Having been bombarded with Turkmen marerial recently, I thought it's about time to buffer this attack before it gets out of control. It is especially frustrating when one (me for instance) is not knowledgeable enough in this harsh territory to be able to join the fun (unfortunately).
Since the Persians were always there to stop any Turkmens from crossing the lines, I decided to post this Persian Khamseh khorjin as a spear-head although this is one Persian tribe who never engaged the Turkmens before. I suppose a Kurd or Afshar could have done a better job, but that's all the fire power I was able to assemble on short notice.
Sorry for the military approach; it's only natural when you live in the Middle East for such a long time. Luckily I have endorsed only the 'language' and nothing else.
This Khamseh piece is how a khorjin looks like going out of the loom. I included an image of how it may have Looked like if it were sewn as a khorjin.
As you can see it's part pile and part flatweave. The flatweave back attracted me for it's colorful design and even more for the different techniques of weaving; there is the usual weft faced dovetailing plus weft-faced plain weave patterned by weft substitution weave and weft twining for a bonus.
More details in my next post.
P.S. This Khamseh may not be able to challenge an early Salor, but it can always take a Yomut or an Arabatchi for that matter.
Here is a similar saddle-bag from Jenny Housego's tiny book. It's from the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and Jenny attributes it to the Khamseh.
The design on Jenny's white ground border is in fact very typical of the Khamseh confederacy. The design in my Khorjin's border though, can be found on Qashqai and Kurdish pieces as well.
It is sometimes very difficult to distinguish between Qashqai and Khamseh weavings. Here are a few hints:
1) The Qashqais have depressed warps. No depression in most Khamsehs.
2) The Qashqais usually come with ivory warps. Khamsehs brown.
3) Qashqais have a higher knot count, generally.
4) Qashqai pile rugs are stiffer in handle. The Khamseh are somewhat floppy.
5) Qashqais do symmetric and asymmetric knots; but so do the Khamsehs. So we're not going to distinguish between the two by knowing the kind of knot.
In the case of my khorjin, the design motifs (serrated leaf etc.) on the piled bag-face and also the dark brown pile with few whites and yellows is very typical of one of the five ('khamseh' in Arabic) or so component tribes of the Khamseh confederacy, THE BASERI.
The Baseris are of Persian stock, they speak the Persian language and most important for us, they invariably do the PERSIAN KNOT. We all agree with James Opie who prefers in his second book on tribal rugs a general 'Khamseh' label. On the other hand, my khorjin has Persian knots and the mentioned color palette and motifs, whereby I may attribute it to the Baseri without any restraints.
A little history:
The Khamseh confederacy was assembled in the second half of the 19th century in south west Fars province of Iran, not far from the province's capital, Shiraz. It was initiated as a political entity by the commercially powerful Qhavaam family with the help of the Brits and the Qajar Naser-al-Din Shah, to counter-balance the
irrepressible Qashqai's who threatened caravans on their way from Shiraz to the Persian gulf.
The component tribes of the Khamseh were mostly Arabs (the Persian locals call all the Khamsehs, 'Arab' to distinguish them from the 'Tork' Qashqais), but there were also Luris and Turks etc.. No cultural bondage, so the glue had to come off sooner or later.
The late Mohammad Reza Shah disbanded the Khamseh politically in the 1950's. All of the major tribes in the confederacy live in villages today, except for the BASERI who have remained nomadic.
I have always liked the design of your bag. I have several bag faces with this design in my own collection. One of them can be seen in a Salon, at this location:
The bag face is near the bottom. Below it is another bag face with the same field design but without the central medallion.
The design of your border is also found in Luri bags, as is the central medallion, but usually in a more crude rendition.
Finding a whole bag such as yours, and one with such a striking back, is quite fortunate.
Most of these bags either have had the backs removed or the back is often plain red in color.
Are you aware of what this design is called? It is reminiscent of the "Hawse" water-tank design found in Kurdish rugs, also called the turtle design by James Burns in his Kurdish book. Most of the medallions have the central design of an endless knot. I will look to see if all of my examples have this endless knot.
As for too much Turkmania, when this web site was transformed from the original retail rug site, I expected that, with the name Turkotek, we would see a lot of Turkmen postings. Thankfully, the breadth (and depth) of postings has transcended the red
and has included many more colorful examples of weavings
Thanks for the reference to your salon. You did a thorough job in
comparisons with similar motifs. I really enjoyed it. I think I have
some catching-up to do with all the past salons and discussions.
You mentioned the "howse" (pool in Farsi) motif which appears
so very often as a three medallion design in the Kurdish kelleh
format rugs of Quchaan; come to think of it, the squarish central
white motif with the arrows in my khorjin is reminiscent.
I am glad you find the flatweave back striking. I admit that I am a
live colors' frick and I bought this bag at an auction primarily for
the flatweave design and blend of colors.
I saw a pretty bag face (the one with the nine 'shark jaws'. You
thought it might be Afshar, inspired by Brian MacDonald's plate
84 similar bag. I tend to attribute it to the Northwestern Kurds
of Iran, mainly because of the typical meandering flower border
and its yellowish colors.
By the way, I'm not sure about how they call the central square
motif flanked by the serrated leaves. Unfortunately I don't have
James Opie's first Persian Tribal Rugs book nor Jimmy Burns on
Kurdish, which I know are both very good in text and COLORS.
If anyone reading this post has any piece with a similar flatweave design, maybe he can post it for comparison and I will be ever
lots of examples
This first photograph is from the book Woven Gardens, Nomad and Village Rugs of the Fars Province of Southern Persia, by David Black and Clive Loveless, plate 44.
The description notes that "a star shaped medallion contains a smaller star with hooked projections.....The field design is one usually associated with the Khamseh confederation, and may have been woven by the Basseri tribe."
Also of interest is the design of half-medallions along the bottom of the field. This design is ubiquitous in Khamseh weavings, but is usually more balanced by being placed along both top and bottom, either side, or both along the top, bottom and sides of their weavings.
You will notice that the center of the medallion has a hooked lozenge with a diamond center, while yours has an endless knot with diamond interstices.
Here is another example of the type, shown in salon 45, showing an inner medallion with a design similar to your endless knot with diamond interstices:
The continuous inner field border or edge design of half-medallions is found in the above weaving.
This next example has an interesting derivation of the endless knot design found in the center of the medallion. The knot itself has disappeared, and only the diamonds remain:
The following example, the 9 "jaws" design without a central medallion, also from salon 45, has the same border as is found in the Woven Gardens example, a floral meander often found in Qashqai weavings. The Woven Gardens bagface also shows a quincunx/dice motif at the top of the field, surmounted by the blue and white checked diamond pattern almost universally known as a Qashqai motif which is usually done in flatweave rather than pile. This nine-gul/jaws piece also has the quincunx design as its outer border. This cross-utilization of design motifs likely indicates an inter-relationship between these two powerful confederations.
This example, also from salon 45, is the only example without a medallion:
You will note that the outer border is the same quincunx design as shown in the Woven Gardens piece, although it is lacking the checked diamond Qashqai border elements.
Here is my only example of the design with a remaining back. This back is not nearly as dynamic as yours:
It may be a nominally later version. The field is rather monotonous compared to the variety of filler designs found in the earlier versions and the borders are different than all the other examples.
One interesting similarity, though, is that the center of the inner medallions is also different than the other examples. It has an eight-pointed star within an octagon in a square, rather than star-shaped inner medallion. Only two of our examples show the identical endless knot with diamond interstices design. Perhaps this feature, the center of the medallion, was related to the sub-tribal origin of these pieces. A more detailed examination of the construction of all of these pieces may possibly show a similarity between the medallion center design and the construction features, leading to a differentiation continuity.
I happened upon another, similar bagface at a local rug store recently. The center of the medallion in this piece contained four small birds.
Now we need several dozen more examples so this curiosity of design can be explored in more detail. Any volunteers?
Hi Pat, All,
Thank you for sharing with us part of your Baseri collection and other images.
For a start here are some measurements I did today:
Size of my open khorjin: 230 X 70 cm.
Asymmetric knot count: H7 X V5 per sq. cm.
Wefts: 2 shoots of cotton wefts after every row of knots.
You had many useful remarks on the bag-face design and the central diamond motifs (by the way what do you mean by "endless knot"?). The black and white dice motif outer border of plate 44 from Clive Loveless's book in your post is as you say probably Qashqai. The Khamseh make use of it in the ends also.
So do the Luri's sometimes. So one could say it's typical for the Fars region. The yellowish flower meander design in that same plate in the wider border does appear in Kurdish rugs and bags' borders as well as in Fars pieces.
What intrigues me in my khorjin piece is the different design of the part where the fastening slits are. I am referring to the weft-faced alternating float-weave patterning in black, white, red
and blue. If you notice in your bags and that of Jenny Housego's (see second post in this thread) and in fact many Qashqai and Khamseh bags, they appear in the two colored 'arrows' design.
In the images I have just added, you see this difference clearly. Could it be that these are more Lurish than the probable Baseri?
The white ground outer border of most of the Baseri bags have this 'double-bird' motif, which Opie discusses in his design origin's second book. The Baseri's in your post are with that border too. My khorjin has this different border (which is quite popular with many tribes in general).
How about the multi-colored stepped 'ascending pyramids' dovetailing flatweave back design? Except for Jenny's sample,
have you seen something similar? By the way it's reminiscent of a very early Anatolian prayer rug with this design all over the whole field (this rug was later copied in many occasions). I will post it when I remember where I saw it last.
Does anyone have any idea as to the open khorjin's age, albeit the good condition. It did have tiny round metal devices sewn to one of its long sides for hanging but they could be a later addition.
Delights of Closure Details
If it's any consolation, my comments here are to be limited to the "ooh","whoa" and "wow" variety, since, besides being able to recognize (I think) a good one when I see it, my knowledge concerning persian tribal pieces is sketchy at best.
I remember seeing one of these with a human figural theme and astounding colors some (20?) years ago, with an astounding price to go along . As withy yours, the closure treatment was a delight, and figured even more promonently in the overall composition. I don't remember the tribal affialiation to be sure, but I believe it was Quashgai. I remember a rich green that was spectacular. The handiwork seemed of the highest order, as I would expect for nearly $5,000.00. Too rich for me, at least then ..
As for your piece, it strikes as modern and good quality. In short, I like . But please don't forget my caviat above .
I totally agree that one can enjoy looking at a piece without
really knowing much about it's origins etc. "ooh" and "wow"
is the essence. It's the best start. It means there exists some
kind of chemistry . Knowledge will eventually build up as long
as there is attraction.
Take me, for instance; a couple of years ago I wouldn't get near
to anything flatwoven. My head was buried in the pile. I never
bought a book on kilims and flatweaves then. I couldn't tell the
difference between slit tapestry and dovetailing. Then I began
noticing the interesting flatwoven backs of saddle-bags, most
of them simply striped. Yet sometimes they are very striking in
the blend of there colors.
As for prices of colorful, interesting and rare old pieces, I have
arrived to the conclusion (I believe many members in Turkotek
think so too) that collecting one good piece can give you much more satisfaction than numerous pieces which are available any
day. Every now and then, I sell rugs and bags which I see many
of them around, and with the procedes I go out and buy that one piece which is more interesting and rare. That's why my collection
is far from growing exponentially. After some time you find out that you made a mistake and that 'rare' piece wasn't so rare after
all. That's when you start the whole procedure all over again.
Going back to khorjin closures and fastenings, maybe someone
will want to start a thread on this subject. In most of the early
bags this part wears out before the rest of the bag; so it's quite
rare to find an antique piece with it's original complete fastening
ropes and slits.
The Baseri tribe was still nomadic in the 1990s (the other 4 0r 5
Khamseh major tribes had already settled by then); but I don't
think my khorjin is "modern" as you said. Probably it's early 20th
the endless knot
The endless knot design is one that must be very ancient, because it is found in cultures from India, China, Europe (Celtic) Persia and elsewhere.
It is basically a design with no beginning and no end. It may represent infinity. In many of these bag faces, the innermost design of the medallion portrays this type of "knot".
Here is a link showing such a design:
In the case of our bag faces, this design is found in the center of the inner medallion. It is somewhat abstract due to the limitations of pile weavings.
The Housego example has this endless knot design, too.
The endless knot design as the central focus of this star-shaped medallion may be the progenitor of the design type. It has subsequently been modified to become a geometric version, a diamond-only version and then whatever motif the weaver decides to use.
I have found that most of these bags are at a minimum late 19th century, with predecessor weavings predating them to the 18th century. The tradition continued into the 20th century, but I have not found many later versions with garish colors. It is possible that this design "retired" when the weaving culture became sedentary.
Symmetry in Common
Hi Amir, Patrick
I've attempted a progressive association by symmetry, among various Caucasian,Persian and Baluch tribal khorjin. From where the similarities? Mimicry, symmetry of design execution/technique, or even limitations imposed by the dimensions of the format?
Here we see a rough approximation of a central medallion and a single column on each side,
and here three columns.
This bagface demonstrates a relationship with the following two by virtue of the presence of a large central medallion,but especially of the central "seljuk stars" evidenced by the Balouch, which exhibits these same star devices positioned at cardinal points. And in this last Balouch bagface the pattern is reduced to a three column grid.
Here are some closer views of the bag faces from my earlier post.
This first image shows the jumble of traditional SW Persian motifs in a
"horror-vacui" conglomeration. Notice the light blue that is evidence of early Khamseh weavings. This "fear of emptiness" culminated in the mille-fleurs prayer rugs of the Qashqai and northern India. Not a square inch of ground was uncovered by the multitude of designs.
This second piece shows the pale green of the Khamseh weavings that is similar to the mustard yellow of their contemporaries the Qashqai.
This third photo shows the variety of madder oranges found in pre-synthetic weavings:
The final photo shows the more monochromatic colors of later weavings:
The Khamsehs do usually fill up every square inch of the field
with all kinds of different geometric and animal motifs. The
Qashqais have less "fear of emptiness" I suppose, because
some of their weavings may have a medallion and the rest of
the ground simply plain. They did share this fear when it came
to weaving the 'mille fleure' prayer rugs.
It reminds one of those busy blue ground Shirvans full of all
sizes of different domestic animals mixed with a myriad of
The forth big panel in your last post in this thread is probably
a sofreh (where the family sits and eats on).
Did you post it because of the narrow innermost border's
similarity to that of Pat's panels? or just for showing
design propagation amongst various Persian tribes. Anyway,
it's very pretty and the authors of the 8th ICOC exhibition
catalogue think it's 19th century Afshar (sofreh; because of it's big size---3'8"x3'10"). It's white outer border is associated with
I have finally found samples of the ascending arch motif similar to my khorjin's flatweave back. I will have to post them next time
for technical reasons.
Disarticulation = Diffusion
Sorry about the confusion. In the Turkotek article in which it is to be found, Parvis Tanavoli On Afshar Rugs, it is discribed as an Afshar bagface or Sofreh, and it seemed fitting to include a piece outside the khorjin format as yet another indicator of those factors which might account for the genesis of this design. The basic symmetry of design is there, three columns of devices which are in the same style, yet in the Afshar they are disarticulated and some of the elements dropped, only suggested, or the relative size/proportions of the constituent elements have changed. Is the relative difference in size,Sofreh in the place of khorjin, to account for the further embellishment?
And yes, I would rather have one really exceptional bagface than ten average, but think five exceptional would be the best state of affairs . After all, you probably don't want to walk on something really old and beautiful, so less than the best have their place (I should know ). Besides, what can you do with all this stuff that you can't use? Bagfaces on every wall of the house? Might look good but...
Those madder oranges are to dye for . An assemblage of pieces worthy of "Oooh " and "Wow".
Hi again Dave, All,
Your Afshar panel; I'm sorry I wasn't able to discern the three columns of scattered motifs before. I suppose it was because of the myriads of ornamentation. But now that I see it, there definitely is a suggestion of three vertical columns. Whether it is a sofreh or a khorjin panel is really irrelevent to the subject matter.
It is interesting though to see a sofreh with all the embellishments. As far as I remember the usual sofrehs are
plain with a small medallion and very few geometric extra wefting here and there.
Going back to the khorjin, I started this thread with. I have found these prayer rugs from the Karapinar area having ascending stepped archs, somehow remeniscent of the flatweave back
multicolored pattern. Three of these rugs are scans from the 8th ICOC exhibition catalogue (Philadelphia) belonging to private collectors. The fourth, with two columns of archs is in the Metropolitan museum, bequest of McMullan.
The half khorjin is a Khamseh with the ascending stepped archs from the 10th ICOC, belonging to the Thomas D. Cook family collection.
I wonder if there is any transmissional connections between the design of the prayer 18th-19th century Karapinars and that of our Khamseh flatweave back design! (obviously a far cry from one
another in terms of rarity and Dave, the McMullans used to spread these rugs on the ground, I don't see any reason why you couldn't!