Posted by R._John_Howe on 08-03-2006 06:48 AM:

Rugs on the Road 9

Dear folks -

Another piece in this collection was this one.

I was struck by the way the design continues but only for awhile on the back and then finishes in black.

A little closer look at the front.

I'll leave this attribution to others. Comments?


R. John Howe

Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 08-03-2006 08:56 AM:

What about the technique? Pile? Sumak? Or both?

Posted by Ivan Sønderholm on 08-03-2006 05:02 PM:


I vote for an Afshar and I suppose this is soumak technique.

Best regards
Ivan Sønderholm

Posted by Chuck Wagner on 08-03-2006 06:28 PM:

Hi John,

That "lazy-S" border element with the cross inside it is very common in eastern Kurdish and Shahsavan weavings, but the precision and detail present in design of this piece is beyond what I would normally expect from those sources. Ivan's suggestion that it is Afshar is not unreasonable, particularly with the floral elements. I'm wondering about a Caucasian source.

It's a very striking piece. Do you have an answer, or will we all just wonder about it in perpetuity ?


Chuck Wagner

Posted by R._John_Howe on 08-03-2006 11:12 PM:

Hi Ivan, Chuck -

First, this piece is entirely flatwoven and I should have said that. I didn't check the precise technique, but I suspect some species of sumak.

The color palette and the aspect of the back that I mentioned above make me wonder about the most usual attribution we might make. That is Shahsavan or Caucasian.

Ivan, please say a little more about why it seems Afshar to you.

I had very little time in which to take the pieces in this collection and didn't get a chance to talk much about most of them.

Sorry, to be late in responding. I spent five hours today looking at "antiques" and only saw one interesting textile.


R. John Howe

Posted by Ivan Sønderholm on 08-04-2006 02:10 PM:

Hi Chuck and John

My impression of this flatweave is that colors and the large number of details indicate a Persian piece. I think the vase motifs in the central field indicate a Persian weave and my quess is still an Afshar. Afshar soumaks seem also quite commen in trade.
But who knows....

Best regards
Ivan Sønderholm

Posted by R. John Howe on 08-11-2006 10:13 AM:

Dear folks -

I want to ask that we look at this piece once again before it potentially goes away.

My question now is what is this format?

I have seen it as a khorjin opened up, but in a side conversation Wendel Swan doubts that it is a bag and suggests it might be some kind of apron.

Wendel and I got talking about it on the side because I didn't think I had seen a back of a khorjin that was partly covered with color and design and partly in plain black.

I don't have it's size, but you can see it relative to some familiar objects sitting in front of it. One is a small file cabinet with some papers visible in it. The other is a book end. These objects suggest that this piece is not big enough to be curtain.

Has anyone seen a "back" like this on a khorjin? Could this be an apron? (if so, it's rarer than we have so far indicated). Other ideas?


R. John Howe

Posted by Michael_Wendorf on 08-11-2006 10:29 AM:

Armenian apron

I believe that I know this piece and that it is an Armenian apron patterned in cross stitch. Such pieces are not real common but are known, a related piece appears in From the Bosporus to Samarkand as plate 87. There labelled Anatolian apron.

The designs almost always show Caucasian influence. I have personally seen about 5 - 6 of these pieces and two in particular that I appraised some years ago were documented to have been gifted to a man by an Armenian family in the mid 20th century. The story there was that these were used in rituals, such as baptisms. I could not verify this.

Best wishes, michael

Posted by R. John Howe on 08-11-2006 05:04 PM:

Hi Michael -

Thanks for these indications and for perserving the anonymity of this collection. I took these photos on the basis of a promise not to intrude on that.

I have looked at but not posted Plate 87 from the "Bosporus to Samarkand" catalog. I notice that they were not quite sure themselves since there is a question mark on their description.

And the black area is not nearly extensive as it is on this piece. But it is a convincing example.

It might in fact be useful to note a previous discussion we had on aprons here on Turkotek. Once Saul Barodofsky presented one or two in one of his TM rug morning sessions. I made comparisons with some Bulgarian examples I had from a book I had picked up. It might be good to see how such aprons were worn.

Here is the link:

Go down to image 19 and read foward. The aprons sequence ends with image 26. Notice that in Bulgaria there were "front" and "back" aprons.

Michael says he has seen perhaps six or so aprons. I have seen one in a Springfield, MA museum and maybe a couple others.

So they are fairly infrequent.


R. John Howe

Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 08-12-2006 02:28 AM:

You can see a couple of Armenian aprons here:

See the row of four photos, the two images on the right.
Click on the photos to enlarge them.



Posted by R. John Howe on 08-12-2006 06:59 AM:

Filiberto -

Nice examples.

I looked for the book among those they have for sale and didn't find it. But a nice site. Armenians are often industrious and that shows in this site.


R. John Howe

Posted by Ivan Sønderholm on 08-12-2006 05:12 PM:

Hi Friends

Take a look a this Afshar soumak ( the dealers attribution)

Notice the (reverse) S motif very similar to "John's" piece.

Best regards
Ivan Sønderholm

Posted by Steve Price on 08-12-2006 05:20 PM:

Hi Ivan

Are you quite sure it's Afshar? My first guess would have been Caucasian, although it appears to be in a juval format, not usual for the Caucasus. Is it all one piece?

On the other hand, south Persian juvals usually include pretty easily recognizable closure systems, and I don't see one here.


Steve Price

Posted by Ivan Sønderholm on 08-12-2006 05:25 PM:

Hi Steve

The rug I posted is identified as a 19th century Afshar soumak by the (esteemed) dealer. I'm no rug expert so my opinion is based on photos from books and dealer identifications.

About "John's" rug:
Afshar was my first impression when I saw "John's" weave and my quess is that this weave is recent (re)production. But of course - it is hard to judge from a photo.

Best regards
Ivan Sønderholm

Posted by Steve Price on 08-13-2006 06:56 AM:

Hi All

Ivan kindly sent me a link to the dealer's description of the piece. It is described as consisting of two sides and a bottom, both ends missing. That means it is the large section of a cargo bag, not a juval, one side not shown in the photo. This explains the absence of the usual juval closure.

Thanks, Ivan.

Steve Price

Posted by Michael_Wendorf on 08-17-2006 05:21 PM:

For Ivan

Dear Ivan:

I can confirm that the apron posted by John is not woven in soumak, extra weft wrapping. Rather it is embroidered in cross-stitch on a dark blue plain-weave ground. Therefore the "Afshar soumak" you posted, probably part of a bedding bag or "Mafrash", is not structurally related to the apron. Moreover, based on what I am seeing, I would think the soumak you posted is not necessarily Afshar, but due to the red weft-faced plain-weave ground quite possibly could be from the Khamseh area of northwest Persia and the work of Shahsavan.

Whatever the case on that soumak piece may be, I am relatively certain that the apron posted by John is early 20th century based on colors, weave, handle and my experience working with several closely related pieces that had documented histories prior to 1920.

Hope you are well. Best, Michael

Posted by R. John Howe on 08-17-2006 10:55 PM:

Ralph Kaffel Contribution

Dear folks –

Ralph Kaffel, has written me a note on this piece and provided some images. He has also cited a Hali issue, that I happen to have. It contains three more images. Here is what Ralph said with a Hali passage and images inserted. (ed.) marked comments are mine.

"Dear John,

"Here are some analogies which confirm Michael Wendorf's message that these are Armenian aprons. (ed. Wendel Swan suggested first that this might be an apron, but Michael, who has apparently handled this piece and others like it, not only confirmed that this is the case but also indicated that it is Armenian cross-stitch embroidery. This latter point is confirmed below.)

"Image #1 (ed. below) was published in Rippon Boswell's catalog # 59, 11/16/2002, lot #132,

"described as a Russian/Armenian apron, 19th century.

The catalog caption refers to an article in Hali 4/1 by Berdj Achdjian, in which a
similar piece, lacking the "picture" panel, is attributed to Armenia, specifically to the Vaspouragan region (page 23, #18).

(ed. The Hali article provides images of three aprons. I have inserted the Hali text on them and the three images. I have also drawn on the image captions.)

“…b. 19th century embroideries
This group forms the largest part of the collection of embroideries in the H.M.E (ed. Historical Museum, Erivan)…However, the most important collection is that of the aprons, called ‘khnoss’ in Armenian.

“Girls and women wear these aprons on holy days and at special ceremonies, each village having it’s own style. It is likely that Christian and Islamic women wear the same style of apron, since these garments, which come from the Vaspouragan area (former Armenian regions or vilayets, part of the present-day Turkey) are claimed by both ethnic groups.

“The ‘khnoss’ ref. 637 (fig. 17) is certainly the oldest, and was woven in the Vaspouragan region,

“Embroidered apron…Vaspouragan region”

“as was ref. 649 (fig. 18).

“Embroidered apron…Vaspouragan region”

“Both are based on the same pattern with two superimposed rectangular shapes. Almost all these pieces have the same design, although a rare example of an exception being the apron ref. 8528/30 (fig. 19) from the village of Marash, now in Turkey.

“Embroidered apron…Marash village

“Embroidery on articles of clothing, such as the head-dress (fig. 20) (ed. shown in Hali but not included here) sleeves, and even socks, bear witness to the high technical quality of Armenian embroideries.”

(ed. End of Hali excerpt. The reference to these pieces as embroideries seems knowing since “flatwoven” pieces are referred to in other parts of this article. I did not have Rugs on the Road 9 in my hands but thought it was flatwoven. Both this Hali article and Michael Wendorf report that the technique is embroidery.)

(ed. Ralph Kaffel’s note continues below)

“Another similar piece, attributed to Karabagh, was offered by Lefevre on 7/8/77, #34
(image #2)

Best regards,


My thanks to Ralph for these indications, references and images, and to Wendel, and especially to Michael, for these alert, accurate attributions and descriptions.


R. John Howe