprise where water was available would have supplied much of the dyed wool for weavers living in arid regions. It would have cost more to for the weavers to buy enough dyed wool for pile weavings than for similar sized flatweaves. It could also explain the similarity in colors in many weavings attributed to certain areas.
The Housego Tribal Rugs book shows a courtyard in Kirman, with piles of wool from neighboring villages awaiting dyeing. This practice likely occurred throughout the weaving belt. Nomads depended on settled people for many of their needs and in a barter economy, the dye expert could probably only take so much butter or yogurt in exchange for wool, or only so much undyed wool in exchange for dyed wool.

Patrick Weiler
July 21st, 2009, 02:57 AM   11
Patrick Weiler
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Not

Here are some pictures of a pile weaving with a Shahsavan design.

That Bird On A Stick design is common to Shahsavan weavings.
The back, though, shows that the wefts are dark brown, white or red in different areas.

And a closer look shows that this is a single-wefted weaving.

The medium blue minor borders contrasted with the dark brown multi-cord selvage, the orange-red field and major border color and the rosettes all conspire along with the single-wefted construction to place this piece in the Varamin orbit.
So just because it looks like a Shahsavan pile weaving, that does not mean that it is. What it does tell us, though, is that pieces which look Shahsavan and are not constructed like other weavings whose construction is well established may more likely be Shahsavan.

Patrick Weiler
July 21st, 2009, 09:53 PM   12
Rich Larkin
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Hi Patrick,

Not to be gratuitously contentious, but does a Varamin regional provenance necessarily eliminate the Shahsavan? Varamin itself seems to be a venue associated with a certain type of urban production of rugs mostly in the Mina Khani design; along with a fairly varied bunch of tribal or quasi-tribal weavings. Are the shahsavan among the tribal peoples in the area? I thought I remembered so.

In the Hali 45 article, Tanavoli allowed that some of the Shahsavan pile candidates were single-wefted. Furthermore, it seems pretty clear that there isn't much of a common denominator among them, whether one considers structure, materials or designs. If you have a piece that displays a typical Shahsavan design such as the one you show, no doubt out of the bunker for the first time in months, much to its enormous relief, isn't its claim to Shahsavan-hood as good as any?

That said, I find your comments about the structural anomalies of your initial piece, and apparently others, to be very fresh and interesting.

Rich Larkin
July 23rd, 2009, 12:24 AM   13
Patrick Weiler
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Trunker not Bunker

Rich,

The Bird on a Stick piece has spent decades in a trunk, not in the bunker.
It can be confidently attributed to the Varamin Trunker tribe.
The Tanavoli book Varamin has 81 plates, of which 14 are Shahsavan. This is 17%. Five pieces are Pazuki and three are Osanlu. Of the 14 Shahsavan pieces, only three have some pile and the rest are flatweaves.
A Varamin attribution does not rule out a Shahsavan origin, although the Shahsavan pieces shown do not appear similar to this Bird Bag. It is more likely that the weaver borrowed a Shahsavan design and incorporated it into her own weaving. Compare it with #3 from the first post in this thread. It shows a tessellation design with this motif, although not on "a stick" as the Varamin piece design. This tendency to co-opt a familiar design and use it with a different construction and feel has been common in oriental rug weaving throughout the centuries. Fashion is like that, taking a popular concept and transforming it. That explains why you are wearing baggy pants hanging down below your colorful thong underwear.

Patrick Weiler
July 23rd, 2009, 11:17 PM  14
Rich Larkin
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Hi Patrick,

My entire wardrobe, including the thong underwear, is in woven pile. It can be a hardship in some seasons, but I felt it was a statement I had to make. If you feel moved to make a similar commitment, I would suggest steering clear of items with a lot of goat hair.

You mention that three items in the Tanavoli book have "some pile." Anymore to say on that? Are they mixed technique pieces? Bakhtiari style, with the pile buffer along the bottom? Striped Varamin sorts of things? I guess I need to get the Tanavoli book. You've got a great salon going here, and I've learned a lot, but I still find the whole thing very jumbled.

Rich Larkin
July 23rd, 2009, 11:50 PM   15
Patrick Weiler
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You Show Me Yours

Rich,

You really must post a photo on the Portrait Gallery. Curious Minds Want To Know what you look like in full pile regalia.

Goat hair keeps the scorpions away, according to Jerry Anderson. That explains why I have not been attacked by them recently.
The Tanavoli Varamin book shows a full pile khorjin, a pile/flatweave salt bag and a pile horse cover attributed to the Shahsavan.
I will post photos!
Meanwhile, to sate your curiosity, here are a couple more putative pile Shahsavan pieces:
This was from a Frauenknecht Hali ad in issue 66 from 1992, mid 19th century.

This is from an Alberto Boralevi Hali ad in issue 65 from 1992:

Both pieces show designs familiar from Shahsavan flatweave pieces. No structural characteristics were included.

Patrick Weiler
July 24th, 2009, 01:18 PM  16
Patrick Weiler
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Tanavoli Varamin pix And More!

This first photo shows a close-up of the Bird on a Stick bag face I posted earlier.
Research I had done a few years ago showed that Varamin trappings are single-wefted and incorporate offset knotting - but not for purposes of articulating designs as with Jaf Kurd weavings.
This Bird bag stymied me because the weave is coarse, at 7h x 8v knots per square inch for 35kpsi, and the designs are entirely geometric, with no sharp angles or curves which are where one would look for offset knots.
A closer look at the top border, though, shows the light blue two rows of knots are offset from each other. Once again, the Varamin trait of offset knotting is present. My belief is that in these border areas, offset knots were used to make the row thinner. Many Varamin mafrash faces show an extremely thin border line and these are nearly always made with offset knots, although in those cases a single row of knots one color - usually dark - is offset between rows of other contrasting colors.



Next are the three pile pieces attributed to Shahsavan weavers in the Tanavoli Varamin book. This one is the horse cover. The angular stars are a Varamin motif but the "horse" or animal border gives it a Shahsavan provenance.

Next is a full-pile khorjin.

And, finally, a half-pile, half-flatweave saltbag. Again, the animal designs indicate the Shahsavan origin and the cabled selvages are common in Varamin pieces. I do not know if the pile is offset in any of these pieces, but if you own one of them, please let me know.



Patrick Weiler
July 26th, 2009, 11:22 AM  17
Rich Larkin
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Hi Patrick,

Is the double row of offset blue knots the only appearance of offset knotting in the piece? I wouldn't think it would have the effect of thinning up the line, as the shift is only horizontal. Maybe it was an accident. If you start the first knot one warp off, it persists across the piece.

I love that salt bag. I used to (1980's) see pieces like this alternating pile and flat in horizontal stripes of approximately this proportion. They always had a lot of this fine mid-blue presence; and they were always well woven and refined without being too slick, again like this one. Much of the red would have a bit of a cochineal look, deeply saturated (sort of like the diagonals of your upper stripes). Anyway, the pieces I used to see were usually hkhorjins, and they were called "Varamin." It was before the "good color" revival of the DOBAG rugs, et al, and I used to think they all seemed to be in too good a state of condition to be antique; yet they looked too good in quality to be new. Are you familiar with them? Is your salt bag one of them? Is the salt bag yours? If so, is reminds me once again how desparate I am to penetrate the bunker, no matter what it takes.

Rich Larkin
July 26th, 2009, 01:26 PM   18
Patrick Weiler
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Yes, I Mean No, Yes

Rich,
The salt bag is plate 72 from the Tanavoli Varamin book.
The photo of the salt bag is "brighter" than the picture in the book, which shows it more subdued and "older". The colors are very saturated, as they are in most older Varamin pieces - Shahsavan or not. They use a peculiar soft orange, brick red, a couple of blues - dark and light - and deep black. This argues for a common commercial dye community and similar, consistent wool.
There is another salt bag, plate 70, in the Tanavoli Varamin book, also with alternating pile and flatweave, designated Shadlu or Qarachurlu Kurd. Another Kurdish salt bag, plate 71, alternates pile with "complimentary (sic) weft weave" instead of the inclined slit tapestry of the other two.
A close inspection of the photograph of the Shahsavan salt bag in plate 72 shows offset knotting in the narrower pile sections. So, did Shahsavan in Varamin utilize the regional practice of offset knotting, or is the salt bag not Shahsavan?
Tanavoli does not specify the indicators for this piece to be Shahsavan.

There are more offset knots in another top border stripe of my Bird on a Stick bag face, also two rows - this time in black. I haven't found any in the field of this piece, although sometimes Varamin pieces have clumps of them in open-field, single color areas. I have a Kurdish rug with this open-field offset knotting, too.
That is why some have claimed that this is not really an offset knotting tradition, because they do not articulate a design by allowing a steeper angle or other motif feature. However, if it is true that a horizontal line would appear thinner by using a single row of offset knots, I would contend that the practice is a design-derived structural technique practiced commonly in the Varamin area.
The reason offsetting a row of knots makes a line appear thinner is because the offset knot occupies the slight gaps between the knots of the rows above and below. This squeezes those rows tighter to the offset row, making it thinner.
Granted, if you accidentally "pearl one and knit two" instead of the other way around as the saying goes in knitting, you have disturbed the consistency of a piece, so the weaver accidentally offsetting a knot will generally continue for a distance. But in the case of Varamin weavings, this technique is used in every piece I have inspected, more than a dozen.
And let me say it is not easy to get more than a few Varamin pieces in the same room at the same time. Just as it is difficult to get more than one person in the narrow confines of my bunker at the same time. My insurance company has a clause prohibiting it.


Patrick Weiler
July 26th, 2009, 03:49 PM  19
Rich Larkin
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Hi Patrick,

Of course Plate 72 is from Tanavoli. If I'd had the sense to read the thing, I'd have known that. Of course, this information does little to diminish my obsession with breaching the massive security of the bunker.

I once had a pair of the striped khorjins that I gave away as gifts (separate donees...maybe that was sacreligious). If I can borrow one back, I'll post an image.

I give you the point about the thinner line being shown through the use of offset knotting. It's subtle, but that makes the point stronger. I believe it attests to a kind of attention to detail that becomes these weavers and makes their products all the more interesting.

BTW, your insurance carrier can relax about that bunker clause. I took a look in the mirror and counted only one person. So no problem. Incidentally, after my visit, there should be a little more room to move around. A win-win situation for sure.

Rich Larkin
July 31st, 2009, 10:37 AM   20
Richard Larkin
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Hi Patrick and all,

Here are a couple of shots of a bag I used to own. In fact, I had the pair.



I think the kinship to the salt bag from Tanavoli is clear. It isn't so evident from the pictures, but the khorjin shows the same multi-corded selvage wrapped in pile yarn that the salt bag has. As I mentioned earlier, I used to see pieces of this kind in the 70's and 80's under the label, "Varamin." I liked them then and now, and was something of a knucklehead to gift out both of them. Worthy recipients, though.

Anyway, are we now calling these things "Shahsavan, Varamin area?" This mini salon hasn't given me a clear sense of what the Shahsavan wove in pile. It simply demonstrates that the whole business is unclear; and it requires that all former labelling in the mode, "Northwest Persian," be given the additional tag, "possibly Shahsavan." That's not a criticism of Patrick's efforts. Kudos to him for bringing the subject and this information forward. It's always a good thing to remind rugdom that this field is much more complex than would appear from the literature.

Rich Larkin
August 10th, 2009, 07:56 PM   21
Patrick Weiler
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More Pile Pictures

Rich,

Keep me in mind when you next gift someone a weaving. I can always find a little more space somewhere around the bunker.
Here are a few more Shahsavan putative pile pieces from Hali. The first is from Hali 98 in May 1998 from a Marketplace article describing a show at the Samarkand Gallery:

The article says: "An unusual Shahsavan pile bagface (above) shows strong Turkic elements, notably the small "C" forms within the central octagon."
I wonder if the "writing" can be translated?
Next is a 19th century Moghan Shahsavan rug from a Mohammad Tehrani advertisement in Hali 97 in the fall oif 1994. The diagonal design and long format is often seen in commercial Gendje work and no structural information was included:


This last one is from the Hali February 2000 issue #108. Markus Voigt, in an article entitled Carpet October, described a visit to Munich which included a stop at the Bertram Frauenknecht gallery. He notes: "...even more interesting was a piled Shahsavan bag face with the well known cruciform design."
He did not say "a pile bag face with the well known Shahsavan design".
No other insight was offered regarding the Shahsavan attribution.

Again, no structural information was provided. The photos have a bit of glare due to being taken outside. Magazine paper can be quite shiny.
The middle piece appears to come from a strong tradition of pile weaving, unlike the other two which certainly have a tribal look.

Patrick Weiler
August 11th, 2009, 08:33 AM   22
Rich Larkin
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Tom Jones

Hi Patrick,

Quote:
The article says: "An unusual Shahsavan pile bagface...."
What I want to know is, are there any usual ones? This latest roster of Shahsavan candidates for pile doesn't do much to zero in on the certain indicia of provenance. As I said, that's not a criticism. You've done a great job in dragging this issue out into the light. What is apparent is that any number of commentators seem to feel free to send that label out like a frisbee anytime an "unusual" Northwest Persian pile weaving comes along. 'Twas ever thus in rugdom. We hope eventually to arrive at some firm grounds.

That first image is a corker. Like a lot of the pieces discussed, it isn't hackneyed, whoever wove it. BTW, the "writing" doesn't look too promising to me. I see it as code for "the goddess" (or goddesses in this case).

Rich Larkin
August 13th, 2009, 09:42 AM   23
Dinie Gootjes
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Hi Rich, Patrick,

Quote:
What I want to know is, are there any usual ones?
Here is a usual one :



Less colourful, less border, but related I think? This sold some time ago, in Holland maybe. I don't remember where I got the picture.

Dinie
August 13th, 2009, 07:03 PM   24
Rich Larkin
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Hi all,

Well, whaddya knkow? Who would have thought there were at least two of those? Interestingly, one of the few elements missing in Dinie's example is the pair of reversed "C's" emphasized in the Hali article as "...strong Turkic elements." One gets the impression that the texture of the two might be quite different as well, though that could be illusory.

Rich Larkin
August 14th, 2009, 12:08 AM  25
Patrick Weiler
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Khorjin?

Dinie,

That piece certainly has similarities to the other piece.
Could they be two halves of a khorjin?

The "latchooks" with only four arms in both pieces are certainly different than the busier Jaf Kurd versions and could be a common feature to Shahsavan pile pieces, or at least those woven in a particular area.
Do you recall if it was ascribed to Shahsavan weavers?
There is a piece (which has been sold) on Tom Cole's web site that is attributed to Shahsavan and has a similar reciprocal border to yours.
http://www.tcoletribalrugs.com/resources/rugshtml/43shahsavan.html
It also has the sinuous warps/lack of weft ease that Wendel mentioned as an indicator of Shahsavan pile weaving.
All three pieces have an almost Nazca-like stick-figure iconography to them.
The similarities of many of these pile weavings begin to fit more comfortably in the Shahsavan tradition instead of having to force a round peg into a square hole of saying they are "Caucasian" or "Northwest Persian" (which is where the Shahsavan lived anyway).
Separating Shahsavan pile weavings from Caucasian or NW Persian is somewhat like the issue with Luri weavings being attributed to Qashqa'i or other SW Persian weavers until they began to be separated and recognized as individual and important on their own.

Patrick Weiler
August 14th, 2009, 12:27 PM   26
Dinie Gootjes
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Hi Patrick,

I am sure it was offered without attribution, as I made a (wrong) guess myself to name the picture. It may have ended up on ebay, as I seem to remember that a few dealers were after it, but I am not sure. Should have bought it .

Dinie
August 14th, 2009, 01:14 PM  27
Steve Price
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Hi Dinie

The ones that get away are the best.

Here's a true story. While I was negotiating a price for a lovely Yomud bokche at dealer's row at an ACOR some years ago, another collector snatched the piece off the table and handed the dealer a check for his asking price.

I ran into the guy later, and he sort of half-apologized for pulling the rug our from under me (literally!). I assured him that it was OK, and explained that within a few years he would discover every little flaw in the piece. I, on the other hand, would forever have the memory of nearly buying an almost perfect piece that just keeps improving with age in my mind. Who do you think got the better deal?

Regards

Steve Price
August 14th, 2009, 07:01 PM   28
Dinie Gootjes
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Hi Steve,

Next time I am feeling down, I will look at all those pictures of rugs we almost bought .
Thanks.

Dinie
August 14th, 2009, 10:52 PM   29
Patrick Weiler
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Snoopy

Steve,

Your story reminds me of Charlie Brown, pining away for the little red-headed girl. In real life, the red-headed girl turned down Charles Schultz' proposal of marriage. He was better off without her, if only because she inspired his life's work.

Here is another interesting Shahsavan pile piece:


You can see it in context of a recent Textile Museum Rug Morning on John Howe's blog. It is the second piece on this page:
http://rjohnhowe.wordpress.com/2009/08/13/small-bags-part-2-audience-pieces/
I believe it is also plate 175 in the Tanavoli Shahsavan book. He notes that the "cross-shaped star is a motif that has been used by Shahsavan weavers in a variety of ways. It is of interest to find it on the Chanteh in Pl. 175, which is one of the few pile pieces in this book."
He also mentions the colors:
"The use of colour in Pls. 175 and 176, and the way the colours of the stars and of the background lozenges interchange irregularly, is admirable."
In my personal estimation, this colorful piece looks "good enough to eat".
The reproduction in the Shahsavan book is not nearly as rich as the photos in the blog. Great work, John.

Patrick Weiler
August 16th, 2009, 10:23 AM   30
Patricia Jansma
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'pacman' bag

Dear Rich,

As you spoke before of a bag very similar to a bag I have, I am adding a few photo's of this piece (which, by the way, I've always attributed to the Shahsavan Kurd - the design being one I associate with the Shahsavan, and the general feel and structure of the piece of a type I associate with the Kurds ). By the way, it is double wefted and has a symmetrical knot.

Just some thoughts about the discussion about determination / attribution: in my work as a general appraiser of art and antiques (no, I'm not a rug specialist, unfortunately), I tend to look more for a particular 'handwriting' of an item (usually is the combination of several aspects, like use of color, structure, motives) rather then one aspect, or a few aspects on their own. It all has to come together in a way.

The question of definition of what IS a Shahshavan (and what is not) in my humble opinion also is an important one in the process of attribution (and the decision whether strict measures apply or whether you will leave room open for mixed forms.

Just some thoughts. Kind regards,

Patricia Jansma





August 16th, 2009, 10:50 AM   31
Rich Larkin
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Hi Patricia,

That's a fun piece. I love it. What are the dimensions?

I agree it looks like a Kurd/Shahsavan hybrid, the latter based on the similar design in one of the Tanavoli pieces from the HALI article posted earlier

Rich Larkin
August 16th, 2009, 05:03 PM   32
Patricia Jansma
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Hi Rich,

The bag is of chanteh format and measures approx. 27 x 29 cm (or 10,5 x 11,5 inch).
The photo you posted of a piece from the Tanavoli article with a very similar design, was attributed to the Khamseh, is that correct?

Kind regards,

Pat(ricia)
August 16th, 2009, 08:28 PM   33
Rich Larkin
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Hi Patricia,

Khamseh is right. The Hali example was said to be single-wefted. I see yours is double. I wouldn't consider that to be of much consequence in this case. Yours seems to be a cousin of the other.

Rich Larkin
August 17th, 2009, 04:08 AM   34
Patricia Jansma
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Hi Rich,

Its relatively long pile, symmetric knot, sturdy feel and rather muddled palette are not be what I would normally associate with Khamseh. With all the similarities in color and design, I wonder if the Tanavoli piece has the same structure as this one.
Patricia
August 17th, 2009, 05:56 AM   35
Steve Price
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Hi Patricia

"Khamseh" has two meanings with regard to attribution of rugs. The most common is a confederation of five tribal groups in southern Iran's Fars region. The other, much less common in Rugdom, is a province in NW Iran. The second one is what Tanavoli means when he attributes Shahsavan to Khamseh.

I'm assuming that this is one of my lucid moments.

Regards

Steve Price
August 17th, 2009, 07:40 AM   36
Patricia Jansma
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aahhhh....

Hi Steve,
OK, that clarifies it. Thanks. A Hip hip hurray for lucid moments!
Kind regards, Patricia
August 18th, 2009, 11:01 PM   37
Rich Larkin
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Hi Patricia,

I took another look at the Tanavoli article in HALI 45, and it turns out I was mistaken that the little double bag similar to yours attributed to the Khamseh Shahsavan was single-wefted. They were in fact double wefts, dyed dark red according to the article. The size was also comparable to yours, measuring nine inches wide and seventeen inches long for the joined pair.

Rich Larkin
August 19th, 2009, 02:19 AM   38
Patricia Jansma
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Dear Rich,

Thanks for looking it up.
It makes sense that that one too is double wefted.

Kind regards, Patricia
August 23rd, 2009, 01:07 AM   39
Patrick Weiler
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Sorta Similar

Patricia,

Here is a small chanteh of Shahsavan origin. It has a similar motif as yours, but is flatwoven other than a strip of pile at the bottom.
I am traveling and unable to show a picture of the back or structure:



You can certainly see that the pile motifs are very poorly articulated, compared to the crisp interpretation of the flatwoven face. This would tend to corroborate the suggestion that a practiced flatweaver but inexperienced pile weaver would have difficulty with pile weaving, even in a small strip as on this piece.
I will post more information in a few days.

Patrick Weiler
August 23rd, 2009, 05:16 PM  40
Patricia Jansma
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Dear Patrick,

Thanks for your message. I'll be waiting for the additional information you'll be posting.
The (somewhat more angular) design of your bag reminds me of a torba I once had, with the following design:

(the design seemingly derived from flatweaves).
- Image from Uwe Jourdan's book "Oriental Rugs, volume V, Turkoman". -

Kind regards, and wishing you good and safe travelling,

Patricia Jansma

August 28th, 2009, 02:19 AM   41
Patrick Weiler
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When she was good, she was very, very good, but when she was bad...

Here are a couple of close up pictures of the pile section of the chanteh:





From the back you can see that the weaver basically had no clue how to properly weave in pile. The occasional warp threads are visible due to a weft ease problem, there may be stacked knots and it is difficult to make out the pattern. But the flatweave part is meticulously woven.

Patrick Weiler
August 30th, 2009, 04:41 PM  42
Patrick Weiler
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Statistics

Patricia,

It is interesting that a Turkmen weaving would copy a flatweave design. I know that some "Beshir" pieces copy ikat designs.

A close inspection of the pile section of the khorjin piece shows 6h x 7v for 42 knots per square inch, well within the commonly accepted range for Shahsavan pile weavings. It certainly meets the criteria of "simple field and border designs", loose construction and symmetrical knots.
The main design of the flatweave section is often found in Shahsavan pieces.
Plate 209 from Shahsavan is a khorjin with the same design and also with pile ends.

Tanavoli says it is uncommon and "This probably indicates influences from Kurdish settlements north of Qazvin. The other sections of this piece conform to current Shahsavan patterns." He says the piece is from the Varamin area, which would conform to the "squiggly line" complementary weft flatweave rows in my piece, also a Varamin area attribute.
Tanavoli in Shahsavan shows a mafrash in plate 94 attributed to Khamseh, with this same design, noting it is more common in khorjin.
Plates 208 through 214 show Shahsavan variations of this design which he calls a "flower and bud" motif.
Here is a picture of plates 208 (bottom) and 209:



Patrick Weiler

Last edited by Patrick Weiler; August 30th, 2009 at 10:15 PM.
September 1st, 2009, 05:43 PM   43
Richard Larkin
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Hi Patrick,

Is the gronky (as distinguished from the ill-fated "wonky") pile weaving evident at the back of the image in panel 41 entirely a matter of inept weaving, or is some of that sloppy "repair" work? Granted, the drawing is also quite...dare I say it?...wonky.

Anyway, this mini salon has raised a lot more questions than it has answered, which I say is a good thing. A very cogent observation by you is the conspicuous difference evident in weaving skill in some mixed technique pieces, where the pile weaving is rudimentary, and and the various flatweaving techniques are well done. Judging from comments by people who know, such as Marla Mallett, it should be the other way around. Thus, it is easy to go along with the thesis that such weavers do little in pile.

It still leaves the problem of attributing the several types and styles we've seen in this salon to the appropriate sources. Though it is possible that Shahsavan weave in pile differently depending on where they come from, or on other factors, it seems unlikely that all of the different kinds of pieces we've seen here, attributed by someone to the Shahsavan, were actually produced by members of that tribe. The variation at many levels seems too great. Referring to the clumsy pile technique in particular, it is worth noting that many of the pieces illustrated in the various threads here are very refined, one might even say slick. I'm talking about the textile weaving and drawing, not the designs themselves. Take for example the salt bag you posted in panel 16 of this thread, which though simple in design, looks like the work of a very confident and competent weaver. I know the mixed technique bag I posted a few panels later, which I see as related, was very refined as a piled textile. Such pieces seem far from the likes of your piece in Panel 41, though I like that piece.

However all that stacks up, it is evident that we are in for an onslaught of Shahsavan attribution throughout the marketplace, but I guess we can stand it.

Rich Larkin
September 2nd, 2009, 01:01 AM   44
Patrick Weiler
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Panel 41?

Rich,

Are you referring to "Area 51", where the aliens are reputed to have landed?

Or is "Panel 41" referring to the 41st photograph in the salon discussion?
If it is my recently posted chanteh you are speaking of, it suffers from condition issues in the pile area, which is the purported reason for utilizing pile in the bottom section of bags due to the likelihood of considerable wear in that area.
There has been no "repair work" on this piece, although after I acquired it I located a prior photo of it on the internet which showed a bit more flatweave. A few rows of weft had been removed from either side because it previously appeared to have had a large bite taken out of the middle. Likely to test for natural dyes.
Or possibly to make it more appealing to a potential purchaser.
As to your suggestion that not all of the pieces in the salon are actual Shahsavan pile weavings, I would posit that many, many more Shahsavan pile weavings have been attributed to Caucasian, NW Persian, Kurdish and other sources than the few that may be misattributed to the Shahsavan.
As edgy, daring, speculative and pushing the envelope as modern rug studies are,

it is entirely possible that this particular area has been neglected for any number of reasons, not only including the assertion of some who discount any pile weaving at all by Shahsavan tribal people. I would argue that much of the exploring of tribal rugs that began in the late 1960's and early 1970's with the Tehran Rug Society,(http://www.tcoletribalrugs.com/article14loriBaktiari.html) has subsequently been stymied for a number of reasons including the inability of Western researchers having access to the tribal areas, the Iraq/Iran war, the 1979 revolution in Iran, the lack of articles remaining in-situ and the modernization of tribal peoples which has lead to an irreversible decline in the traditional ways of nomadic and village societies .
I would welcome "an onslaught of Shahsavan attribution" as long as it is thoughtfully considered and utilizes the tentative attribution features suggested by Wendel Swan and compares favorably with documented pieces published by Parviz Tanavoli and other reputable researchers.
P.S. What is the definition of Gronky?
Patrick Weiler

Last edited by Patrick Weiler; September 2nd, 2009 at 01:10 AM.
September 6th, 2009, 11:24 PM   45
Joel Greifinger
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Hi Patrick and Rich,

Whatever the underlying reality, there is already widespread Shahsavan attribution of pile weavings out in the marketplace. Of the 183 pieces on rugrabbit.com currently listed as Shahsavan, 25 (about 14%) are pile. Another eight pile pieces are listed as "possibly Shahsavan." Whether all, or even most of these, exhibit the tentative attribution features you've outlined and bear strong analogies to well-documented published pieces is another matter.

Joel Greifinger
September 7th, 2009, 11:18 AM   46
Rich Larkin
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Hi Joel and Patrick,

It is the nature of the antique rug business that the name, "Shahsavan," will become attached to many of the heretofore vaguely attributed pile pieces from the greater Northwest Persian region. Patrick's effort here to round up and clarify reasonable criteria for appropriate application of the name to pile weavings is laudable, but it won't stop the apparently indiscriminate adoption of the label for what used to get called "Kurdish" (without too much conviction) or "Northwest Persian." I believe it is sometimes possible to substantially increase the market value of a given item simply by giving it a "better" name.

Of course, some of the traditional alternative nomenclature for what may be Shahsavan work is probably accurate, such as Caucasian weaving areas in which Shahsavan people may have lived and woven in pile. Moghan is an example. Provenance labeling for woven material has always suffered, if that's the appropriate word, from an "apples and oranges" problem. Narrow tribal names, broad tribal names, narrow regional names, broad regional names, nearly meaningless names, are all mixed together as though they form a coherent system. The question arises in such cases whether one choice is better than another. Take the Moghan situation, for example. Is it better to call a given rug from that area "Moghan," or "Shahsavan," or "Shahsavan, Moghan area" (in the manner of Tanavoli)? To put the question differently, are there features of Shahsavan-woven rugs from that area that distinguish them from other weavings from the same area, and that reflect special traditions of that tribal group? Or might it be that the Shahsavan aspect of the weaving is incidental, and the shaping forces and influences are regional, or at least other than tribal-specific? One gets the impression that all possibilities in these regards are in play, depending on where one looks. These questions implicate the ones about who can be called Shahsavan, depending on whether they are in a nomadic mode or settled. That question itself is more complex than the black and white version, "settled or not."

Even so, we have to walk before we can run, and Patrick's effort to shed the light of factual criteria on the inquiry is welcome. I find the evidence of weaving technique (or lack of same) as reflected by the resulting product to be compelling. The sharp contrast in sophistication in some mixed technique pieces as between pile and flatweave is very interesting. So is the evidence of weavers apparently giving insufficient attention in pile weavings to the consistent balance of of tension between warp and weft, the "weft ease" issue. I don't doubt it is a real phenomenon. However, I'm not sure I followed the technical description of the problem as you outlined it in the first panel (i. e., first post; you may have noticed the posts are numbered ) of the "Down and Dirty" thread. One of the images is reproduced here.



It seems that the places where the warps show through in "salt and pepper" fashion are due to the fact that those spaces between rows of knots place all the wefts in the same shed. It is in fact the single weft technique, just with more than one shot of weft within the shed. That is a sloppy weaving technique in its own right, but it doesn't seem to be what Wendel Swan was describing; or maybe it was. I would think the question of skillful management of warp and weft tension is a separate (but real) issue.

Rich Larkin