Posted by R. John Howe on 05-12-2005 11:12 PM:

Harold Keshishian at TM, Saf 11 and 12

Dear folks -

Here are the last two saf images related to Harold's rug morning at the TM.

I say "related" because they are not, or in one case may not be, the actual pieces shown.

Two well-known collectors brought two remarkable pieces. They did not want me to take photos of them and I expect that they prefer not even to be mentioned by name. I did not and will not.

However, I can give you a look at the pair of one of these pieces and at a nice piece that is in the general area in which the second resides.

The first piece they brought is the "pair" (perhaps "part") of the piece below.

I apologize for the ivory areas in this photo. In the wool, there is no yellow cast at all.

Additionally, these photos don't do real justice to the other colors either. Initially, I thought what I was seening at the TM was a similar piece with a wider range of palette, but these collectors said, "No" this is the "pair."

This piece is used on the dust jacket of George O'Bannon's translation of and commentary on, Moshkova. The book is "Carpets of the Peoples of Central Asia." It was published in 1996. This fragment is also Figure 129 on page 292.

The very long caption says that it is "Ersari Turkmen and Uzbek, 1874." This fragment is two pieces of a larger piece sewn together in two ranks. The two fragments are 24 feet, four inches by 9 feet, 10 inches (14.2 X 3 m).

The odd attribution is the result of knowing where and when this piece was woven and by whom. "...It was commissioned by Emir Muzaffar in 1874. It was woven at Liabi Hauz plaza for the Bala Hauz Mosque near the Ark of Bokhara. it was woven by 18 Turkmens from Charjew and 2 Uzbeks from Shabkrikhan village, which is about 40kms from Bokhara. It took one year to weave....The original size was 36 X 18 meters...these are the only known fragments...".

In the wool I found this piece more impressive, I think, than the best of the Beshiri "head and shoulders" prayer rugs (the TM had a good one out in a recent exhibition) I have seen.

The piece these two collectors had is either one strip of these two ranks, or its equivalent.

The second piece they brought was a wonderful 18th century Turkish kilim with a saf design. I have been looking but have not found a comparable photo in my several kilim books.

But I can offer you a striking kilim with a saf design. It appears in Petsopoulos' smaller volume, "Kilims: Masterpieces from Turkey," 1991, Plate 6.

This piece is presented on a full two opposing page mode and so I could not scan it comprehensively on my scanner. Instead, here is one half of it.

And here is the other.

Perhaps someone in our group can put them together and give us a comprehensive image.

This piece is attributed to Cappadocia, perhaps by weavers who were once in Aleppo. This is suggested by the fineness of its weave and its colors which are "related to silk garments and funishings woven in slit-weave tapestry kilim in the Aleppo region in Syria..."

The piece is 1.29 X 2.11 m. It is a fragment and originally had at least five places.

It is a piece that, for me, combines simple graphics with wonderful color to impressive dramatic effect.

It is not the piece these two collectors presented, but it is a worthy substitute.

At the end, Harold got to sit down a little, while the rest of us moved forward with more questions and to get our hands on some of these pieces.

A good session, Harold.


R. John Howe

Posted by David R.E. Hunt on 05-13-2005 12:04 AM:

Hi John

Thank you for the most interesting posts. I recognized this Beshir saf fragment instantly, or should I say another of these Beshir saf's kindered fragments, from Eiland's "Oriental Carpets, the complete guide" on page 244 and accompanied by the following caption?

Ersari Saf

ninteenth century

This rug was photographed under difficult circumstances in a Bokhara mosque which had been converted into a carpet museum. As few truly early rugs survive in Bokhara, this was a rare treat. Initially there was only one row of niches, but this rug has been cut and reassembled so thatr there now appear to be two rows. There are several surviving single-niche prayer rugs with similar design elements.

Interesting, this assertion that the colors and texture of this second item, the kilim, is "related to silk garments and funishings woven in slit-weave tapestry kilim in the Aleppo region in Syria..."


P.S. Is this a green we see in the saf images you posted above?

Posted by R. John Howe on 05-13-2005 07:02 AM:

Hi David -

I think the image you posted from Eiland is of the same piece. Two fragments put together. Thanks for letting folks see that there is not a yellow cast in the ivory sections of it.

I am not sure I understand your question about "green" in the kilim. It assuredly has one; I would say, through abrash effects, it has several.


R. John Howe

Posted by David R.E. Hunt on 05-13-2005 03:06 PM:

Hi John

Sorry to be so imprecise. I meant the seeming green shades in the Beshir saf images. I seem to see a lot of this color in the Ersari material I own and in a Balouch, as well as that small Tekke Torba to be seen at the 10th I.C.O.C. Carpet Fair. Is this a green, or is your camer playing tricks on us, and if it is green, what is the origin of this dye?


Posted by R. John Howe on 05-13-2005 03:19 PM:

David -

I went back to both original: the dusk jacket and the plate in O'Bannon's book and it could be that there is a kind of brown-green (perhaps an olive) used rather extensively in the white ground Beshiri saf frament.

I hadn't really noticed it before. I have a few Ersari-Beshiri pieces and see some dark greens and some tan browns, but nothing like what I think you are pointing to in this piece.

It is true, I think that both the Ersaris and the Yomuts are reputed to use a wider range of colors than some other western Turkmen weavers (some folks point to the fact that both are geographically about "level" with the Caucasus) but some Salor pieces show as many as 15 colors and the Tekkes use green more than is generally acknowledged.


R. John Howe

Posted by Vincent Keers on 05-13-2005 08:01 PM:


Wool prepared with alum and dyed with red and yellow union skin gives a soft-reddish/yellow.
If iron is used as finishing touch it becomes this kind of brownish/green. (Rust-coloured)
But... the green wool will oxidize in time.

The green is between the yellow and reddish yellow. A mix from safran and indigo doesn't give this colour.
There are more recipes that give a soft green.

Best regards,

Posted by R. John Howe on 05-14-2005 09:56 AM:

Hi Vincent -

Yes, there are a number of ways to produce green.

Many of them are the result of dyeing blue over yellow. Since the blue is usually indigo and is not wear fast, it tends to rub off somewhat over time and the green move back toward yellow. That may be why some olive shades exist in older pieces.

Turkish rugs from the Konya area exhibit an olive green but without visible corrosion.

We are familiar with corrosive browns and even encounter corrosive reds with fair frequency, but it is useful to know that other colors were sometimes produced with methods that are corrosive of wool.

Your mention of a corrosive green also triggers for me an entirely different association.

The week before Harold's saf presentation, three women reported on a trip they took recenty to Mali and presented a number of that country's indigenous fabrics.

Most were cotton and were dyed with mud processes that produce black. The mud contains lots of iron.

I asked if there was any evidence of corrosion in older cottons dyed with the iron-laden dyes (in wool we would expect corrosion after about 50 years). They said not, something that surprised me.

Does anyone know why iron laden dyes that produce marked corrosion in wool over time seem not to at all in cotton fabrics? Maybe a question for Steve Price's "African arts" site.


R. John Howe

Posted by David R.E. Hunt on 05-14-2005 11:41 AM:

Hi Vincent, John, All

Thanks for the dye images. I rember these from before.

This olive shows up quite a bit, and I would think that determining the origin(s) of this dye might lead us somewhere. Is it possible that darker shades of wool take to this color better, or provide an effective use for wool in off color shades? Or is the dyestuff so readily available in this region that its extraction requires only the most crude technology? Is it the product of professional dyers, and if so, when and where is it found?