Criteria for Judging Jaff Kurd Bags
I've been engaged in a little discussion off the boards about Jaf Kurd bags and, especially, how we judge their quality. I own two that are very different, and have wondered about this question myself. Both have good colors. One is fairly finely woven (about 120 kpsi, if my memory is correct) and has an interesting skirt and back. The photo of the front shows it upside down.
The other is much less fine (about 70 kpsi, if my memory is right), and has a cute little animal in the upper border.
I rather like both of them as "fun pieces". How do you see them when compared to each other or to the thousands of Jaf bags out there?
Added note: The actual knot counts on the two bags are 112 (7 x 16) and 48 (6 x 8) symmetric knots per square inch, respectively.
That is a lovely pair of Jafs.
I will trade my four for your two.
In addition to the fine colors of your first bag, the diamond panel is quite lovely and unusual. The animals in the border of your second piece elevate it considerably above the run-of-the-mill Jaf Kurd bagface.
There is a lot of similarity in Jaf bags and often the only differentiating factor is the quality of weave, dyes and wool - usually denoting an age difference.
A friend has an extremely fine, miniature version that is exquisite. I think Jafs are fun because of the variety within the type, the offset knotting, the corroded blacks and thick pile creating a 3D effect.
I have heard speculation that they were woven only as faces without backs for the market, but I do not believe that to be true, as I have seen many full khorjins and more faces with partial backs as yours have. I have also heard and read that they were brought to the West in the 1920's, after the settlement of the tribes, in vast quantities. And these pieces were usually detached from their backs to be sold as door mats and such. Your pieces seem to have held up rather well. The influx included specimens of great age and quality, along with huge numbers of them of little or no age and abysmal quality (hence the reason for my offer to trade).
I just deleted JACK cASSin's second message of the day. Guess what? He doesn't like these two bags, and expresses this in the style that has earned him the respect and admiration of ruggies everywhere.
It would have been worth posting them just to see his frothing and twitching.
On a comparative basis, I’d say that your bags are what you call "fun pieces." They both have decent colors, but I don’t see anything that sets them apart from other Jaf bags. In the second, the mere presence of one stick animal doesn’t offset the sloppy execution. (Sorry, Pat.) The diamond design has been copied a zillion times, so this weaver must have been very inexperienced.
The bottom and the back on the first example are good and interesting.
Many, many Jaf bags have superb wool and colors. What collector could help but love those with buttery soft wool and intense colors? Sometimes those with a wide range of colors are the most appealing, but I’ve seen some with fewer colors that are also compelling. Some of those with a very dark palette can be appreciated for their tactile qualities alone.
In many ways it’s difficult to make an online analysis when we can say that most “look alike” yet the variations distinguish some. The quality among Jaf bags is quite consistent compared to other groups of rugs. Seldom does one find an example that could be called really bad. Sure, you see synthetics, but overall they never seem horribly offensive.
That consistency also means that it is difficult for any one piece to rise far above the norm.
I can’t tell you how many Jaf diamond bags I’ve seen over the years and I’ve owned quite a few. I’m down to two. This is one:
Mine is different because of the emerald green skirt and the tiny dots separating the diamonds. In almost all other examples, the diamonds are separated by brown or black wool, often corroded. Also, it is in the unusual chuval format. Without the skirt, I never would have bought it. When I first saw it, my impression was that it might be older than most, but it’s tough to place a date on it.
It does not have offset knotting, as one is prone to find, so the lattice angles are relatively shallow.
There are substantial variations in structure within the group we simply call Jaf. The large Jaf confederacy consisted of many tribes in present-day Iraq and Iran, so structural differences should be expected.
Tom Cole has posted Mark Hopkins’ ORR article on Jaf bags. It is one place to see some above average examples:
Jaf bags remain comparatively inexpensive, perhaps because of their abundance. This thread has the potential to last a long time because so many collectors have decided to have an example of some of the best color and wool available.
Yup, the second of my pair is about as wonky as these things get. For all of that, I find it kind of endearing. It's also unusual that it doesn't have a pile skirt - most Jaf bags do - and neither of the minor borders (the Qashqa'i-looking outermost border and the mechadyl inner one) are mainstream Jaf.
I should have pointed out earlier that Barry O'Connell has posted a nice selection and variety of Jaf bags and rugs on his site, including images of some backs:
In one of the bags attributed to Tony Kitz, you can see that the border of the bag does not use offset knotting, while the field does.
A rare Rippon Boswell bag (shown as a pillow) has a single medallion of concentric diamonds. I'm aware of some smashing chuvals with two medallions of these concentric diamonds.
Mark's article and Barry's site provide images and information not frequently found in print. There are lots and lots of Jaf bags out there, but they didn't make it into the early rug books.
A really unusual pile piece is 8(b) in the NERS online exhibition:
High Coefficient of Wonkyocity
Hi Steve, Wendel,
Here's another, now considered far less out of the norm than I thought it was yesterday :
At the time this was purchased, I hadn't seen too many Jaf bags with the parallel zig-zag stripes filling the half-diamond areas at the edge of the field, and I thought the pattern at the bottom was out of the ordinary (I still think so).
No quirky animals, however. I like the animal, Steve.
Another thing that struck me about this bag was the sharp terminations of the diamonds and the design details:
Many jaf bags have a somewhat blurry appearance, due partly to their shaggy pile and also to coarse knotting. This one is pretty crisp. Upon closer examination we find that, in addition to the common jaf offset knotting, the weaver has slyly overlapped two knots of different colors on the same warp, so that the descending node of the yellow knot (in this example) makes a nice sharp single point termination.
That worked :
Plus, I like the colors on this one.
Wendel, I think the small white dots outlining the diamonds on your piece are an exceptionally classy design treatment and really "make" the piece, for me.
Steve, I like both bags mostly for the sane reasons as what was already commented. I have a Jaff bagface with the same what you called “Qashqai border stripe” in your second piece, and it’s about I guess ca. 1930. The rather plain stripes with rather dull colours for the back plainweave of yours also points roughly to the same period.
The diamond design has been copied a zillion times, so this weaver must have been very inexperienced
I agree, the borders on yours are very attractive.
The mess the weaver made of the vertical mechadyl borders in the second one I posted is simply poor workmanship. But the overall quirkiness has an endearing quality to me, like a picture drawn by a child. A weaving can be likeable without being technically very good, and this one fits into that category for me.
One of the things that's already apparent in the half dozen or so specimens posted is that there are at least two broad groups of Jaff bagfaces in terms of formality. One (Wendel's and Camille's are examples) is, for want of a better descriptor, very professional: crisp, regular, clearly what the weaver intended it to look like. The other (my second one and Chuck's are examples) is very irregular and wonky, almost childlike in execution. I am reminded in some ways of a similar dichotomy in Caucasian rugs.
I fully agree with you and I personally go for these "children" rugs that are spontaneously woven and have that naive appeal. And in your bag this shows not only in the way the animal was drawn but in the filling half-lozenges on the sides and up where wavy or cut lines (yellow) appear. I had not noticed the madakheel but they also add to the same appeal.
My comment was purely technical and practical and did not take the design into consideration.
I wonder to which extent these two go together...
During my field research, I was told that sometimes the weavers choose one person to beat the wefts down so that it stays leveled.
If for your bag the weaver was a child, I guess this task could have been quite irregular.
I assume from the description of your Jaf bag (circa 1930) that it is not the one in the image you posted.
The bag you posted is quite good. I see a great compositional balance between the field and the borders. That type with the “triangle” borders often have depressed or somewhat depressed warps and what I can only call buttery wool and the colors are usually as good as color gets.
Your example precisely demonstrates why some Jaf bags are so appealing.
My bag does not have the wondrous tactile qualities that I think the one you posted has. Have you seen and touched the bag you posted? If so, can you tell us more?
Thanks for the compliments!
Circa 1930 was intended to the Steve's second bag but I don't know whether he thinks older...
Well, balance is also caused by the field symatry in my bag. As for the knot, it's levelled and the wool is fine but I encountered much silkier. It is 92 x 68 cm and the back is missing. I guess it should be late 19th c., whereas the one you posted is I guess easily 1880 if not earlier. The Memling gul skirt is impressing.
But now that I had a second look at my bagface, I noticed that the interior of the lozenges have 9 small ones while usually the diamonds are inserted in each other or like some of T. Cole's, they are 4 small ones.
The border in my bag in normally knotted with no offset.
I'm not very aggressive about being able to attribute dates to things. The conventional wisdom is that most extant Jaff bags were done between, say, 1900 and 1930, and I don't see any reason to think that either of mine fall outside that range.
This is a wonderful thread. I hope to be able to post one or two items for consideration, though nothing too spectacular. In the meantime, I'd like to throw out a few comments or questions:
1. I agree with Wendel that these pieces probably constitute the best color and wool available to those with limited means. I don't think it is necessary to lower one's regard for a particular piece because it doesn't happen to be as ambitious or impressive as another piece. They stand on their own, and among their virtues are that many of them have a special (if subtle) character that saves them from being trite (in contrast to some high fliers from other venues). As a consequence, Steve's two are just fine, wonky as the one definitely is. Incidentally, some of the "darker palette" rugs are no less exquisite for that, merely being less splashy at first look. The great thing about a large accumulation of Jaf bags is the great variety of shades of color one can find, as well as the very effective placement of good colors.
2. Steve's observation about "professional and crisp" as contrasted with "wonky" is apt. It probably doesn't exhaust the field, but it covers much of what is out there. I wonder what conclusions can be drawn from the phenomenon.
3. Somewhere (possibly on one of the posted links), I read a comment about larger sized rugs of this provenance. My experience is that these pieces are seldom as impressive as the bags. I haven't decided whether I think this means the rugs are essentially inferior, or whether the "too much of a good thing" syndrome is setting in.
4. I find the lack of offset knotting in Wendel's to be remarkable. The only pieces of this ilk I've encountered without it are inferior, and I've judged them to be recent, uninspired copies from elsewhere. The skirt on that piece surely does set it apart.
Thanks to Steve for starting this up, and to Wendel for the terrific links.
These two come from Brian MacDonald's Tribal Rugs; they are plates 117 and 118, respectively. They probably represent something close to the extremes of the formality/naive scale of Jaf Kurd bags.
The second one seems pretty clearly to be the work of two weavers. My second one looks positively refined in comparison to its lower half.
One of the top five in the world of, "What was that weaver thinking about?"
Hi Steve and all,
I also like this thread, and am interested in what people think about what makes a "good Jaff Kurd bag". For me, as with many utilitarian weavings, I think that the good pieces have an impressive visual impact and have great colours. Personally, I much prefer Steve's first to his second. Although the palette is common on the central field and the borders, the scale of drawing of the central field is so much larger that it is visually "set apart". I think that is a key aspect of the aesthetic of a Jaff Kurd bag; the central field should give the impression of an "other dimension", like a window into a brighter place. I think the additional sparkling design of the segment that extends onto the back is an added bonus. Of the others in this thread, I find that Camille's conveys the a similar aesthetic. I also really like Wendel's, though for different reasons. It has great balance and some subtlety that is wonderfully offset by the bold lower segment.
I have only one Jaff Kurd bag that is perhaps my most disappointing purchase, even though it was one of the least expensive. I think it has a great concept but the colours are too weak. I'll rummage around and see if I have a picture of it somewhere.
P.S. I have a great example of a "two weaver" rug, but don't want to divert this thread. Perhaps I'll start another.
The skirt on Wendel's old bag (forgive me, the devil made me say that) is unlike any I've seen on a Jaf piece, and is one of the attractions of the piece for me (and, I'm sure, for Wendel).
But aesthetically, I think it detracts rather than enhances. Neither the scale of the motifs nor the background color seem to me to be harmonious with the main section. Here it is again, first with the skirt intact, then with the skirt cropped off:
Faced with the option of aesthetic superiority vs out-of-the-ordinary, I still choose the out-of-the-ordinary version (with the skirt). I suspect that most collectors would do the same. If I'm correct, this is another example of the self-deception in which collectors indulge when they insist that aesthetics is, overwhelmingly, their major criterion.
Hi Steve -
You say in part that the addition of the interesting skirt detracts from the "aesthetics" of this piece.
Might this not be a place to consult Carol Bier's exhibition on "Symmetry and Pattern?"
I'm not sure, but I think she might argue that the skirt intrudes on the "symmetry" of this piece, but that that fact that the weaver has set up a kind of expectation (about conventional "completeness," if you will) and then violated it with the addition of not just a skirt, but one decorated with devices of a quite different scale, actually adds to the "aesthetic" interest this piece projects.
But this is one of those slippery worlds where it's hard even to get the basic terms to hold still in conversation.
R. John Howe
Steve, I understand your observations about the seeming design imbalance created by the skirt in my “old bag”, however attractive and unusual that skirt may be. Remember, however, that the bag was undoubtedly not woven to be viewed as we now see it. Various Persian flatwoven bags and containers include a pile panel to protect the bottom edge from abrasion and wear.
The center of the “skirt” would have been the fold line, so that quite probably only half of the Memling gul skirt would have been exposed on the front and the other half would have been at the bottom of an otherwise flatwoven back. The use of Memling guls in these protective Persian pile strips was fairly common. This is what it must have looked like:
Do those half Memling guls peeking around from the back make it better for you, Steve?
As to the aesthetics, I always notice symmetry and regularity in a weaving and I personally tolerate only so much wonkiness. If you view the protective skirt as part of the border system, the chuval design seems chaotic. If you can see the skirt as something apart, such as a pedestal or platform, it becomes more pleasing.
As to the compatibility of colors, colors used in the skirt are the same as in the field. The green used for the ground of the skirt is one of two greens also found in the field, but in small quantities. The yellow that is used for the diamonds almost in the four corners of the field is the same, but it looks more intense in the upper right hand corner because there is less wear in that area. The extensive wear to the chuval means that it does not have the plush handle we so often admire in other “Jaf” work.
This chuval is very precisely and carefully drawn. Note that the half diamonds end exactly at the corners of the field, that the weaver has adjoined only two identically colored diamonds and that great variations exist in the elements of the two borders. This style and precision is somewhat at odds with most Kurdish weaving, which can be described as casual or free-spirited.
BTW John, I’ve never really believed in the concept of expectations and symmetry breaking. The design and placement of the skirt is simply traditional and functional.
That does, indeed, improve the balance. I don't know why it didn't occur to me to begin with. I've seen enough of these with the backs intact (including the first one I posted) to know that only half the skirt shows from the front, the other half from the back. And the fact that a number of these (again, including the first one I posted) include decorated backs suggests that the weavers expected the back to be seen at times.
Interestingly, a little while ago I blocked a message submitted by the Village Idiot who, while gratifying himself by what he supposed was a show of superior understanding, demonstrated once more how little he actually knows about rugs. Here, in case anyone doubts his ignorance, is the complete text of his message (the line breaks are in the original):
the "skirt" on windle's kurd bag was never met to be seen as "part" of the front
the elem was on the ground and the design there is an amulet to protect the contents - yesshh don't you old fools and young morons know even the first and most obvious ethnographic importance of weaving?
but, of course,
you idiots know nothing and your chattering is so stupid it isn't funny
shut the freak up and go do something else, your ignorance is, as always, shining brightly
He has either fabricated the "facts" or was gullible enough to swallow a myth told to him by a dealer. I suspect that the former is correct, since I don't recall ever seeing amuletic properties attributed to the Memling gul.
It's nearly certain that wendel's weaver never had the opportunity to consult Carol Bier's exhibition, but I would not be too quick to dismiss the possibility of aesthetic sensibilities at play with any of these weavers. It is often observed that we look at the weavings differently than the weavers do. But it is also true that color, form, proportion and texture are universal; and my experience has been that people are the same wherever you find them. Give them the benefit of the doubt and credit for their talent, I say. One of the general characteristics about these Jaf bags that I find most pleasing is the extent to which a weaver seems to have put some thought into the selection and arrangement of colors and (in the case of Wendel's bag) design while staying within a broad tradition.
As to the effect of the piece as we find it, fully laid out, I favor the aesthetic approval based on abrupt change in expectations. Having regard to Steve's comment about the formal vs. wonky categories, it seems that a risk within the formal group is that a piece might seem prosaic and (dare I say it) boring. Wendel's bag doesn't look boring, but the skirt provides affirmative insurance in that regard.
As to "wonky" pieces, some come off well, and some are just ugly.
One could spend a lot of time speculating about the Jekyll and Hyde piece from MacDonald's book posted by Steve. Was it a joke?
I don't think MacDonald saw it as a joke, but the humor in it didn't escape him, either. His caption reassures the reader that it really is all one piece, not two that were sewn together. His book, incidentally, is nicely illustrated with pieces of mostly good quality (with exceptions, like the bag in question), and is fun to read. He even has a chapter devoted to the symbolic significance of motifs, acknowledging that much of it is speculation.
I wasn't thinking that MacDonald was playing a joke. If one is going to get more than mildly interested in this sort of craft with ethnographic considerations on the list, one cannot ignore the piece. In fact, considering the relative frequency of the "wonky" piece within this group, witness yours and a few others on the links put up by Wendel, one might say MacDonald picked the ultimate one. But there must have been a smile or two in the encampment when that thing got cut off the loom.
Hi Wendel -
You said in part at two different points in your post above.
"...As to the aesthetics, I always notice symmetry and regularity in a weaving and I personally tolerate only so much wonkiness..."
And then later:
"...BTW John, I’ve never really believed in the concept of expectations and symmetry breaking..."
Since we are, in part, attempting to assemble some standards for evaluating Jaff Kurd bags, does this suggest that one of your recommendations is that other things being equal, drawing that projects "symmetry" is to be preferred over that which projects "asymmetry?" That is, is "asymmetry" always to be seen as leaning toward aesthetic fault?
R. John Howe
Here is a quite large Jaf khorjin face with some of its closure system intact:
I've known and admired this bag face for a long, long time. The photo I scanned is about 16 years old and doesn't do the piece justice, mainly because the dark colors just don't come through. It's very powerful "in the wool" and the pile is deep.
There are also smaller khorjin using a single diamond to fill the field rather than the two as are here.
I believe this example rises well above the norm.
Originally posted by R. John Howe
Since we are, in part, attempting to assemble some standards for evaluating Jaff Kurd bags,
A couple more bags
Here are four bags on my living room wall. The one on the lower right is
arguably Shahsavan, but the others are Jafs. Each was sufficiently appealing
that I outbid someone on eBay to own it - although none was very
The one on the upper left has its full pile, nice colors, and wonky side borders. The one on the upper right has a central diamond that seems to float off the navy blue background. And the one on the lower left has the best range of colors I've seen on a Jaf bag. Here is that bag all by itself.
What criteria do I use to judge a Jaf Kurd bag? Pretty much the same ones I'd use to judge any rug. #1 is color. Then wool. Then artistic "vision" - which permits the wonky and precise to be equally appealing to me. And finally, craftsmanship.
Hi Wendel -
I guess I misunderstood the task. You did talk off board only about "comparing pictures," but when Steve started the thread he used the word "criteria."
As the admitted "philosophic positivist" in the group I was lured, despite my own belief that aesthetic judgments are largely subjective.
And your rejection of Carol's suggestion about how asymmetry can work in aesthetics seemed like a generalization.
But you've explained now that it's more situational for you.
R. John Howe
Little miss muff sat in a huff, beating the Kurds away
I have been very impressed with what has been shown. I liked the first bag Steve posted...especially the odd "crayon effect" of the color and weave. But, Wendell, your bag with the green-turquoise elem is totally extraordinary. With the half fold it is better. I don’t collect Kurdish weavings and was unaware such things were produced.
With great effort, I have refrained from posting an similar Baluch bag (...hey, that was a joke ). Anyway, I own exactly two Kurd items. Below is what I think is a nice Jaff Kurd bag face. I bought it because I like the opium poppy border, but the colors (add: they seem a little darker in the picture than in the wool) and the way they combine gives me a lot of pleasure. Now that I know what a Kurd elem can add, I really regret this one is mostly gone.
Regarding that incredibly wonky bag Steve posted, I hate to say this, but its bottom border, the elaborate portion with the flowers, doesn't even look Kurdish. It looks like some Afshar or Persian was trying to make a Jef pattern, used her own border but could not handle the offsetting needed in the field. She tried twice, then gave up and big moma took over.
Re: the question about symmetry, I don’t usually consider asymmetric to be a synonym for wonkiness. In the Afshar world there are some incredibly fine asymmetric bags that are definitely not “wonky.” I don't know if similar weavings occur in the Jaf Kurd world?
Finally, forgive me, but with the attention of all this Kurd expertise, I have a question that doesn’t deserve a separate line. The pictured bag is from the archived “haircut” discussion some time ago, see: http://www.turkotek.com/misc_00042/haircut.htm
At the time I shaved the bag, I thought it either Kurd or because of the very long pile, Kazak Boardjalu. Since then, I’ve found several Kurdish rugs (not bags) with this exact pattern indicating the bag is likely Kurdish. Two rugs are shown below.
My questions: (1) Is this pattern associated with a specific group or region, and does it have a name? (2) Does this pattern appear regularly in Kurdish bags, as opposed to rugs?
Jerry, a squinty eyed look at your group, upper left keeps getting my attention with the dimensional depth the white field elements give.
does this suggest that one of your recommendations is that other things being equal, drawing that projects "symmetry" is to be preferred over that which projects "asymmetry?" That is, is "asymmetry" always to be seen as leaning toward aesthetic fault?
If the double diamond model you are showing is better in the wool (I think I know just what you mean), it must be pretty good. An imposing example of the refined type.
Jerry: I like all four of yours, and I agree that the fourth one is probably not from this group. The best one is the third, which you enlarged. A really nice combination of border treatment and field.
Jack: Nice find for a guy that doesn't know about Jaf bags. I'm not a horticulturist, and can't identify the flowers in the border, but I like the treatment and the color there.
The more posts that go up here, the worse I feel about my pieces. Nevertheless, over the weekend I hope to post a few examples that exhibit, I think, the broad range of weaving types and styles within this group; and to pose the question, how much good information is there about who was weaving these things? Where do the Sanjabi, or other Kurdish groups fit in, for example? Also, were some of them woven in Turkey?
Just to let you know, better photos have been inserted into Jerry's post.
The issue you raise is one with that I've pondered for awhile. I think something can be aesthetically pleasing even though it isn't art (seems simple enough once you say it out loud, but surprisingly not so obvious to everyone). A child's drawing can be very attractive, but that doesn't make the child an artist. An artist can make child-like stuff that's very artistic - think, for example, Paul Klee.
What's the test? I think a minimal requirement for art is that it has excellent craftsmanship. If I could do it, it isn't likely to be art. For this reason, I reject much of the music of John Cage. It doesn't take an artist to instruct musicians to maintain silence on stage for some prolonged period, and it doesn't take a musician (an artist) to maintain that silence. I could do that. In fact, a goldfish could do it.
Applying that test to the second of the Brian MacDonald bags, it will be attractive to some, but it isn't art or even high quality craft. Likewise for my second piece. I know it isn't art, but I like it anyway.
Hi Steve and all,
I understand art as the work of a person that requires technique and human feelings, and which unique aim at a given time and in a given place is to divert consciousness and let humanism replace it.
Although a child’s drawing is technically week, it is improvised, it is spontaneous, it is not made to be sold one day, it does not carry any sort of pretension and it does not “lie” and that is essential… And if it lets you stop and stare and if it shakes you on the inside (and it most often does to me), I guess you can consider it a work of art. It is technique that made Douanier Rousseau a great artist but is the rest of him as genuine as in a child?
I think the higher the technique is, the lower creativity through the human feelings are. If technique alone was the only part that requires appreciation, we will reach a day when computers will be the greatest artists.
It is often said that there is a child in every artist and I guess it was well present into Paul Klee and it is essentially that very child that made Paul Klee be Paul Klee.
On another hand, it cannot be asked to anyone to appreciate any work of art at a given time..
Each one of us has his/her experience in appreciating works of art and has a different level of "senses education".
If today my consciousness can be blocked by let’s say a modest small water-colour, I do not need –and will probably be disturbed by- attending a concert with a philharmonic orchestra.
What one cannot appreciate in Mc Donald’s 2nd bag is that you cannot well appreciate either of the styles. If each half was the style of a whole bag, both would have been appreciated by a number of same or different people. Its uniqueness as it is doesn’t make it a piece of art, maybe a sketch for two.
I don't think technique (craftsmanship) is the only criterion, but I do believe that it's a minimum requirement. Above my desk for the past 35 years is a crayon drawing that my daughter did at the age of 5 or 6. It gives me pleasure to see it every day. But it isn't art - it isn't what she intended it to be, simply because neither she nor most other six year olds have the craftsmanship to create what they intend. Paul Klee's craftsmanship is outstanding, even when his work has a childlike quality.
you outbid ME on the shahsavan piece :-( :-(
no hard feelings though :-)
Yes, I too believe there should be a minimum level of technique so that even in front of children's drawings you can appreciate the best.
But I believe too that technique and its evolution that engenders styles for different artists is not more than to follow up our degree of growing consciousness.
I suspect that your view, not mine, is the majority.
Diamond designs are ubiquitous. While the Jaf examples seem to have some collective characteristics, other groups have produced bags that could be mistaken for them.
For example, first look at Brian McDonald’s “Jaf” bag and then compare it to a sumak bag face that I used to own:
Although 8-pointed stars are found everywhere, their use in an ivory border with bars or three dots separating them is a characteristic of certain Northwest Persian and Transcaucasian rugs and bags. These two borders are nearly identical. Brian refers to offset knotting in his pile bag, which is something we assume to be characteristic of Jaf work, but that it is not exclusively so. The sumak bag was published by John Wertime in Sumak with the statement that the ethnic identify of the weaver remains unknown. Acknowledging its Kurdish appearance, John noted that the countered wrapping and borders are features found in Khamseh district work.
Brian McDonald’s bag has the “5-spot” secondary border that is common to many Kurdish rugs but is also seen on others, including Caucasian. On the basis of the image alone, not having seen the rug, I question whether it is Jaf. I’m not asserting that it isn’t, just raising the question.
There is another possible explanation for the sumak bag face, however. I have seen many other examples of diamond patterned sumak bags over the years with structural characteristics of South Persia, specifically of the Bakhtiyari. Below is one such example, published in Mideast Meets Midwest, the catalog of an exhibition of the Chicago Rug Society in 1993. Like many other bags from the Chahar Mahal area, this has the protective pile strip at the bottom of the sumak.
Finally, here is one half of a complete sumak khorjin from the Khamseh district in NWP (Shahsavan) that I own. Its structure is clearly that of the Khamseh district, including countered wrapping, a distinctive border and a paired-warps plain back.
Kurdish brocaded bags have their own version of offset knotting.
The discussion has been about pile Jaf bags and I hope it will remain so. There is a widespread assumption (not expressed in this thread) that anything with diamonds is Jaf or other Kurdish and I wanted to address that issue in this diversion.
I'm surprised you would question the"Jaf" provenance for the McDonald bag based onthe eight pointed star border. Granted, it isn't what one would expect in a Jaf bag, but the motif appears widely. I understand you aren't pushing the question too hard.
An underlying question implicit in your comment, and in the variety of what we can find, is how thoroughly are we allocating these pieces by calling them "Jaf?" I know next to nothing about the sociology and ethnography of the group, but I get the impression it is a relatively broad term with many subdivisions, etc. Do they all weave such bags? Are differences among the sub-groups matched by differences in the weaving? Do others not Kurdish but proximate to Jaf groups weave similar things by imitation (as seems to occur within the "Baluch" group of weavings)?
I noticed some of your links provided information about tribal organization and allegiance, but didn't see much attempt to link weaving styles with groups.
Because of my interest in NWP rugs and bags, I’ve made particular note of borders with 8-pointed stars separated in this very specific manner by bars or 3 “dots.” That exact border is not widespread. It may exist elsewhere, but not to my recollection. Unless Brian McDonald’s bag is also NWP, then we are seeing it elsewhere.
But I still question whether the bag is Jaf.
The most definitive test for attribution is structure, but border designs tend to provide a better preliminary test for attribution than do fields. Borders are more traditional than fields.
The presence of that border is what caused me and John Wertime to question the attribution of the sumak bag face I posted and that is one reason that I began to wonder about the McDonald bag. Another reason, far more subjective, is that the McDonald bag is stylistically different than all the other Jaf bags posted here. For instance, it seems to be finer and more precisely woven.
Further, I’m confident that if you could examine both of the McDonald bags, you would conclude by the handle of each that they come from different sources. Those sources might be Kurdish for both, but I’m not convinced by the diamond field alone.
I believe I indicated earlier that the term Jaf encompasses a lot of geography and different tribes. I’m not delving into the breakdown.
As to copying, everyone copies everyone else at some point. Even though I have some strong opinions about the extent, duration and history of design migration, I don’t know how it is possible to trace the transfer of any given design from one group to another. Common designs and patterns are so ancient and so widespread that we have no basis for establishing even an approximate chronology for many of them.
Thanks. Your comment about that specific arrangement of the eight-pointed star border is well taken.
Your observation about differences in structure (and handle) being important and probably diagnostic is just what I had in mind in asking about the breakdown of the tribal situation. I realize we aren't doing the breakdown here. It has been my experience in looking (with enthusiastic interest) at Jaf bags over many years that they come in a fairly wide range of structure, handle and wool type within the constant of the dominant pattern and the offset knotting. It strikes me that if there is a similar variety and range among the weavers of these things, it could well account for the phenomenon. Going further, if some geographically proximate weaving people, putatively not Jaf Kurds, produce similar goods on the basis of imitation or whatever, it could well account for various anomalies among the extant body of weavings. I don't have any maps handy, but my sense is that the NWP weaving area isn't all that far from Persian Kurdistan, no? In any case, I don't see that much is gained by applying fairly precise criteria within a disparate range of woven bags in order to decide whether they fall in or out of a pretty broad rubric.
Anyway, I have accumulated a few of these things over the years (not very brilliantly it is turning out as the successive postings come in) that to an extent illustrate some of the variety I have referred to. I plan to post them in a few days. Would that they were as scintillating as what we've been seeing. Not every rug can be an eye popper.
This piece (not mine!),
with the left-hand diamonds intruding into the border, is an interesting (and to my eye attractive) variation that I have seen in only one other example. I think a good case can be made for such "broken symmetry" being more appealing than "perfect symmetry" - provided the weaver executing the piece is in control of her materials. "There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion."
I am curious about the antecedents of, or inspirations for, the Jaf diamond pattern. Baluch? Coptic? Bronze Age? Neolithic?
Nice bag. A lot of green usually guarantees crowd appeal. As to the diamond shaped device, I think I recall Michael Wendorf had some things to say about that, perhaps on these pages, I don't recall just now.
The spillover i.e. bleeding border
In reference to the "spillover" field effect on Lloyd's Jef Kurd (again in mapmaking this is called "bleeding the border"..not a term ruggies will adopt), we went through this effect on Turkoek a few months ago. To my knowledge..only four such examples have been demonstrated. Chuck showed a Turkoman, Jack came up with only one other such example, I showed one (and one only) Taimani (uhh..John..Taimani are sometimes classified as Balouch...sorry..can't lie about this). That's about it.
So Lloyd, based on the polls, you have a pretty rare..excuses...darned rare (dr)... example of a bag, carpet, juwal..design...
At ICOC X, here in DC, John Collins had a complete khorjin set with the sort of Jaff Kurd diamonds design we are examining here, but a classic Bijar structure.
Given that Jaff Kurd structures might well vary noticeably and the admission that there are lots of Kurds in Bijar country (although some argue that the best Bijars were woven by Afshars), would that sort of structural difference draw your attention?
R. John Howe
The Anatolian Connection?
Here is an old Anatolian rug from the Ankara Vakif museum. It contains not
only diamonds in the field, but also the 8-pointed star noted by Wendel in
several of the Jaf bags posted.
I was not thinking much about Jaf bags when viewing this piece, so I did not think to examine it closely to see if there was offset knotting in the construction.
And that outside minor border, with a finger pointing to it at the bottom right, is similar to Jaf borders, too.
The world's first Jafatolian rug.
re: spillover of design into the border - i don't think it's as rare as gene suggests. i recall seeing a few examples and in fact there is a jaf bag on a popular rug website at the moment that has this.
re: diamond design : would it be presumptious to say that any piece woven with the diamond design (and possibly star border) that is SUMAK is 100% NOT jaf??
I don't know at what point "uncommon" segues into "rare", but diamonds with their points on top of the border is a very uncommon occurrence on rugs of a type that are common enough to be uninteresting to a lot of collectors. In fact, I've been a little surprised at how many Jaf owners came out of the closet in the past few days. We could form a support group and demand the same rights enjoyed by those who collect REAL rugs.
there is an online article entitled 'diamonds in the pile' by mark hopkins if anyone is interested.
Dear folks -
Gene Williams suggests that the intrusion of a field device into a border is rare.
We encountered a not quite parallel instance in our examination of rugs at the Konya rug museum.
This instance the intrusion is of one item of border instrumentation into an adjoining border and is multiple. As I mentioned then, this intrusion has been corrected in the cartoons being fashioned based on these older rugs.
I don't know how rare such intrusive is, but it is infrequent enough to attract my attention.
R. John Howe
Bleeding the borders
This doesn't have anything to do with this excellent thread on the Jaf Kurd. (And I have some questions about the Top right bag in Jerry Silverman's foursome .. the one with the sombre pallet.. well it looks suspicious..you know what I mean. Jerry did you plant that to provoke us to provoke others..I mean..look at the flat weave designs.."the Brocade"? Rich what do you think?).
But on the subject of "bleeding the borders"..field spillover into the border...:
Chuck posted a Turkoman he owns a few months ago which Jack noticed had the field spilling into the border. Jack could find but one (1) other example of this in all of JBOC's library. I have one (1) example in a Taimani I posted a couple of months ago. So, this Jeff Kurd makes a total of 4. 4 out...how many 100,000 - 500,000...qualifies as at least "unusual,"...some would say "rare." (some would say "darned rare" - DR).
(And John thanks for that excellent pic of a border spilling into a border...I've never seen that..excellent eye..and I totally prefer the trees impinging on the neighboring border rather than any "corrected version" - personal opinion of course. And the fact the trees are outlined in white makes it clear this was on purpose..an innovation which died with the weaver?).
(Richard T...if "bleeding border" rugs are not that unusual as you suggest..could you take some pics next time you see one and post..thanks...it'll be one more mystery solved.)
Chuck still has his Turkoman; Jack probably has the picture he found..I have my Taimani...We could re-post them...and if anyone has other examples..it'd be interesting to see... Maybe a separate thread would be appropriate?
As an example, here is an OMGNA (an oh my gosh not again) Taimani with bleeding borders:
Regarding the Jaf style bag in Bijar style weave. I'm not sure just what you're getting at here, but I'm glad you asked. Since the set was brought in by John Collins, my first impulse would probably be to consider then dismiss the possibility that he wove them himself. After that, I'd decide that some weaver habituated to the Bijar mode took it upon herself (himself?) to weave a Jaf style piece. I'm sure the genre would have been familiar to the person. I've seen Jaf style squares in other weaves as well. Much stranger things have been woven, one seldom learns why. I recall the reproduction of the famous Marilyn Monroe photo, taken shortly after she had retired from a career as Norma Jean Baker. (Now that's weaving from a cartoon!)
The reason I'm glad you asked is that the mention of Bijar underscores my real point about the inadequacy of the system of categories we customarily employ to sort out the rugs. A survey of the popular rug literature over the first hundred years of the 20th century would reveal one of the most basic principals of rug orthodoxy, viz., that Bijars were woven by Kurds living thereabouts. Now, it turns out that might not be so, etc. The Bijar rug has been one of the mainstays of the retail trade over that time, and apparently we haven't known who was weaving them, at least not accurately. Then, another underlying question poses itself, viz., is the ancestral ethnicuty of the weavers of these rugs (I'm referring tio the Bijars) important in regard to what they weave anyway? I was initially shocked several months ago to learn that Michael Wendorf had removed Bijars among others from the Kurdish weaving roll of honor. But he may have it right.
All that doesn't relate much to Jaf bags, but the paradigm question is there: Is calling the weavings "Jaf Kurd" accurate? Do we have reliable criteria to separate the "real" Jaf from the "pretend Jaf," or the "ersatz Jaf," or the "almost Jaf?" It's not hugely important, but I'm curious, and I've been cruelly burned too many times (e. g., Bijar).
To comment on your particular citation, i. e., the Bijar bags in Jaf style, although I'm a big Jaf fan, I wouldn't particularly care for the Bijar version, even if the color, etc, were good. Not sure why that's so.
Hi Rich -
I don't think there is any large issue here. I was responding mostly to your seeming indication to Wendel that his citation of some structural distinction that he used to question whether a give piece was in fact a Jaff Kurd, was likely unimportant.
I think your general suggestion was that structural characteristics of the Jaff Kurd rugs vary enough in your experience to question whether an occasional distinctive selvege wrapping, etc. should be treated meaningfully.
I just cited the "Bijar" khorjin with a Jaff Kurd type diamond design to see how far you'd be willing to go in ignoring structural variation in pieces with Jaff Kurd designs.
I didn't look at the Collins piece closely at all, at first. Instead, I expressed a little surprise that he had a Jaff Kurd at all (I expect his bags usually to be south Persian). He had to point out to me that, no, this was an item from his Bijar area of interest. In addition, to the classic Bijar structure, this khorjin set had a little different palette.
I think I'd exclude this piece of Collins' from my personal grouping of Jaff Kurd bags. The distinctiveness of the Bijar structure would be too great for me to ignore. I've never encountered a bag with a "Jaff Kurd" diamond design, excepting Collins' khorjin set, that had a Bijar handle.
I went looking for a photo of it the last couple of days but no luck.
R. John Howe
8 pointed star with a bar
Wendall, I am not trying to provoke. I admit I'm sick and need help. I posted this 8 pointed star with a bar on another line...have another bag by the same ethnic group at home in pile, the "seljuk" star with a bar between the stars in the border with a white border around it and a hexagonal design in the field...though not the offset knots.
Mind you..in the back of my mind is the sub-tribe of the Brahuis called "Kurd." Never has been adequately explained to me though long ago there were some conversations I had with a "friend" about it.....
PS. this is just an aside...the connections between JAF and Seistan..are almost irresistible...lets get back to those fascinating bags which were just sort of given away 30 years ago
I have attempted to provide some images of pieces I have on hand in order to suggest some of the broad range I've been suggesting exists within (or without) the scope of the Jaf Kurd woven pile storage bag type. All of the pieces (exceping the corner detail image) include offset knotting in the Jaf manner. Please excuse the middling quality of the pictures. Thanks to Steve for helping with the images.
No.1 is heavy and shaggy. The wefts are multi-colored in a random fashion, as described in the Mark Hopkins article from ORR that Richard Tomlinson linked above. (In fact, in the article, Mark put his finger on pretty much all of the issues I’ve been whining about here, in terms of the need to research further the sources of these pieces and so on.) To give a sense of the very meaty quality of the bag, I note the closure loops are thicker than the average finger. I’ve owned it for about 25 years, and it wasn’t until I was flogging it about in the picture taking process that I noticed that there are about five knots of a very fugitive red violet, badly faded at the tips. And I used to think I had a good eye in those days!
No. 2A offends grievously against the Mark Hopkins admonition about pieces with same colored diamonds butting against one another in boring fashion. I included it because it exhibits a certain color set I associate with certain recognizable Kurdish type rugs that one used to find now and then in the market. The chief distinguishing features are the very strong and distinctive mustard yellow with the reddish color that looks like salmon when placed immediately against the yellow. (One finds the same combination in certain old Chinese rugs…a coincidence, I presume.) For comparison, 2B is a detail of an old Kurdish (I think) rug with the noted symptoms. It is a cotton foundation piece (the bagface [2A] is all wool), and otherwise much different from the bag, but I am wondering whether the bag and the rug share some common ground, reflected in the coloration. For the record, the (double) wefts in 2A are either the same color as the red in the pile, or a not very dissimilar color of medium brown, again randomly utilized.
No. 3. does not utilize the diamond motif. However, it does show what I think is an elaboration of that motif in a six-sided lozenge form. Small carpets attributed to the Jaf Kurds also utilize this design. There are one or two shown on the Barry O’Connell site. It is a very refined piece from the standpoint of weaving, with thin, hardly visible medium brown double wefts and very regular knotting. Colorwise, it is more mellow in the wool than my photo would suggest. The dealer from whom I obtained it (about thirty years ago), who was very well respected in the wholesale trade, advised me with much confidence that it was Turkish. He was very conversant with the Jaf product. I note that in his ORR article, Mark Hopkins placed the Jaf Kurds at the southerly limits of Persian Kurdistan.
The last piece is a large example of what Steve would probably consider the formal, precise type. I include it chiefly as a contrast with No. 1. I think both of them are 20th century pieces, and the weaver of No. 4 was clearly trying for a more refined, sophisticated effect than was the weaver of No. 1. I didn’t undo the closure loops to inspect the back, but most if not all the wefts are the same red color as appears in the pile. Because the picture was taken in bright sun, the colors looked more washed out than the bag does. For example, the light color repeated in the diamonds is a very nice light green.
The mountain labored mightily here and brought forth a mouse, but I have always been interested in these Jaf items; and the range of them has suggested to me that the breakdown of weavership is probably more complicated that the broad rubric, "Jaf," would imply.
Bags and war
Everybody is silent on your excellent post. but as usual I'd like to offer an observation.
That complete saddlebag khurdjin...is very interesting. Those bags had to be made very robust if they were to survive..and of course it was the flatweave side next to the horse, donkey, whatever....which was subject to the most wear..that's where the hole appeared and is probably why all the faces are available for collecting without much wear on them. Now if I'd been a tribal, I'd have put the pile inward when carrying stuff on horses..but then you couldn't brag about it. (edit: rereading that..I realize how Protestant ethic I really am;..I mean..you're going to war and you're going to save the bag by putting the pile inward when you have 2 wives and 8 little girls to make more of them??) Anyway, I find myself coming back to it again and again. It seems War-Between-the-States like utilitarian, cavalry tough, but seemingly decorated for war.
Second comment: Did you sneak in an Afshar bag?
Finally: Did you take a look at Jerry Silverman's offerings..the one which is Top right in the foursome..second down in the blown-up versions...I don't know the structure but if you showed that bag to me anywhere but on this thread..I'd place it 800 km east of where its currently attributed.
Outside the Box
Rich, I like that box-flower border on your last piece. It also has the three
dots between flowers Wendel described.
Sheesh, now you've made me drag out my tired, ragged Jaf pieces to see if the borders have been invaded by the field.
Lo and behold, the answer is sort of yes. Here is one where not only does the field intrude upon the border, but in one corner the border invades the field. The "different" red/blue stripe outer minor border on both sides perhaps indicates a change of design by the weaver part way up the bag:
Here is the Field intruding into border, top right:
This one of the whole piece shows the weaving quality invading your sensibilities. The black is heavily corroded. If you are the sensitive type you may want to avert your eyes:
And for contrast, a Khamseh with the tips of the major field gul intruding a few knots into the border at the right side:
And, for all you Luri Lovers out there, my mini-chanteh with the field design crowding into the borders, although "borders" is a rather tenuous description:
oh my gosh
That's not a "bleeding" (British sense) border..its a flipping war zone. And the Kamseh and Luri...what an effect. we definitely need a separate threat (edit.uhh thread)...Jaf kurds can stand on their own.
Thanks for logging in. I'd rather clean up after Jack's puppy for two weeks than dash your hopes, but I think that second image (large pic version) of Jerry Silverman's is squarely within the Kurdish syndicate that weaves these bags. I suppose you are thinking Afshar? Why?
I really like your Jaf. I would even go out on a limb and speculate that it is pretty old. Do the colors say otherwise? Also, I'd be interested to know what the foundation materials are, and your estimate of the feel and weight of the thing. I have a particular reason for asking. Years ago, when I was first becoming interested in rugs (shortly after the reign of Shah Abbas), I encountered a pair (not matched, but similar in character) of very worn but extremely mellow and dignified bagfaces of this sort. I didn't know what they were at the time, initially taking them to be the work of a well known itinerant weaving nation along both sides of the Iran-Afghanistan border. That was because of the limited color selection of white, severely corroded black, mid and dark blue, boysenberry red, and a touch of one or two other colors. One of them had some great dark green. The wool was as soft and glossy as it gets, and the handle of a silk handkerchief. So you can see why I suspected that other tribe. Someone put me wise at the time and pointed out the offset knotting technique, etc. I took them to be the last word in early 18th century Kurd, etc., and I've been looking for their like ever since, without success. The worst part is that I could have bought them but didn't. I forget the price, but I thought it was too much for worn goods. A bad decision, whatever the price was.
Your bag reminds me in some respects of the pair. Don't ask how...maybe the light handle? Also, the pair of which I speak had a vertical/horizontal ratio similar to yours. Anyway, I'd like to hear what you have to say about yours, and I would like to hear from anyone who has owned, seen or handled Jaf type bags conforming to the description I've given above.
Here are a few more photos of my Jaf bag face.
I count 6h x 10v knots per square inch, with no warp depression. There are a dozen colors: light blue, mid blue, dark blue, blue-green, light brown, dark brown, black, white, orange-apricot, two reds and a straw.
The colors all seem good, with no fading, no change from front to back and you may be able to see the various depths of the remaining wool is different for most of the colors. The black is most corroded, the browns slightly corroded and the reds just slightly. It gives the piece a very three-dimensional appearance. A blind person could discern the design with very little trouble. The warp and weft are light colored wool, Z2S, symmetrically knotted. Their are no identical diamonds, even if only a few knots of a different color are used in some of them.
The wool is dense and meaty, although the whole piece is rather light in weight. I am sure it is old, 19th century. One might be able to gather a whole lot of these things and separate them by colors, weave and wool, but too much time has passed to know which area they might have been woven in.
Thanks, Patrick. A terrific one.
Hi Richard and
Whole Jaff bags like yours, if not rare, are infrequent. Here is mine, with no particular qualities apart the beautiful saturated colors, difficult to capture in a photo.
Here’s the back:
Could you please post the back of yours too?
Than I have also a “chuval” format bag face, already in Turkotek archives (Salon 88):
The bottom border is missing, but it doesn’t bother my enjoyment of the fragment that is actually hung on the wall behind my monitor.
It’s similar to the one scanned from Wendel
and it has dark colors too, fully appreciable only in direct sunlight. I find mine more subdued and “restful” than the one in Wendel’s scan – perhaps is the white in the latter that makes it too “noisy” for me but, of course, one should see it in real life.
Speaking about Wendel, here is another nice Jaff bag face with memling guls – albeit in the main border - from John’s Show and Tell at Local Rug Club Picnic of last year
So, how do we judge Jaff Kurd bags quality? I would say that good colors – or, better, the good use of them – is the first criterion, if you ask me.
Short of time at the moment. Welcome back, hope you enjoyed the vacation. I agree with you these are about color in the first place. The diamond design is almost a neutral vehicle to carry what the Kurds do with color, which is a lot. Nevertheless, I particularly like the design and proportion of your two diamond example. As far as darker palettes are concerned, I think they are just as good as the lighter ones as long as the colors are right and used interestingly. They are lower key, but worthy of appreciation.
Many years ago I went to Iraq and saw a lot of Jaf bags that I assume are made by the Jaf-Kurds of Iraq.
I never bought any of them because they had quite harsh and too contrasted colours and I didn't know whether it was because of their relatively young age (1950s and 60s) or if it was their own style.
But now that I am looking here at older pieces, I am remembering those and I finally guess that these bags follow the rest of the Kurdish works in being relatively less attractive than their Persian neighbors’.
Among these features:
- Too dark tones (with a special concentration of black and dark indigo)
- Thick pile and heavy weight texture.
- Relatively thick workmanship
- A strawberry red that looked quite synthetic to me.
- A flashy yellow or ocher.
The border design should have also had its special features but I cannot remember well. The repeated oval rosette was one of them but I guess it is also Persian.
Hi Camille -
The attitude you project about Kurdish weaving has been time widespread in the rug market for a long time.
There are, in fact, lots of decorative rugs made by Kurds that do not stir one's blood.
But there are some Kurdish rugs that seem not deserving of this generalization. Have you seen the Jim Burns collection or his book on Kurdish weaving?
When we saw some of his pieces at ICOC X in Washington, DC, it forced us to re-evaluate our picture of what Kurdish rugs can sometimes be. Here's just one example from our archives.
And here, from another perspective, Michael Wendorf, talks about the long tradition of Kurdish weaving in a salon in our archives.
You may not blame Michael for the quality of the photos because I took them.
Anyway, I think your generalization moves too far and does not make room for some remarkable Kurdish weaving that some of us sometimes see as imaginative improvements on some old Persian designs.
Burns' book, "Antique Rugs of Kurdistan," is available from the rug book dealers, but bring your money. It's at least $250. I think worth it.
R. John Howe
I said nothing bad about Persian Kurdish rugs...
I was just mentioning the low quality of the Iraqi Jaf compared to the Persian JAF . And if you want my personal opinion about Kurdish rugs in general, they are among the best that I like knowing that I am specializing in tribal rugs.
Ps: The carpet you posted is beautiful in spite of its copied Shah Abbas design.
Hi Camille -
Glad to have misunderstood.
Here's what misled me. You wrote in part:
"...But now that I am looking here at older pieces, I am remembering those and I finally guess that these bags follow the rest of the Kurdish works in being relatively less attractive than their Persian neighbors’."
I am a native speaker/reader of American English and it was the phrase "follow the rest of the Kurdish works in being relatively less attractive than their Persian neighbors" that seemed like a generalization.
Glad it doesn't, in fact, reflect your actual views.
By the way, your P.S. does seem to denigrate this instance of Kurdish weaving.
You say "The carpet you posted is beautiful in spite of its copied Shah Abbas design."
Some of us would agree that often Kurdish work is "based" on old classic Persian designs, but see them sometimes actually to be, in their conventionalizations of these designs and their use of color, improvements on them. So we would not use the word "copy" in our descriptions of this rug.
R. John Howe
If one of the particular appeals of the Jaff Kurd pieces is their sometimes often spectacular colours, then perhaps others have 'copied' their colour scheme in their own rugs - which brings me to the colour scheme of an old Baktiari rug of mine that shows almost the exact colours as above in the wonderful Kurd shown by John.
Camille mentioned copying, however I wondered if there is any substance to the suggestion that the Baktiari may have Kurdish origins? If this were so, then their use in my rug of the glowing rich colours so like Jaff bags may be better explained.
colours, Bakhtiar & Kurds
Kurds and Bakhtiars have totally different origins, the latter originating from Syria… (Gene will probably have wider information).
Both are excellent dyers and I don't think anyone "copies" anyone's colours knowing that the master dyers always kept their own secrets that were always transmitted orally from one generation to the other. There is no doubt that colours are often one of the factors of dating considering types, hues, fastness etc… And that means that they changed (usually regressed) with time. But at the time “John’s” rug was woven, I believe good colours were found a bit everywhere.
As for the Bakhtiaris, I personally consider that they had the very best dyers of Persia during the last two dynasties (ca. 1850-1960)
If I want to give a mark to both tribes’ colours with a minimum/maximum for let's say the 1920s:
Kurds (of all regions) would get 4-8/10
Bakhtiars would get 6-9/10.
P.S: Copying was just for the design as much as it goes for many other "Kurdish" designs.
Thanks Camille; interesting to know that the Baktiari do not have a Kurd
connection but that the colours of the period of my rug have been noted to be
Love the colours of those Jaff bags!
Camille and all,
I've never really gotten into the Bakhtiari for some reason...I guess I was so interested in the E. border of Iran I sort of ignored the West... Its my understanding they are Persian origin and speak a dialect of Persian. I think I read somewhere that they are connected to the Luri...maybe a sub-set of the Luri? If so, then at least their race-linguistic group is the same as the Kurds..Indo-European. That's about all I can add for now.
You've gotten me interested now..I'll do some research and add to this.
Oh yes..there was one thing nagging me..Add the Bakhtiari to the Stew of Khurrassan right up there on the NE border fighting the Turkoman tribes..right next to the Kurds. Here's the post I put into the Afshar line:
"Oh, I forgot...since the Baktiari are mentioned by Jack above... Among the groups transported to Khorassan (to fight the Turkoman and Uzbeks) ...which famously include Kurds and Afshars transported by Shah Abbas in the late 1500's, early 1600's. are a large number of Baktiaris transported by the "Afshar" Nadir Shah in the 1730's (who also tranported Baluch into the area).
"Sykes, in "History of Persia", v.II, P. 257, "Conquests of Nadir Shah," referring to Nadir's first expedition against the Baktiaris:
"On that occasion (ghw comment: Nadir Shah's first punitive expedition against the Baktiaris), the savage Bakhtiaris, unable to resist the overwhelming forces employed had submitted, and by way of punishment three thousand families had been transported to Khorasan. ..."
logistics and support
Gene, I have some references that seem to indicate that the Baktiari that
went to Khorrison were actually a part of Nadar Shah Afshar's army. They
famously captured Kandahar by storming a key citidel after many assults had
If read that the marital tribes of the time tended to travel with portions of their families when on campaign. I wonder if the Bktiari mentioned in your source stayed in Khorrisan, or returned to central Persia after the Delhi campaign.
I've some good reading about the composition of horse born armies of the time.
More later. I'm heading out of town. ciao
Sykes is very definitive about the forced movement of Bakhtiari to Khorrassan. Nadir Shah's first and second campaigns were against the Bakhtiari.
...-- The first was very difficult and he did indeed transport 3,000 families (say 20,000 people) to Khorrassan against their will.
...-- The Bakhtiari the second time around were overwhelmed finally but refused to be transported (based on their previous experience with the Afshar Shah). Instead, Nadir Shah moved them to a more accessible area in Western Persia with better soil and less natural redoubts where his troops could get at them if need be. Undoubtedly in doing so he supplied himself and his army with some excellent warriors...and this was 7 years before he took Delhi.
Hi Williams brothers,
Although I prefer to discuss Bakhtiaris in more adequate threads, I have two quick information:
1- Depending on either of two sources, the Bakhtiaris either were part of the Luri Bozorg (greater Luri) or otherwise they came from Syria.
2- After the assassination of Nader Shah in 1847, the majority of the deported Bakhtiaris to Khorassan went back to Chahar Mahal, and I don't think they had time to tie the least knot in Khorassan.
Regarding this tread:
Even if the Bakhtiaris are the descendants of the Lurs -who are related to the Kurds- does not implicate that the Bakhtiar and the Kurds should both have great dyers.
Age Cannot Whither Her, nor Custom Stale Her Infinite Variety
Dragging this thread, kicking and screaming, back to Jaf bags, here's one
that showed up in yesterday's mail. It's from a dear friend who is both kind and
Missing ends, borders, and edges and with a huge tear across the field that has been sorta' sewn up.
Yet there's still something....
I can't offer anything on the latest..except I'd have bought it 30 years ago. I really like the detail of the "big format" pics you posted..(I think its about time we went to larger definition pics..understanding of course Filiberto and Steve's problems with these). Still, first impression is that the pile in the bag is sort of "low." Anything to this?
Now Rich said he has no problems with your top right bag previously posted..so..it is Kurd as he said. Still, I would like to see it in more detail..especially the flat weave at the bottom.. Is it offset knotted? Zounds..I'd swear I have a complete bag like that somewhere in the bottom of a trunk (which will be emptied upon return) (and which I'm not sure is Kurd).
Large images don't present any special problems for me or for Filiberto, but they do present problems for some of the readers.
1. They can widen the message field enough to require scrolling back and forth to read. In a long post, this can be very awkward.
2. They can take a long time to download on slow connections.
3. They can overpower the graphics memory on some computers if there are a lot of them, so the thing only shows little boxes with red X's in them for some images.
Filiberto and I routinely reduce image sizes for those reasons. Like most things, it's easier to not do it than to do it, and I guarantee you that you don't know anyone lazier tham me. Jerry's image took on some weird artifacts when I reduced the size, and after a little fooling around with it I just put it in full width.
So that's the secret! Throw in a few weird artifacts and you will post the picture full size!
P.S. I will be sending you a few pictures very soon.....
One other thing, though, that I failed to mention. When an image is more than one screen wide, it can't be seen all at once. Probably a personal peculiarity, but I find seeing rugs in their entirety much more informative in many ways than seeing them piecemeal. There are important details that can only be seen clearly under high magnification, of course, but the gestalt is what impacts me most directly.
I Must Have Missed That!
I guess I will have to go have another look at all of my rugs to try and locate their gestalt. Do I need a magnifying glass to see it?
No, a telescope. Viewed from the opposite end.
That was a heck of an effort to drag the thread back to the subject of Jaf bags, and it almost succeeded. Funny, there's hardly a baluchnik in sight.
I heartily agree with you that "...there's something there." Hearkening to a recent thread on fragments, it's funny how some fragments still "have it," and others are just "blah."
One thing I like about these bags is, they are among the few types of pieces that I have confidence in as woven within a limited ethnic tradition for local use and appreciation. Moreover, the standard diamond lattice format is usually so limiting, it requires special attention to materials, color, and use of color to make an effective artistic statement. It doesn't have to be pretentious. Tha fact that many aren't so is often part of the charm. In your piece, I like the way the weaver was careful to line up the rosettes mirror-image in the outside borders, two by two except for that single odd one. So Jaffi Kurdish. (Of course, I had to scroll side to side a few times to figure that out. Must remember to ask Steve, What's up with that?) And that inside border on quite is just right.
Sorry, Steve. That was me. Don't know how I logged in unregistered. We had a power outage. Maybe that was it.
Of course, I meant that the inside border was "on white," not "quite."
I'm here or the "Sight of a Baluchotek"
Richard and Camille,
There is a persistent Baluchotek around who still wants to cause trouble. Now this is absolutely the last word on the Bakhtiari in this thread (its worth a stand-alone thread I'd suppose..and I don't feel guilty since Camille invited my comment)...I mentioned they were Indo-European Luri dialect Persian speakers...Camille offered that they might be related to Kurds but that doesn't mean the Kurds can dye as well as the Bakhtiari. Agreed, d'accord. Camille is of course right; just because my great grand-mother made fantastic hooked rag rugs in Illinois, doesn't mean I can do it.
What I didn't add though was that the Luri-Bakhtiari-Kurds are also related linguistically to the B------ the closest language in the Indo-European family to B------ is Kurdish. And Camille refers to the mythical origin of the Bakhtiri as being in Syria. Question: that wouldn't be near Allepo by any chance?
I'd still like a close-up of Jerry's top right bag..the flatweave especially...who knows...maybe I've got a Kurd in the ...uhh...trunk.
Beware getting what you ask for....
Okay, Gene. Here's what you've asked for.
Turns out the "flatweave" border you saw on your monitor isn't flatwoven after all. Even though it is a flatweave pattern it is pile, just like the rest of the bag.
Here is a photo of the back of the border.
And here is a photo of a different portion of the back in case someone wants to look for shared warps.
You sent the same image twice. But it's a good one. Nice colors. The bag is dark overall, but that is not a drawback.
It's funny that the weft color doesn't show up in the pile. I'd bet that it is wool processed (i. e., spun, plied, etc.) and colored separate from the pile material.
I'm hoping you'll send the other pic.
Probably my fault. Jerry, if you send me the second one again, I'll be more careful with it.
'Tis only a flesh wound
Originally posted by Gene Williams
In reference to the "spillover" field effect on Lloyd's Jef Kurd (again in mapmaking this is called "bleeding the border"..not a term ruggies will adopt),
Other criteria for Jaff bags
People have mostly talked about color saturation and not having diamonds of
the same color adjacent to each other. In addition to color, I was taught the
other two Cs are Clarity of design and Condition. For one bag I ignored the
first C and focused on the last two.
For condition, I wanted to have at least one complete double bag rather than just the face. Alas, double bags don't display that well.
I've seen another bag in this thread with a similar arrangement of colors (single diamond in the center, a set of 8 middle diamonds of the same color, then a set of outer diamonds of the same color). Does anyone know if the design was tied to a specific area, or does it seem that a certain percentage of bags were just woven this way?
Also, two aspects of the bag are a bit odd. The figure inside of the diamond is somewhat unusual (according to the "Diamonds in the Pile" article), and I like how it contains reciprocal arrows at the top and bottom of the figure (easiest to see on the center most diamond).
The borders are the other element that stick out. It looks like an "S" design of some sort, but I haven't seen anything like it before (in my admittedly short collecting career).
Does anyone else look at borders and figures inside the diamond for Jaffs?
Does anyone know if the design was tied to a specific area, or does it seem that a certain percentage of bags were just woven this way?
Filberto, here is a complete image of the front:
The top half of the bag seems slightly squashed compared to the bottom.
The damage in the lower left corner isn't pretty, but is the worst area. On the plus side, the bag has 14/20 of the closure loops (plus some fragments), and the loops are quite colorful with several colors of wool braided together.
Unfortunately, after the neat diamonds, border, and closure loops, the kilim is a letdown:
Not awful, but not terribly exciting with just a small patch of soumac in the connecting region. The blue patch at the top is the sleeve for hanging. The photo of the back was a bit hastily done, but it was hard to lay the bag on the ground while fending off two cats who wanted to curl up on it.
Parts of the edge appear to be rewrapped, as some of the the colors don't appear anywhere else on the bag.
At the beginning of this thread Steve asked about criteria for judging a Jaff Kurd bag.
My own view is that among the various criteria, two that are important to me are:
1) colour (no surprise there).
2) effective creation of the sense of a 3rd dimension with the infinite repeat central field.
I have only one Jaff Kurd bag, and to be honest, it remains one of my most disappointing purchases (even though it was very modestly priced).
My main problem with it is that the colours are just not saturated enough to pack a visual impact, and the red looks a bit suspect. The main problem is that the blues seem to be "wearing off", which also affects the green.
On the positive side, I think that it very effectively creates the sense of a "window" in a third dimension. Perhaps others will see what I mean from the picture below. I think this could have been a very nice piece if the weaver had used materials with more saturated dyes.
I don't think the back of your bag set is so disappointing. For a one year guy, you have high expectations.
As you mentioned, some of the colors, such as the pale green, don't seem to appear in the pile. It suggests a conscious choice on the part of the weaver. Maybe there is a bit of that color in the "five spot" minor border, but it is effectively left out of the visual statement the front of the bag set makes.
I do not recall having seen that particular "S" border in a Jaf bag, and I wonder whether anyone has. It shows up in older, single wefted rugs that seem to be from the Hamadan weaving area, and perhaps more specifically the Malayer area. I recall two I have owned, and each of them also had the pale green that is somewhat corrosive, characteristic of older Feraghan/Malayer area rugs. One was a five by ten rug, and the other a 30" by 30" bagface (but not Jaf). The green was about the same shade as on the back of your set, but yours does not appear corrosive.
Have you tried cleaning (i. e., washing) your bags? I'm not necessarily recommending it, just wondering.
Your bagface doesn't look so unsaturated on my screen. The yellow is very intense. What do you make of that color? The rule of thumb is, if you are wondering how they got that green, take a look at the yellow. Your piece seems to follow the rule. The lighter blue does seem to have "rubbed off," a characteristic of some Jaf pieces.
BTW, the piece with the similar centralized approach to the diamonds was posted by me. For what it is worth, I have always considered the set relatively late. I have no trouble with the colors, except for a very few knots in a faded, fuchsine-like color, which may have been added anyway. The thing that sets the bags off is the weight and texture. Although Jaf bags are often quite "meaty" in their handle, this set of mine is way beyond that, being very heavy and wooly, and somewhat coarsely woven, like a fur pelt (formerly owned by a critter that had led a hard life). The overall effect is considerably less refinement than the average Jaf bag, which I construe to indicate more recent production. I don't recall having encountered a similar piece, although the other Jaf criteria are there (e. g., offset knotting).
Thanks to Joseph for having posted the photos I required.
Richard, the description of your bag (still waiting for the photo of its back) would fit perfectly to mine too.
Mark Hopkins wrote about mine that it could have been “around the end of the first quarter of the 20th C. I say that on the basis that most of the pieces I own that I would date to that period have corrosive browns.”
I didn’t ask how he knew for sure the age of his pieces, though.
Rich, my concentric diamonds Jaff bag is very different than yours in
construction. Mine has a fairly short pile and the wool doesn't have the typical
Kurd softness. The weave is about average for Jaff bags (around 70-75 kpsi). So
it looks like the concentric diamond design was used by at least two groups. I'm
not sure how old the bags are, as the two estimates I have seem rather
You were right about the bags needing a cleaning: the first soak (in plain cold water) turned the sink blackish so I gave the bag several washes with baby shampoo. It could probably use another few washes, but most of the dirt is gone. The kelim part looks much happier. Now I'm just waiting for them to dry with our lovely 80% humidity.
For the edge wrappings, is it common to find one color of wrap underneath another? That's the other reason I felt the bags were rewrapped at a later date.
James, the color saturation on your bag looks good to me. The blues in
particular are clear. The red might be synthetic, but it isn't attention
grabbing, so I don't see it as a big deal.
I think the biggest problem is the same one the double bag I posted has: Jaff bags don't seem to wear well. Some designs can handle exposed foundation or wefting peeking through the low pile and still look like champs. Jaff diamond bags don't seem to be in that family
For creating a window into an infinite pattern, my favorite example has only 2 diamonds horizontally and 3 vertically (the diamonds aren't overly large). It very much gives the feeling of looking through a small opening into something bigger.
Dear folks -
This thread is going on so I'll include a couple of Jaff Kurd pieces I have owned.
The first is a fragmented bag face.
It has good color, but may have a touch of faded fuschine in one place at its top. It has attractive corrosion "beveling."
There are also rugs with this Jaff Kurd diamond design. I bought the one below one morning at a local flea market in an absolute downpour.
Only three vans huddled. A door opened as I approached. "Nothing much goin on," I said to the dealer who sometimes had rugs. He responded "I think I can make it worth your while." You can never really predict the conditions under which you might find something.
This rug is more sobre in color, especially at a distance and with inside light.
But under natural sunlight or closer the color emerges somewhat.
There is a photo somewhere of Jerry Silverman sitting in front of a Jaff Kurd rug he owns. (Like a "Teddy Roosevelt" hunter with his bagged trophy.)
R. John Howe
I like those two. The first small one has that excellent green, and you only have to check out the yellow to know why. The great thing about these bags as a group is the variety of interesting colors. Other groups tend to have more predictable colors, which can be boring for me. (I'm not referring to Baluch, however!) As a matter of curiosity, can you mention precisely where the faded fuchsine-like color is?
I mentioned earlier in the thread I usually found the rug sized pieces disappointing, but not this one of yours. A wonderful find at a rainy flea market. Again, a little green does wonders. Incidentally, it employs the centralized diamond approach mentioned by Joe Beck a few posts above.
Having regard to the "beveling" caused by the narrow lines of corrosion, I saw a few of these bags at a dealer show in the Boston area over the weekend. One in particular exhibited the effect to excellent aesthetic advantage. It made me think that the weavers of these pieces, at least, must have had some sense of the effect that would be produced over time by the use of that wool in that manner.
I am not sure that there is a fuschine, but there may be. If you look at the right hand side of the top border of the fragmented bag, you may be able to see a shade that looks like gray. That's the suspicious area.
I am not sure that Jaff Kurd weavers use iron-mordanted wool deliberately to produce the beveled effects that we see nowadays in thier weavings. I'm told that it takes about 50 years for this corrosion to produce a noticeable effect. Harold Keshishian often says, looking at an older rug, that it's weaver would not recognize her work. He's usually saying that the colors have moved a lot, but this corrosive beveling seems to be something similar to me. I think the aesthetic objectives of these Jaff weavers resided primarily in the brown of the wool they used. I suspect that if one is enamored of a beveled effect the temptation to clip would be strong (as with the Chinese and some others).
I thought Jerry Silverman might speak up about his own rug-sized Jaff, but if you look closely, you can find it in one of the images he provides in his new salon essay. I think its colors, color usage, and its border treatments are better than mine.
R. John Howe
Beveling or rusting
Again, thanks for raising a ubiquitious question which we've discussed here and is always interesting. Why the "beveling effect" on tribal carpets..and was this on purpose (the effects are so striking as we've been demonstrating lately) that this becomes a very legitimate question.
On the length of time it takes to achieve a "beveling" effect by using "mak" or iron-mordant dyes...i.e. relating to the corrosive effect of certain dyes. I don't know about Kurds. But, I can give you some fairly precise data on at least one Baluch rug. I bought a new (and very attractive) "balul" Baluch carpet in Karahi in 1976. The carpet was used on the floor for maybe 15 years of the 30 i've owned it. Its been in a trunk for the other 15 years. The corrosion of the black ..i.e. bevelling was quite marked after only 10 years..more so after 15 years; it is even more so now. I will post this for a separate thread...and I think i have photos showing its evolution!! (CAUTION: My Balul is finely knotted for a Baluch, with very fine and silky wool and very closely cropped.. So, the same corrosive effects on a more coarsely knotted bag for instance might be difficult to postulate).
Jack theorizes that the corrosion of black "mak" is not because of the iron itself eating away at the pile (kind of like the rusting fenders on my 1986 Jeep bought in India), but rather is because of the use of the carpet..i.e. The Iron makes the pile stiff and brittle..use of the rug then breaks off the pile..or some such, he'll explain his theory...i.e. the more use..the faster the corrosion.
So, based on my personal observations of Baluch carpets, I believe that the "beveling" effect, could have become very apparent within 10-15 years on a bag well used...possibly even sooner.
This will be a separate thread in time.
PS. John, somehow I sincerely doubt that the tribals of Central Asia "clipped" their carpets. But, since you mentioned it, I'd welcome your contributions to this area of study. Thanks.
Not a bag - an entire Jaf Kurd rug
Here's the Jaf Kurd rug John mentioned that I have. The color of the close-up
is more accurate (or at least it is here on my monitor and before Steve of
Filiberto add it to this post).
As you can see, the diamonds on this rug are enlarged versions of those on most bags. But instead of a single latchhook diamond surrounding a central diamond, the rug has two rows of concentric latchhook diamonds around the central diamond. The borders, too, are not uncommon in bags.
All in all, just a very, very large bag.
Hi Gene -
If you read again, I think you'll find that I said "Chinese and some others."
I have seen some other instances of clipping, but am not sure at the moment what they were.
They were not Central Asian, so you can't credit me with that finding.
R. John Howe
A decade ago I used to see a lot of new Turkish rugs with clipped black pile. They were obviously copying the relief effect of older pieces. There was no blatant intent to deceive, though, but to emulate the older pieces.
The weavers of the Jaf Kurd pieces would most assuredly have been aware of the pile height reduction in the black dye they used. It wasn't until early in the 20th century that these pieces entered the west in large numbers, having been bought up after the settlement of nomadic tribes. Previously, these bags remained in the possession of the makers and their families, establishing the design tradition as well as the dye-making recipes and the resulting effects of the aging of the black dye.
Otherwise, why would they have used the black mostly as outlines to the diamonds unless they knew what was going to happen to the black in a few years?
Your Jaf carpet is a real nice specimen, even though your tale of acquisition rivals back-alley drug deals and third-world deprivation.
Just thought I should say that I think your Jaff rug is a very attractive piece. It looks as though the ground colour (under the smalller, mid-blue latch-hooks) switches from dark indigo to brown part way into the third from the bottom. Is that the case? I think I like the effect of the lower ones best since the seemingly darker ground gives a real sense of depth.