Posted by R. John Howe on 12-16-2002 09:52 AM:

The Ed and Mike Show, Part 1

Dear folks –

Each year one of The Textile Museum’s weekly Saturday morning Rug and Textile Appreciation programs is presented by the team of Ed Zimmerman and Michael Seidman.

In the photo above, Brigitte DuBois, the TM education coordinator who directs the Saturday rug morning programs, introduces Ed and Michael. Ed is a member of the TM board and a past president of it. He is a semi-retired lawyer. Michael is a molecular biologist at NIH. Both are long-time collectors.

Usually, their session is the one each year at which TM collection materials are brought out, but this year (December 7, 2002), they were apparently asked to show things from their own collections as one of the monthly programs in “The New Collector” series. The items they presented demonstrate for new collectors the kinds of material these two experienced collectors are attracted to and have assembled.

The first photo in my roll is a wonderfully colorful suzani.

Suzani are usually attributed by city. Michael indicated that this is a “Bukhara” embroidery.

Next to this piece on the front board was another contrasting suzani.

This piece was described as a Nurata suzani, and exhibits large isolated flower forms, reminiscent of some Mughal textiles (we will see one fragmented example of the latter later).

The next piece is an 18th century Ottoman casket cover.

Michael said that this is one those Ottoman textiles with very complex structures that include two separate sets of warps. Awhile back we presented a salon based on an Ed and Mike rug morning that focused strictly on Ottoman textiles in the TM collection. Here is the link:

And here is how Michael described this complex structure then.

“…They are composed of two separate "planes." The patterning in the fabric is in the top plane, the warps of the back plane are binding warps that pass through both planes to secure the patterning wefts on the face of the fabric. This complicated structure required two weavers and considerable time to set up…”

As you can see, this particular piece has elaborate calligraphy on it.

Next, Michael showed his Mughol textile fragment to which I referred above.

Although you can sense the beautiful delicacy of the embroidery in this photo, you cannot in fact see its detail properly without magnification. Michael passed it around with a small glass permitting a closer look.

The piece below is complexly patterned Afshar flatwoven cover.

I don’t remember seeing an Afshar flatweave of this format and size before.

Next, Michael showed his “Manchester” Kashan.

These rugs were made from Merino wool from Australian, processed in Manchester, England and then woven in Kashan. The wool is very fine and soft and “Manchester” Kashans are for some, such wonderful “decorative” rugs that they are now also often collected.

In his book on “The Persian Carpet,” Cecil Edwards tells the tale of the revival of pile weaving in Kashan at the end of the 19th century. Michael pointed out that there was weaving in Kashan in the 18th century, but not much of it was of pile rugs. But within a very few years after pile weaving was reintroduced, Kashan pile rug weavers were weaving designs of this complexity.

The rug below was described as Afshar.

It was a very impressive piece “in the wool,” and I don’t think my photos can do it justice. I thought the deep blue of the field very effective and the precision and small scale of the lattice quite wonderful.

I increased this second scan to 600 dpi but still can’t get the lattice detail that was there.

Next was a bag face that usually graces the dining room wall at the home of Michael and his wife, Linda Couvillion.

It is unusual, with its Caucasian-seeming armatures, reminiscent of “dragon rug” usages and nice internal instrumentation in its five large-ish botehs.

This is the end of Part 1. Look around for Part 2.


R. John Howe

Posted by R. John Howe on 12-25-2002 03:25 PM:

To Repeat: A Wonderful Afshar

Dear folks -

This thread has not drawn any comment, despite some very nice pieces in it.

I wish I knew more about suzanis, so I could rhapsodize properly about the first one presented, which has absolutely glorious color.

But I cannot refrain from calling attention to the Afshar piece for which I have repeated the detail below.

Not only is the scale of the lattice brilliantly conceived and executed, but the saturation of the colors is exceptional.

I just looked again through Opie's two books to see if I had missed a similar example, but don't see one. The closest is on page 191 of his "Tribal Rugs of Southern Persia." That piece has the dark blue field and an effective "lattice" formed by it between some very colorful hooked diamonds, but is not really similar.

I think this a quite wonderful piece. Has anyone seen another like it published somewhere?


R. John Howe

Posted by Ivan Sønderholm on 12-28-2002 05:58 AM:

Afshar flatwoven

Hi John

The Afshar flatwoven you show is quite common seen in Turkish shops.

The trade name is Rah Rah kilim though this kind of soumak is made in Iran.


Turkish dealers use the trade name Rah Rah kilim for this Iranian piece. Friends in Turkey has mentioned that the trade name perhaps comes from a kurdish "tribe" Rah Rah. Other that it is an Afshar piece from the area around Sirjan

Best regards
Ivan Sønderholm

Posted by R. John Howe on 12-28-2002 05:50 PM:

Hi Ivan -

Is the piece you put up antique or perhaps newer?

The one that Ed and Michael showed was in good condition but clearly had some age. All seemingly natural dyes, etc.


R. John Howe

Posted by Ivan Sønderholm on 12-29-2002 07:55 AM:

Afshar soumak - age

Hi John

It is not antique - I think it is 10-30 years old.

Best regards
Ivan Sønderholm

Posted by R. John Howe on 12-30-2002 07:15 AM:

Hi Ivan -

But that doesn't lessen what I think was your main point: that counter to my indication above, this may be a known format that was still being made fairly recently and that it is attributed in the market to a particular group of weavers.


R. John Howe

Posted by Tracy Davis on 01-02-2003 08:43 PM:

Afshar w/lattice

John, there's a photo which I believe is "your" rug, in "Oriental Rugs of the Hajji Babas", rug. #27. Here's the photo, scanned from the book:

The notes in the Hajji book says, in part, "...suggestive of a textile pattern. Afshar weavers may have been influenced by the textiles of Kerman, a well-known center for the production of shawls." I agree that it's striking. I think I've seen another with this design and coloration, but I'm not sure why that sticks in my head.... I'll check my library and see if I come up with anything else.

Posted by R. John Howe on 01-03-2003 07:55 AM:

Hi Tracy -

Thanks for this indication and more comprehensive image. You made me pull out my copy of this book, which I haven't looked at for awhile, and clearly didn't look at closely enough, because I couldn't remember seeing this striking rug before, and I'd been through this volume a few times.

I think this IS the same rug. I had thought that the rugs in Dan Walker's volume were from the NYC area only but he clearly indicates that this one is owned by someone in Washington. I think likely Ed Zimmerman.

The "textile" reference is useful, too. A design source like a Kerman shawl makes sense.

By the way, this volume has a number of other quite good pieces in it. Worth owning, and I note that I bought my copy for $27.50, so it's a relative bargain.


R. John Howe

Posted by M. Wendorf on 01-03-2003 02:19 PM:

Tulip Afshar

John, Tracy and all:

Happy New Year.

The blue ground Afshar rug with lattice is generally referred to as a "Tulip Lattice" Afshar. Examples of these rugs are not particularly rare, though excellent ones are. Among the best known is the example from the Corwin collection published as plate 57 on page 85 of Oriental Rugs From Pacific Collections in 1990 (Eiland suggests the source of the pattern is an "urban textile.") Another example is the so-called Hitti Lattice Afshar that was selected by the late Donald Wilbur as his Connoisseur's Choice in Hali 35 - see page 8 - 9. Many or most of these rugs have a wool warp and cotton weft. To my recollection of these pieces, the example illustrated has more yellow than is typical. The border system here is also a typical one. A distinctive almost apple green is often found and is probably the green color seen on the more detailed image. Finally, if the rug illustrated is the rug published by Walker, then it was earlier owned by Ralph Yohe.

Among the most striking of these Tulip Lattice Afshars, or a second group of related Afshar rugs, is a rug published by Herrmann in AT&T, Band 1 plate 40 on page 88. That rug is on an ivory ground with a light blue ground major border. Herrmann's comments acknowledge the Tulip name but he rejects this and concludes the motif is a varient of the Uraltic Animal Tree motif with the tulip blooms being abstracted birds. Herrmann published another ivory ground rug witht he same border in Seltene Orientteppiche V, plate 71 on page 149. There, however, Herrmann refers to the motif as tulips and says the origin is Ottoman textiles. I guess he changed his mind.

Thanks, michael wendorf

Posted by R. John Howe on 01-04-2003 04:32 PM:

Dear folks -

My thanks to Michael Wendorf for identifying three further published photos of this Afshar "tulip" design.

As it happens, I have access to two of these photos.

The first from the "Pacific Collections" catalog is this one:

Although I think the border treatment on this piece is more successful than that of the multiple small borders, this rug (although I still like it a lot) does not for me convey the drama and delicacy of the piece that Ed and Michael showed. I think the source of this is that the field is not as deep a blue and the lattice design is done in a slighty larger scale.

I also have the image from Hali 35.

This piece seems closer to the rug morning piece in its border treatment but again the field seems less deep. Additionally, the reds of the Ed and Mike piece are brighter and, as Michael has noted, the yellow seems more prominent. These two usages give the Ed and Mike piece more "life" than I can see in either the "Pacific Collections" piece or in the Hali piece.

Good, though to be able to see all three of them in close proximity.

Thanks, Michael,

R. John Howe

Posted by M. Wendorf on 01-05-2003 12:33 PM:

scale and flow

Hi John:

Thanks for scanning in and posting the images. It is helpful to see several excellent examples side by side. The color issues you mention, including saturation and contrast, are important. You also mention scale.

Personally, I find that the scale of the Corwin piece together with the lighter abrashed field gives that rug a certain flow or rhythm lacking in the Washington piece which, by comparison, seems more crowded and a bit static or stiff in overall composition. Single plane lattice rugs such as these often seem to lack this sense of movement or flow, especially where the floral lattice is geometricized as oppsed to more naturalistic.

One further observation, in each of these rugs, the weaver has broken the endless repeat of the pattern by weaving another floral motif in the uppermost and bottommost parts of the field. I have noticed this in other examples of this group of Tulip Lattice rugs as well.

Thanks, michael wendorf

Posted by R. John Howe on 01-05-2003 03:00 PM:

Hi Michael -

Thanks for these further informed thoughts.

Perhaps to some extent we demonstrate here with our different preferences the impression that occurs sometimes that rug analysis and aesthetic evaluation seem largely to reside in the adjectives.

So I am glad to have your view, but am not put off by the descriptions "static," "stiff" or "lack of movement," and still like the Washington piece best overall (despite what I think are the superior borders of the "Pacific Collections" piece).


R. John Howe

Posted by m. Wendorf on 01-05-2003 06:17 PM:

rug analysis and aesthetic evaluation

Hi John:

Perhaps you are correct. However, I would prefer to think at least that rug analysis and aesthetic evaluation are two different things. Rug analysis is a matter of fact description or deconstruction of the rug and its construction. Its warps, wefts, knots, colors, dyes etc.

Aesthetic evaluation, and particularly comparative evaluation, comes after and seems to me necessarily subjective. Adjectives like your use of "brighter" to describe the colors in the rug you prefer and my description of that rug being "more crowded and a bit static or stiff" are relative and serve to modify the nouns and help convey why we each prefer different rugs. It seems to me that ultimately rug analysis conveys the nuts and bolts, but it is those adjectives that serve to describe our reaction to the rug as a work of art. There is no right or wrong, we do not need to agree on our preferences or reactions and I do not understand why you would have it any other way?

Best, michael wendorf

Posted by R. John Howe on 01-06-2003 07:55 AM:

Hi Michael -

I think the distinction you make between "rug analysis" and "aesthetic evaluation" is correct. Rug analysis is a more factual undertaking and it is the aesthetic side that is (despite the formalists claims) more subjective.

I commented not because I would wish things to be different but rather to remind ourselves that some of these judgments seem likely still to be mostly subjective, no matter how authoritatively they might be delivered.

I always find your views and careful distinctions useful.


R. John Howe

Proceed to Part 2