A two-sided asmalyk
This is a two sided pile antique asmalyk on silk warps. The silk pile side has a deep cerulean blue ground and another ten colors (magenta, mustard, salmon, emerald etc.) while the back is of
wool with silk highlights on light mustard ground using same silk warps and having 14 color hues.
Size: 100X60 cms. Not including the quite long fringes and sides.
In very good condition. Was kept as a family heirloom out of reach.
The typical "kelle" motif allover and symmetric knots may prove a Saryk Turkmen origin. Steve Price suggests a settled Turkmen tribe in an urban setting owing to the asmalyks fine design and texture.
As for the allover rosettes and 8-pointed star flowers (more like electric posts!) there are three similar white ground asmalyks with these motifs in red mentioned in an article by George W. O'Bannon. See Jon Thompson's Carpets from the Tents.... page 100 for one of these three.
Any remarks or suggestions as to attribution or whatever on this ENIGMATIC ASMALYK?? Please share with me.
I know that just today Jerry warned us never to say this, but here it comes anyway: I've NEVER seen anything like that. The only two-sided pile weavings that I've heard of before this are products of major Persian urban weaving centers.
It obviously didn't come off the portable loom of any nomad. Equally obviously, whoever made it knew about Turkmen life - notice the camel (see Note 1) with the asmalyk on its side and the kejebe on its back. I doubt that it was made for or used as a trapping on a camel; asmalyks made for that purpose had the kilim ends folded under and sewn down, not ending in decorative fringes.
Amir, thank you for sharing this fascinating piece with us.
1. The rug world's Jacques Clouseau recently revealed that Turkmen had no camels.
This is probably the most unusual and outstanding Turkoman piece that I have ever seen - whether or not it was ever made for use. You're a lucky man, Amir.
I find the piece intriguing, and the reaction from the majority of the
audience even more so... stunned silence?
I am a true novice, so I don't mind asking naive questions...
Does it qualify as an asmalyk if it was made to look like one (five-sided, etc.), but not made to actually use on a camel in a bridal procession? In other words, is "asmalyk" a term that denotes function or form?
At least three people find the piece UNUSUAL, and I would make that a fourth. Does anyone know more about who and where two-sided pile rugs have been woven? Which Turkmen tribes, if any, have woven two-sided pieces?
It has symmetric knots on silk warps. That seems unusual too. Any suggested attributions? I thought Saryk or Yomut was the usual consensus for symmetrically knotted Turkmen pieces.
Marvin calls it the "most outstanding Turkoman piece" he has ever seen. Do others agree, and if so, what makes it so outstanding? Aesthetics? Ethnographic significance? Rarity? Uniqueness? Age? Technical brilliance?
An inquiring mind wants to know.
An asmalyk is something hung on the side of a camel during a Turkmen wedding procession. Most of the ones that are still around are pentagonal, but not all are. I've never seen one with fringed ends or woven on two sides, and don't recall ever seeing a Turkmen weaving with a blue field or with a camel colored field. I'd eliminate a nomadic Turkmen origin.
So, what is it? The shape and iconography suggest Turkmen, but not the palette or technique or end finishes. The double sided pile and silk warps and pile (on one side) suggest an urban origin, but neither the iconography nor the shape are within the range of weaving of any urban center that I know about.
Bottom line: it's so far out of the ordinary that every attempt fails when I try to match its characteristics to something known from any group. Who made it? Where? I can offer a few possibilities, but none that really fit.
i was wondering what date you turkomen experts would put on this piece?
I think this piece will give fits to anyone who tries to attribute age. Why? Because age attributions generally involve comparing the characteristics of a piece with those of pieces with the same geographic origin whose ages we pretend to know, and from the handle and the feel and appearance of the back side. This one's geographic origin is a mystery; being double-sided, the handle can't be compared to the usual single-sided stuff; it has no back.
Someone might be able to make a very rough guess if the palette was known to include certain dyes. The colors look to me as if they might all be natural, but I'm not confident. Some of the colors on the mainly wool side look synthetic (the pink, especially), but those areas might be silk, and the criteria change when silk is the fiber being dyed.
I have another question: how it is woven a two-sided pile weaving? I mean,
how is the construction?
I can see in the yellow ground some blue spots. I guess they are the knots bases of the other side… How the knots interlace the warps on each side??? Are they knotted like offset knotting, but each row has the pile in opposite direction? And what about the wefts?
Hi Amir, I'm guessing this is a test and that you know this is not a Turkmen product. It looks like a modern fake to me. Chinese? Seems the designer couldn't resist using Bactrian camels. Sue
A very unusual piece indeed. But I think without any Turkmen hands involved in its making.
It gives me thoughts about a recently designed "round dice" ( or a square football )
What questions me is your : "Was kept as a family heirloom out of reach".
How do you know? It will not be your own experience, I suppose, so what did the person you got it from told you more about its provenance?
Nomadic Turkmen is just about out of the question to me. Maybe it's modern. Maybe it's Chinese. But fake? Fake what?
Great call on the Bactrian camels! I wish I'd noticed that.
If Turkmen only used Dromedary camels, then this is a good clue.
But did they? I am not an expert in Turkmen or camel studies, but here's a couple of camels fully-rigged for Yomut bridal processions. One camel is clearly a Dromedary. The other looks suspiciously like a Bactrian, though I can't count the humps.... Any camel experts out there who can clarify?
Mabye all two-sided "asmalyks" are "Bactrian", just like the camels....
Two things in the second one that might be relevant to discussions going on in other threads right now:
1. The "lappets" at the bottom of the kejebe.
2. The camel's neck decoration, consisting in part of small squares sewn at their corners (there's a thread on textiles consisting of small circles sewn together at four points each).
I recall seeing a group of silk pile Baluch rugs in the late 1980's. They
were copies of camel ground Baluch prayer rugs mostly. They were strictly
market-oriented and made to order. James Opie had several made that were exact
duplicates to the Khamseh rug on the front cover of his book Tribal Rugs
published in 1992.
(a picture of the cover can be seen in this page from Myrna Bloom: http://www.myrnabloom.com/images/2760.jpg)
They were much smaller than the original, very finely knotted and perfectly executed.
This asmalyk seems similar. If I recall, these rugs were rather expensive. The production may have stopped because there was not enough demand for expensive, high quality duplicates of old rug designs in silk. Hereke production of silk rugs satisfied the market for small silk rugs and there were enough of the original antique rugs still on the market that collectors did not need to buy a small silk copy. It may be that the manufacturer of these rugs tried several designs, from the prayer rugs to this two-sided asmalyk to duplicating existing rugs.
Who is that being drawn and quartered in the upper niche? Who is that
floating between the electric poles? Nice authentic Turkmen side selvedges,
Amir, please do not do a burn test on the 'silk' warps without wearing an organic vapor mask just in case the Stepford theme of this rug is in keeping. I worry for you. Sue
Tom Atiyeh had that Khamseh rug of Opie's (along with some other popular designs) made in China. Production was limited but the quality was not.
Your mention of the guy in the uppermost point reminds me that it was one of the things I noticed first. Maybe he's one of those figures that pops out of a pair of doors every hour in a Bavarian tower clock (did you notice that he wears Lederhosen?).
I got the 2-sided asmalyk recently so apart from handling and a short research through google and some books I'm as puzzled as you are. But let's not jump to conclusions ( "fake!" "modern!" ). I must first talk to the old woman in her 80s who said the item belongs to her grandmother.
Whether it was part of the grandmothers dowry or not, I don't know. I'll tow a Russian translator with me if I have to. The go-between honest broker is not so keen at introducing me to his source but I'm working on it. This sounds like a dealers fake story, but it is not.
It's a pity you can't click to enlarge . One of these days we will do a show and tell including handling somewhere somehow and you will know, as I do know now, it's a 19th century piece yet quite intruiging for its unconventional properties. Whoever made it must have had a Turkmen soul. Our problem is not authenticity.
Take a close look at the tent (with the bride-to-be 'chained' in) at the top of the yellow side; the tent is a typical Turkmen yurt and not the roundish dome-like Shahsavan 'alachiq'. If you try hard you will even see the stabilizing ropes.
The tiny asmalyk and the kejebelik (litter) on the two ground camels are insilk, and so are the blues in the 8-pointed stars. As for the pink, I must check if its also silk but my experience tells me it's a natural color as all the colors on both sides are.
Please notice the 5 flying birds (bringing good tidings) just over the field camels. I haven't seen anything like that before. This is a very personal genuine piece. Not copied or whatnot. There are two ivory lizards believed to bring Good luck, a palm to the lower left and a scorpion, to ward off evil. Cats, dogs and even a many legged crawling worm to complete the domestic atmosphere.You have to appreciate it to be able to comment on it.
Unless there's an original somewhere that served as the model for this, it can't be a copy of anything. That possibility is so far down my list that I can't see it from here.
Amir, based on the nature of your response, I'm guessing the designer of this piece has the soul of Amir. Care to fess up? Sue
one hump or two
Of course Turkmen had Bactrian camels! Who said they didn't? If the second
photo (from James Blanchard's post) is taken from the DeYoung book, it should be
credited to Anahita Gallery who have the rights. Fair use is one thing but you
should give credit!
(You might check out their site http://www.photocentralasia.com/). I believe both were taken by Divoni-court photographer to the cool Khan of Khiva by the way.
As to the piece in question: if this is old Turkmen, I will be forever humble. (Not a bad thing, actually). Does over 100 years of study of Turkmen weaving teach us anything? Outside of the unTurkmen colors and cute design-look at the fringe-in perfect condition-and the very even wear. I have to side with Sue on this. An unbelievable piece!
centipedes go with scorpions
amir aharon wrote
"There are two ivory lizards believed to bring Good luck, a palm to the lower left and a scorpion, to ward off evil. Cats, dogs and even a many legged crawling worm to complete the domestic atmosphere."
there is a poisonous centipede indiginous to the areas in question. i would suggest that you include its depiction along with that of the scorpion to ward off its evil doing.
the centipede appears in a susani in KESHTE number 28.
i have asked steve to include an image of a similar pshkent piece that i have,
Here it is. Steve Price
n.b. perhaps mr aharon amir could post a close up of the 'evil creature'
My apologies for not having gotten the source of the photo and added the credit. We tend to be more lax about that than we should be. That's not an excuse, of course.
Thanks for all the knowledgeable remarks .
I apologise for delaying my answer. Your twisters; I needed time
I had to read some books. If you're getting your kicks by teasing
then I must remind you that i'm only a guest. So please go gentle
If only I were a full fledged member I would ask you to be more helpful by making some research on James Opie's duplicates, post images like James Blanchard, ask Wendel Swan about Atiyeh's ventures to China. At least go count some humps or
It's kind of you to worry about me and the silk test. As a matter
of fact some of us just feel to know. Can YOU feel?
Anyway It's my pleasure to have you on our caravan ride
through the Silk Route. Just try not to SMEAR the silk and wool
2-sided asmalyk while climbing your Bactrian camel.
I am responding to Andy Hale's post regarding the camel pictures I posted.
First, I agree that attribution and credit should be provided for pictures and other material wherever possible.
I retrieved these photos from the internet quite a while back from well-known rug websites. I have provided the website details and addresses to Steve Price who can decide whether to disclose them in this forum.
The original source for the photos was not provided for any of the reproductions of the photographs on these sites, and I haven't been able to find the original source for them, despite a bit of digging around. I don't have DeYoung's book.
What DeYoung book?
Don't know about the DeYoung book. Andy Hale referred to it as a possible
source of a camel picture. He'll have to enlighten you on
O'Bannon's "Oriental Rugs: A Bibliography" doesn't list anything written by a
DeYoung. Granted, the bibliography was published in 1994; so it lacks anything
published since then (or a little earlier, allowing for putting the book
together and getting it into print).
Not that O'Bannon's book includes every reference to rugs in print. Or pictures of tribal peoples.
The first of James’ photos - but without the sepia tone – can be seen also on Thomas Cole’s website here:
There are no indications about the source.
Incidentally, Mr. Cole presents also an article From Oriental Rug Review, Vol. 8/1
“TURKOMANS AND SCHOLARSHIP: A Retrospective View” by Dr. Murray L. Eiland, Jr, also on ORR website
In which there is a b&w photo of an asmalik of a "rare and important Yomud azmalyk," thought also to be Saryk quite similar to the one discussed here.
BUT in Cole’s version:
there is also a photo of “Another Saryk asmalyk that sold at Rippon Boswell, November 10, … Clearly, the Saryk attribution had been fully embraced by this time, nearly ten years later.”
I hope he doesn’t mind if I copy it here:
Very similar to the Thompson's on page 100, already mentioned by Amir.
P.S. I think Thompson’s one and the B&W photo in ORR/Eiland’s article are the same.
The only thing I can recall doing to become a Turkotek member was click a check onto a box that said 'member'. You can do that, too. You have my permission. Then, if you want your rug designs woven in a more expertly type Turkmen manner, you can contact Opie yourself. I hope you will become a member so I can feel free to ask you how you and others can tell silk by feel.
I have been working with silk for years, even spinning several forms of it myself with handspindles. I have tried my hand at various other "silky fibers", too, and still am capable of getting fooled by feel. Heck, I'm begging you, please become a member soon so I can ask you to divulge your, and other's, secret on this matter. I don't like burn tests. Sue
Hi Amir and Sue
Your interactions are beginning to focus as much on each other as on the rug and related matters. I'd really prefer that the exchange not go much further in the personal direction than it already has.
Thanks, and regards,
Sorry Steve, I'm done. Sue
I didn't mean to run you off - hope I didn't. We do want to keep everything cordial, though, and it looked to me like it was coming close to the edge.
"De Young book"
I fired off my last post in haste and apologize that it wasn't more
First: the second photograph (in James Blanchard's post) was definately an Anahita photograph. It appeared in the book "Between the Black Desert and the Red" Pinner/Eiland, 1999 on page 118. It is about the Turkmen rugs given to the De Young Museum by the Wiedersperg estate. I guess
I have such bad personal associations with all things concerning the De Young museum that I couldn't remember the title! Sorry for the confusion.
Old photographs can be an excellent source of information for textile researchers. This is a path that is just beginning to be explored. I feel there is much in exSoviet archives that remains to be seen.
Returning to the piece in question: as we say in the bazaar: Kessesh muft ast! Its story is free. I feel uncomfortable discussing it further-I am getting the feeling that this is just a mean spirited joke on the part of the original poster. Nobody likes being taken for a fool.
I apologize again for my lack of clarity in my last post.
I'm very flaterred to be accused of being the asmalyks designer.
I wish I were so creative. I actually studied maths for my formal education. They taught us not to try to square a circle before we know something about Pi's transcedence. I'm sure Mr. Guido
Goldman and Pip loved your outstanding work on central Asian
Ikats. So did I. But that doesn't give you a moral right to smear
someone you don't even know by referring to him as a mean spirited person.
You mentioned the Persian saying 'ghesesh mofteh' (It won't kill
you to listen to the story as long as it's free). There is also one
in Arabic: El ajala men el Sheitaan (impatience is from the devil)
Can't you guys wait before you give your 'scholarly' verdict?
Hi Amir (and Andy)
We have had posts from trolls (people who enjoy stirring up disputes on web discussion forums by posting bogus information) from time to time, and Andy may be more sensitive to this than most. He didn't actually call you mean-spirited, but that he suspected that you might be. I believe that he meant that he suspected that a troll had entered the picture. Even this crosses the line that we try to maintain as part of our rules of engagement, and I should have caught it. I apologize for not having done so.
Your being offended is understood. But, I'd like the focus of the discussion to return to the textile rather than continue with further exchanges of expressions of hostility and/or disrespect.
Another thought I had about the two-sided, five-sided rug.
The two-sided concept reminds me of the Chinese "Shu" embroidery technique (common in Sichuan province). Skillful artisans are able to create a completely different picture/design on each side of a translucent embroidered screen. It's pretty neat... and quite popular in China.
Dear Amir and all,
In my view, Amir’s azmalyk is not a copy or a fake as has been suggested. However, determining what it is and its age are problematic, especially without handling the piece or having more information.
Within tribal societies, the members differ widely in wealth and power, just as there are in Western societies. What the shepherds wove for themselves naturally differs from what the khans had woven for themselves.
It could easily be that a wealthy Turkmen had this woven for himself, received it as a gift or had it woven as a gift for someone else. With the silk warps and pile, it is a luxurious commodity. Since many animal trappings had multiple uses, perhaps this was woven for the other decorative purposes.
The fact that it is double sided does suggest a Persian origin of some kind. So far as I know, double-sided pile weavings aren’t found elsewhere.
When the first ivory ground azmalyk appeared at Sotheby’s in New York in 1981 (which Thompson bought), it was then considered unique. No other examples had been published and only a few have been discovered since.
Amir’s azmalyk seems unique to us, but there may be more of them and they could fit into the ivory ground floral tradition of the Thompson example, albeit with a different structure and a somewhat different purpose.
Amir, I would like you to expand on your acquisition of the azmalyk without compromising his sources. Where did you buy it? Where were you told that it had been kept? What was the culture of the people who had owned it? Why was it being sold?
Sure, bazaar stories are free and often not substantiated, but sometimes they can provide at least some useful information if we deem the source reliable. Frankly, I’d rather hear the story than not.
Amir, I suggest that you contact your broker source and follow up on the story. Sometimes documents can even be found.
This example will never satisfy those who believe in the purity of so-called ethnographic or nomadic weavings, but it could well shed light on tribal organization and interaction.
Amir's two-sided asmalyk
Living in the same country as Amir (Israel), and being Amir's friend, I had the privilege of seeing the piece first hand just a few hours ago. I don't know whether it's a 19th century Turkoman asmalyk or a similar item made elsewhere in Central Asia. What I do know is that it's an amazing item, possibly unique, in mint condition and with design characteristics too complex, intricate and original to be a modern production. Also, all the colors, and I've counted at least ten different ones, are vegetable-dyed. I can't believe any contemporary weaver would go through all this trouble in order to produce something no one had seen before. I believe it has been commissioned by a wealthy family around 1900 and inspired by an actual Turkoman asmalyk, with the added bonus ob being two-sided.
Now to the more important issue of integrity and credibility. If there is one person in the rug and textile realm that I can vouch for as serious and trustworthy, it is Amir Aharon. If only all rug dealers and "scholars" were as kind and reliable as he is, this field will have gained so much more respectability.
Dear Mr. Swan,
Thank you for shedding more light on the azmalyk. I was a little
down for a while, so your optimistic comments came just in time.
I'm certainly planning to push the broker to a corner where I
will be able to personally interview the old woman. He will be back from abroad in a few days. The fact is that the azmalyk
was ' too expensive' for him to buy and that I was the first
person to see it. The reasons for sale were purely financial
from the side of the Russian woman.
I promise to follow up on the story, and its a pleasure to
respond to constructive requests.
Sorry if I offended you! I never suggested that you designed or created the piece. I think I just responded badly to the suggestion that this "asmaghlik" is either: Turkmen/Old/Important. I understand now that you really believe in this piece and are upset that so many people seem to be rejecting it out of hand. I can understand that-I have had the same experience myself. When I first brought 19th century Central Asian ikat to Northern California in the early 70s nobody wanted it. One "expert" told me it was all recent and "tiedye". On the other hand, youou have accused us of rushing to judgement before giving our "scholarly" verdict. Since you put "scholarly" in quotes it would seem to demean our ability to pass judgement.
I don't know what your expectations were when you asked us for our opinions. My opinions (and they are just opinions) are based on over 30 years of working with Central Asian materials of all types: modern, old and ancient. I spent years living in Afghanistan collecting and researching. Later, I was able to study the collections in the exSoviet Museums. (Last month, I was doing just that in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.) I have seen thousands of objects produced by Turkmen and have a fairly good grasp of the writen material on the subject as well. Although I certainly have a lot to learn still, I can't imagine that my basic ideas concerning your piece will change in the future.
You may, or may not agree with my opinion but I hope you will not reject it out of hand. I offer it honestly in a spirit of sharing within our collector's community-with no ill will towards you personally.
Wendall Swan raises some interesting issues about the piece. He suggested that this may be woven by Persians for a wealthy
Turkmen Khan. This is, of course, possible. I know of no documented instance of this happening, off hand. The Turkmen had plenty of contact with Persians in the 19th century but that was with Persians as trade goods: they captured them and sold them as slaves until the 1860s.
Weavings such as asmaghliks were woven as dowry pieces to be used during the wedding ceremony as well as to be displayed later in the tents. As such, they were meant to represent wealth. Wealth has different meanings. One meaning in producing weavings of this type-which have no practical use-was to show both the talent of the women of the tribe and to express the idea that the tribe was so together that the women had nothing better to do than so sit around and make asmaghliks all day. In this context, this piece, if supplied by Persians would negate its symbolic value. It would seem to say that the Khan's women were too lazy or unskilled to make anything really good!
Wendall also is more hesitant than me to judge things too much based on photographs. He is absolutely correct in this. I can't say if the colors are natural or if the silk is real silk based on photos. What gives me misgivings about the piece is first the colors chosen. There seem to be too many, they don't harmonize very well and they just ain't to the Turkmen taste-orange, pink, blue, camel brown? Where is the red? It may be the web but I see very little white. I am going to speak generally here-so don't get upset, Amir: in Afghanistan in the seventies when they were plannning to give an "antique" wash to a rug, they used very little white since the colors would run and make the whites murky. That may not be the case in this piece but on my screen, the whites do look a bit off and the colors in general lack the clear character that exists in the better weavings of all sorts.
The second thing that bothers me is the design. It seems to lack the rigor of good Turkmen pieces. The designs are too compressed and there is too much going on-too many animals, especially camels. In this sense, it really does look more Persian in its lack of restraint. I am reading the figure at the top as representing the bride standing in her canopy(?) that sits on the camel that carries her to her new home and husband. It doesn't look like a woman to me and is problematic in other ways too tedious to go into.
Finally, there is the question of technique. People have been collecting and studying Turkmen rugs for over 100 years (see Svetlana Gorshenina's recent book on early Central Asian collectors-in English!). There has never been an piece woven in this technique recorded as being Turkmen in the past-that would give me great doubts about calling it Turkmen even without the other issues involved.
Most of the great Turkmen weaving is now in the west, mostly still in the hands of collectors. With ownership comes the responsiblity to care for and understand the material. To reject the importance or origin of a weaving is very similar to damaging it physically. At the same time to accept an object (or a group of objects) as being representative of a culture when they are not is also damaging to our understanding. In this context, I would be very careful about calling it Turkmen.
Amir, again I apologize for misunderstanding your comments which I first felt to be overly manipulative but now understand to be instead coming from a passionate engagement with your weaving. I have tried to clear in my reasons for rejecting it as being old and Turkmen, however, you are free to believe what you wish. To everyone else, I must apologize for a overly long post!
I too believe that we should concentrate on the item itself and try to
bring forth as much information as you graciously did in your last
I genuinely apologize for the quotes in scholarly in my reply to
you. I wanted to express my discomfort and I acted silly. There are
times that the fact that English is not my mother's language,
comes in the way.
Knowing your vast knowledge and experience in the Central
Asian field, we can all only gain from your posts.
The figure in the top of the asmalyk seems to be the groom waiting with
stretched arms in a typical style yurt for his bride.
The same depiction (though somewhat worn and unclear is
also on the blue silk side top. A kid (playing skip rope !?) out
of the yurt might mean a wish for having children in the future.
The iconography is certainly there, but as you say , and I agree,
something is missing.
I’m glad to see that the soothing oils of reason and moderation have been poured over the troubled waters of passion…
Amir, may I ask you to overwrite the word “unregistered” (first window on the posting page) with your name, next time?
We - the administrators – don’t like to see a post starting with “unregistered” so we are obliged to delete and re-post it with the correct name… When we are sure of it, of course.
I would like to modify Filiberto's request about overwriting "unregistered" with your name. If you would, overwrite it with Amir_Aharon (which is what we do when we post your messages). The underscore between your given and family names makes your name obvious, but will keep Amir Aharon in reserve so you can use it if you should decide to register.
No sooner said than done!
A two-sided asmalyk
This reminds me of a couple of books. I believe one name was "A Rug and A Story", and in the art world, "Three Picassos Before Breakfast" I enjoy these posts, a lot of tap dancin. Most of the rugs posted here have little value and virtually no interest to a collector because the market has changed in the last number of years. This asmalyk:
Where was it made? Does it matter? It is modern production. This was in a trunk for 100 years? This is not old. The needlepoints that were new Chinese and sold at NY auctions years back looked old.
Re: A two-sided asmalyk
I enjoy these posts, a lot of tap dancin.
Then at least one of our objectives (enjoyment for ourselves and our readers) is being met.
Most of the rugs posted here have little value and virtually no interest to a collector ...
Our readership includes collectors, but isn't limited to them. Value (monetary) isn't a matter of concern at all here.
This asmalyk: ... It is modern production.
It doesn't look old to me, either, but I think it might be. Do you know of a modern source that is producing similar things? If not, how are you able to be so certain that it's new?
You asked about structure. I will comment, for the sake of cordiality, on only one of many things I could point out.
We are told the same warps were used to tie knots on both sides of this piece. (In person this would not be difficult to determine.) Notice the aspect ratios of the warps and wefts as they cross, (being plainweave), at the sides. Compare that amount of fiber with the amount of fiber in the fringe.
Unless the silky fibers, (the structural components), are breeding in the dark where the warps become fringe, or something, we are looking at a mathematical impossibility.
Wally, It matters because computer generated designs are now on the scene. The fakes will become more sophisticated with their "cut and paste" symbols morphing from the goofy "spare parts" concoctions we see today into more realistic looking "missing links" . Pointing out some things is not a waste of time. Sue
I asked myself a few more questions like how could the now changed to blue
wefts assert themselves, highlights and all, ghostlike, right through the pile
on the 'silk' side? How could the pink and orange of the silk on the other side
fall like a glaze, or smear, on probably unmordanted wool? I went back for a
closer look at the photos.
I still am not computer literate but I have heard about Photoshop. Once I was confident that a photo of the rug's symbols had been somehow superimposed over another picture I went to Google and typed in "first name_ last name" of someone as they firstly posted it, (without the unregistered bit), + Photoshop. Then I Googled the same thing again with the names not capitalized. For the sake of cordiality I must stop reporting now. I leave the rest of the job to the computer guys here. I am sure they can handle it. I hope someone will figure out a way to cordially post their findings for others. Sue
I find nothing surprising about being able to see the knot collars lending a cast on the camel colored side, or vice-versa. What did I miss that shows the wefts changing color?
I did the Google search that you suggested, and didn't find anything that raises my eyebrows.
Sue, this is the third or fourth post you've made in this thread suggesting that Amir is propagating fraudulent information in showing this piece. Your last one implies that it is a complete fabrication made from Photoshop-doctored images.
If you have anything more than innuendo to offer, it's absolutely welcome. But posting some sly winks and vague hints that you can tell that the piece doesn't really exist (in the face of Itzhak's having seen in it person) are underhanded attempts at character assassination, and I won't put up with any more of it.
As cordially as I can manage to be under the circumstances,
The silk warps may not be breeding in the dark on the sides, but I suspect they are bundling. On the perimeter, the wefts have probably passed over more than one pair of warps, much as we see “paired warps” on the well known backs of khorjin from the Khamseh District.
This doesn’t look like a computer generated design and I don’t believe for a nanosecond that it is a “fake” (i. e., something woven with the intention to deceive). If it were a fake, it: would not have a silk foundation or silk highlights; would not have intact ends and sides; would not look as if it had just come off the loom; would not be in full pile (or should I say piles?); but would look like one of the well-known shrub azmalyks.
Agreement may never be reached on how old it is or where it was made and by or for whom, but I think that this piece deserves a discussion based upon what it is and not whether it was essentially created in Photoshop. You have pled for cordiality. Taking a less accusatory approach in discussion is always considered to be cordial.
In my 37 years of chasing rugs I found you can, as you know, tell old rugs from new from across the room. The story of the middle man- how many times have we heard the same story? It is a fact of life I've been set up by dealers in the past. It's all part of the rug game. Let's not forget the phoney STAR that was sold in NY, put on a plane, & turned down. The rug business is filled with greed just as any other business. Unless you are at the top of the food chain you think its all rosey. I don't pretend to be an expert on new rugs.
I think you can spot some new rugs from across the room, but not always. I'm aware of fakes that fooled some experts, too, and they weren't fooled from across the room, but from hands-on examination. In short: I don't think we can make conclusions about the age of this one without more information than I've seen. For sure, if someone knows of a modern production that includes two-sided "tribaloid" pile rugs, that would make it very likely that this is an example of that group. Many of those in the trade are pretty much on top of what's being made now, and I haven't seen a public post or received a private e-mail from anyone who's aware of this kind of thing.
I've heard "middle man" type stories, too, and I'm not a babe in the woods about what goes on in Rugdom. But I think we should be sure about something before asserting it as a fact. "I think this is ..." is a different statement than "This is....", and it's a lot less uncomfortable to find out you're mistaken after you've said it.
Sue, just for the sake of clarity:
I tried the Google search you suggested and found that it points to the index page of a discussion forum about Mac computers.
In this forum somebody with the username of “unitedislife” asked a question about Photoshop. At the bottom of the same web page there is a list of users, and among them there is the name “amir.aharon”. And that’s all.
There is no way you can tell if somebody created an image in Photoshop by typing somebody’s name AND “Photoshop” in Google. Google is not omniscient. Google can find only words appearing in web pages.
To get out from the impasse that this discussion seems to have reached, may I suggest digging out for details of the constructions of those mysterious (for me) Persian two-sided knotted rugs? Then we could compare them with the construction of Amir’s asmalyk.
I tried to search with Google, but got no results…
I doubt that there are any two-sided rugs on the internet. The only one I can remember seeing in print is in the Straka collection (Plates 80 and 81 show the two sides). It's attributed to Kashan or Tabriz, ca 1900.
The knotting is asymmetric, open left, 369 per square inch on each side. The construction involves tying a row of knots on one side, then a row of knots on the other side, then a single shot of weft. Alternate warps are depressed. The carpet is all silk - weft, warp and pile.
The knotting is asymmetric and the carpet is all silk?
That makes already two differences with Amir’s rug, which has symmetric knots and wool pile on one side.
There are lots of differences. What they have in common is pile on both sides.
In addition to the Straka rug, there are number of similar silk two-sided pile rugs that were sold at Sothebys and Christies in the late 70's. They were usually attributed to Kashan, and nearly all were "early 20th c." They all sold in the mid 5 figures. Of course, those were the "go-go" years of high end middle eastern buyers.
It’s quite true what you say: “I'm aware of fakes that fooled some experts, too, and they weren't fooled from across the room, but from hands-on examination.”
I have been interested in the topic of copies and fakes for some years. Fakery has been practiced perhaps forever, but the number of fakes, the number of people producing them and the number of countries producing fakes are all increasing exponentially.
We don’t really know how many have actually been sold through eBay, the auction houses and sales rooms of both reputable and disreputable dealers. But it’s probably many more than most would suspect.
Obviously, it is the most valuable or popular or spectacular weavings that are faked, but a number of relatively ordinary Caucasian designs are also being faked. It often takes a restorer or someone who regularly takes rugs apart to discover the real from the unreal.
Producing a realistic fake, however, involves much more than just giving a pattern to a weaver for duplication. The structure, the handle, the wear patterns, even the shape of the pile has to be duplicated – and this takes a lot of work. For this reason, some of the new copies/fakes are actually quite expensive in the shops.
Given what I have observed about these practices over the last 10 years or so, Amir’s azmalyk just doesn’t fit the “fake” description.
But people should understand what is being produced and how it will change our attitudes about the authenticity of oriental rugs over the next decade and beyond. Just put some of these new rugs on the floor for a few years and I can guarantee that most advanced collectors and dealers will not be able to distinguish them from their antique counterparts.
Bear in mind that most of them are being made with new material.
Fakes have been a problem confronting the tribal arts people for many decades - more than 99% of the African tribal art on the market is fake (that is, made with the intention of fooling collectors and decorators into thinking that they were made for ritual use within a tribal community).
The problem of faking on a significant scale is much more recent in Rugdom. And, I would expect the fakes to be rugs and textiles made to fool the buyer into thinking that they are authentic examples of one or another antique genre.
Other than Turkmen asmalyks, the only pentagonal textiles of which I'm aware that are even close to this size are Chilkat dancing blankets. It obviously isn't intended to fool anyone into thinking that it's Chilkat. So, if it's intended to fool anyone, it must be to fool them into thinking it's a Turkmen asmalyk. But if someone was going top make counterfeit Turkmen asmalyks, why make them two-sided and why make them of silk? No known Turkmen asmalyks have either of those characteristics. It would be like making counterfeit US currency out of Legos - only a moron would think he could fool anyone with it.
I don't know how to attribute Amir's textile. Age? I can't tell from the information that's here so far. Geographic origin? Certainly not tribal, and since the only other two-sided pile weavings of which I'm aware are attributed to urban Persian centers, my inclination is to think that this one is, too. But I am 100% certain that it isn't a counterfeit anything.
You and Wendel mentioned double sided central Persian rugs. Mr. Amstey mentioned some double sided Kashan from the 70's Sotheby's auctions; but I remembered that I had once seen a double sided Sarouk (not Saryk unfortunately). So I've been nibbling on Sotheby's and Christie's old catalogues. I finally found what I wanted.
It's from Dec. 15, 1994 Sotheby's Fine oriental and European Carpets, New York.
As you can see it says Ferahan etc. Mary Joe Otsea was the specialist then, and we all agree she knows her attributions. The inscription on the top is not so legible but I was able to decipher it to:
'amaleh ostaad Abd Olrahim' = 'The work of master artist Abd Olrahim'
Silk has been incorporated as Mary says but is it one side wool and the other all silk? I personally don't think so. But maybe whoever bought the rug can hear us and shed more light on it.
Saruk-Ferahans are Persian knotted as far as I know (so are Kashans and others in that vicinity). The asmalyk as we already know is Turkish knotted.
I find it very difficult to find any connections between this Ferahan and the enigmatic asmalyk, apart from the fact that they are both 2-sided. The mustard on the borders of the Ferahan seems similar to the color on the woolen side of the asmalyk. Anything else??
The caption to the Sotheby's entry includes, minor stains on silk side. I think this makes it pretty clear that one side is silk and the other is wool.
But that isn't too important, I think, within the context of figuring out when and where yours was woven. Yours had to have been done someplace with a loom that could be worked from both sides, and an urban setting is very likely for that reason. Maybe not Kashan, but the symmetric knot is used in much of Iran, and if all the known two-sided pile rugs are Persian, yours probably is, too.
I'm not so sure about that, Steve. Usually a comment "silk and wool" refers to a wool rug with silk highlights. I think if one side was different from the other, the catalogue would have mentioned that. Amir's piece is still unique to me - including any silk rug that I ever saw at the auction houses in the 70's. in fact i have not heard from anyone on this board or elsewhere who knows of another example made anywhere.
I know that "silk and wool" usually means silk highlights on wool. But the description of this one includes minor stains on silk side. What can that mean except that there's a silk side? And if there's a silk side of a two-sided rug, there must also be a not-silk side.
I suppose that phrase could mean that both sides are wool but one has silk highlights and that side has minor stains. That would be a pretty peculiar choice of words to express it, though, compared with, say, minor stains on the side with silk highlights.
I'm in your camp on it being unique or nearly so; it's unlike anything of which I'm aware.
There is an image,#26, p68 in Carpets and Carpet Products of Turkmenistan,
Ashkhabad 1983 of a 2 sided turkmen carpet . One side having tekke guls and the
The notes say Two-side carpet with akhal-tekke design on "A" side and Pendi design on "B" side, by Honoured carpet maker of the SSR Durdygozel Annakulieva. Wool, cotton,aniline dyes. Size 150-100 sm.Ashkhabad, 1958. "Turkmenkovior" company.
sorry i cant post the image
The general direction of discussion and commentary reflecting the diverse opinions of this assembly of collectors and experts remains somewhat intriguing to me, especially since the significance of a given piece will ultimately be determined by such opinions.
As I suggested in my first post to this Discussion, I think it would be interesting (and maybe even revealing) to dissect or stratify opinions into the general categories which are usually used to assess rugs.
1. Aesthetics -- What is the aesthetic quality of this rug? Is it of outstanding beauty based on design, balance, colour, etc. I would mention that few of the posts on this discussion have specifically focused on any outstanding aesthetic qualities of this rug.
2. Ethnographic significance -- Is it a fine example of a weaving reflecting ethnographic traditions (e.g. is it truly an asmalyk in form, function and intent)? In this case, I still think I would rather refer to this as a rug made to look like an asmalyk, but is that also the viewpoint of most others?
3. Rarity/uniqueness -- Is it unique or rare in construct, design, etc.? I think most agree with Steve that they "haven't seen anything like this". But I think a true "rarity" goes a bit beyond that. It seems like the construction is unusual, but not unique. I wouldn't say the design is "unique" since it seems to be a rendering of a somewhat famous asmalyk design, with a few unusual additions. Perhaps the combination of design and construction is unique, but if that were an important and widely accepted criterion for the significance of a piece then wouldn't the rug world be full of enigmatic weavings?
4. Age -- There is substantial disagreement about the age of this piece, but nobody seems to be suggesting that it is "really old". So if it is woven any time in the last 100-120 years, I suppose it doesn't qualify as a truly significant piece based on age.
Here's the picture Wayne Anderson was referring to in the post above.
The description reads as follows:
Two-side carpet with akhal-tekke design on "A" side and Pendi design on
"B" side, by Honoured carpet-maker of the SSR Durdygozel Annakulieva.
Wool, cotton, aniline dyes. Size 190-160 sm.
Obviously this is a horse of an entirely different color than the
2-sided asmalyk that started this thread. But at least it indicates
that someone outside of Iran could make a 2-sided rug.
Ah-ah! I found something…
“Contemporary Rug Weaving in Eastern Turkestan” by Murray Lee Eiland III
see Illustration 5: Double-sided silk carpet.
As for Persian rugs with silk and wool sides, there is one, an “Esfahan prayer rug” on a commercial website. That site says also that Double-sided rugs are rare because they are difficult to weave. Usually they will be either all wool or all silk. The last double-sided rug with wool on one side and silk on the other was sold at Sotheby's, New York in 1991 ... This was a Kerman.
James, interesting points. My humble opinion:
1 . Mmmmh! Well, personally I don’t like it. But de gustibus non est disputandum
2. This is a minefield. I guess everything related to humans has some sort of Ethnographic significance, strictly speaking. In our contest, though, I doubt that this rug reflects ethnographic traditions.
3. It appears to be unique, so far. Significant? I don’t know…
4. As you said, there is disagreement on this point, but it seems that those who handled it (Amir and Itzhak) which are not newcomers to textile collecting, feel it is “around 1900”.
Vis-a-vis your points:
1. I think discussion of the aesthetic elements of this rug has been overshadowed by the puzzle of its origin. I find it quite attractive, especially the blue side, but my interest is mostly focussed on the mystery of what it is.
2. It's certainly made for someone who wanted strong Turkmen elements in a rug, and who had some sources of information about Turkmen material culture. I don't think that it was used as an asmalyk, or was intended to be used that way. Both sides would only be visible if it was on a transparent camel. It was obviously intended to look like an asmalyk, but not to fool anyone into thinking that it was one.
3. If there aren't many others even a little bit like it, it's rare by definition. Significant? Not in an art historical context, but a very interesting rug for a collector who enjoys the unusual.
4. Age? Not enough information, and (as many of you know) I incline to uncertainty in age attributions. But ca 1900 seems like a reasonable provisional guess.
The all-silk East Turkestani pieces described by Eiland in the ORR article started showing up in rugs shops in the Persian Gulf roughly 12 or 14 years ago. I can note the following, having handled a couple hundred over the years. I do not recall ever seeing a two-sided piece, but it is now irrefutable that they are currently produced in that region. I'm sorry that I cannot provide an image; we never bought any of them.
At first the quality was quite poor, although the knot density was very high. Early pieces had 2000 to 2400 knots per square inch. The designs were copied from Hereke pieces, but the execution was bad. The high knot density was offset by trying to make the design elements too small, resulting in a blocky appearance. The clip was a little shorter than true Herekes. A small piled cartouche was put in the flatweave between the pile and the fringe and had meaningless scribble that looked like Arabic script to a non-Arabic speaking person. They were basically poor fake Herekes. The real giveaway was the feel, the heft, of the material. The warp & weft were extremely fine, and as a result, the rugs had a papery, almost brittle, feel to them: too thin, not floppy enough, not heavy enough, and easy to crease if folded (unlike a Hereke, which is thicker and actually tough to fold without breaking the foundation materials).
Also, the look and feel of the back was unique to the trained eye. The back felt too rough for a silk rug; the knots were very tight making the back a little bumpy. Warp and weft tensions must have been a little too high, and the rugs were almost flat, but one could never really smooth them out all the way. And, the wefts were visible across most of the back, but somewhat irregularly, giving an "unprofessional" look to a high density workshop piece. Later, the pile got longer and the foundation material got a little heavier, but never approached the feel of a Hereke. Knot densities were as high as 3600-4200 kpsi. HIgher density pieces still suffered from a brittle feel, but those in the 2000-3000 kpsi range were more floppy and heavier (the pile was longer). But they still didn't feel like real Herekes.
About 8 years ago they started copying Qom designs using thicker, but not thick enough, pile. The designs were close, but not as elegant as those on Qom rugs. The colors were all wrong, and the clip was irregular. They looked like poor Hereke imitations of Qom rugs. The backs were the same as described above. They were too thin and "crunchy" as well.
More recent versions were much closer to true Qom rugs. The warp & weft tensions were worked out so that the backs were flat and even. The knot densities were reduced so that the designs and heft of the rugs were closer to Qoms, although still high at about 1200 kpsi. The colors were still more like those on Herekes, but it became a more difficult for a novice to spot the difference. One tip-off is that the selvage cords are too thin and stiff compared to a real Qom. And, they are still a little thin; the heft is not right.
Are those numbers correct: 2400 kpsi? Or is it kp sq dm, or 240 kpsi? The very finest Nain's are only about 750-1200 kpsi.
Yes, that's correct, per square inch. I counted one myself using one of those folding square-inch magnifiers: it averaged 48 x 50. The most inexpensive ones had about 1400 kpsi. Most of the ones I saw averaged about 1800 - 2200 kpsi; the denser ones were much less common and expensive, and very difficult to count (I counted the warps on one, there were 60). All the pieces were relatively small, averaging about 20 x 30 inches.
In addition to those Nain charlas, I've seen Qoms with about 1200 kpsi and a Haghigi rug that looked like it was about 1500 kpsi. I can only imagine these Turkestani pieces happening with kindergarten-age fingers. Remember, East Turkestan is a rug romantics way of saying western Peoples Republic of China...
Here's the only picture I have, a cropped enlarged area showing several of them hanging over a window (facing in):
Finally I was able to see and 'interview' the woman from whom the asmalyk was purchased. I promised Mr. Swan to follow up on the story. So I visited their home this afternoon towing along the broker With the excuse that I want to see a Caucasian rug they had for sell. They were a bit reserved to answer questions having to do with their private life. The broker came up with this idea that I was writing a book, and they opened up a little.
Lucky their son (the bald guy sitting between me and her, in the picture) knew some Hebrew and my Persian (I lived in Iran for some years on my way from Iraq to Israel) helped some. The woman, Tamara, was born in a village she calls Vartasheen near Gendge. Some time or another she moved with her husband to Tibilisi in Georgia.
You can see a picture of her husband on the wall behind us. I suppose he must have passed away during the last year. Caucasians, like so many other ethnic groups wear black in mourning for a whole year.
I am sitting to her left. The woman to her right is her sister; a very shy woman who didn't utter a word but that her first name is Khanum (which actually also means "Mrs." in Persian, which reminded me of the new capital of Kazakhstan "Almati" which means capital in their language!!!
I asked the woman in black where she got the asmalyk (for her it is only another small rug) and she did say she had received it from her mother and she has no idea where her mother got it from. She couldn't tell whether it's a dowry piece or not. She said she did not give it much thought. In fact when I said it could be Turkmen and not Caucasian because of the iconography etc. she was surprised. She did say though that her hasband's elder brother had the first rug shop in Tibilisi and that her husband bought and sold rugs a long time ago there. She can make small rug repairs herself but she is no professional restorer or something.
I suppose that now that her husband is dead she has become the only "bread winner" in the family; her son is sick so I guess she is selling things to make ends meet. To show her my appreciation for letting us shoot some pictures with her I went and bought from her an old buckled belt for more than its worth. I'm sure there are other interesting articles she may want to sell but I decided not to push my luck and come some other time to try and find more about the asmalyk; something I came to visit for in the first place.
I don't know how close we're getting to the age and origin of this trapping with my long story, but at least you all admit I'm doing my best. How about an Armenian attribution?? Just another guess, I guess.
If her husband's brother owned a rug shop in Tbilisi, that's a potential source of rugs from nearly anywhere in the Soviet bloc. That includes the Caucasus and all of central Asia.
Although she says the man owned the first rug shop in Tbilisi, it's not likely to have really been the first one. There's a fairly widely published photo of aTbilisi rug shop, taken around 1900-1910.
Your good efforts unfortunately didn't yield what we might have hoped for, but you tried. In my mind, the enigma is enhanced by the Tblisi connection.
Out of curiosity, on the wall behind you and the two women is what looks like a mihrab. Do you recall what it was?
Chuck Wagner can likely count but I also asked a collector here in the DC area, one Colin England, who collects silk rugs what he knew of this production and its fineness. He has given me this response to quote:
"I have run into several Chinese (probably East Turkestan) rugs that are quite fine. I own several with over 2,000 knots per square inch. I do not find his statement to be unbelievable, in fact I am not at all surprised by it.
"In terms of construction, they are silk warp and weft as well as pile, and the pile is very fine (meaning thin) silk threads, finer than the silk threads used in the very fine Hereke's of the last quarter centaury (which also exceed 2,000 knots per inch). I do not know what kind of loom they use, but the warps are heavily depressed, as they are in all very fine silk rugs that I've seen. The one I just looked at uses symmetric knots, although I can't verify that all do. I do not find them as attractive as the best Herekes, since they tend to be less dramatic (because of use of
colors, and tendency to much greater crowding of figures), but they are still exceptional silk pieces. Prices have been very low, relative to either Iranian or Turkish silk rugs, although I've recently heard of significantly higher prices being asked for them (3 to 5 times what theywere selling for two or three years ago)."
R. John Howe
I disagree with Wendel.
I think Amir has done an excellent job. My hat is off to you, Amir - seriously. Judging from the expression on the son's face I am guessing, though, that some things in the story were left untranslated. Did he say anything about what appears to be a beautiful old silk reel displayed on the table? Did he say anything about what appears to be fluffed out cocoons next to it? Is that a skein of reeled silk behind them? Is the belt you bought made of silk? There is an awfully lot of shiny fabric in that room. Do Tamera or Mrs. earn their bread as silk workers? Sue
Chuck and John,
Thanks for the info on the knot counts. I'm pleased to see that I still have the ability to learn. Hae a great weekend.
dear ms zimmerman
"There is an awfully lot of shiny fabric in that room. Do Tamera or Mrs. earn their bread as silk workers? "
my lounge room is full of rugs, bagfaces, mafrash, tent bands, etc.
they are all made of wool, but i certainly do not earn a crust (as we australians are inclined to say) as a weaver.
I think seeing the silk reel and some other things that look like they might be stuff that a silk worker would have is what put her thinking in that direction.
The Georgian sisters
If you are referring to the small picture on the wall by the man's
picture then I think its some amulet written on paper which they
On the other hand if you are talking about the textile hanging
on an archway far back then probably its a transparent curtain.
I will take a better look if I go again because I'm not sure. The
whole place and the furniture were somewhat tacky so I didn't
pay much attention.
You are absolutely right about the salon of the two Georgian/Gendje sisters. It was somewhat dowdy. The white and beige sofa covers shoudn't fool you. I believe they are synthetic, so are the curtains. The white bulk on the table are a bunch of uncultured stringed pearls, the woman thought I might be interested in.
The fact that they don't live in a lush neighborhood and that their decoration is tacky does not rule out the possibility that they own interesting antique objects from the 'good old days' in the Caucasus.
The belt I purchased from them is actually made of leather with Russian silver coins (at least one coin had 1814 stamped on it) and stone studded metal buckles. This is no silk belt.
As for the red wheeled object on the table, it's a plastic decorative item which matched the whole setup.
Despite all this I admit that the simple, warm and hospitable dwellers of this home made up for all the flaws and certainly made my day.
For What It's Worth Department
For the benefit of all interested in East Turkestani production, I'm posting an image taken by George R. Fisher (who has graciously permitted me to post it here) of a silk rug a loom in Kashgar, in Xinjiang province. George couldn't recall how many knots per inch it had, as it's been quite a while since he took the picture. But it's obviously a non-trivial knot density.
Which reminds me. Amir has not made any remarks about the knot density on his asmalyk yet; perhaps he can take a look and tell us.
Interestingly, in spiteof the knot density, the weaver seems to be an adult, not a child; pretty nimble fingers
Thanks for mentioning the knot density, because incidentally this morning (Saturday!) I went down on fours and did some counting and I discovered some interesting facts:
1- The main 'kelleh' (the electricity poles!!) motif on both sides of the asmalyk are exactly one over the other. They don't have the same colors of course. Same thing with the border camels including the double headed one.
2- Because of the above phenomena, the colors on both sides start and end exactly at the same point.
3- There are no offset knots.
4- Wherever there is a mustard color symmetric woolen knot, right behind it there is a cerulean symmetric silk knot.
5- The only silk highlights on the mustard side are the asmalyks and litter on the two large camels. All the rest including the blue stars and the pink are pure wool.
6- I counted 36 knots horizontally and 47 vertically in one decimetre. So obviously because of (1) and (2) the same number of knots apply for both silk and wool sides.
7- As I had said before both sides are symmetrically knotted on the same natural silk foundation. Wherever there was a woolen knot, right behind it (in the next row) there was a silk knot. So no offsets whatsoever.
8- Hereis another image, with a 30 centimetre ruler for comparison.
Thanks for the info, Amir.
For us westerners that is about 100-110 kpsi, about a low to average knot density for a Turkoman, an above average knot density for a woolen East Turkestan rug, and a low to average knot density for a Persian rug. Exept to say that the "asmalyk" is not a new superfine Chinese knock-off, we're no further along as to where it was made.
I usually count the knots from the back of the rug. This time
I had to do it from the side of the pile. I feel I must have made
a mistake counting. The asmalyk feels dense and it surely
doesn't look like a Kazak (which usually have the coarse
knot count I mentioned before).
I believe the density should be twice as much vertically and
horizontally; although this correction is not going to bring us
closer to the origin and other queries.
I don't think you'll find many Kazaks with 100+ knots per square inch. Bear in mind that you have a row of pile facing the opposite direction for every row you count. This will limit the vertical density and will add "meat" to the skeleton.
For us westerners that is about 100-110 kpsi,
Hmmmm.... "Northerner" seems to be most appropriate for we Canadians. (as in "we are
northerner than the US").
Canadians of a certain vintage have lived through the great "metric conversion" (AKA "I have no idea how much the gasoline taxes have been raised because prices are now PER LITRE")!!
So inches or centimetres will do fine most of the time. Still, I have never been able to figure out knots per sq. dm, and any rug described with knots per per sq. meter seem impressively fine to me. I have a personal aversion to measures that have a bunch of unnecessary zeros in them (17% is much better than 170,000 per million)
As a point for ethnographic interest, we Canadians still measure certain beverages in kegs, which is approximately a gazillion millilitres.
James, your post is great. However, everytime I see a comparison or distinction between Canadian and U.S., as a doc who does infectious diseases, I can't help but think that if it wasn't for smallpox, all of North America would be U.S., and you could calculate your gas costs more easily
As a Canadian and an epidemiologist, that smallpox thing leaves me feeling a bit ambivalent...
But how do you know that had Canada been "absorbed" into the US the residents of L.A. wouldn't be trying to figure out how many litres per kilometre they are getting with their Hummer?
We Canadians have shown that we can be suprisingly influential on the US psyche, in our own way. How else can you explain William Shatner???
Amir, I apologize for the digression from discussion of your five-sided (ten-sided?) rug.
Knots are structure
I agree with most of Steve's last post except that knots are more than the
meat they are part of the connective tissue and skeleton, too. Knots are
especially crucial to structural soundness in a rug where slippery warps, wefts,
and knots are involved.
The face of Amir's rug which is composed of all slippery elements will not need wear to lose it's knots. Rug movement and atmospheric conditions combined with time will do for that.
On that side of the rug the sliding away of knots can most clearly be seen in the largest pink areas in Amir's rug in the third photo in his post of 6-11-05 @11:PM on page one of this thread. This knot loss is less readily apparent elsewhere but looks pretty endemic to the whole thing. This loss of knots can only loosen the whole structure. Again, knots are structural.
Careful inspection of the wool side reveals loss of knots too.
If every knot shared the same two warps, consistently, with the corresponding knot on the other side these areas would show, consistently, the colors of the back of the knot behind it instead of this sometimes happening and sometimes just showing the crossing of wefts and warps as would be the case in a one sided rug.
In the knotbare areas, where only warps cross wefts, it can easily be seen by the plainweave left that no knots are tied onto them from the other side and probably never were unless there is a knotbare spot, consistently, corresponding on the other side of the rug. I do not see this.
The way I see it is that only way this rug could have been woven as one piece on one loom at the same time is if the loom was dressed with twice as many warps as would be needed for a one sided rug. In this case it would be woven separately with each front knot using two front warps and each back knot using two back warps with some knots from each side being woven on both it's own side's two warps and the other side's two warps at once, four warps at a time, periodically, to attach the two sides of the rug together in a sort of quilting - type way. Notice in the knotbare areas how thin the warps are? This doubling of warps would come in handy for separating in the highly detailed areas and provide for the 1/2 scale designs scattered about.
This manner of construction could be determined in person by very, very, close inspection or by pulling corresponding knots on each side at once at many different areas. The first way would require an expert. The second way I don't recommend as this rug from day one was unsoundly constructed and it might just fall apart with only its perimeter left to hold it together.
All other factors left behind, structurally, I view this rug as an example of someone's failed test balloon coming more out of the seemingly endless homo-sapien tradition of applying more action than thought to new ideas than out of any specific weaving tradition anywhere. Sue
No, sorry, no litres here, even if our Northern Brethren had been absorbed. In North America, litres appear only after DeGaulle offers to make part of your country a Department of France.
Thankfully, the metric system never had any effect on the quality of the suds.
Regarding the asmalyk, the half-sun device below the apex, and the bloused trousers of the figures, are quite novel.
Dear folks -
I have been silent about this piece because I was (and am) not sure what to say.
The colors seem "off" to me, the drawing seems pretty traditional despite some odd usages, and it seems not to be particularly old.
I did, though, write to Peter Andrews, in Germany to see he had any thoughts about it. Here is what he sent me, FYI:
"The asmalyk looks relatively new to me, and rather too contrived to be quite natural. My instinct is that it was commissioned by someone for the collector's market.
"Two-sided pile pieces are rare of course, but I heard of a main carpet made by the Iranian Yomut when I first visited them in 1970: it was a presentation piece - possibly for the Shah (I do not recall the details).
"I have also seen a two-faced aq yüp that Hermann had in Munich some ten years ago - a peculiarly pointless tour-de-force, as one side of it would never be seen when in use.
"Such things, then, seem destined more for outsiders than for tribespeople, who may have respect for the technical skill, but as exceptional achievements."
R. John Howe
Last autumn I was offered a doubled sided piece that looked at first glance like centralasian 100AD to 200BC. I was suspicious as nothing like that had come up before, on very close research (I'm heavily short sighted so never steal my glasses!) the structure did not look right only the price was. C14 showed: made after 1950. Thank God that I didn't buy it.
Just as I cannot imagine any Gabbeh two-sided made in the 19th c. I cannot imagine any tribal weaving to be made in this way. Just doesn't make any sense. I believe that all of them were made in a time where western markets were open for all kinds of strange or unusual weavings. The way this piece was offered rings my bells as if I'd be in the tower of Notre Dame. It's happening constantly in the Orient and means 'no return, it was not our piece'. In this case it seems to be different as the owners were introduced. Where was the money made?
Just some thoughts
The wide selvage on this asmalyk is unusual, I think, and I wonder if it tells us anything. I've never seen a Persian silk rug with selvage like this; they almost always have a single cord made of two or three warps wrapped in silk. It's fairly common for Hereke pieces to have selvage two or three warps wide, and the East Turkestani pieces I've seen typically had a similar 2-3 warp selvage.
Two (pile) sided rugs are - or were - used as bedding by the Beni M'Guild, a Berber tribe in the Middle Atlas. Old ones with ethnographic interest can be found in a number of collections. Wilfried Stanzer points out that, given their very loose coarse construction, it is highly unlikely these bedding rugs would survive from earlier times, although it is reasonable to assume they have antecedents. The same applies to Gabbeh. It is probable that other weaving cultures produced double-sided bedding rugs. Weaving such a textile would normally employ a vertical loom, with weavers either switching sides to complete rows of knots on opposing sides of the piece, or, as Marla Mallett points out, using discontinuous wefting so that weavers could work steadily on two sides of the loom at one time.
Yes, Chuck. The selvages are screaming. Look again. Sue
Originally posted by Steve Price
Vis-a-vis your points:
1. I think discussion of the aesthetic elements of this rug has been overshadowed by the puzzle of its origin. I find it quite attractive, especially the blue side, but my interest is mostly focussed on the mystery of what it is.
2. It's certainly made for someone who wanted strong Turkmen elements in a rug, and who had some sources of information about Turkmen material culture. I don't think that it was used as an asmalyk, or was intended to be used that way. Both sides would only be visible if it was on a transparent camel. It was obviously intended to look like an asmalyk, but not to fool anyone into thinking that it was one.
3. If there aren't many others even a little bit like it, it's rare by definition. Significant? Not in an art historical context, but a very interesting rug for a collector who enjoys the unusual.
4. Age? Not enough information, and (as many of you know) I incline to uncertainty in age attributions. But ca 1900 seems like a reasonable provisional guess.
Er… thanks for the quotation, Mr. Salgir.
Would you like to add something of your own, perhaps?
Dear folks -
Today I took copies of the initial images of this piece to Harold Keshishian, who has looked at and handled a few rugs in his day, and asked him to talk about pile rugs with pile designs on both sides that he has encountered.
He said that he has seen some and that they were usually Persian.
He said that The Textile Museum has one, but couldn't remember its precise attribution.
He said that he thinks that this piece was most likely woven with the "discontinuous wefts" that Mike Tschebull talks about above, referencing Marla Mallett.
R. John Howe
Marla's contribution to rugdom is immense but the true results of her efforts
remain in the future. One reason for this is that in order to UNDERSTAND woven
structures, vs. having knowledge of them, requires learning how to weave. How
many times has she beaten her head on rugdom's wall urging students to learn how
With all due respect, "discontinuous wefts" is a garbage can term in that it conveys no information other than the wefts are not continuous. Sue
Dear folks -
I've had an experienced person writing me on the side indicating that lots of our speculation here about this piece seems pretty pointless since only one of us has had it in his hands.
He suggests that is would be potentially more fruitful to talk about "double-sidedness" in terms of "its use for bedding - another example of the technology of nomadism."
I'm not sure where this might go in this instance. I think his reference might be more general, that such a piece might arise not entirely as a "collector piece" woven to create an unusual object, but that its roots might possibly be in some traditional nomadic use of "double-sideness": in response to the need for comfortable bedding.
There are lots of "sleeping rugs,Turkish tulus, filikli and the non-Turkmen Central Asian julkyrs, but none of these are to my knowledge woven with pile on both sides.
The instances of pieces with pile on both sides that I have seen most frequently are the Persian rugs (most of them Kerman) that have pile areas on their back that seem likely to have been intended to function in much the way that rug pads do nowadays. But these "pile on the back" areas are in single colors and without designs and the rugs in question are neither nomadic nor sleeping rugs.
So, I guess the question being posed is could the double-sidedness of this asmalyk-shaped piece come from some nomadic practice of producing such pieces as sleeping rugs?
That is, unless I misunderstand entirely.
R. John Howe
The two-sided rug in the Straka collection has designs on both sides, as do the few other two-sided rugs that I've seen (in photos). The ones with just a single color on the back are new to me.
Unless the dimensions of Amir's piece are much greater than those of typical asmalyks, his wasn't a sleeping rug and it seems almost impossible for it to have come off a nomad's loom.
I'm interpreting it so I could get it wrong, but I don't think my experienced person is suggesting that this asmalyk-shaped piece WAS use for sleeping (I suppose it could be a large pilow) but rather whether "two-sidednes" more generally might come out of a nomadic tradition as one way to provide more comfortable pieces for sleeping.
R. John Howe
Given the technical difficulties of making a two-sided rug, wouldn't it be
more efficient to simply use two rugs (one facing up/the other down) to
accomplish a "sleeping rug's" function?
I've seen and handled one two-sided rug. This was more than 10 years ago, so my memory of it is vague. It was a silk Heriz - about 5' x 7'. Different designs on front and back. Very finely woven - as is typical with silk Herizes - but even more so because twice as many knots/inch were needed. Seen briefly in the back of a rug shop, but even in the dim lighting it was stunning.
I have since tried on several occasions to get the owners to loan it for exhibition. They have so far resisted my entreaties. My suspicion is that they came to own it in a way that might not stand up to the traditional standards of business law.
This 'asmalyk' may not have been used for anything. It's relatively
small size, 100 cms width and 59 cms. height, excluding fringes and sides, can indicate that it may have been meant for spreading
on the bridal pillow as an aesthetic object.
One can imagine laying their delicate face on the soft silk side during the hot summer and the coarse woollen side for winter. We do know that they did lay exuberant textiles such as ridjzos
on their wedding beds.
I would rule out pillow COVER because of the double sides.
Tomorrow I'll check the wefting--discontinuos or other.
I've slept on rugs from time to time. Never saw any reason to wish the rugs on which I slept had pile on the other side. Is there some experience in life that's just passed me by?
Thank you, Amir! Please don't forget your camera for some close
Steve, Haven't you ever wished for some traction during pesky earthquakes or more warmth while snoozing in a drafty hammock? Sue
"discontinuous wefts"; one rug is better than two
Discontinuous wefts is Marla Mallett's term, pretty carefully explained on
pp. 45-46 in her "Woven Structures". The term is of course a kind of shorthand
for a complex concept, but then, that's the nature of language.
Re Jerry's idea that two rugs would serve as well as one to keep warm (or, more important, to permit sleep on a relatively soft surface), one rug with pile on two sides would have been lighter and less bulky to transport and store (one set of warps and wefts).
I doubt there's much of a connection betw double-sided workshop rugs, silk or otherwise, and bedding rugs woven by villagers or transhuments.
Novel = Novelty
Amir,John,Sue, and All
The impression I get of this piece is much like that made by a silk Tekke engsi with a lot of gold and green in the palette and fringes at both ends, which is to say an expensive interpretation of a tribal piece, and made for the market.
In antique furniture we are told to look out for those things which are too good or too special, as so often they are contrived. This so-called asmylask does seem quite out of the ordinary, too out of the ordinary to have any place in the repetoir of tribal weavings. If it were really old there might be a better case for the lone artifact, but coming from a period of rampant commercialism such as it does seems to say the opposite.
Do two sided sleeping rugs have a history of use among the Turkmen? I guess they could, but I would think one would have shown up by now.
Telling that this asmylask doesn't fit neatly into any given group, category, or type of weaving. We are forced to invent one, and that alone is enough to pertsuade me to the conclusion that this "asmylask" is a novelty. It is both novel and interesting, but it will take more to convince me that it is a genuine tribal artifact.
Well, I woke up this morning and "discontinuous wefts" is still a garbage can term. To refresh my memory I looked it up in "Woven Structures" and Marla still hasn't made claim to the term, at least not in my copy, the black and white one. Sue
My copy is in my office, I'm at home. So I can't look and see what's in it and what isn't.
The fact that you didn't find it when you looked in your copy can have any number of explanations, including a difference between the editions of your copy and Mike's. Before announcing to the world that Marla still hasn't made claim to the term, despite clear testimony to the contrary from a reliable witness, you ought to make sure that you're right. Mike says it's in his copy on pages 45-46; I'm 100% confident that he's telling the truth.
Hi Sue -
Someone else initially attributed the term "discontinuous wefts" to Marla and I picked it up without checking.
It may be that she doesn't use it and it may also seem unclear, which I think is your root complaint.
As will become evident, I am not a weaver, but here is my sense of what those using the term may be referring to.
In usual weaving the weft is passed through a shed across all the warps, that is, from one side of the piece to the other, between rows of knots.
After this pass the weft MAY be used at the sides to form the selvege (the selveges may also be made with other cords entirely) or it may simply be turned around the most outside warp and then passed back either through the same open shed or throw a new one. The word "continuous" in this usage refers to the face that the wefts as they move from side to side in the piece in both new sheds or the same one have no break in the strand. They are "continuous."
Now come to the "discontinuous weft" usage. Here, I think, the basic problem for the weavers is that knots have to be tied on both the "front" and "back" sides of the array of warps.
Two strategies seem logically possible.
First, a row of knots might be tied on one side and the weft above them inserted and beat down and then the weaver might move to the other side and tie a row of knots on that side and beat them down and then return to the first side, etc. (As a side comment, I do not think, there is any necessity to double the number of warps in this weaving strategy for a pile-on-two-sides piece.) The disadvantage of this first knotting strategy is that the weaver(s) can only work on one side of the piece at a time.
Two weavers could likely go somewhat faster by sitting on the opposite sides of the warps and tying rows of knots alternately and inserting wefts in turn.
An further strategy might permit two weavers to work on opposite sides of the piece simultaneously.
In this approach a separate set of warps MIGHT be required if the weavers are to work in an entirely uncoordinated way, but some arrangement would have to be made to put the two levels of warp together somehow into a single fabric (there are complex Ottoman and Persian textiles that have two such levels that are combined to form single fabric).
One way in which the work of the two weavers could be made independent would be if each shoot of weft inserted by either of them was a separate piece.
In this strategy the weaver on one side would tie a row of knots (one her set of warps) and then put in a shoot of selvege that is a separate piece extending over and under the warps but sticking out on both sides and not continuing in the next shoot of weft. The word "discontinuous" is intended to refer to the fact that each shoot of weft is a separate piece.
Now it might be argued that if each weaver has her own set of warps there is no need for "discontinuous wefts" but there are clear problems with a strategy that would permit the weavers to work independently. How are the two levels of the fabric being produced combined without intefering with the 'slower" of the two weavers?
It may be that there are such. The complex Ottoman textile to which I referred required special looms and several weavers working simultaneously to weave. Perhaps features drawn from this kind of weaving could be (have been) adopted to permit weavers are to work independently on two-side pile weavings.
My own view is the weavers likely did not weave entirely independently but tied rows of knots alternatively. Weaving is a very social activity and the weavers talk a lot. So "waiting" a bit would likely not be experienced as punishing.
Anyway, that's my take on what the term "discontinuous wefts" might refer to. I think there are reference in the literature to "extra wefts" and these are also, I think, "discontinuous," but these usually refer to strategies of decoration. Here the reference is to a structural usage.
Now, Sue, I have a question for you in turn. Please describe what you are seeing when you say the selveges on this "asmalyk-shaped" piece are frantically trying to attract our attention. What are you seeing and what do you think are the implications of that?
R. John Howe
Here's a snippet from Mike Tschebull's message, three or four above this one:
Discontinuous wefts is Marla Mallett's term, pretty carefully explained on pp. 45-46 in her "Woven Structures".
Whatever else may be said about the term, it is simply not true that Marla doesn't use it or hasn't made claim to the term. She has used it, in print, and if it isn't in Sue's copy of Marla's book, the fact that it is in Mike's copy settles the question.
I did some more structure work on the asmalyk , especially the
wefts. I must first give credit to Dr. Jon Thompson's course and
hands-on structure sessions which came in very handy today.
I have come up with the following results:
Looking at the rug from the woollen side and pushing apart two
consecutive rows of knots I saw an ivory silk weft running over
and under a somewhat thicker silk warps, just above the Turkish
knots. Moving upwards there appears a row of the bottom end
of the silk knots from the opposite side of the rug.
Above all this runs a silk weft but this time under and over the
warps (sinuously opposite to the first weft, naturally).
What you actually see is 3 white tiny dots forming the apexes
of a triangle above each and every woollen knot. These being
the visible parts of the wefts.
Everything I said occurs on the silk side too. of course. Only this
time I had to use a better magnifying glass to discover the weft.
I also noticed that the ground mentioned wefts went all the
way through the two elem macrame type sides. This same weft
could have turned around and used after knotting a silk row
on the opposite side. Just as John Howe mentioned before,
the weaver could do this by going back and forth once doing
a row of woollen knots and then the silk knots on the opposite
side. The other possibility of having two weavers working
simultaneously chatting away the day is even more reasonable.
They wouldn't have to wait so much for one another, the rug
being only 104 centimeters wide ( 3' 14" in Canadian language).
To be 100% sure that the same silk weft was first used on the
woollen side then turned back to pack down the silk knots ( I
guess that's what Mike and John meant when they used the
'continuous' term....and Sue got back at them ) I would have
to dismantle side knots, which I won't.
As for the upper and lower fringes, a bunch of warps are stacked together, then two such stacks are tied up to produce the fringe ends.
All this is intercepted by sinuous silk wefts to form the macramé elems preceding the fringes on both ends as seen in the images in earlier
That's all for today folks!
Steve et al -
I was (and am) less interested in whether Marla used this term or not than I am in getting clear descriptions up of how rugs with two-sides of pile are made. So I didn't look.
In pursuit of my root interest I asked my Persian friend Jamshid to talk to me about his experience with rugs with pile on both sides. "I have one," he said and untied some knots and rolled it out.
It was a Turkish piece maybe 4 X 6 or 5 X7 with the same niched design on both sides. He said that the wool is angora (certainly very soft) and that he thinks the piece was made near Ankara.
Looking at it closely,it has one side that seems very usual with long pile and clear symmetric knots. Rows of red weft are visible between knot rows
The back is also has some pile, but the character of it is quite different. I could not find clear knot nodes,but did find that many of the pile threads are loops. The general character of the back side is definitely "fuzzy" but it has a more chaotic, nearly matted character that makes it hard to tell how the "pile" on that side was made. The designs and colors on the "front" are precisely those on the back.
There are some Turkish rugs from the Siirt are that have "faux pile" formed by pulling up wefts on one side. But I don't think this could be done with the detailed designs visible on both sides of this piece.
Jamshid says that he has seen other pieces woven with pile on both sides. Mostly Kashans. Some of these he recalls were pictorial with different scenes on each side. He is not clear how they are made.
R. John Howe
Dear John and all,
Here is an image of a double sided Abbasid rug from the 9th Century in the Lamm collection in Sweden, mostly wool with small amounts of cotton.
A synopsis of the structural description:
Regular pile side: Open single-warp knot (the yarn simply inserted) on every second warp thread, not alternating.
Reserve side: In every second row of the right side pile are long tuts inserted at irregular distances under flatr loops formed by the warps not used for the front pile. There is some white cotton.
The text refers to much earlier double sided fragments from Lou-lan.
The absence of patterning on the reverse side of the Lamm fragment is reminiscent of the color and function of the very old Kirman-rugs with lofted “pile” or threads on the back.
The concept of two sided rugs (with the loft created presumably being for warmth) is obviously ancient, but more recent rugs with two patterned sides are most commonly found in Persia.
In Irene Emery’s parlance, the Lamm fragment would be two-faced, i.e., “those whose faces are structurally dissimilar.” But Amir’s azmalyk is double faced; “compound weaves whose faces are structurally identical.” The vast majority of the sleeping rugs are not double faced.
If the reverse side pile is merely inserted and is without pattern (as in the Lamm fragment), it is possible that the weaving could have been done on a horizontal loom, but Amir’s azmalyk required a vertical loom, which indicates sedentary production. Nomads do not have an exclusive desire and use for warmth and loft, as the Kirman rugs clearly indicate.
It seems to me that the azmalyk is so far removed from nomadic traditions that it is pure speculation to attempt such a connection, especially since there are analogies to many other structures more likely to have been used by nomads.
Regardless of its age, I continue to think that this was a special rug, probably intended as a luxurious presentation that would show the skill of the weaver. That doesn’t necessarily mean it is a special rug to those who collect Turkmen weavings today. If you review the collection of the Carpet Museum of Iran in Teheran, you will see many tour-de-force carpets that also do not appeal to contemporary Western collectors.
two-faced vs. double-faced
Nothing about the concept of two-sided rugs is obvious, including their
origin or when they were first made, as this long discussion makes
There are more than a few ethnographically interesting rugs with identical pile structures on both sides of the beast, both from the Maghrib and from Fars and Luristan in Iran. But some Maghrib rugs, I am told, do have "pile" looped into the backs of finished pieces, in a different structure.
Reasonable conjecture would lead one to conclude that warm, soft, light-weight sleeping rugs should have, as I said before, origins in several weaving cultures.
(Btw, where are the Transcaucasian examples from high altitude areas?) The mystery is why early ones hardly exist. Sure, fragile, they got used up and thrown away, but shouldn't there be more scraps around?
It is interesting to see how close in texture to an unshorn sheepskin a double-faced Berber "rug" really is.
It's worth considering that "rugs" with pile on both faces - identical in structure or no - are probably more trouble to make than is necessary, as a combination of felts, flatweaves, and pile rugs serves the purpose of soft/warm quite well. (It was quite usual to see jajim with felts sewn on the back used for ground covers - and, I assume, sleeping mats - among the Azarbayjani nomads as recently as the 60's.)
The availability of felt/rug/flatweave combos probably accounts for the scarcity of bedding rugs with "pile" on both surfaces. Of course, there are no definitive answers.
Hi Folks! Very interesting discussion. John has flagged me down and asked
that I please contribute a few remarks.
There are several different ways that two knotted-pile rug faces can be produced simultaneously, and the structures can vary a lot. A rug could be produced as a double weave, with two sets of warps, and two sets of wefts, with the two surfaces interchanged at selected points. That requires four harnesses (shafts) however, and this kind of setup is not compatible with Middle Eastern vertical, fixed-heddle rug looms. Thus we can assume that normally the knots on both surfaces are tied on the same single set of warps and that the wefts interlace the same warps with every pic. Knots on the two faces can either be tied on the same warp pairs, or to make a stronger piece, can be offset. Or warps can be skipped within a single row, with knots tied on alternate warp pairs on the two faces, though this approach is more suitable for longer pile.
It’s an intriguing puzzle to imagine how the process works. Since it is very difficult to tie either symmetrical or asymmetrical knots “backwards,” the simplest process would of course be for a weaver to sit facing her vertical loom, complete one row of knots, and then move around to the back to produce a row of pile knots on the reverse face. That’s a lot of jumping up and moving about though for a narrow piece. It might make a little more sense if one person was to produce a wide rug, but that would also require a lot of moving sideways. Instead, most Asian weavers approach rug production as a cooperative project.
Thus we can assume that two weavers surely worked simultaneously to produce even a small two-faced pile piece, one at the front and the other at the back of a vertical loom. If the knotting is done on alternate warp pairs—that is with one knot facing forward and the next facing backward—two weavers can do the knotting in random order simultaneously, one just filling in where the other has left blank warp pairs within a single row.
If alternate ROWS of knots face first forward and then backward, the process is more complex. To work efficiently—with both weavers tying knots at the same time—they must devise a way to work on different halves of two different knot rows simultaneously. Weaver “A” must be knotting on the “left” side of the rug, while Weaver “B” knots on the “right” side (“left” and “right” as designated from the front). Since each partial row of knots must follow a weft, the work must be staggered so that Weaver “A” always finishes half of any knotted row ahead of Weaver “B”. Then each must insert a weft above the knotted section she has just finished. The wefts must either be DISCONTINUOUS—that is, each must go just part way across the loom and then reverse, OR the two weft yarns must CROSS between sheds. For either procedure to work, TWO separate weft yarns must be used, although on the rug only ONE weft pic may appear between rows of knots. It is extremely difficult to see the points at which the weft reversals or the weft crosses occur. These points would normally be staggered, and very careful collaboration is required.
I have discussed and diagramed crossed wefts on pages 43 and 44 of WOVEN STRUCTURES and discontinuous wefts on page 45 (where I discussed “lazy lines”). The page 44 and 45 diagrams show wefts with no knotting, but they can work the same way with intervening rows of knots. The page 43 diagram shows a double-wefted example, but can be produced with one pic between knotted rows as well.
Incidentally, there’s no reason why nomadic weavers can’t use vertical looms. The use of a vertical loom almost certainly explains the occasional reversal of knotted-pile or brocading on the bridges of saddlebags. In my website photo essay on Josephine Powell, she shows nomadic Anatolian weavers in their summer pastures in the process of setting up a vertical loom for some storage sacks. It’s a simple matter to dig two holes in the ground for loom uprights. Another photo on that same web page shows a rather large rug loom set up inside a black goathair tent.
Hi Amir, Great job!
I'm determined to get to the bottom of how your rug was constructed. I may have to get out my test loom to exhaust the possibilities but I'd rather just think it through because I'll have to cut what is on the loom now off to do it. So if you can answer some questions on some things you have said that I am unclear on, that would help a lot.
If I am understanding rightly there is a row of wool knots. Above these is a thin sinuous weft then a thicker one. Above these you can see one node of the silk knot tied directly behind it, not offset, and then another sinuous weft above the silk nodes.
I don't understand the three weft dots above every wool knot. Are you saying there are three weft rows between the wool knots and the silk knots and three wefts between every row of silk knots and wool knots?
On the silk side did you need more magnification because the wefts were thinner or was there some other factor like more depressed warps?
Were the thick wefts on the wool side under tension and straighter than the thin ones/one? On the silk side?
Were only half of the knot nodes showing through on the other side because the warps were depressed, or something else?
When you say macrame-like elems are you including the side selvages in this? Do you mean half hitches, which would have a little bump spiraling around what they were tied around onto, or something else? How do the upper corners resolve?
I can see where the thicker wefts go far into the selvages, do they come out on the other side of the rug or go back within the weaving?
The selvages appear to have intermittent bumps on their edges. Are you sure there are not some reinforcement cords, like there are in dragon rugs, in those areas?
Have you looked to see what is going on, structure-wise, behind the smaller detailed areas? Thanks, Sue
I'm glad somebody is still interested in the structure after Marla's
detailed explanation. I'm not so good with the technical aspects
of weaving as you obviously are, so bear with me.:
After a row of wool knots there is just one thin silk weft crossing
(not a second thick weft above it). Above this one weft you can
see 2 nodes of the silk knot from the opposite side(not one node
as you mentioned ) which I suppose rules out depressed warps.
So for every wool knot there are 2 silk nodes belonging to the
opposite side with one silk weft crossing between them. After
the silk nodes comes another weft and so on. The thicker ivory
silk is the warp criss crossing with the weft--as usual.
As for the 3 weft dots, I must have unintentionally misguided
you, because all I meant to do was give a picture of how I saw
the visible part of the 2 wefts under and over the silk nodes;
they simply reminded me of three apexes of a triangle, right above the wool knot. So as you see all of the silk nodes were
visible; in fact for every 4 woollen knots (one cm.) there were
8 silk nodes right above the weft... no depression!
You asked about the selvages and ends:
On every side there are 8 cords which I believe each one has
8 silk warps wrapped to make one batch. Apart from the weft
(which has a somewhat whiter color ) that goes through there
are silks criss- crossing to form the macrame. Looks chequered.
As for the upper and lower ends, I counted 16 silk strands on
one fringe which contains two stacks each holding 8 strands
'wrapped' in one bunch (upto one centimetre above the elem)
and tied together by a simple knot. The one cm. high 8-strand
wrapped thread protrudes EXACTLY over every one woollen
knot. These thick wrapped silk threads are joind together
on their back by some chainstitch like strapwork unnoticed
from the woollen side of the asmalyk. So as you see the selvage macrame is not the same as the ends.
The wefts, which I noticed were slightly lighter colorwise than the rest of the silk macrame on the sides, goes all the way through
the less than one inch selvage and turns round. It probably goes back to the next silk knoted row. I just need one of those
rug repair huge magnifyers to be sure.
You asked for structure on smaller detailed areas. I went through the part where there were highlights of silk on the woollen side; the two big camels' kejebelik and litter. The structure is exactly the same as in other places only for the silk knots appearing on
both sides of the rug.
The funny and perhaps interesting part for you may be the two
lower corner macrame. They simply overpass the side lower
corner (selvage) macrame by an inch on both lower corners.
All around this square inch are fringe tassels.The upper corners
on the other hand resolve as any other rug despite the curvature.
Sue, it's always a pleasure to answer your structure queries,
because that's when I sweat a little but make many new
discoveries about the 'asmalyk' myself.-----Amir
Thank you Amir! I just wrote your whole post down, without letting it sink in, for later reading as I am in a hurry today and am totally burnt out. There were several times my pen stopped as I copied so I know that after I can read it properly I will have more questions. Today I absolutely must rest my eyes from small things or I will go blind. In the meantime know that I have some very good reasons that are turning me towards your and Wendel's opinion that your rug is real. Never, never thought I'd say that. Sue
Since we have two eyewitnesses who say that they handled the rug (Amir and Itzhak), as well as photos, I think that hinting that its existence is a fabrication suggests a conspiracy to deceive. You made a similar insinuation in the case of Marla Mallett and "discontinuous wefts", denying that she had used the term AFTER Mike Tschebull cited the page numbers on which it could be found in her book.
If you have some basis for believing that our forum is being subjected to conspiracies to deceive, please announce your reasons loud and clear. If they are simply your intuition or you feel that you can transmit your reasons only in the form of riddles, kindly keep them to yourself. The charge is much too serious to be made casually.
Amir has always said he thinks his rug is special. In his last post Wendel said "I continue to think that this was a special rug, probably intended as a luxurious presentation that would show the skill of the weaver." I am agreeing with them. Please reread my post again with a little more care. Sue
You unambiguously said in an early post that you believed the rug was a Photoshop fabrication, not a real rug. In the post that you think I misread, there is the following sentence: In the meantime know that I have some very good reasons that are turning me towards your and Wendel's opinion that your rug is real. In simple English, it says that for reasons that you choose not to share, you are beginning to believe that its existence isn't a fabricated story after all.
What you wrote may not reflect your intentions. But if it doesn't, the burden is upon you to express yourself more clearly. It is not my responsibility (or anybody else's) to read your mind.
Amir and I are getting along just fine and learning a lot about his rug. It is intense work and I need a break before continuing. I wanted to tell him that.
Amir, my eye doctor says it's "Nothing that six months as a long distance truck driver wouldn't cure". I would like to stay off the computer today so my eyes can rest as it is hard for me to even see what I am typing from eye strain. I will just check in to see if my post has been posted and if you have anything else to say about your rug today.
I have a few questions though that don't require eyes or thinking to ask. You say the wool is mustard colored. Here in the US that is what people think of as a turmeric colored condiment sauce for some things that pass as food. Could it be natural brown Karakul wool as seen in John Thompson's book on page 10 in the lower triangles in the field? Brown wool, because of it's genetics, dyes differently and ages dyes differently so it could be an important factor in determining more about your rug. Is there any yellow dyed wool in the rug? Can you tell by feel if the black wool is mohair, (angora), or from a hoggart black Karakul fleece? If you can't I can help you with this, but not today. Is there any corrosion? Does the pink wool have a different feel than the mustard colored wool? Later. Sue
I compared the ground color of the woollen side with Jon Thompson's yellowish brown triangles on page 10 . They seem
to be very much the same. I didn't see anything about Karakul
fleece in the caption; but I do know that Karakul sheep start
out having black fleece which turns to something between
brown and yellow tending a bit to grey. Thompson's rug is from
the Karabagh. Karakuls breed in Turkestan.
As for the black contours of the 8-pointed stars on the wool
side, they are not so fluffy as the rest of the colors; slightly shorter. I also noticed that under the light of a lampshade that
the usual colors had lustre, sort of different hues to the same dye
while the black wool knots were not so. The only other yellow
dyed knot in the rug is the silk knot. I can't tell this black from any other, although I can guess what
you're getting at : The blacks come as natural fleece from
Karakul lambs and the brownish yellow field from grown up Karakuls. Thus leading us to a Turkestan origin where Karakul
sheep breed. Or are you thinking of something else?
As for the corrosion, the blacks are a little shorter than the
rest, as I said before, which can mean its corroded.
I didn't notice any difference between the feel of the pink
wool and that of the 'mustard'.
Take your time , don't strain your eyes. We will get to the
bottom of this sooner or later. If your doctor prescribes 'later',
then so be it.
I thought maybe a little divergence won't hurt.
Karakul Sheep--nCa report from Ashkabad, Turkmenistan, 2003
Karakul (Black Lake) is named after a village by the Amudarya river in Bukhara. The Karakul sheep have been domisticated since at least 1400 B.C. They can survive on scant vegetation and little water. The fat stored in their tail is a source of nourishment, similar to the camel's hump (or two!).
The newborn lambs have tightly curled, shiny black fur. The skin of a day-old-lamb is highly priced. A complete outfit made of Karakul lamb fur may be priced upwards of $25,000, easily competing with mink.
"A Karakul lamb asmalyk, if it exists at all, may cost as much as ........ ask Amir!!".
Many fashion designers in recent years have taken to Karakul to adorn top of the line creations; Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana, Karl Lagerfeld, etc.
The Karakul fleece is found in a variety of natural colors; black, pink, brown, grey and agouti. Occasionally individuals are white or pied. Most lambs are born coal black due to a dominant black gene. They have lustrous wavy curls. As the lamb grows, the curl opens and the color turns generally brownish or bluish gray, golden tans, reddish browns, white with flecks of other colors and occasionally pure white.
Karakul sheep pelts were important trade items on China's ancient Silk Road. The fat stored in their tails is different from the usual fat in their bodies and is said to enjoy a high value in the Central Asian cuisine.
And last but not least, The Karakul fleece produces a superior carpet yarn (is easily spun too) and is often used for rugs saddle blankets, and wall hangings. It's also believed that the art of felting evolved from this wool.
"Rumour has it that a double sided 'asmalyk', one of it's kind, was once commissioned by an Emir (or was it Amir!? ...) using all the above natural Karakul fleece colors."
Hi Amir, and interested others,
Double coated primitive sheep wool present very different processing problems than more modern single coated wool does. On Karakul the inner coat is generally thin, soft, and springy with a rather chaotic crimp. The outer coat is more like hair. It is smooth and much longer. Spinning such wool as it is cut from the animal, even with a very light touch, the hair part slides into the yarn first leaving most of the undercoat behind. Keep going and you have yarn but it is useless.
Separating the coats properly before spinning, in my opinion, requires the invention of combs which separate the coats, aligns the fibers, and removes fibers under a certain length so that spinning Karakul well is possible. The inner coat is easier to spin than the outer. It is possible to spin the unseparated coats well only by expert spinning but it is an unbelievably time consuming process.
Spinning well is spinning to a consistent diameter with a consistent twist with fibers of similar length in keeping with the requirements of the use the yarn will be put to. Well spun yarn allows for the possibility of even uptake of mordants and dyes.
Top quality well combed fiber is reliant on proper scouring especially in double coated sheep's wool. The two coats react very differently to moisture and friction, etc. They also dry at different rates. My initial attempts at scouring Karakul were mind boggling. Even though I never agitate or even disturb and never crowd wet fiber or ever use water over 120 degrees I ended up with wool felted to an unusable extent. The locks had felted just from their own wetted weight as they passed through the stage of compression through the puffing out again drying stage in the unhandled process.
I have what I call my "flock in a box" of top quality Karakul fleeces awaiting very slow and time consuming processing. Only proper scouring can result in preserving the wool's qualities.
I also have, from the same flock, wool that has been processed by a very highly regarded American mill which utilizes state of the art equipment designed specifically for processing double coated long staple wool. It is easy to spin but it is lackluster with broken fibers and the texture is similar to steel wool. Ruined.
Michael Bischof was right about everything he said pertaining to wool processing, in my opinion. There are no shortcuts that I have yet found in my exhaustive and exhausting experiments.
It is clear, to me at least, that all textile structures can only be as good as the materials used and the proper handling of these materials before they are woven. The only information outside of my own efforts on the subject of excellent Karakul spinning and preparation are glimpses here and there from close-up pictures of weavings. From these I can see that the Salor tribe accomplished them.
From constant spinning practice and excellent manual dexterity and eye-hand coordination, hard won from years of working with very difficult, highly technically challenging art materials, I have attained a not too bad Karakul yarn. By not too bad I mean it could pass for machine spun which, on close inspection, is not too good, even in the best brands.
Excellent plying is based on a different and higher set of skills. It is based on singles which are overspun, (more tightly twisted), to just the right degree so that when they are plied, which removes the singles twist, they relax into a perfectly balanced yarn. On handspindles this is accomplished by keeping the almost perfectly matched overspun singles under almost perfectly matched tension while spinning them onto a larger spindle, under tension, while all elements spin at the proper rate. In other words all elements are kept under tension while also always kept in motion. Is it any wonder that most hand spun yarn is so poorly plied?
Basically, in order to have top quality plied Karakul you need at least four very well trained hands. This is probably one reason why I have only caught glimpses in books of well plied Karakul in the work of the Salor tribe. Not to say others haven't accomplished it just that I haven't seen it.
After hitting the wall and figuring out exactly how my other two hands could assist, if I had them, I ordered, and received last week, a wonderfully engineered rheostat controlled tool to assist my plying needs to the tune of $1080.
I have no doubt that people with access to, and have paid close attention to structure in good old rugs, in person, rely on plying, in part, in their categorizing of rugs. I am sure this would fall into the "trade secret" bin, though, not too much talked about.
Well, Amir, and those left standing, if your rug was woven and meant as an important gift from a source from a highly skilled weaving background to another of similar background it will surely have been constructed with the finest materials which have been prepared in a top quality manner and such evidence can be discovered even today with a grand effort on both of our parts. Iknow where to look.
If you want to proceed you will need a good, probably German, 10x magnifying lens. You will also need some good, Japanese, straight and bent tipped tapestry needles.
For my part I believe you have provided enough information already,( though I have many more questions), that with some amount of bumbling, I can determine how your rug was made and on the type of loom it was woven, without you. I am almost there now.
Amir, it's up to you. Due to the condition of my eyes it hurts to look at flashing around emoticons so I don't. If you use them in your posts I will miss what you say because I scroll past them. Thanks, Sue
First of all I want to thank Sue for her last exhaustive post. As I said before we will get to the bottom of this one day.
I want to take this opportunity to thank all the wonderful people
of TURKOTEK and also those passers by who were ready to stoop,
watch, and almost conquer. I'm not mentioning names since the
list of contributors is quite long.
I do hope that we're one step ahead in the asmalyk playground,
and probably ' two humps aback on Bactrian Camels!'
I am sorry I didn't know about Turkotek until lately, but I am
catching up through the archives . Special salutes are in order
when it comes to Steve and Filiberto . And I am not talking only
about their scholarly contributions. The harmonizing posts appear
just in the right time and they are both always there for you.
I will definitely want to post new items for discussions in the near
There is though one request I have of the Turkoteks : If any one
of you sees another 2-faced asmalyk anywhere, kindly report to
me, because this silky smooth faced trapping badly needs a mate.
One humped camels on the border will do too; as long as the
hybridization is maintained.