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Mini-Salon 24: A Salor ayna gul Trapping
by Steve Price
piece became a member of my family recently, and I think it offers
enough food for thought to be worth sharing. It was advertised as
a late 19th century Salor torba. That attribution is
probably fundamentally correct, although it's more likely to be a
trapping than a torba. Ayna guls usually aren't my cup of tea, but they using only 8 of them on a
weaving as large as this one (3'6" x 1'7") makes the field less busy
than it is on more typical ayna
(especially juvals). It is of rather low knot density for a
Salor bag or trapping; 10 x 14 = 140 kpsi (asymmetric knots open left),
which is in the range for Salor main carpets. The warps are
moderately depressed; the wool is lustrous, and the piece
drapes in the hand. On my
monitor, the deeply saturated colors look about the way they do in
direct sunlight. The light blue area in the third gul from the
left, upper row, probably
resulted from removal of wax or something similar. The
remnants of a dark blue woven-in fringe
are visible along the lower edge of the pile. There are no silk knots in the pile.
Here is a direct scan of one side, making it easier to see the details.
There are two published pieces that are obviously related to it. The first is plate 12 from Tzareva's Rugs and Carpets from Cantral Asia. It is 4'2" x 1'5", and
more finely knotted (241 kpsi, asymmetric knots open left) than mine
is. The color reproduction in the book is poor. The palette
includes pink silk; the colors of the wool pile are: cherry-red,
violet-brown, dark brown, blue, sky-blue, blue-green, ivory.
is a scan of a section of the back taken at the bottom, showing the row of
woven-in dark blue fringe and the bottom finish. I'll say a little
about that later.
The second piece is from Mackie and Thompson's Turkmen. It is
3'6" x 1'7". There are magenta silk highlights; the wool colors
are: red, maroon, aubergine, rose, medium blue, dark blue,
dark green, tan, dark brown, ivory. Like the
one in Tzarevas' book, it is more finely woven (252 kpsi, asymmetric
knots open left) than mine is.
The knot densities of these
two are in the
range that is typical of Salor bags and trappings, usually
200-350 kpsi. In both pieces, the motifs
in the field and borders are smaller than those in mine, but are
formally the same. It seems likely that the smaller scale of the
design elements is related to the finer knotting. That is,
each design element is composed of a similar number of knots
in each piece. The one in the Tzareva book has remnants
the dark blue woven-in fringe that is usual in Salor (and Saryk) torba
size weavings. If the piece in Mackie and Thompson's book had a
similar fringe, it was lost when the ends were teased out into warp
These three weavings raise some questions for collectors to ponder.
1. Were they woven by Salor weavers?
All three pieces
fit the usual criteria for Salor attributions,
although the knot density of mine is at (perhaps below) the low end of
the range. On the other hand, the vocabulary of motifs, the dark
blue woven-in fringe, the palette, and the asymmetric knots open to the
left are all characteristics that are not generally seen together
except in pieces thought to be Salor. The relatively coarse weave
is peculiar to mine; I haven't run into another Salor torba or juval
woven this coarsely. Perhaps it is an indicator of age or of some
relatively ignored Salor subgroup. If it's age related, mine is
probably younger (rather than older) than the many published Salors,
nearly all of which are believed to have been woven before the mid-19th
century. On the other hand, later Salor weavings generally have
relatively large amounts of silk in the pile, and mine has none at
all. I know of no solid evidence relating knot density to age in
2. Are they torbas or trappings?
In describing the piece in Turkmen,
Jon Thompson notes that bottom finishes of trappings has the plainweave
end folded under twice and sewn into position with handspun wool
yarn. The scan of the back of my piece, which includes the lower
end, shows this clearly. For this reason, I think it's probably a
trapping rather than a storage bag. The lower end finish of the
illustrated in Turkmen was
lost when the plainweave was teased into a warp end fringe, so that one
may either be a torba face or a trapping.
The one in Tzareva's book doesn't show the back, but the descriptive
text mentions that the bottom is a plainweave that's folded under and
sewn. Thus, it's also probably a trapping.
3. Does the smaller size of individual design elements in the
more finely woven pieces tell us anything about how Turkmen weavers
memorized motifs? That is, do they form motifs by producing
sequences of specific numbers of knots of specific colors, regardless
of how closely those knots are spaced? This would be quite
different from the way illustrators create their works, assuming that
my understanding of how they do it is correct.
4. Why are ayna guls called that? The word, ayna,
means "mirror" in a number of Turkic languages, but it isn't obvious
what that has to do with the gul. The particular variant
illustrated by the three pieces shown here (ayna khamtos) looks
as though it might be related to various motifs used in Asia and
the Americas, believed to represent eyes. It's a stretch, but it
does occur to me that mirrors are associated with deflection of the
evil eye in central and western Asia, so perhaps there's a connection
of some kind here. I'm reluctant to open the door to conjectures
about motif meanings, but if it leads to other speculations,
I'll have to accept blame for starting it. I do ask that the
speculations have some rational underpinning; mine is borderline
in that regard, at best. Perhaps the similarity of the gul to the flag of Brazil will introduce a note of caution.
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