Rich Larkin January 3rd, 2014 05:31 AM

The Bird's the Word...
 
Hi Joel,

Sorry for weighing in late. Holiday travel and all that.

This salon strikes a pleasant chord with me. The feature that grabs my attention in these similar but endlessly variable bags is the "bird/tree" motif, if that indeed is what is depicted. First, however, to post a couple from the domestic supply, "... seemingly similar [to the high folk art specimen] bags [but] fail[ing] to stir the blood."

This one has never caused any blood pressure crises in either direction, but it is a straightforward, hearty example. It isn't handy just now for specs. Medium, relatively substantial weave.





Note the cunning pair of critters flanking the lower section of the octagon. The lightning border had become a bit clunky since the glory days of the V&A and Boucher examples.

Here's one with the pinwheel border, which I purchased precisely for that reason (i. e., what's left of it).





At the time, I didn't think it was especially common, though, of course, I began to see them by the thousands once I'd acquired it. Following is a detail of that border.





In order to re-stir the blood for those who have suffered coagulation in the presence of the last two, here's a counterpoint dazzler that bears a strong resemblance to one in your display, the last on in the stack before your own piece.





This gets us to your principal question, the aesthetics of the whole business. To be continued on that score.

Rich

Joel Greifinger January 3rd, 2014 07:32 PM

Quote:

Here's one with the pinwheel border, which I purchased precisely for that reason
Hi Rich,

I've found that I got a number of the star-in-octagon bags that I have because of one or two features that particularly appealed to me. I got this pinwheel border bag both because of the pinwheel motif (a 'Baluch' variety of swastika) and the variation between the darker and lighter blue in the 'animal' (or as some might have it, 'bird' :banana:) designs.








It's sometimes easier to make out the 'pinwheel' in bags that have put in a fair bit of service, like this one that hints at a former appeal:





Quote:

The Bird's the Word...
On the animal/bird question, I'll stick with Col. Boucher's equivocation in describing one of his classic bags: "the stylized bird or animal in the four corners of the panel facing the star." :cheers:

And I remember that third, lightning border bag face you posted. It was certainly tempting, but then I decided to buy a new car with the money instead. :rofl:

Joel

Rich Larkin January 5th, 2014 03:19 AM

I know you are looking for our take on the aesthetics of Baluch weaving (as manifest in these star in octagon bags) rather than that of the weavers as we might divine it. For my part, though, I can’t really separate the two. I don’t know what the weavers were thinking, but I have a sense of what I think they were up to.
Part of it seems to be that they were relentless copiers of the work of those around them over the centuries. In truth, that aspect of their operation is often mentioned with some disdain, or at most with faint praise, but I see it as a strength, see below. There is also the matter of the palette, which is often dark with principal colors not so easily distinguished. On that score, here’s a khorjin face that exemplifies that practice well, and also the one of inserting a small spot or two of bright silk (yellow in this case).

 



There doesn’t seem to be agreement in the literature whether the dark palette was a choice, or a result of their insufficient mastery of the skill of dyeing. However it came about, there is a considerable body of work demonstrating the approach; and the issue of choice vs. result may not be straightforward. Anyway, as little as I know about dyeing with indigo, it is certain that deep dark blue is more labor intensive than medium or light blue; so it would seem there was some level intention involved. However it all shook out, I have bought into the idea of the struggling tribes living on the fringes of bleakness who were somehow able to create a corpus of beautiful if somber weavings, pretty much along the lines discussed in the link Steve gave us. Thus, their alleged aesthetic and my own appreciation of it are bound together.
Speaking of the star/octagon bags in particular, as I mentioned at the outset, “The bird’s the word.” In my opinion, the basic motif of the supposed pair of birds(?) facing the tree(?) is absolutely begging for an early Anatolian antecedent. Unfortunately, I don’t happen to know where there is one, but there had to be one, right? Otherwise, where would it have come from? (Having so pronounced, I now give the Baluch full credit for having preserved the noble tradition of it.) The closest suspect would seem to be this piece from the Vakiflar Museum.





One needs a fundamentally different bird, and a very diminished tree. But I'm sure they were up to those specifications. Then, there's this related number, from the Konya Museum.




The bird is still very wrong for our purposes, but take a look at the funky heiroglyphs along the upper and lower borders. Hmmmm. I'm sure we could find one or two close matches from amont the thousands of star/octagon bags you perused for the salon.

And this intriguing piece.




Imagine isolating sections from that tracery running through the field, say the part immediately to the left of the green lantern in the upper right corner. Suggestive?

And how about the seminal pair of opposed double hooks inthis prayer rug?





Just turn it ninety degrees, and voilą!

W-a-a-a-y far-fetched, and sheerly coincidental, I'm sure. But I'm banking on the (so far) undiscovered fact of an Anatolian forebear for this general design. I'm not really interested in whether they were birds, or what the birds facing the tree meant to long lost cultures, or whatever. I'd just like to know whether there was such an early thing, and whether the Baluch group weavers kept it alive in the ubiquitous pieces surrounding us today.

Getting back to the Baluch aesthetic, it counts with me that they did this sort of thing and made the design completely their own, with many variations on the theme, as they did with so many others. All amidst the bleakness of their lives.

Rich

Chuck Wagner January 5th, 2014 07:43 PM

Hi Joel, et al,

First, I have taken a segment of your earliest (-ish) example from the V&A and tried to enhance the motif in question. If you're red-green color blind, skip past this example...





It is in many respects, rather unsophisticated and quite different from other and apparently later examples. Whether we can use such changes as indicators of relative age is unclear to me, especially because - the early example may have been woven by someone with poor artistic skills or a bad understanding of the intended motif. Still, I wonder if we see any evolution of design in this large population of bags.

I have a couple bags from this genre; because the available selection is quite large I have tried to select examples that are somewhat different from the norm. Examples such as Steve's (a beauty) with such vibrant colors, are unusual. Mine are below.

The first has an uncommon "leaf" or "shrub" field motif, and an uncommon (but not rare) "bug" border. The "bird" motif has some interesting interior fill patterns as well. There are a few knots that may be silk but are so badly worn that it is tough to judge. There is a purple-pink dye that has faded, that may be analine and as a result may assign an age range to this piece (see second image):








The second one has a sombre palette but is attractive nevertheless. The "bird" motif, in this case, reminds me of the Scythian representations of deer & antlers, as much as a bird, btw. A really interesting, and differentiating, feature is what I interpret as a record of a birth, in the upper left of the field (see last image).













Regards
Chuck Wagner

Steve Price January 5th, 2014 08:49 PM

Hi Chuck

Regarding the one in the V&A, I'm pretty sure it's got the earliest documented provenance (acquired in 1875) of any known Belouch group weaving.

Regards

Steve Price

Joel Greifinger January 6th, 2014 12:27 AM

Holy bags in the bat cave!
 
Quote:

The first has an uncommon "leaf" or "shrub" field motif, and an uncommon (but not rare) "bug" border.
Hi Chuck,

The "bug" (or, as I sometimes muse, "bat") border bags may not be rare, but they're certainly out of the ordinary. The ones I've seen have mostly been paired with that "shrub' field motif, as in your bag and this one:





this one dispenses with the 'outer' field motifs altogether simplifying down to the animal/bird/tree design in an octagonal compartment surrounded by the blue trefoil pattern:





Quite often (as in yours and these two), the "bugs" are flanked by at least one "running dog" minor border. The arrangement is akin to some Yomud chuvals:





I've also noticed that the "bug/bat" bags tend to have a palette that is somewhat different from most other star-in-octagon bags. More combination of lighter reddish browns (tan?) with the lighter blues, I think. :baffled:

Joel

Patrick Weiler January 6th, 2014 08:47 PM

Wrong Direction?
 
Rich,
We may be searching in the wrong direction for the original source of this iconography. Perhaps it came from The East. There has long been a history of a similar-looking device in Chinese art.



The bat means happiness and the symbol in the middle means prosperity. Good stuff to put on your weavings!
Not only silk traveled on the Silk Road, but also money.



Money travels well and keeps well. It could have developed into silk embroidery designs said to be from the Trans-Caucasus region.



From there morphing into Shahsavan versions and the ubiquitous Baluch versions. All of these areas were along the Silk Road and could have independently developed the design we see today, but the silk embroideries are said to be as old as the 17th century.
Patrick Weiler

Rich Larkin January 6th, 2014 11:05 PM

Hi Patrick,

Quote:

Money travels well and keeps well.
As far as I know, there is no empirical evidence for that proposition, and it is at complete variance with my personal experience. :thumbsdown: However, in light of your long and excellent service to this site, I am going to give you a pass just this once.

In fact, your material on the topic at hand is excellent. I'm not necessarily buying it, but it has some strained plausibility, and that's what we're after! Do you have any illustrations/references to the (apparently) intermediate Shah Savan models you mentioned? I'm not so taken with the potential of your Chinese bats, but your familiar ingeniousness is definitely operating in regard to the Trans-Caspian silk embroideries. One can isolate a certain core from that repeat and be astonished at the possibilities. Way better than the clap-trap I came up with. Well done!! :thumbsup:

Rich

Rich Larkin January 7th, 2014 01:20 AM

Hi Chuck,

Good work in playing up the "bird" figure. It is difficult to discern clearly in the standard V&A image that is out there. I'm somewhat surprised at your apparent lack of enthusiasm for the artistic skills of the weaver, and the opinion that the piece (actually, I believe there is a pair, both in the V&A collection) is a rather unsophisticated example. Care to elaborate?

As regards the "proper" or original shape of the device, which has assumed a number of variations over the decades, if not centuries, I've tried over time to figure out without much to show for it what the "earlier" renditions look like. My best guess has been that this iteration in the V&A bag is close to the answer, but I don't have a lot of confidence in it. One point to keep in mind is that the critter is apt to look different on the same piece in one or two (out of four) efforts. That was just to prove the weavers were really of the greater "Baluch" clan, and not space alien imposters disguised as Baluch weavers.

BTW, for an example utilizing some of the funkier drawing techniques along the lines of a few of the Anatolian pieces I posted earlier, I recommend to you the one in Joel's opening essay out of Frank Diehr's Treasured Baluch Pieces, the ninth one down in the stack (counting the Black & Loveless pair as one).

Rich

Patrick Weiler January 7th, 2014 01:43 AM

Dragon it out of me, Rich?
 
Rich,

This version, from a recent Shahsavan Weavings Group post, shows the design with the "animals" almost having a dragon-phoenix look in each corner of the octagon.



There is a nice version in the Wertime book Soumak Bags, plate 84, Moghan-Savalan, with a slightly more crowded rendition, and a 3-gul version in plate 58, Qaradagh.
The basic structure is a 2-1-2 layout, common to many weaving areas, but the critters in the corners have that floral/animal dimorphism.
As for my unsupported theory of a Chinese origin, looking at a map of that pesky Silk Road shows it going from China and through Afghanistan, Iran and the Caucasus.
http://www.silkroadproject.org/Portals/0/images/lg_SilkRoadWallMap_color.jpg
Patrick Weiler

Rich Larkin January 7th, 2014 02:54 AM

Hi Patrick,

Excellent! Thanks. And I see the birds lined up in those dugouts ready to take a shift inside the octagon. That just about cinches it.

I got a book on the silk road for Christmas from #2 son. I'll watch carefully for clues.

Rich

Joel Greifinger January 14th, 2014 06:07 PM

Hi Rich,

In response to this in the mini-salon:
Quote:

little dialogue in those discussions has been devoted to the aesthetics of these weavings. And by this I mean, not the aesthetic perspectives we project onto the weavers of these objects, but rather those we use in evaluating their appeal for us.
you wrote:
Quote:

For my part, though, I can’t really separate the two.
I didn't mean to imply that our aesthetic reactions, particularly to tribal weaving or any folk art for that matter, could or should be entirely independent of our attempts to understand the milieu in which they were produced. This includes any knowledge that we can glean about what was important to the folks who produced and used these bags, both aesthetically and practically. What I was attempting to highlight is the degree to which this practice, in the face of our frustratingly limited knowledge, is often based on our own romanticized projections. In the case of 'Baluch' weavings, our lack of clarity on questions like which groups did the weaving and how far back the practice of pile weaving goes may serve to even further stoke our imaginations.


You wrote:
Quote:

I have bought into the idea of the struggling tribes living on the fringes of bleakness who were somehow able to create a corpus of beautiful if somber weavings, pretty much along the lines discussed in the link Steve gave us. Thus, their alleged aesthetic and my own appreciation of it are bound together. Emphasis added.
I know that thought experiments have their limitations, but try this one: imagine that you read convincing evidence that the 'Baluch' pile weavings that we take to be from the late 19th and early 20th centuries were in fact produced for local commerce by settled groups growing grains with adequate rainfall in northern Khorasan. Rather than bleak desert, amber waves. You get up from your reading and pull out some of your favorite "beautiful if somber" 'Baluch' pieces. Is the palette still pleasing? Are they still as beautiful to you? :yin_yang:

Joel

Patrick Weiler January 14th, 2014 09:40 PM

Google Earth?
 
Joel,

I am not responding for Rich, but your question is interesting.
In my case, discovering that the wet :rainy_day: and fruitful amber valleys of Khorasan was the source for Baluch tribal bags would not affect my appreciation for them. Finding that they were all made in the back rooms of rug stores in rural Turkey over the last 20 years would.

Patrick Weiler

Dinie Gootjes January 19th, 2014 07:05 PM

Hi All,

I am jumping back a bit to Rich's first posts. I have had computer trouble for almost two weeks, so I could not post earlier. Sorry.

I used to think the animal/bird forms in the quadrants made more sense as floral motifs, but I am kind of converted to the animals/birds and tree theory by now. I just think that the drawing itself is highly unclear, unspecific and changeable. It could be a bird, it could be a flower, it could be a space ship. Often it is for me more reminiscent of a floral form, but the bird interpretation, especially in combination with a tree has a long tradition behind it.
There is however one of the Beyseshir rugs which has a fairly obvious floral repeat pattern with elements quite close to the beastie in the Baluch quadrants.





One of my stumbling blocks was that 'umbilical cord' to the centre: why should birds have that, it makes more sense as the stem of a flower. But in the meantime I have seen obvious birds on rugs with that link to the centre, so that is not an argument anymore. Another problem was that I could never see birds in the things. But again, I have seen more now, and I guess they could be birds, though I would be able to see them as goats more easily ;) . I do think it is possible that later weavers interpreted them/morphed them into goats, like in this example from the Salon.





Little motifs inside the body also appear in the bodies of other birds and animals (even on the Pazaryk carpet if I am not mistaken).

About the “umbilical cord”, the "schnozz" of the venerable and venerated Baluch bird, it is not always present, but it is very common. I have been looking for it for some time now, as I thought it could be an indication of old age. I have had to let go of that theory, as too many schnozzes are attached to very degenerate types, in drawing as well as colours. But I do think it is the original form of the design, as many old looking ones have them, and as the majority seems to have them. Last year I worked my way through 19 pages of Baluch origin rugs on Rugrabbit. What a fun chore :nerd:. I found around 55 of the bird/tree khorjins. Twenty-two of them did not have the line, thirty-two did. One or two were so eroded that I could not make out what type they were. Oddly enough, the 1876 V&A bag face does not seem to have the lines, the ones acquired in 1922 do.
Some of the animals have a fairly short, diagonally oriented body, while others are longer and seem to have their feet planted firmly on the ground, the 'goats'. Would you agree that the diagonal ones 'look older'? Or are the differences local? Peter Stone differentiates between a rounder Baluch form, and a stick figure like Afghan/Timuri one.

About other possible sources and related designs, besides what Rich came up with and Patrick's great Shasavan find, have a look at the Batari Crivelli fragment with your Baluch glasses on your nose. That rug has all the design elements of a typical bird-tree bag: central octagon, (double) birds on the diagonals and Baluch tree-like elements forming a cross.





Gantzhorn has a reconstruction of the rug on p. 244. He sees a link between the Crivelli rugs and a certain type of Kazak. I go in a slightly different direction: if you look at the typical Perepedil with the afore mentioned Baluch glasses, isn’t there the same basic pattern, though less clearly? An octagon or square in the centre, four birds, sometimes even with the umbilical cord/schnozz, and a cross of the typical hooks, which could be seen, if you really wanted to, as tree forms. I don't propose these as ancestors of our Baluch bags at all, but there might be a common ancestor somewhere.





As an add-on: this Karapinar yastik (on the market) shows a similar set-up with hooked figures in the quadrants.




Dinie

Horst Nitz February 23rd, 2014 06:46 PM

Hi all,

Richard: ”In my opinion, the basic motif of the supposed pair of birds(?) facing the tree(?) is absolutely begging for an early Anatolian antecedent. Unfortunately, I don’t happen to know where there is one, but there had to be one, right? Otherwise, where would it have come from? (Having so pronounced, I now give the Baluch full credit for having preserved the noble tradition of it.) “

Anatolia might be right, I think, but it would be the far East of it – which was a Sassanid Persian dominion at the time of the emergence of the motif. And there are two sets of birds motifs that need to be distinguished, here explained at the example of the Vakiflar rug (1) the quartet lining the inner flanks of the medallions and (2) the couple of birds with the stem or axis between them. Both sets of birds motifs have Mesopotamian roots. Mesopotamia too was a Sassanid dominion. In case of the Vakiflar rug, the quartet of birds in the background, in the way the individual beasts are sketched, are reminiscent of the Mushhushshu (snake-dragon). Later the beast became eagles. In still later Anatolian rugs of the 15th or 16th century and after they sometimes took the shape of Selcuk lions. As to the role of the Baluch in it, I share your view. It implies, judged from my perspective on the history of rug motifs, that the Baluch pool of motifs is a very old one that was formed right at the time, when the motif emerged. Perhaps then, they still dwelled near the south western shore of the Caspian (see S. Azadi for this reference: Rugs in the Baluch Tradition).

When we talk about the bird-tree combination, we need to focus on another group of rugs, that must not be overlooked in this context.

Dinie: “I used to think the animal/bird forms in the quadrants made more sense as floral motifs, but I am kind of converted to the animals/birds and tree theory by now. I just think that the drawing itself is highly unclear, unspecific and changeable. It could be a bird, it could be a flower, it could be a …“

Perhaps the weaver of the following rich and pretty Gashgai rug (detail of it; Black & Loveless1979, Plate2 ) has felt like what you are expressing, when she tried herself on a traditional motif to which her own as well as that of others of her lots’s, understanding of the original spiritual content had been interrupted long ago, with the result that she was treating the motif as something ambiguous, that might be bird or plant:






At the same time around 1900, roughly 1000 miles away in the border region of countries in the High Kurdish Taurus, this rug was woven by a weaver, who probably was still embedded in a context , from which the motif may have emerged originally, no ambiguity this time:





‘The Bird’s the Word’ is a well chosen title fort his thread.

Regards,

Horst

Filiberto Boncompagni February 23rd, 2014 08:02 PM

Hi,

Patrick mentioned the dragon-phoenix motif… I think he’s right.
This is a West Anatolia rug with "Phoenix in octagons", 15th or 16th century (Hali #86, page 149).



Put one of the stars in the middle, shake it for a few centuries of stylizations, et voila’!




Regards,

Filiberto

Chuck Wagner March 2nd, 2014 03:07 AM

Buon Giorno Filiberto

That, is the most plausible evidence I've seem since we've been talking about these things - and that has been a long time.

I like it.

Regards
Chuck

Filiberto Boncompagni March 2nd, 2014 06:27 PM

Grazie Chuck, :cheers:

I wouldn’t dare to call it evidence, though. I would rather prudently call it a “reasonable visual kinship”.
Regards,

Filiberto

Horst Nitz March 15th, 2014 12:06 AM

Hi Dinie,

on 19th January you wrote: „if you look at the typical Perpedil with the aforementioned Baluch glasses, isn’t there the same basic pattern, though less clearly? An octagon or square in the centre, four birds, sometimes even with the umbilical cord/schnozz, and a cross of the typical hooks, which could be seen, if you really wanted to, as tree forms. I don't propose these as ancestors of our Baluch bags at all, but there might be a common ancestor somewhere.”

This is a very good observation. The two rugs I posted are in direct line descending from that 5th century common ancestor, which would have looked very similar to the second one of the two rugs. Like you, I used a Perpedil rug a while ago to explain the transformation that happened since. Similar to an explosion drawing (German: Explosionszeichnung) of machine parts, the elements of the composite symbol have moved outwards to the periphery. If you reverse that process starting from the Perpedil, you’ll arrive at the composite symbol again. The hooks on the horizontal axis are bucrania (here known as kotchaks), symbolising the divine. The hooks on the vertical axis look the same only at first glance. At closer inspection they look significantly different and reveal their descend of the heraldic birds on wings, originally forming a crown.

Regards,

Horst

Martin Andersen April 15th, 2014 10:37 AM

Hi All

Here is a bright shining star from Davids Collection. Its center geometrized octagon star is very close to the baluch stars:


Cover, silk embroidery on cotton
Iran, Caucasus; 1st half of 18th century 
149 × 135 cm


and in a strange way so are the horned animals, the “tree”, and the riders:





Regarding the Dragon and Phonix rugs I quote from Davids Collections homepage ".... may resemble the Caucasian dragon carpets that emerged from the local nomadic culture." http://www.davidmus.dk/en/collections/islamic/materials/textiles/art/37-1969 - anyway its a marvelous piece in real life, worth a trip to Copenhagen :)

Best Martin

Martin Andersen April 15th, 2014 11:29 AM

(and mans images in forms of birds, dragons, phoenixes and a lot more has for a very very very long time nightly turned around the very bright pole star :))