February 9th, 2012, 09:47 AM   1
Larry Gerber
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About the Kufic border

Editor’s Note: this thread started with this post and a different name (i.e. “Karagashli?”).

As the subject of discussion diverged on a different topic, (i.e. the Kufic border) while the original one abated, we decided to carry on the discussion on the Kufic border, renaming it and pruning away the posts related to the old subject.
P.S. - If, in reading the thread from the beginning, you find some references that do not make sense, it's probably because they are related to some of the 35 deleted posts.



I would be interested in getting opinions on this rug, which has a classic Karagashli design and was sold to me many years ago as an antique. However, I have always had some doubts about it and wondered how old it might be and whether it actually was a Kuba.



It has a floppy feel, and Filiberto tells me that it is single-wefted. Here are some close-ups.



Thanks,
Larry
February 9th, 2012, 10:21 AM   2
Cornelius Frandes
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It seems to me that it has got a so-called Kufic border (that alludes to an ancient script).

Like this one:



Karagashlis are not incompatible with the Kufic script.

Anyway, the Karagashlis are actualy 'Kuba' (though not undifferentiated ones)

Quote:
Karagashli: A Caucasian village south of Derbend known for small rugs depicting geometric palmette. Karagashli rugs are frequently classified as Kuba rugs
.


This rug has 'something' of yours minus the Kufic border which makes yours stand apart...



Quote:
This is an Antique Karagashli Kuba Rug in excellent condition. This is a very pretty rug with a bold powerful design. Pile is low but even and the color is beautiful.

The pattern we see here is closely associated with Karagashli Kuba rugs. It is a degenerative form of the Afshan pattern.
February 10th, 2012, 03:23 AM   3
Horst Nitz
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Hi Larry and all,

a pretty rug by all means but nothing Kufic about it in my opinion.

If you compare the main border with some of the medallions on those rugs that are being discussed in two parallel threads you may find, you are dealing with itterations of a basic ornamental form.



Regards, Horst
February 10th, 2012, 10:32 AM  4
Cornelius Frandes
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Horst Nitz
Hi Larry and all,

a pretty rug by all means but nothing Kufic about it in my opinion.

Hi Horst! I beg to disagree (or at least I am puzzled)


This type of border has been described as Kufic, or Kufesque border. (Turkotek archive). It is very much like Larry's.

see link for it

see also Turkotek's Varieties of Kufesque Borders




Regards,
C.
February 15th, 2012, 02:16 PM   5
Horst Nitz
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Hi Cornelius,

“I beg to disagree (or at least I am puzzled). This type of border has been described as Kufic, or Kufesque border.”

Yes, the border design is a minute version of the larger medallion. Calling it Kufesque implies that it is not Kufic script, only resembling it somewhat. If elsewhere the design has been called Kufic, this is problematic because the term may prompt inadequate associations regarding the cultural and artistic context of such rug designs. In this sense ‘Kufic’ stands for the wealth of misconceptions in the rug literature. Of the three comparisons ‘fish tale’, ‘sailor’s yarn’ and ‘rug lore’ the latter perhaps is worst, because claims are usually made in sober mood and want to be taken seriously – exceptions are possible

Regards, Horst
February 16th, 2012, 03:53 AM   6
Cornelius Frandes
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Hi Horst!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Horst Nitz
Hi Cornelius,
Yes, the border design is a minute version of the larger medallion. Calling it Kufesque implies that it is not Kufic script, only resembling it somewhat. If elsewhere the design has been called Kufic, this is problematic because the term may prompt inadequate associations regarding the cultural and artistic context of such rug designs. In this sense ‘Kufic’ stands for the wealth of misconceptions in the rug literature. Of the three comparisons ‘fish tale’, ‘sailor’s yarn’ and ‘rug lore’ the latter perhaps is worst, because claims are usually made in sober mood and want to be taken seriously – exceptions are possible Regards, Horst
Alright then. I agree. The terms 'Kufesque' and 'Kufic', while related, stand for two different things. The truth is that nuances matter. And you can't complain: on 'gazing' into a rug, there are 'nuances' galore to be found. It is all a matter of interpretation (some would say fabulation ). I think the word 'kufic' has a metaphorical sense and a stricto sensu meaning. It is a bit like arabesque (which has a musical meaning which is unrelated to -strictly speaking Arabian music, as a ballet pose, first attested in 1830, musical sense, in reference to an ornamented theme, is from 1864, originally the title given by Robert Schumann to one of his piano pieces.)

-esque suffix meaning "resembling or suggesting the style of," from Fr. -esque "like, in the manner of," from It. -esco, like M.L. -iscus from a Germanic source (cf. O.H.G. -isc, Ger. -isch, English -ish).

It is worth having a look at this particular strain of kufic alphabet:


And then paying attention to the vermilion (cinnabar) coloured border of this Kasim Ushak (posted a while ago by Filiberto)



I swear I can see similarities in the sense that the border seems kufesque by matching the 'signs' of the alphabet above. But is it? Only the maker of the carpet could tell for sure, but perhaps not even her. (she could have instinctively reproduced that script without knowing its meaning and what it stands for). This is the 'textile' version of scribbling. Or, alternatively, it could be higly accurate caligraphy (Armenian?) that to the unaccustomed eye seems careless and nonsensical zigzagging.

Best wishes,
C.
February 16th, 2012, 06:17 AM   7
Steve Price
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Hi Cornelius

The weaver was almost certainly an illiterate woman.

Kufic and kufesque have one more meaning. They have been adopted by Rugdom as descriptors of the border type in the rug cartoon in Filiberto's post (number 22 in this thread) or the rug in Chuck's post (number 23). That is, if a dealer or collector tells you that he has a rug with a kufic border, that's the border he's talking about.

Regards

Steve Price
February 16th, 2012, 06:25 AM   8
Filiberto Boncompagni
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Hi Cornelius,

If you want more on similar borders, have a look at the thread The “Crivelli” rug.
Have fun,

Filiberto
February 16th, 2012, 04:12 PM 9
Cornelius Frandes
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Hi Horst, Steve and Filiberto,

I think Horst was quite right when he wrote that:
Quote:
Kufesque implies that it is not Kufic script, only resembling it somewhat.
In fact it seems that 'Kufesque' is associated with a Christian rather than a Muslim context while 'Kufic' is just undifferentiated Muslim.

Quote:
A separate category, found most often in metalwork and carpets, comprises pseudo-inscriptions in which real letters formed nonsense words or sequences. Closely linked to this is “Kufesque,” in which the letters not only fail to spell out rational messages but are no longer Arabic letters, even though they have a generic resemblance to them. Kufesque is typically used in a Christian rather than a Muslim context (eg the doors of the cathedral of Le Puy in France, the exterior brickwork of Hosios Loukas in Greece, or on textiles in paintings by Gentile da Fabriano (c.1385-1427) and other late medieval Italian masters). Such “inscriptions” were prized because oftheir exotic aura. Many inscription bands, whether on a monumental or small scale, develop their own rhythms by means of massed uprights or or descenders, by giving letters serpentine tails and by manipulating spacing.
The Grove encyclopedia of Islamic art and architecture, Volume 2 By Jonathan M. Bloom, Sheila Blair

Greetings,
C.
February 24th, 2012, 05:19 PM   10
Horst Nitz
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Hi Cornelius and all,

thank you for the interesting link to the western approach to Kufesque ornamentation. This is what Wikipedia is adding to it: “The Arabic Kufic script was often imitated in the West during the Middle-Ages and the Renaissance, to produce what is known as pseudo-Kufic: "Imitations of Arabic in European art are often described as pseudo-Kufic, borrowing the term for an Arabic script that emphasizes straight and angular strokes, and is most commonly used in Islamic architectural decoration" (Quotation: Islamic Influence on Western Art; wikipedia.org).

However, when I was touching on the subject, I had early Anatolian carpets in mind, i.e. those from the Divrigi Ulu Cami, and not illegible western quotations of Kufic script. Really puzzling is the fact that rugs from one of the Islamic heartlands of the time should flash anything but Kufic proper. Of course there also is or was Georgian Kufic script and possibly Syriac, with Arabic Kufic being derived from Aramaic via Syriac. It is being mentioned in the literature that the master masons responsible for the portal and the minbar of the Divrigi great mosque came from Ahlat near Lake Van and from Tiflis (Tblisi, capital of Georgia). Also, Kazwini (d 1048) mentions the carpets from Tiflis (after Balpinar B and Hirsch U, 1988). As much as this to a possible Eastern Christian influence on Selcuk style ornamentation.

With regard to the border designs of the Caucasian rug(s) that are being discussed here, I would suggest to better stay clear of entanglements with the Kufic issue and take a purely descriptive course by calling it a ‘chained medallion border.’

Regards, Horst Nitz
February 25th, 2012, 12:19 AM   11
Marla Mallett
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To complicate the discussion of Kufic ornamentation further, we need to be aware that Kufic manuscripts in Turkey--and inscriptions on buildings and on rugs--are Ottoman Turkish written with Arabic letters, NOT Arabic. This is so far removed from today's Turkish, that only a limited number of Turkish scholars can read the old Ottoman Turkish. Likewise, it's a mystery to Arabic speakers and readers. Yet we still come across instances in which individuals have attempted to "decipher" ornamental features in Turkish rugs in terms of ARABIC.

Best wishes,
Marla
February 26th, 2012, 02:53 PM   12
Cornelius Frandes
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Hi Horst, Marla and all!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Horst Nitz
Hi Cornelius and all,
However, when I was touching on the subject, I had early Anatolian carpets in mind, i.e. those from the Divrigi Ulu Cami, and not illegible western quotations of Kufic script. Really puzzling is the fact that rugs from one of the Islamic heartlands of the time should flash anything but Kufic proper. Of course there also is or was Georgian Kufic script and possibly Syriac, with Arabic Kufic being derived from Aramaic via Syriac. It is being mentioned in the literature that the master masons responsible for the portal and the minbar of the Divrigi great mosque came from Ahlat near Lake Van and from Tiflis (Tblisi, capital of Georgia). As much as this to a possible Eastern Christian influence on Selcuk style ornamentation.
Perhaps the Anatolian heartlands still hosted populations of weavers who were not 'fluent' in Kufic so they approached the script at a purely imitative, mimetic level in their trying to render it as the decorative border of the rugs they had woven.

Quote:
With regard to the border designs of the Caucasian rug(s) that are being discussed here, I would suggest to better stay clear of entanglements with the Kufic issue and take a purely descriptive course by calling it a ‘chained medallion border.’
Your suggestion makes sense as it is better to stick to a safe if unadventurous tag (i.e. chained medallion) rather than forcing the things. It is quite clear that kufesque equals vaxing lyrical about something which is quite vague and ill-defined.
The term is being used by Moshova in her classical text 'The Tribal Gol in Turkmen Carpet' in relation to the carpet below, whose border pattern she calls "archaic Kufic."


An early painting from Herat (circa 1420), depicting a woman seated on a rug with the layout of the field bearing a similarity to that which we see in subsequent Turkmen weavings. Additionally, the archaic 'Kufic' border pattern seen in old Anatolian rugs is evident.

Yet a closer look, what is revealed to the attentive viewer is the "knot of the destiny", a "talismanic design" according to G. Griffin Lewis' "The Practical Book of Oriental Rugs". (read if you wish the whole book here)



All in all I can not but agree at this stage of the discussion that 'Kufic' (let alone Kufesque) is an elastic designation and should be used sparingly.

Regards,
C.
February 26th, 2012, 04:06 PM  13
Steve Price
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Hi Cornelius

Thanks for the link to Lewis' book. Being published in 1913, this is the 100th anniversaery of the writing. I think that's kind of cool. Even the single page that you reproduced reminds us that, however insensibly it happens, rug thinking does progress (or, at least, change) over time.

Regards

Steve Price
February 26th, 2012, 05:43 PM   14
Cornelius Frandes
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Hi Steve,

Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve Price
Hi Cornelius

Thanks for the link to Lewis' book. Being published in 1913, this is the 100th anniversary of the writing. I think that's kind of cool. Even the single page that you reproduced reminds us that, however insensibly it happens, rug thinking does progress (or, at least, change) over time.
Obsolete though it is, and in a charming way so, Lewis' book seems to have been 'aware' of Larry's rug's border (at no. 41)




But otherwise I obviously agree with you...

Regards,
C.

P.S.
There are also to be found in it the coloured (though distorted) photos of this Kazak beauty as well as that of this Daghestani's that I both highly recommend...
February 26th, 2012, 07:41 PM  15
Steve Price
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Hi Cornelius

I wasn't thinking of the border when I commented about some of the text being obsolete. Some of the other terms on the page are long gone, though.

The two rugs you linked are wonderful. The main border on the Kazak is very unusual; the Daghestan would probably be called a Seichour Kuba by most nowadays. I was also struck by Lewis referring to a bit missing from the end finish of the Kazak as evidence that it had age.

Regards

Steve Price
February 27th, 2012, 02:24 AM  16
Filiberto Boncompagni
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Dear all,

However much founded could be Horst’s objection to the use of “Kufic border”, may I remind you that the term is here and, like many other misnomers, it’s here to stay?

I, for one, will continue to use it as a practical shorthand definition.

Regards,

Filiberto
March 6th, 2012, 06:35 AM   17
Cornelius Frandes
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Hi Filiberto!

In the meanwhile I came across on google.ru (though my Russian knowledge is quasi non-existent) Liatif Kerimof's controversial book 'The carpets of Azerbaidjan' which has been put on web (freely available). The original title is Лятиф Керимов - Азербайджанский ковер II том. Check for example here the coloured tables that Kerimof is exemplifying his text with.
Have a look at Table. 23. 'Zagly', Kuba group and see a 'bastardized' version of Larry's rug.
(Here is the index of Kerimof's book, click on ecah individual link)

Check also if you wish the Carpet Museum of Baku

Go to 'Fond Collection' and then to 'collection of pile carpets' for some rare specimens. (in case you haven't visited the museum in person alraedy)

Regards,

C.
March 6th, 2012, 11:47 AM   18
Filiberto Boncompagni
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Cornelius, thank you very much for the links.

Some pages of the index of Kerimov's book are in English.
I signal these two to Pierre, because they are an invaluable help in identifying rugs in ancient paintings:

http://artyx.ru/books/item/f00/s00/z0000040/st065.shtml
http://artyx.ru/books/item/f00/s00/z0000040/st067.shtml



As for the rest, I suggest pasting the urls in Google Language Tools which, theoretically, should be able to translate whole web pages.

In practice, it works only with small pages: with the big ones the translation is erratic and one is obliged to open another browser window of the Language Tools, copy chunks of un-translated paragraphs from the first and paste them in the “Translate text” field in the second window.

It takes a lot of patience, but the quality of the translation is surprisingly good… Well, it gives at least 90% of the meaning, I guess. Enough to confirm my low opinion on the level of Azerbaijani scholarship already expressed in other occasions…

It is, nevertheless, an important source in the field and I’m thinking to find a way to save Kerimov’s book - even with its flawed Google translation - on my computer, to have it handy.

Regards,

Filiberto
March 16th, 2012, 05:41 PM   19
Horst Nitz
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Hi Cornelius, Filiberto and all,

your post dated 4th March: “the point I was trying to make was how seminal, influential, resilient this type of floral-cum-kufic fborder seems to have been among certain Caucasians. It certainly deserves a name of its own apart from that generic (and debatable) of 'Kufic.”

I went through some of my books where I thought I might find something on this matter, and so I did. In Azadi, Kerimov and Zollinger (2001; German edition) this border is called ‘Schami’; according to the authors this is the old name for Syria. Wikipedia confirms this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greater_Syria . Also, the term ‘Shami’ could refer to the lands where traditionally the ‘Syrian‘ language was spoken (mind, in modern Syria one speaks Arabic), which basically is the area south of a line connecting the southern shores of both, the Caspian and the Black Sea. I can think of no historical period that may have prompted West Syrian cultural influence on the Eastern Caucasus and therefore assume, that, if the term ‘Shami’ is authentic, ‘Greater Syria’ must be meant, i.e. including northern Mesopotamia. From there, in the fourth century the Sassanid Persian conquest of East Anatolia and the Caucasus was launched, which concluded with the division of Armenia between Persia and Rome (West Syria was to become within the bounds of the Roman empire). Persian influence on the Eastern Caucasus persisted until well in the 19th century, when the tide turned and Russia became the dominant power of the region. In other words, ‘Shami’ implies an influence from the south, i.e. NW Persia, SE Anatolia or Northern Mesopotamia.

Azadi, Kerimov an Zollinger assume ‘Shami’ referring to Syria, from where the ‘Kufic’ border may derive. They too step into the ‘Kufic’ trap.

Does this help?

Horst
March 17th, 2012, 01:32 PM   20
Rich Larkin
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Hi Horst,

I think the popular name for Damascus in Arabic is "al Sham." At least, that's what the taxi drivers would shout around the Bourge in Beirut, trying to load up the car for the trip over the mountains.

Rich Larkin
March 18th, 2012, 03:26 PM   21
Cornelius Frandes
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Hi Horst,

Quote:
Originally Posted by Horst Nitz
I went through some of my books where I thought I might find something on this matter, and so I did. In Azadi, Kerimov and Zollinger (2001; German edition) this border is called ‘Schami’; according to the authors this is the old name for Syria. (...) In other words, ‘Shami’ implies an influence from the south, i.e. NW Persia, SE Anatolia or Northern Mesopotamia.
Azadi, Kerimov an Zollinger assume ‘Shami’ referring to Syria, from where the ‘Kufic’ border may derive. They too step into the ‘Kufic’ trap.
It could be a case that 'Shami' and 'Kufic', though related, are not exactly the same thing.

see Kufic calligraphy

Quote:
During the first three centuries of Islamic period (7th-9th century AD), Koran was practically written and recorded with Kufic script, while calligraphers of every zone used to use their personal style and taste in this sort of handwriting. The nibs of their pens might have been different from one another, or the tendency of vertical ribs of the letters towards left and right sides, together with some other invented differences exerted in the chosen letters, might have been characterized the style and place of writing. Thus, various ways of inscribing letters, like those of Kufic, Madani, Basri, Shami (Syrian) and Maqrebi scripts came into existence.
My personal take on the things is that the style we call 'Kufic' is actually a strain of a type of convoluted writing that can be seen on some old Anglo-Saxon or Celtic Niello style pieces, which is related, in its turn, to the so-called Damascene style. ("The English term comes from a perceived resemblance to the rich tapestry patterns of damask silk.")
(Though obviosuly Kufic strictly speaking is a script and 'deals' with letters but in such a convoluted way that its decorative function trumps the alphabet it is supposed to contain).
It would also be interesting to check whether the 'Shami' style was inspired by the Syriac alphabet in which the Aramaic language was written and which stretches up to Caucasus where it may have been 'migrated' on the borders of the rugs.
Quote:
From the late 7th century CE onwards, Aramaic was gradually replaced as the lingua franca of the Middle East by Arabic. However, Aramaic remains a spoken, literary and liturgical language among indigenous Assyrian Christians, Jews, Mandaeans and some Syriac/Aramean Christians, and is still spoken by small isolated communities throughout its original area of influence, predominantly in northwest Iraq, northeast Syria, southeast Turkey and northern Iran, with diaspora communities in Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan and southern Russia.
The truth is that I was suprised to see Google's recent St. Patrick's Day logo, a Celtic inspired design which displays two botehs (Paisley?)
a bit of kufesque script in its last "e" and looks almost Oriental carpet-like. At that time (early MiddleAge) East and West were more diffuse concepts than they are now after so many cold wars and cultural revolutions


Regards,
C.
March 18th, 2012, 11:10 PM   22
Paul Smith
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Hi Cornelius,

Medieval Irish/Celtic ornamentation doesn't really fit here, I think. The "boteh" you saw in Google's somewhat clumsy appropriation of Celtic ornamentation are actually called "trumpet curves" and while no one can say with confidence what a boteh really is, I think I will go out on a limb and say that it is not a trumpet curve. Similarly, the classic Celtic interlacing designs are not completely unlike some so-called Kufic ornamentation, I guess, but it is no way convoluted writing, but a style of decoration. It has no apparent connection to the Damascene style you mention, at least that I am aware of, other than having a similar function. As with the "e" in "Google," they would use it to fill a space. Perhaps in the vast scope of human history there is some ancient connection between the Celts and the cultures that later wove carpets--the "triskele" or three-armed spiral symbols seen in circles in the Google thing are apparently the same basic sun symbol as the four-armed swastika that turns up in carpets (this has been documented)--but I think it is a mistake to assume that something that looks similar must represent an influence of some kind. This is what happened to Volkmar Gantzhorn, apparently, who started seeing crosses all over carpet weaving (which are a natural product of weaving with warp and weft foundation), leading him to the peculiar suggestion that the Turkmen were Christians.

Regards,

Paul
March 19th, 2012, 04:21 AM   23
Filiberto Boncompagni
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Hi Paul,
Quote:
and while no one can say with confidence what a boteh really is
I do. It’s a vegetal motif.
http://www.turkotek.com/misc_00072/boteh.htm


Hi Hortz,
Quote:
Does this help?
Well… I’m afraid it didn’t help at all, because it made me go back to re-read the link posted by Cornelius on the first page of this thread, concerning a discussion on orientalrugtalk.com (see link for it) where Martin Andersen (who posts also here on Turkotek) presented convincing evidence of this border being derived by Kufic inscriptions.

Did you read it? Probably not, I guess.

Anyway, if before I was distractedly willing to concede that this particular “Kufic border”

could be a misnomer (but NOT a “rug lore”), now I am convinced that it is an absolutely valid definition.

About the Azadi, Kerimov and Zollinger’s book and the “Shami” denomination: much ado about nothing.

I guess the culprit is Kerimov: here is what he calls “Shami border” in “The Azerbaijan Carpet Volume II”, 1983, (link already posted somewhere in this thread) Fig 110.


And here is an abridged version of the associated text. Translation courtesy by Google. The text between brackets and in capital letters is my suggestion of a logical translation:


As is known, after the Arab conquest the Albanian alphabet (Alpan) and Pahlavi in Azerbaijan were banned. In our country, was introduced as an official, Arabic handwriting kyufi (KUFIC CALLIGRAPHY) that even for the Arabs at that time was very difficult.
The name of the handwriting of kyufi is connected with the city Kyufa (KUFA), located 150 kilometers south of Baghdad. The handwriting has kyufi geometric forms,



During this period, in the decorative arts, and especially in the architectural monuments, the names of God, the Prophet Muhammad, chief of the caliphs and imams, who were their ancestors, and governors, as well as religious sayings, praising, and which extolled them, were usually written with the handwriting of [kyufi]. These inscriptions gradually ornamentiziruyutsya, (?) change form. Thus, border composition "Shami", that reached our time and occupies a particularly important place in the Azerbaijani, Turkish and Central Asian rugs – was nothing else but the handwriting of kyufi, which gradually lost its original meaning and has acquired a variety of ornamental forms.
Note that the borders, "Shami" (IN) Azerbaijani carpets date back to the border adornments of carpets namazlyk Mehrabi (PRAYER RUG WITH NICHE), which bore, in their time, religious nature. The fact that the Azerbaijani kovrotkachi (WEAVERS) call this border "Shami", once again proves the validity of our opinion.
(Note: the prayer rugs mentioned by Kerimov should be the ones posted above in this page)

From my reading of other parts of the book I’m confident that kovrotkachi means weavers, or carpet makers.

I resume the meaning of the above text, as I understand it:

- the border in question derives from Kufic calligraphy
- its meaning was gradually lost and acquired a purely decorative form
- Azerbaijani weavers called it – and I stress, in all of its variations, not only the Caucasian version, and for unspecified reasons - “Shami”

Now, “Shami” means “from Sham”.
I knew that Sham, in Arabic, means Damascus. Wikipedia confirms it but it enlarges its meaning:
Sham, (Arabic: شام), al-Sham, or Bilad al-Sham, endonym of the region bordering the eastern Mediterranean Sea, usually known as the Levant or Greater Syria, comprising modern Syria, Lebanon, Israel, the Palestinian Territories and Jordan

ash-Shām, or Sham (الشام), another name for Damascus, the largest city in the region


I think Kerimov is right: they called it Shami simply because this calligraphy, NOT the border design, was introduced by invaders from the region of Greater Siria.

Anyway, does it matters?

I mean: what is the point of using the Azerbaijani weaver’s name? I bet that in Daghestan (or other ethnicities) they call it differently. Years ago I had a long debate on this pages with a rug dealer from Azerbaijan, because a rug composition called by Kerimov “Gabala” or “Gymyl” was named in a Soviet book, (Daghestan decorative art), as “Djakul”. But that was the way it was called in Daghestan!

And why apply a local Azero-centric label for a border used on rugs of different countries?

At this point, seeing that even Kerimov admits the “Kuficity” of the border, let’s call it Kufic!


So, as I have told before, I’ll stay happily with the old, good "Kufic border" definition. Or Kufesque.

Wait... on a second thought I’m sort of contrary to “Kufesque” because, as I cannot understand it, how the heck can I tell if it’s really Kufic or simply an imitation of it?

Having said that… You can call it whatever you fancy, of course.
Regards,

Filiberto

P.S. (March 20th) - I modified and improved a bit Kermimov’s translation using Yahoo’s "Babel Fish". Nothing changed, substantially, because it confirmed some of my first deductions that were included between brackets, which are now deleted.

P.P.S. - After hours of internet search I couldn't find the translation for
ковроткачи = kovrotkachi
but I found that
carpet, rug = коврик, ковер
March 19th, 2012, 09:30 AM   24
Cornelius Frandes
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Hi Paul,

You are right. I was vaxing lyrical a bit. I quite agree with what you say now that I am in more sober mood

Quote:
Volkmar Gantzhorn, apparently, who started seeing crosses all over carpet weaving (which are a natural product of weaving with warp and weft foundation), leading him to the peculiar suggestion that the Turkmen were Christians.
Yes.
"Cross-like designs may indicate a past history of Christian influence that left an indelible print and were preserved among time-honored symbols. Prior to the introduction of Sunni Islam by Arabs in the late 10th century, Nestorian Christianity had spread among Turkmen in the 4th century A.D. "

I guess the key word of this statement is "may".

As for the Celtic 'trumpet curve' it seems that it is a post-Christian thing
As Neil Collins points out in his "Celtic Art in Britain, Ireland: History, Designs: Influence of Ancient Celts on British Art"
Quote:
In time, the trumpet curve appears and is used long after the introduction of Christianity
...so relatively recent. A Moorish, an Oriental influence or something of the stort can not be entirely dismissed and the 'trumpet' being related or not to the boteh still a matter of contentiousness.

Regards,
C.
March 19th, 2012, 09:56 AM   25
Steve Price
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Hi Cornelius

On the other hand, cross-like elements are prominent in the border of the Pazyryk carpet. Since it predates the birth of Jesus by about 400 years and the introduction of Nestorian Christianity to the Turkmen by about 800 years, there is no compelling reason to hypothesize that cross-like elements in later carpets are remnants of Christian iconography.

... the 'trumpet' being related or not to the boteh still a matter of contentiousness.
I don't understand how anything that has no evidence (for or against) its being correct can be contentious.

Regards

Steve Price
March 19th, 2012, 10:16 AM  26
Paul Smith
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Cornelius,

Not to focus outside the overall topic here, but I think you may have misread your source on Celtic art. Wikipedia has a decent article on it... The "La Tene" style of Celtic design from Central Europe emerges about 500BC, and is the earliest appearance of the so-called "trumpet curve," so is definitely Pre-Christian, but your source is correct that it survives into the Christian period, turning up all over the illuminations in the Book of Kells, for example.

Paul
March 19th, 2012, 02:24 PM   27
Cornelius Frandes
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Hi Steve and Paul!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve Price
On the other hand, cross-like elements are prominent in the border of the Pazyryk carpet. Since it predates the birth of Jesus by about 400 years and the introduction of Nestorian Christianity to the Turkmen by about 800 years, there is no compelling reason to hypothesize that cross-like elements in later carpets are remnants of Christian iconography.

Exactly. There is no doubt that the cross transcendes beyond Christianity so any traces of it (real, imaginary or coincidental) on the Turkmen carpets should not automatically be ascribed to the respective religion. To quote from wiki "The cross-shaped sign, represented in its simplest form by a crossing of two lines at right angles, greatly antedates, in both East and West, the introduction of Christianity. It goes back to a very remote period of human civilization."

Quote:
... the 'trumpet' being related or not to the boteh still a matter of contentiousness.
I don't understand how anything that has no evidence (for or against) its being correct can be contentious.
I like sometimes to abide by the (controversial) adage "evidence of absence is not absence of evidence". It's one of those high risk, high reward things.

Actually there is this article
published by HALI a while ago titled 'Paisley polemics' which is worth having a look at:

Quote:
With Paisley's rich, globe-trotting history, 'ownership' is a gray area. The idiosyncratic 'pine' motif is thought to be a representation of the growing shoot of the date palm, which seems to have originated in ancient Chaldea (Babylon), spreading into Egypt, India and to prehistoric Europe. To the Chaldeans the date palm was a tree of life, an essential part of their existence as a provider of food, wine, thatch, wood, paper and string. The 'pine', as a representation of the male part of the palm, came to symbolise the renewal of life itself. The symbol was incorporated into textile, embroideries, tiles and carvings, and became an important element of early Indian art. The motif can also be seen in European decorative art including Celtic art, but this influence was to be replaced by Classical Greek and Roman patterns.
Shawls incorporating the motif began to be woven in Kashmir late in the 17th century in a delicate, naturalistic style. By the early 18th century the motif had evolved into the ubiquitous boteh, meaning 'flower', a stylised densely packed pyramid of flowers stemming from a vase (an influence of Indo-Persian art). From 1770 onwards, the boteh began to look more and more like a curling pointed leaf filled with floral patterns. As such it was widely used on a great variety of Caucasian village rugs and on Persian tribal and urban rugs and textiles of the 19th century.
Trumpet curve: characteristic motif found in insular Celtic art, so-named because of its resemblance to the bell-end of a hunting horn.

('Celtic art' by Barry Raftery, Paul Marie Duval, Unesco, 1990)

Quote:
The "La Tene" style of Celtic design from Central Europe emerges about 500BC, and is the earliest appearance of the so-called "trumpet curve," so is definitely Pre-Christian
Yes. I am more and more convinced that it had been a case of the boteh 'migrating' from East to prehistoric West and back to East, probably carried by the Roman legionnaires in Asia, and not a case of Moorish influences on the post-early Christian 'Celtic' art of Ireland, or at least so the Hali article suggests.

Regards,
C.
March 19th, 2012, 04:52 PM   28
Steve Price
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cornelius Frandes
I like sometimes to abide by the (controversial) adage "evidence of absence is not absence of evidence".
Hi Cornelius

Actually, that's backwards. Absence of evidence isn't evidence of absence.

But my point was that if there's no evidence (for or against), I don't see how the matter can be contentious. What can the opposing contenders contend except "I'm right, so you must be wrong"?


Regards

Steve Price
March 20th, 2012, 05:07 PM   29
Horst Nitz
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The Kufesque and the Burlesque in Rug Idiomacy

Hi Rich, yes I am familiar with the modern day usage of Sham as a name for Damascus. However, since we are talking about the development of rug designs, I meant the wider, traditional interpretation that incorporates East Syria / Assyria (in one source even Egypt). Back to the beginning, I also have heard that some call it a lucky day on which they have managed the journey over the mountains in the opposite direction with Beirut as their destination. More of the reasons behind this and to anybody who is intrigued with Damascus, Rafik Schami’s ‘The Dark Side of Love’ makes wonderful if somewhat disturbing reading: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2009/jun/21/dark-side-of-love-rafik-schami

Hi Filiberto, you are striding a different road. Bravo for recommending ‘Shorthand Kufic’ and ‘Lazy Kufic’ (your post dated 27th February; I admit co-authorship, but in the essence it is yours, only the exact wording by me) to the glossary of illustrious rug terms. It makes me laugh as much as it drives me tears into the eyes, truly burlesque in the traditional Italian meaning http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burlesque and obviously not in the neo usage by stars like Dita von Teese, who evokes no associations of Kufic but gives the old wineglass-border a fascinating new ring http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TuiX4G92jcA .

Hi Cornelius, it seems the kufesque or pseudo-kufic writing is not confined to western Christianity. Last week, after a speech by an expert on pre- and early Islamic script development from Riyadh University, we kept discussing in a smaller circle. As a result it seems to me, ornamentation as an approximation of the sacred writing of the Koran would have been appreciated in an Islamic context.

There is another perspective on it. An Il-khanid ceremonial robe in the Agha Khan Collection comes to my mind, that is very probably not Islamic: http://www.akdn.org/museum/detail.asp?artifactid=1276 . You can use the magnifier to look at the pseudo-inscriptions mentioned in the text. My knowledge is nearly exhaust with the observation that some of the pseudo-writing (see the tall, antithetic number-one like letters?) and the cross-like flower medallion also make an appearance in the chained medallion / Shami border. Since (the Mongols having been the declared enemies of the Muslim powers in the region) the pseudo-inscription is neither derived from Arabic Kufic nor in Mongol Script, what is it? Georgian or Syriac Kufic, who can tell, entirely decorative? Several such textiles seem to exist in church treasures, perhaps presents to the Pope and other European celebrities by Mongol ambassadors. Armenia, Georgia and some smaller kingdoms in the 13th and during the first half of the 14th century were trusted vasals of the Mongol, the remaining territory including East Anatolia (the closely associated border in Divrigi and SPH rugs) and Mesopotamia a Mongol dominion. With your earlier reference and the pseudo-kufic writing in the halo of the virgin in mind I dare suggest, from a western perspective, we might be dealing with a decorative style that appreciates and perhaps enacts that formulated but never fruit-bearing 13th century alliance against the remaining Muslim power, the Mamluks, between the Francs and the Mongols:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franco-Mongol_alliance#cite_note-Jackson169-100

Hi Steve, who would have thought there would come a day where you see crosses that I don’t? Of any decent cross I think one can at least expect intersection, let alone the 90° angle. This is not the case in the border of the Pazyryk rug, the only crosses there are made up by crossing weaving-lines. I seem to remember I’ve read you arguing along this line. The cross-like elements within the cassettes in the field are a different matter. I agree with you, that anybody who should want to interpret them in a context of Christian crosses should be prepared to provide evidence for his claim. Undeniably too, the ascent of the Christian church after Christ in East and West was a powerful stimulus and a performance condition for the spread of the cross as a religious symbol and as a symbol in art all over the surface of the earth. Epistemology and the methodological good practice guide will have it, that in an area with a recorded Christian history the weight of providing evidence that the cross on artefacts from that very area is not a Christian cross should be on those who argue against it, especially if that cross matches significant design aspects.

Have fun, Horst
March 20th, 2012, 07:10 PM   30
Steve Price
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Hi Horst

... in an area with a recorded Christian history the weight of providing evidence that the cross on artefacts from that very area is not a Christian cross should be on those who argue against it, especially if that cross matches significant design aspects.

Absolutely. Crosses on Armenian rugs can be presumed to be Christian or to derive from Christian symbols.

Regards

Steve Price
March 21st, 2012, 12:16 AM  31
Horst Nitz
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Hi Steve,

yes, that is the easy case.

If needed by someone, I can provide HR detailed images of the Aga Khan Collection Mongol kaftan.

Regards, Horst
March 21st, 2012, 08:42 AM 32
Filiberto Boncompagni
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Hi Horst,

Actually, you just demonstrated that the only Burlesque-content generator here it’s you.

And it's not even funny…

Regards,

Filiberto
March 25th, 2012, 03:47 PM   33
Horst Nitz
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Hi Filiberto and all,

yes, there is a limit to the amount of fun one can derive from the show on the (cocktail-) wineglass border by burlesque actor Dita von Teese. The same goes for burlesque rug terms.

Apparently, in your post of 27 Feb you were taking the view, since there are so many misnomers already in the rug glossary, one more would not matter. On this we differ.

Each of us constructs his own rug-world by means of the words and terms we use and share. We also perceive through these terms. The more faulty terms we use, the more biased, patchy and skewed become our conceptions and theories. Because of this we sometimes feel the awkward sensation creeping up on us, that in Rugdom we are on our way with a map that doesn’t match the territory.

I don’t know where most of you folks dwell. I am privileged in that I live in a city with museums and universities, art history faculties and colloquia in Islamic art. There you can meet those eager young woman and sophisticated young men with light scarves around their neck that suggest them as the next generation museum directors. Elsewhere they make their absence felt. I am talking about rug-society meetings now. Its something I enjoy going to when I can find the time. At every other meeting in the last few years at some point concern was being raised about meetings being over-aged. I have been having no answer to this until this thread. Now I wonder, whether the over-age concern is substantiated. Maybe such meetings and this forum are totally age appropriate, for it may need the stoutness or seasoned resilience that only comes with age and that is needed to endure in the jungle of misnomers and skewed conceptions, with a map that doesn’t match he territory. Young people are more likely to run away in screams from such a situation or avoid it. They are looking for transparency, for an ordered set of ideas and theories, and a sense of increased mastery that comes with learning within a reasonable time span, i.e. for all that for which Rugdom apparently does not stand. Reform is needed if we want to rejuvenate.

This is the wider context behind my objections to the colloquial ‘shorthand’ usage of the term ‘kufic.’ However, ‘shorthand cufic’ and ‘lazy cufic’ make good generic terms for all those misnomers and skewed conceptions, Rugdom abounds with. They give themselves away immediately as not wanting to be taken seriously and attach a light-hearted connotation to the terms collected in the ‘Shorthand Kufic Chapter’ of the immaginary rug glossary. What shall become the first entries? Against the Kufic border on Caucasian rugs you would probably put in a veto – perhaps we begin with the ‘wine-glass’ border and the ‘mother-goddess’?

By the way, I am not sure whether I am reading you correctly. To be on the safe side

….. and while no one can say with confidence what a boteh really is….”I do. It’s a vegetal motif.“ (Your post of 19 March)

This is not meant to be taken seriously, is it?

Regards, Horst
March 25th, 2012, 04:09 PM   34
Steve Price
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Hi Horst

Funny you should mention boteh. We have had a number of threads about their origin and meaning, the most popular candidate readings (as I recall) were flower bud and candle flame. But some were much further afield. It occurs on some pre-Columbian Andean textiles, which led one of our participants to believe that they were images of gourds, the motif traveling between the Old and New Worlds by floating across the Atlantic Ocean (I don't recall the direction or how the problem of negotiating the Mediterranean was handled).

Regards

Steve Price
March 26th, 2012, 06:01 AM   35
Filiberto Boncompagni
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Hi Hortz,
Quote:
This is not meant to be taken seriously, is it?
Oh yes, it is. Absolutely. You don’t remember that discussion, don’t you? Speaking about old age…

If you cared to read the link content, you should have remembered why I call it “vegetal motif”: you too chimed in briefly, and although you were not in full agreement with me, you didn’t show a full disagreement either.

Like, if you care to read the orientalrugtalk.com link - which so far you have not because I did not see from you a single objection to the arguments in it – you will understand that the term “Kufic” is not a misnomer. If you want I can elaborate further.

As for misnomers, have a look, please, at “The So-Called Leaf and Wineglass Border” thread
http://turkotek.com/VB37/showthread.php?t=989
in the “Rugs and Old Masters” > “Animals in paintings” section, where I make no doubt that the name is a misnomer. The thread quotes also a post made by Wendel Swan in an older discussion, to which, by the way, Steve wrote an interesting answer that synthesizes fairly also my point of view:

Quote:
Posted by Steve Price on 07-16-2007 09:38 PM:
Hi Wendel

The practice of naming a motif or design with terms reflecting something familiar doesn't necessarily imply that the observer thinks that this is what it represents. There are probably some who think the "wineglass and leaf" border actually represents wineglasses and leaves, but most just use the term as a convenient descriptor. There are lots of examples of this. Latchhooks, for instance, or beetles. I doubt that anyone thinks the "latchhook" device is really a representation of latchhooks, and I don't think I've ever seen a claim that the design on "beetle bags" actually represents a beetle. Likewise for the "tuning fork" on some Turkmen ensis, the "bow tie" on some Turkmen borders, and the list goes on.

I think these are useful shorthands in communication, although they do occasionally get taken too literally, mostly (but not exclusively) by novice collectors.
And I think it represents the approach we take here on Turkotek on the subject and it doesn’t means at all that we endorse Burlesque Significance.

Funny thing, this is not the first time we talk about the Kufic border, and you never objected to it before.

And if you suddenly have a problem with misnomers in the Rugdom - which doesn’t seems to me such a tragic issue if they are used with awareness - you should have rightly picked up borders like the “Wineglass” one, or the “Crab Border”, or the “Running Dog Border”, just to name a few in the Caucasian rugs section.

You choose instead the “Kufic Border”, a fairly legitimate definition. Go figure.

Ah, yes, I see that you haven’t registered yet what I wrote in post #23, so I feel compelled to repeat it:
Quote:
Anyway, if before I was distractedly willing to concede that this particular “Kufic border”

could be a misnomer (but NOT a “rug lore”), now I am convinced that it is an absolutely valid definition.
And, incidentally, what happened to your “Schami border”? You didn’t answer to my objections. You conveniently forgot it?

Because, if this is the case – me presenting arguments and you ignoring them – this is not a proper discussion. If you do not answer to my confutations – or you try to evade them in a “Burlesque” way - I don’t see why I should continue wasting my time. I agree that we disagree and that’s all, folks.
Filiberto
March 31st, 2012, 05:51 AM 36
Horst Nitz
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Hi Filiberto,

a few words before I have to zoom. I can't constantly monitor what is going on here in order no to miss an opportunity to chip in and put others right on something. Its not my idea of fun, spoiling others people' sport in this way. I also have too much on my plate in various directions. But, not having commented on something does not imply I go along with it. When I take part in a discussion I am more likely somewhat indirect and say things like 'entertainment value' as I haver done in the Beshir thread where Martin has also demonstrated his method. Perhaps this is too indirect and nobody has noticed. Now, he force-feeds the Photoshop catheder through a preexisting structure and arbitrarily choses waypoints that seem suitable to him to support his projection, i.e. scripture or Ottoman tulip. The subsequent interpretation is not based on what was there before or what remains, it is based on the second layer structure introduced by himself. This is rug play on an advanced level, but not scientific. A kufic script can follow an unsual or complicated ductus, but it has to be readible as an original to qualify as a script. This is a conditio sine qua non and you should accept it; if its not readible it may be ornamental.

It seems we have at least two classes of misnomers: the wineglass, crab, latch-hook, Holbein, Memling etc. going in one. No one here would mixe them up with the real thing. I call them surrogates or spaceholders, they can stay until we have found better terms. The second class terms are more of a problem because they obstruct adequate perception and theory building if applied in a wrong sense, i.e. your usage of kufic.

Good find those botehs. Their significance has by far not been fully assessed it seems to me. Perhaps we can find a future occasion. Do you know these 4th and 7th c BC Skythian gold 'botehs' from Kasachstan and Truva / Siberia? They make for an interesting link to the textile variant. Bye the way, with reference to the land bridge mentioned by Steve, Truva is about same distance from Alexandria as from Anchorage / Alaska. So, its much work waiting for you to get done, Filiberto, before you legitimately can assume the title of the one man knowing about the boteh, while the others of us can't say with certainty

Regards, Horst
March 31st, 2012, 12:29 PM   37
Steve Price
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Hi Horst

I have little to contribute to the debate, but would like to comment on one small piece of your post:
The subsequent interpretation is not based on what was there before or what remains, it is based on the second layer structure introduced by himself. This is rug play on an advanced level, but not scientific.

There are lots of paths to truth besides science, and the only time I get exercised about it is when someone presents some information as scientific evidence when it isn't that at all.

Regards

Steve Price
April 1st, 2012, 02:59 PM  38
Filiberto Boncompagni
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Dear Horst,

If you want to discuss about the Boteh, you are welcome. Feel free to open a new thread on the subject.

Let’ stay here on the topic you choose to discuss, the Kufic - or otherwise – border.
You refer to Martin Andersen as “he force-feeds the Photoshop catheder through a preexisting structure and arbitrarily choses waypoints that seem suitable to him to support his projection, i.e. scripture or Ottoman tulip.

I don’t know what “catheder” means. Catheter, perhaps? How unkind…
And before going further I need to know if, with that phrase, you are referring to this picture:



And what do you mean for “ottoman Tulip” in this context.

Thanks,
Filiberto
April 4th, 2012, 02:42 AM   39
Filiberto Boncompagni
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Hi Horst,
Another question: do you understand Arabic?
April 4th, 2012, 08:05 PM  40
Martin Andersen
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Hi Horst and All

The kufic ornamentation, or the kufesque ornamentation, certainly is the correct and common stylistic name for a wide and differentiated intersection between floral ornament and calligraphic script. And the kufic border discussed here surely makes totally sense as being called exactly "the kufic border", that is not something I can take credit for having invented in Photoshop

Not that I want to fuel a long discussion regarding this, but I don't hope I anywhere have presented any of my interpretations as scientific, because they of course are not. Horst describes my interpretations as rather a dubious method forcing a second layer over a subject. I don't think that is quite fair. All I am doing is using historical parallel pictorial material and analogies in trying to understand strings of possible stylistic and artistic developments. Speculative connections of course, and some of these connections may be farfetched (or wrong), but they are not subjective or invented second layers, they are based on examples and rather factual material. As in a lot of other interesting and comparative discussions here on Turkotek.

For me it is just simply sometimes interesting trying to see the rugs in a broad cultural and artistic context of historical connections and developments. Probably because I find this to be an essential part of the rugs nature as transportable, exchangeable and constantly fluctuating artistic material.

best Martin
(sorry for the long rant, slightly of topic)
April 5th, 2012, 03:36 AM  41
Filiberto Boncompagni
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Hi Martin,

Thank you for chiming in.
That is a long rant? You have no idea of what I am capable of.

I hope that your intervention doesn't distract Horst from answering my three questions, because the answers are important for this discussion.
I repeat them:

Horst, I need to know (1) if, with that phrase, you are referring to this picture:



And (2) what do you mean for “ottoman Tulip” in this context.

(3) Do you understand Arabic?

Best regards,

Filiberto
April 5th, 2012, 06:26 AM   42
Martin Andersen
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Hi All

As Horst might have lost the entertainment quality of this discussion, I take liberty of trying to fuel it up a bit

I suppose it is obvious that putting the sample that Filiberto posts up in line basically gives us a version of the "kufic border":


Reading the actual words in kufic ornamentation is not easy. For example the orientation of letters ornamentally can shift from vertical to horizontal, and a single letter may be used in more than one word to create a sentence. Extracting the word Allah from Filibertos sample can look like this:


Less complicated versions of the word Allah in kufic ornamentation of course also exist. But it is certainly no wonder that non-arabic speaking, and probably also ilitterate, craftsmen like weavers have kind of given up on the complicated readability on whole Quran surahs, and resolved to formalizing the script into symmetrised ornamentation.
The speculative part in this on my behalf (especially regarding the Seljuk rugs), is that the profoundly important word Allah, which is quite easy to read and almost have iconographic status in Islam, might have retained its ornamental readability, perhaps as a kind of symmetrised sign, longer than the rest of the language in this process. And that the non-readable rug ornaments, at least in the Seljuk rugs, still carried a religious connotation. Something I find highly interesting in relation to the general Aniconism in Islam.

best Martin
April 5th, 2012, 07:42 AM  43
Filiberto Boncompagni
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Hi Martin,
I have more to say on the subject of what we should expect to find written on a Kufic border.
Unfortunately I’m not at home until the end of the week and cannot access my books. Besides, now I am on a slow, unreliable but expensive EDGE connection (it should be 3G but when 3G fails, the much slower EDGE kicks in).
And before that, I’m looking forward to Horst’s answers, which should give us food for thought.
Regards,
Filiberto
April 5th, 2012, 08:17 AM   44
Martin Andersen
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Hi Filiberto

I will just try to clarify a bit more:

Here is a version of the below extracted word Allah mirrored along its own axis, a pattern making method which I suppose we all can agree is totally basic rug vocabulary - and not my photoshop invention)



Of course this is not a 100% match, but if we put in perhaps a couple of centuries illiterate weaving, I would say its a surprisingly close match.
For me this not just like for example mirroring two different half-circles to get a matching a full circle. This is a match between two separately extremely complicated figures with a lot of specific details.

best Martin
April 5th, 2012, 09:47 AM   45
Steve Price
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Hi Martin

I very much appreciate your approach; not many of our readers can even try to see what's going on with Arabic script or any of its variations. One of the things I find interesting is the number of elements in your manipulation of the word Allah that some ruggies would read as bird heads, serpents, dragons, and who knows what else.

Regards

Steve Price
April 5th, 2012, 06:37 PM   46
Martin Andersen
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Hi All

Here is an overview of calligraphic kufic variations of the word "Allah":



One could say that the "kufic border" from the rugs is stylistically related to a mixture of foliated kufic and knotted kufic.

And here the word "Allah" in knotted kufic compared to the older version of the "kufic border" on the Herat miniature:



best Martin
April 5th, 2012, 08:11 PM   47
George Potter
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Hi Martin,

Nice presentation. You can count square kufic out of the equation. I have only seen this script on Ottoman prayer rugs. I run a non-profit site at devoted to this script and although the site has not been updated for a while I try to keep up to date about the script.

With the kufic border, have we considered ligatures? There are on old Malay coins like Acheh gold kepings a kufic ligature that is similar, but unrelated in geography and time, to these borders. I managed to sell my book on Islamic coinage so I can´t unfortunately check the meaning.

Best

George
April 5th, 2012, 08:14 PM   48
George Potter
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site at; should be:

http://www.kufic.info/
April 6th, 2012, 04:34 AM   49
Martin Andersen
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Thanks George, very interesting site. Actually a bit strange that square kufic haven't been used more in weaving and rugs, the grid of weft and warp could have provided endless possibilities of miniscule sentences within sentences

best Martin
April 6th, 2012, 06:17 AM   50
Steve Price
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Hi Martin

Most likely, the reason weavers weren't doing those things is that they were nearly all illiterate. Your bringing in a more sophisticated approach to the kufic/kufesque issue in Rugdom has really been fascinating (and, George, thank you for your contribution to it). It deserves a wider audience than our readership, in my opinion.

Regards

Steve Price
April 6th, 2012, 06:20 AM   51
Guido_Engel
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Hi Martin and all,

In preislamic Arabia, Allah had three daughters, one of them called al-lat (the female form of Allah). Her idol was a square rock - like the center of the kufic border.

Best

Guido
April 6th, 2012, 06:30 AM   52
Martin Andersen
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Here is another way of generating a version of the kufic rug border from a knotted/foliated calligraphy, simply removing the readable part of the letters and mirror their ornamentatal prolongation :



best Martin
(and any daughters of Allah I will leave up our Guiding Engel to illustrate )
April 6th, 2012, 08:04 AM   53
Filiberto Boncompagni
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Hi Guys,

Have you thought about the Basmala?
From Wikipedia:

Quote:
Basmala (Arabic: بسملة‎ basmala) or Bismillah[1] (Arabic: بسم الله‎) is an Arabic noun used as a collective name for the whole of the recurring Islamic phrase b-ismi-llāhi r-raḥmāni r-raḥīmi, It is sometimes translated as "In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful". This phrase is recited before each sura, except for the ninth; according to others it constitutes the first verse of 113 suras/chapters of the Qur'an, and is used in a number of contexts by Muslims. It is recited several times as part of daily prayers, and is usually the first phrase in the preamble of the constitutions of Islamic countries. It also forms the start of many dedication inscriptions on gravestones, buildings, and works of art, which go on to name the deceased or the donor.



Regards,

Filiberto
April 6th, 2012, 08:28 AM   54
Filiberto Boncompagni
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The Basmala as a source for borders on carpets, that is.
April 6th, 2012, 09:02 AM   55
Guido_Engel
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Hi Martin,

You misunderstood. I didn't want to say that the square is Allah's daughter. I just wanted to show that it is always problematic to say which symbol is the older one and which one is the modified copy of the other one. Maybe the weavers were illiterate, maybe they did exactly know what they wanted to express, nobody knows. Nevertheless, I find your ideas very interesting.

Guido
April 6th, 2012, 09:16 AM  56
Martin Andersen
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Sure Filiberto, the calligraphic version of "basmala" may have been the background of the border. Perhaps as one of many possibilities within a specific layout scheme for kufic ornamentation which priorities symmetry and intersected medallions (and I was actually using the same illustration as you in my last mirroring)

The complete sentence should be like this:
بِسْمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحْمٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ
bismi llāhi r-raḥmāni r-raḥīmi
(In the Name of Allāh, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful)

So the illustration is missing the "bismi" and starting with the word "Allah" (as far as I can see. I better underline I really dont read arabic)

And Guido, I agree (if I understand you correctly) there is a very interesting area in how text and ornament may have given form to each other, back and forth.

best Martin
April 6th, 2012, 12:20 PM   57
Guido_Engel
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Hi Martin,

That's what I meant.

Happy Easter to all.

Guido
April 7th, 2012, 10:59 AM   58
Martin Andersen
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Hi All

To be fair to Horst seing the kufic border as medallion and leaf motif, i would say that it of course is more than likely that the ornamented foliated and knotted kufic calligraphy have drawn heavily on preexisting ornamental schemes in its specific ornaments, perhaps classical floral architectonical ornaments.

best Martin
April 8th, 2012, 11:39 AM  59
Filiberto Boncompagni
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Hi Martin,

I’m not sure I follow you…

Last week I stumbled upon an old-ish book: David James, “Islamic Art. An introduction”. London, etc. (Hamlyn) 1974.

At page 19 there is something concerning our discussion: ”Foliated Kufic was sometimes set against a curling pattern of leaves and tendrils and in this event its resemblance to its elaborate related form, floriated Kufic, is even more pronounced. The floriated form, however, is readily distinguishable by the fact that, in addition to the characteristics mentioned in connection with foliated Kufic, leaves and palmettes actually grow from the body of the letters themselves.

Is this you are talking about? Anyway, the text continues with this:

Whenever floriated Kufic was used to write Koranic quotations on a mosque interior, its apparent indecipherability did not present the kind of problem which we might suppose: Koranic inscriptions were not there to be read but to create a divine presence; and had it ever been necessary to interpret them no difficulty would have arisen, as learning the Koran by heart was the cornerstone of Islamic education.”

By the way, this should take care of Horst’s opinion illustrated here:
Quote:
A kufic script can follow an unsual or complicated ductus, but it has to be readible as an original to qualify as a script. This is a conditio sine qua non and you should accept it; if its not readible it may be ornamental.
On page 22 of the same book there is the illustration related to the quoted text:



Surprise, surprise: this is the same illustration you used. Actually, I don’t know were you found yours, but according to the caption this images was, in turn, borrowed from “Hill and Grabar”.
I presume it should be “O. Grabar & D. Hill, Islamic architecture and its decoration AD 800-1500, London, 1967” so this image has been around for 45 years. You didn’t photoshop-ped this particular one for sure and you are not the one to stand the accusation of being arbitrary and un-scientific. Why didn’t you mention it?

OK – I couldn’t find the actual translation of the Kufic text, but I managed to find the real thing, if anybody is interested:



Abdullah Ansari Shrine Complex Gazargah Afghanistan (Timurid period/style, 15th c.)
View of Ansari's tomb, set on a decorated platform and enclosed within a wooden structure (see following link):
http://archnet.org/library/images/one-image.jsp?location_id=12522&image_id=111392

Even if the translation isn’t available, we should be able to assume with confidence that this is actually a real text.

But assuming is not very scientific and I don’t read Arabic. So, I asked.

To my wife, first: she reads Arabic, although she doesn’t write it. She can make out the word “Allah” but not the rest.
So, she asked to some of her colleagues. Four Arabs (and Muslim, to be on the safe side) journalists who work for the Arab service of the Agence France Presse. In Arabic, of course.

As mentioned in David James’ book above, the task of deciphering a Kufic script is VERY difficult. They put their heads together. So far, the verdict isn't out. They can read Allah, though, which confirms our suspects: it's a Kufic script indeed

For the moment, it’s the best I can do. Still waiting for answers from more Arabic-readers.
I'll let you know
Regards,

Filiberto
April 8th, 2012, 12:40 PM   60
Filiberto Boncompagni
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Breaking News!

The brother of a friend of one of my wife’s colleagues is a calligraphist.
He says that the translation reads “There Is No God But God Alone".

A quick "Google search" result: this inscription is also found on Jerusalem’s Dome of the Rock. To be precise, on the outer face of the Octagonal Arcade, direction South:
In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful. There is no god but God alone, without
partner. Say: He is God, One, God the Everlasting, who has not begotten and has not been begotten. He
is without equal [Qur’an 112] Muhammad is God’s messenger, may God bless him


Regards and Happy Easter,

Filiberto
April 8th, 2012, 01:06 PM   61
Martin Andersen
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thanks a lot Filiberto. I found the illustration on the net, with the text "Herat, sandstone 15th" and I have been looking like h.... for photo of it, and here it is, and such a beautiful photo.
best Martin
April 8th, 2012, 01:16 PM   62
Martin Andersen
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and I were also wondering if the carving were a singular inscription or part of a larger ornament - and actually it certainly looks like its a repeating border going round the shrine exactly like this :

April 8th, 2012, 06:08 PM   63
Lloyd Kannenberg
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Hello All,

This is a really interesting discussion! But with all due respect, it has drifted away from "Karagashli" to "Kufic/Kufesque (or whatever) script". Might it not be appropriate at this point to move the more recent posts to a new thread? Just a question.

Lloyd Kannenberg
April 8th, 2012, 09:32 PM   64
Steve Price
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Hi Lloyd

Point well taken. I'll try to get to that tomorrow.

Thanks.

Steve Price
April 9th, 2012, 05:52 AM   65
Guido_Engel
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Hi Filiberto,

You mentioned" to create a divine presence". For me that"s the point. Many symbols and ornaments are intended to create or conjure a divine presence (or in other religious forms the presence of a supernatural force regulating life,death and regeneration); by the way that"s what I wanted to express last year when I mentioned the arch as a line to this"divine" sphere (otherworld).

In connection with the kufic border there remains only one question for me: is it pure islamic or has it possibly also other roots? The ornaments in the corners are very similar to Luri and Gashgai border elements and the center resembles Turkic elements.

Congratulations to you and Martin for your investigations

Guido
April 9th, 2012, 11:23 AM   66
Filiberto Boncompagni
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The old "Karagashli?" thread is gone. Welcome to the new thread, folks.

Hi, Martin, you are welcome. The photo is beautiful indeed and, yes, it shows “a repeating border going round the shrine exactly like” – allow me – the one on Caucasian carpets.

Thanks, Guido.
Quote:
In connection with the kufic border there remains only one question for me: is it pure islamic or has it possibly also other roots? The ornaments in the corners are very similar to Luri and Gashgai border elements and the center resembles Turkic elements.
Well, IMHO I think it’s more likely that Luri and Gashgai were inspired by Islamic art, born in a “City/Court” context, then the other way around. Which doesn’t exclude the possibility of other external influences, of course.
For example, on George Potter’s interesting website (I haven’t yet explored in full but I will do, time permitting):

http://www.kufic.info/

it is mentioned the possibility of a Chinese influence on the “Square Kufic”.
But I am no expert on the subject.

Regards,

Filiberto
April 9th, 2012, 03:36 PM  67
George Potter
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Thank you Filiberto for the compliment. The origin of square kufic is often said to have a connection to Chinese seals in literature. My own opinion is that it was derived from the grids used in architectural scrolls that were used in the region.

Martin wrote:

Quote:
Actually a bit strange that square kufic haven't been used more in weaving and rugs, the grid of weft and warp could have provided endless possibilities of miniscule sentences within sentences.
I believe this could be because old square kufic inscriptions and decoration always represents sacred texts that would not have been walked on. There are a handful of rugs with the script on and in miniature painting it seems as if tents where decorated with it. There is also an Ottoman textile with square kufic on it. Maybe it was common in clothing of the IlKhanid and Timurid periods but now lost, although I have not seen it on clothing in miniatures.

George
April 9th, 2012, 04:44 PM  68
Martin Andersen
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Hi George and All

I am aware that Quran quotes and suras including the word Allah are very rare on lying rugs. But a direct prohibition against it, on account of the danger of unclean feet stepping on sacred words, is as far as I know customary - and not described in the Quran or in the Hadiths (probably with good reason as such items were not existing in the time of the profet). Customs regarding this may have shifted during time. And if for example the rugs were placed in Mosques (as the Seljuk rugs were), then of course any feet would have been ritually cleaned before entering, and that may in some customs have been enough.
The Herat miniature earlier in the tread for me clearly depicts a girl (which in itself on the contrary is directly prohibited) with her feet on the border with what I see as a very close resemblance to the word Allah. Her feet are rather strangely depicted and covered as a contrast to her arms and head, so perhaps the painter have been a bit uncomfortable about the relation between the border and her feet. Later weavers may have felt this stronger and developed the border even more away from the script and towards abstract ornamentation.

best Martin

Last edited by Martin Andersen; April 9th, 2012 at 05:03 PM.
April 10th, 2012, 09:54 AM   69
Rich Larkin
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Hi folks,

I found the attitude of muslim Arabs about the religious significance of secular practices to be complicated. For example, my understanding is that dogs are considered ritually unclean (نجس) according to Islamic principles. When we used to approach the (largely friendly...go figure!) wild dogs on the edge of town in Riyadh, local people would appear repulsed. But we asked them, "What about the Salukis, prized and kept by the Bedouin?" "That's different," was the reply. I would think there was a similar ambivalence and complexity about the attitude towards sacred inscriptions on carpets.

Rich Larkin
April 10th, 2012, 12:11 PM   70
Filiberto Boncompagni
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Apparently the fact that the personage (an eunuch?) of this miniature has his boots on the Kufic border, doesn’t distract the Sultan from the object of his attention (1444 Timurid period. Herat school. Ferdowsi Shahnameh. Royal Asiatic Soc. London):



Here are two details from miniatures, showing Kufic borders (probably with proper Kufic script) that look like the ancestors of the Caucasian/Kufic ones.

1425. Timurid period. Herat school. Poet Sa'di and friend. Detail. Chester Beatty Lib. Dublin:



miniature painting believed to show the Ak Koyunlu ruler Ya'qub Bey (1478 to 1490)




With thanks to Pierre Galafassi for the first two images. Actually, he found many more of them, for the “Rugs and Old Masters” Project. This is only an “antipasto”.
Regards,

Filiberto
April 11th, 2012, 01:16 AM   71
Martin Andersen
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Hi Filiberto and Pierre

Please post them all It would be nice to have all the relevant material collected in one tread. And I am of course constantly on the look after the small asymmetry of the Arabic hāʾ ه in the kufic rug ornaments which definitively would give the direct and non-ornamental spelling of "Allah"

best Martin
April 11th, 2012, 02:12 AM   72
Martin Andersen
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Hi All

Regarding the ornamental scheme which have shaped the kufic letters there is probably an old underlying classical floral tradition, but certainly also a geometric structure. Geometry is not just a pragmatic tool in Islamic art but essential in the Islamic visual articulation of the sacred, derived form the aniconism and image ban of the Quaran.

Here at Turkotek we naturally tend to look at rugs as an isolated aesthetic field, but the rugs have of course originally been a part total aesthetic and cultural program in which the architecture and its ornamentation have played a central role. In the cities the rugs have been a part of a total aesthetic spatial setting of stucco, wood carving, intarsia, ceramics, metal works and stone carving (how this relates to the Turkic nomadic rug traditions is of course an intricate discussion).

Here is a stucco from Fez, with a floral ornamented "Allah" surrounded by a pure geometric border with basically the same structure as the kufic border we are discussing here.



best Martin

Last edited by Martin Andersen; April 11th, 2012 at 03:22 AM.
April 11th, 2012, 03:48 AM  73
Martin Andersen
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Here are some basic Islamic octagonal patterns:



and the first one "D" is the one which generates a pattern which could have shaped the kufic letters into ornamentation:



best Martin
April 11th, 2012, 04:46 AM   74
Filiberto Boncompagni
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Hi Martin,

I will post more images, but you 'll have to wait until next Sunday because until then I am rather busy.

Regards,

Filiberto
April 11th, 2012, 06:39 AM  75
Filiberto Boncompagni
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Hi Martin,
Quote:
And I am of course constantly on the look after the small asymmetry of the Arabic hāʾ ه in the kufic rug ornaments which definitively would give the direct and non-ornamental spelling of "Allah"
I have time for this one, although I’m not sure if it may help you.

I found this on the British Museum website:
Lustre-painted ceramic tiles from Kashan, Iran Early 14th century AD. From an inscription frieze.



“These four tiles are part of a longer frieze with an inscription written in Kufic script. It reads 'bism al]lah al-rahmān al-rahĪm la 'ilah illa huwa al 'azĪz al-hakĪm' ('[in the name of] God the most merciful, the most compassionate, there is no god but Him, the all-powerful, the all-ruling').”

The third tile from the right (I underlined it in yellow) should be the one with “there is no god but Him” and its text is indeed very similar to the one from Herat – which should also confirm the validity of its translation.



Regards,

Filiberto

P.S: The phrases "There Is No God But God Alone" and “there is no god but Him” are slightly different translations of the same Arabic text.
April 11th, 2012, 06:57 PM  76
Martin Andersen
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Hi Filiberto

What i am looking for is a kufic border on a rug with the small asymmetry of the Arabic hāʾ ه, like in the red circle:



It is frequent in ceramics and carvings, but i haven't seen it yet on a rug border. The closest is perhaps the Kerimovs illustration you posted earlier in the tread (but it is still placed a bit too symmetrical and not in the endings):



My speculation is that the script aspect of the ornament could have been more direct in an early form of the border, perhaps pre-14th c. And one could perhaps be lucky to find one depicted in one of the miniature paintings. I suppose one would need a looking-glass or high resolution photos of the miniature paintings if one should be able to spot it

best Martin
April 12th, 2012, 04:20 PM   77
Cornelius Frandes
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Horst Nitz
Since (the Mongols having been the declared enemies of the Muslim powers in the region) the pseudo-inscription is neither derived from Arabic Kufic nor in Mongol Script, what is it? Georgian or Syriac Kufic, who can tell, entirely decorative? Several such textiles seem to exist in church treasures, perhaps presents to the Pope and other European celebrities by Mongol ambassadors. With your earlier reference and the pseudo-kufic writing in the halo of the virgin in mind I dare suggest, from a western perspective, we might be dealing with a decorative style that appreciates and perhaps enacts that formulated but never fruit-bearing 13th century alliance against the remaining Muslim power, the Mamluks, between
the Francs and the Mongols
Hi Horst (and all those interested in this thread)!

To start with, I apologize for so belatedly managing to answer to your daring and intriguing take on the things. (I have been away/abroad but did not return empty handed, one of the goodies I now own is an antique -if jaded- Qashgai whose pics I will soon post here)
I happen to also have this book in my library which extensively deals with the Mamluks in the context of the Frankish (and Venetian) crusades and which agrees (if indirectly) with your hypothesis. (or at least it offers hints in that direction)
Pseudo-Kufesque/Kufic seems at once both Western and Eastern, not unlike the Gothic style itself, to which it kind of relates by virtue of its penchant for things 'arabesques'. It indeed may have been born out of some sort of synthesis (and interaction) of two of more divergent cultures. Some authors even go a step further and suggests that the Kufic borders of the 'Oriental carpets' are not derived from the Arabic Kufic alphabet itself but are in fact remnants of religious (or phyto- turned into zoomorphic) symbols that 'degenerated' by becoming mere 'decorative' and by aquiring a 'floral' or a palmette-like shape
I am quoting (quite fragmentarily) from a book called "Studies in art and literature of the Near East: in honor of Richard Ettinghausen. Richard Ettinghausen, Peter J. Chelkowski, Hagop Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies, Middle East Center" (University of Utah, 1974, p. 199)

The outlandish thesis of one of the the essays that this book contains is that the Kufic borders of many a Caucasian rug are not related to the Kufic script itself but are remnants of religious symbols that come from both Christendom and as far as China and its cult of dragons and worship of totemic sunbirds.


Quote:
...It was beginning to share the same fate as the old Turkish dragon with two heads, which seems also to have suffered a loss of identity, being changed to a vine ending in a "forked palmette" that preserved only the shape of its yawning jaws.
Secondly, this central floral device on the Buccleuch Carpet also foreshadows a development which took place on Persian rug patterns in general after the change of religious feeling in the seventeenth century, when Sufism was again driven underground and pictorial symbolism passed out of use.

At that time, not only sunbirds and dragons but other symbols as well were reduced to flowers.

Thirdly, if we reexamine the floral device at the center of the Buccleuch Carpet, and compare it with the patterns on the rugs made after that time when the change from pictured symbols to mere flowers had been fully accomplished. We have seen that symbols of the Sun Gate were often repeated on the outer border of a rug for protection. As an extension of this, we find that in the later seventeenth century the Sun Gate motif on the Buccleuch Carpet — the diamond in outline with the four palmettes (for former birds) at its four points, framing an eight- petaled flower which was an ancient symbol for the center of the Universe — was now reduced in rank (though increased in size), to become merely an all over repeat pattern for the entire field.

In this demotion, it was merely following an age-old course in the disintegration of symbols.

When a religion loses its popular appeal, or is displaced, its symbols — if they survive at all — become mere symbols of luck or good fortune.That seems to be what was happening to the old symbol of the Sun Gate.

This development began to be apparent on the rugs with large floral patterns that have been associated with the name of Shah 'Abbas. But it reached its most complex expression in small, overall repeats on the so-called

For some examples, see LA Mayer, Saracenic Heraldry (Oxford, 1933), Pis. II and III.

For examples, from China, of this tendency for symbols to deteriorate and either disappear or take on new meanings, see Cammann, Substance and Symbol, pp. 99-102. "

The "Shah 'Abbas" style was characterized by bold palmettes, and a tendency to compose them in diamond patterns. See Bode/ Kuhnel, p. 124, Fig. 88.

Ulrich Schurmann, Oriental Carpets (London, 1966), pp. 59 and 60, illustrates two Caucasian rugs from the Kuba District, reflecting Persian prototypes, which also demonstrate this. The long elements with flaring ends on the rug on page 60 may represent former double-ended dragons. Definite survivals of such two-headed dragons can be seen on either side of the "cloud collar" (derived from a multiple Sun- bird), in the border of that rug. This is a good example of the fact that the so-called "Kufic" borders were not derived from Kufic writing
What I am doing here is simply pointing out to this awkward hypothesis that should not be entirely discounted though many will obviously find it unpalatable.

Last edited by Cornelius Frandes; April 13th, 2012 at 04:50 AM.
April 13th, 2012, 02:18 AM   78
Martin Andersen
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Hi Cornelius

Stating that the border we are discussing "have pathetically little to do with the Arabic Kufic alphabet" is in my opinion simply plain wrong. And sometimes even things you may read in books are just that; simply wrong

Kufic ornamentation, kurfesque letters and pseudo-kufic is of course derived from the kufic script. Stating anything else is nonsense.

I am all for multiple sources in pattern development. Floral and animal figuration may also be part of the background of this border, and I certainly would be very interested in seeing relevant material (especially regarding the early 12th seljuk version of the border). But up till now the suggestions about the border being derived from dragons, birds, camels or flowers are rather wage and general speculations compared to the direct and specific connection to kufic ornamentation.

best Martin

Last edited by Martin Andersen; April 13th, 2012 at 03:44 AM.
April 13th, 2012, 03:11 AM  79
Martin Andersen
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Hi All

Regarding multiple sources; earlier in this tread Horst complained about a "jungle of misnomers and skewed conceptions, with a map that doesn’t match he territory", and he may be right in this.

When maps doesn't fit what they pretend to describe in may of course be because they are based on wrong facts, but it certainly also may be because they are drawn on a too simplistic basis. And generally insisting on the patterns we are looking at having a singular source (or an archaic hidden prototype) is in my opinion simplistic and reductive. Carpet weaving is a collective, open and fluctuary art form were the sources continuously have intertwined and transformed themselves into new patterns and new sources. And for me that's the beauty of it.

Stating that for example this border have absolutely nothing to do with kufic or absolutely nothing to do with floral or zoo-morhpic ornaments is for me reductive, and thereby generating reductive and wrong maps.

best Martin
April 13th, 2012, 06:03 AM  80
Cornelius Frandes
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Hi Martin, Horst etc.,

Quote:
Originally Posted by Martin Andersen
Hi Cornelius
Stating that the border we are discussing "have pathetically little to do with the Arabic Kufic alphabet" is in my opinion simply plain wrong. And sometimes even things you may read in books are just that; simply wrong
Kufic ornamentation, kurfesque letters and pseudo-kufic is of course derived from the kufic script. Stating anything else is nonsense.
I couldn't agree more. That is why I was careful to point out that the outlandish theory (which dissociates the Kufic borders of certain Oriental rugs from the Kufic script) originates with the scholars of the book whose title I quoted. Having said that, I also agree that the adverb 'patheticaly' which I employed is innapropiate.


Quote:
I am all for multiple sources in pattern development. Floral and animal figuration may also be part of the background of this border, and I certainly would be very interested in seeing relevant material (especially regarding the early 12th seljuk version of the border). But up till now the suggestions about the border being derived from dragons, birds, camels or flowers are rather wage and general speculations compared to the direct and specific connection to kufic ornamentation
.

In the meanwhile, I did some 'catch-up' reading and just went through the contributions that were posted on this thread while I was away and I realized that indeed, you allude to this 'multiple sourcing' so to call it (especially in your post in which you insert the image of the stucco from Fez, Morroco)

Quote:
Here at Turkotek we naturally tend to look at rugs as an isolated aesthetic field, but the rugs have of course originally been a part total aesthetic and cultural program in which the architecture and its ornamentation have played a central role
I very much agree with this take on the things.
It could be a case of mythico-religious symbols such as dragons and sunbirds that were demoted in time to fitomorphic respectively to floral (florid) symbols and finally to mere decoration. (Or at least this is what Richard Ettinghausen and Peter J. Chelkowski suggest). It very much a case of a 'journey' from concrete to abstract, from figurative and representational to encryptive. It is at this stage when the symbols become mere calligraphy, and calligraphy and scripts are by definition abstract.

Quote:
Much of the art of earlier cultures – signs and marks on pottery, textiles, and inscriptions and paintings on rock – were simple, geometric and linear forms which might have had a symbolic or decorative purpose. It is at this level of visual meaning that abstract art communicates. One can enjoy the beauty of Chinese calligraphy or Islamic calligraphy without being able to read it.
Calligraphy and scripts do convey meanings. But whenever the meaning is lost, both of them can be a case of 'anything' and of mere scribbling or decorum. Yet as we so well know, the weaver of the rug may be illiterate yet nothing that she depicts is the result of her whims but it is a highly meaningful something, whether that (bit of something) be an amulet, a comb, a hash sign, a rosette or a scarab (As I type, I am just looking at a corner of my antique Qasgai). Are all these figures 'alphabets' (without being calligraphy)? Perhaps so. It is a common place to invest in them 'narrational' properties, which is probably the right thing to do. This is also the case of the Kufic borders: their meaning transcends that of the letters of the Kufic alphabet and alludes to more 'heavy weight' symbols that in turn firmly belong to the realm of the religious, the 'divinatorial' respectively mythology.

Regards,
C.
April 13th, 2012, 06:28 AM  81
Steve Price
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Hi People

Arabic calligraphy comes in many delicious flavors, including kufic, of course. I've long found the tugra used as signatures by the sultans incredibly artistic and beautiful. It's as much of an art form as, for example, weaving pile rugs.

Regards

Steve Price
April 13th, 2012, 08:09 AM   82
Martin Andersen
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Hi Steve an All

Sure Islamic calligraphy is an entire artform in itself (I have Süleyman II´s Tugra in plaster here beside me )

Kufic started as a general script but evolved into calligraphy and ornamentation, and through the aniconism of Islam ended up being tightly associated with representations of the sacred.

Titus Burckhardt sums up the role of aniconism in sacred Islamic art as follows:
".....Nothing must stand between man and the invisible presence of God. Thus Islamic art creates a void; it eliminates in fact all the turmoil and passionate suggestions of the world, and in their stead creates an order that expresses equilibrium, serenity and peace"

Samanid pottery with kufic inscriptions from the10-12th c is one of the most simple and beautiful expressions of this:





Speculation of course but this representation of the scared as void, could as I see it also have been motivator in transforming the script into ornament - and void. In some forms of islamic practices, such as sufism, even the script itself may have been seen as something standing in between man and God.

best Martin

Last edited by Martin Andersen; April 14th, 2012 at 04:34 AM.
April 13th, 2012, 09:17 AM 83
Filiberto Boncompagni
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Hi Cornelius,
A quick note on this subject :
Quote:
Calligraphy and scripts do convey meanings. But whenever the meaning is lost, both of them can be a case of 'anything' and of mere scribbling or decorum. Yet as we so well know, the weaver of the rug may be illiterate
I reckon that, eventually, at least a dozen of Arab speakers, most of them journalists (hence, I presume literate ) saw the Herat carved inscription. None of them were able to understand its meaning (apart for the world “Allah”). None of them but one, the Calligrapher.
Which means:

- The art of Arab Calligraphy is so hermetic that very few can translate its scripts, even among Arabic-speakers.
- But it’s so esthetically refined that even non-Arabic speakers can appreciate it.
- The weaver of a rug could even have been literate, but without the specific training of a Calligrapher.

Incidentally, I see you quote Horst on the “Georgian or Syriac kufic”. Has anybody an idea of what they are?

Regards,

Filiberto
April 13th, 2012, 01:57 PM   84
Lloyd Kannenberg
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Hi Filiberto and all,

I think that by "Georgian and Syriac Kufic" Cornelius means a particularly angular style of these alphabets. The oldest Georgian writing used the Asomtavruli alphabet, which might be conceived as “Kufic”. It is quite different from the modern Mkhedruli alphabet. Similarly for Syriac. The earliest Syriac writing is called Estrangela, very angular; the more recent Serto is less so, although the difference is less than that between Asomtavruli and Mkhedruli.

To see what these various alphabets look like, Google “Georgian alphabet” and “Syriac alphabet”.

Lloyd Kannenberg
April 13th, 2012, 06:40 PM   85
Horst Nitz
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Hi all,

sorry for giving the appearance I am letting you down on this. I had a very active Easter season and, afterwards, work had to come first. If all goes well I might be able to catch up at the weekend.

Regards, Horst
April 13th, 2012, 06:54 PM   86
Mike Mazurki
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very interesting information and good reading stuff in this topic.

cheers.
April 15th, 2012, 04:45 AM   87
Filiberto Boncompagni
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Hi Martin,
Quote:
What i am looking for is a kufic border on a rug with the small asymmetry of the Arabic hāʾ ه,
Unfortunately, the resolution of the images we have isn’t great.
I post three enlarged and sharpened details of miniatures that could be interesting.

The first two are from the Sackler Collection, Smithsonian’s Museum of Asian Art.


1493-1494 Firdawsi, Shahnama, “Giv Brings Gurgin before Kay Khusraw” – Detail


1493-1494 Firdawsi, Shahnama, “Kay Khusraw and_Kay Ka’u” – Detail

These miniatures were made in Gilan, Iran, by the way. Quite close to Caucasus.



1400-1425 Timurid, Herat school “Iskander” Detail

Are they useful?

Regards,

Filiberto
April 15th, 2012, 06:25 AM   88
Martin Andersen
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Hi Filiberto

Thanks, especially the last one seem to have details which are a bit closer to actually kufic script than the others (and fascinating with the miniature painter(?) and miniature painting within the miniature)



Correct me if I am wrong, but wouldn't one simply call the rugs we see in the miniatures "Timurid"? If so I would personally settle with the Caucasian kufic border being directly derived from Timurid kufic ornamentation. And I suppose this would also make sense historically?

A digression, but I would say that for example this Qasgai border could been seen as a later persian nomadic adaption of the same ornamentation:



The relation between urban and nomadic carpet tradition is of course intricate. We haven't been around the Seljuk rugs yet. And for me this is also related to the background of these few early survived rugs. They are clearly urban rugs just on account on their size and their use of architectonic islamic and kufic ornamentation, but still seem aesthetically half derived from something else. The kufic borders on the Seljuk rugs are perhaps parallel, slightly older and independent versions of the Timurid transformation of kufic ornamentation into rug patterns.



Perhaps one could a bit simplistic see the Timurid rugs as expression of cultural pressure travelling north, carrying architectural aesthetics. While the Seljuk rugs are expression of cultural pressure travelling south, carrying rug aesthetics. It all in a cultural melting pot of course

best Martin
April 15th, 2012, 08:59 AM  89
Filiberto Boncompagni
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Hi Martin,
Quote:
Thanks, especially the last one seem to have details which are a bit closer to actually kufic script than the others
Personally, of the total of six miniatures posted, I find this one the closest to a Kufic script:


Quote:
Correct me if I am wrong, but wouldn't one simply call the rugs we see in the miniatures "Timurid"? If so I would personally settle with the Caucasian kufic border being directly derived from Timurid kufic ornamentation. And I suppose this would also make sense historically?
Yes. I guess it should make sense if the Timurid influenced the Ak Koyunlu. “The Aq Qoyunlu or Ak Koyunlu, also called the White Sheep Turkomans (Persian/Azeri: آق قویونلو), was an Sunni Oghuz Turkic tribal federation that ruled parts of present-day Eastern Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan, northern Iraq, and Iran from 1378 to 1508” (quote from Wikipedia).

And here I post again the miniature painting believed to show the Ak Koyunlu ruler Ya'qub Bey (1478 to 1490)



"Tabriz was the capital of Kara Koyunlu state in Azerbaijan, and from 1469 to 1501 the capital of Ak Koyunlu state". According to historical reports, the court of Tabriz was adorned by magnificent carpets. Probably woven in Tabriz if, to quote Michael Franses from an article on HALI 155 “The oldest complete Iranian carpets known today probably date from the second half of the 15th century, and can be attributed to centers that include Tabriz, central, and eastern Iran.”

As for the “Qasgai border as a later persian nomadic adaption of the same ornamentation” I’m a bit skeptical about that, but who knows…
Regards,

Filiberto
April 15th, 2012, 09:35 AM  90
Martin Andersen
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Hi Filiberto

Regarding the Qasgai border, I better try to back the suggestion up with some authority (so I don't too easily gets blamed for "force-feeding my projections")

In Turkoman Studies I Pinner & Frances writes about the Tekke main carpet border that "In carpets belived to be earlier, the end borders sometimes carry an ornament related to the "kufic" border motif":



If the motif in the Tekke border octagons had been the Kotchak we would have been very close to the Qasgai border.

best Martin

Last edited by Martin Andersen; April 21st, 2012 at 04:06 AM.
April 15th, 2012, 07:32 PM   91
Martin Andersen
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Hi All

Actually i am not quite sure I have seen all the Seljuk rugs. The following is the ones I have been able to find at the net. There must be ca 5 more large fragments + some smaller ones. If anyone has photos or scans of the rest I would very much appreciate to see them.



(and the last one I am not certain if it is a Seljuk)

best
Martin
April 16th, 2012, 08:20 AM   92
Lloyd Kannenberg
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Hello Martin,

The second volume of "Weaving Heritage of Anatolia" has excellent pictures of (at least) eight Seljuk rugs. There is considerable, but not complete, overlap with your images. Unfortunately I'm having trouble with my scanner at the moment. I hope someone else will be able to upload the pictures from this book.

Lloyd Kannenberg
April 16th, 2012, 09:52 AM  93
Filiberto Boncompagni
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Hi Martin,

I am sure there are more pictures already here on Turkotek.
Try Google Avanced Image Search with the "exact word or phrase "> "Seljuk rug" and "Seljuk carpet"
and in "site or domain" put "turkotek.com"
April 16th, 2012, 11:51 AM  94
Cornelius Frandes
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Hi Lloyd, Horst, Martin, Filiberto et al.,

Quote:
I think that by "Georgian and Syriac Kufic" Cornelius means a particularly angular style of these alphabets. The oldest Georgian writing used the Asomtavruli alphabet, which might be conceived as “Kufic”. It is quite different from the modern Mkhedruli alphabet. Similarly for Syriac. The earliest Syriac writing is called Estrangela, very angular; the more recent Serto is less so, although the difference is less than that between Asomtavruli and Mkhedruli.

It was not I who coined the term "Georgian and Syriac Kufic" but Horst. So I have taken notice of it as a valid working hypothesis to be examined.
Lloyd is right when he presumed that it was these alphabets' angularity that rendered them 'convergent' and related.
They definitely have a lot in common one with another in term of shape and style. An interesting, perhaps coincidental detail: it was in year 700 A.D. when
the Ma'il alphabet was replaced by the Kufic one. In the very same year the Syriac/Jacobite script appears too. (see Encyclopedic Dictionary of Archaeology by Barbara Ann Kipfer).
I think that, ultimately, they must have sprung from the same matrix.
The so-called Kufic borders of certain rugs do incorporate, from a strictly graphical perspective, a symbol which was called 'the knot of destiny'


and which is ultimately related to the so-called Solomon's seal (sigillum Salomonis) or Solomon's knot (see article on it)
Quote:
In Latin, this configuration was sometimes known as sigillum Salomonis, meaning literally "seal of Solomon". It was associated with the Biblical monarch Solomon of his reputation for wisdom and knowledge (and in some legends, his occult powers). This phrase is usually rendered into English as "Solomon's knot", since "seal of Solomon" has other conflicting meanings (often referring to either a Star of David or pentagram). In the study of ancient mosaics, the Solomon's knot is often known as a "guilloche knot" or "duplex knot", while a Solomon's knot in the center of a decorative configuration of four curving arcs is known as a "pelta-swastika" (where pelta is Latin for "shield").


That swastikas (devoid of their malignant Nazi meaning) and various knots (as such) do feature both on fields and borders of Oriental rugs is common knowledge. My take on things would be to be cautious when dissociating between the Kufic borders (which incorporate such symbols in their structure) and disparate but similar symbols that are contained withing the main field of the rug itself. Whether they are pure Kufic (in the sense that hail from the Iraqi Kuf) or are more ancient chain like structures that allude perhaps to the Gordian Knot itself (depicted in the image below) remains to be examined.



The idea behind them is that of encryption and thus protection from the unexpected and from the vagaries of life and wrath of the powerful. Such symbols, together with many similarly powerful icons and archetypes had always to be accomodated on the field and the border of a carpet traditionally part of the dowry of the newly wedded young lady weaver. The Kufic border is simply a resilient offshoot of these endless variations on the same theme which leads to the ubiquitous knot...


As Maurice Sven Dimand, Jean Mailey point out in their book
'Oriental rugs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, N.Y.) 1973 p.16

(see text)

Quote:
The verticals of the Kufic letters often end in half- palmettes, or they are knotted in various ways, ranging from a simple heart-shaped knot to a quite complicated knot, derived from the Chinese 'knot of destiny'. Such knots appear in Persian rugs of the Timurid period and Anatolian rugs of the 14th century
Regards,
C.

Last edited by Cornelius Frandes; April 16th, 2012 at 02:00 PM.
April 16th, 2012, 12:21 PM 95
Filiberto Boncompagni
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Hi Cornelius,
Quote:
It was not I who coined the term "Georgian and Syriac Kufic" but Horst.
Yes, I know it was Horst.

Fact is, “Googleing” the exact phrases Georgian Kufic and Syriac Kufic, the only result for the two couple of terms without commas or dots in between is… Turkotek!

Because there isn’t such a thing like a Georgian Kufic. Or Syriac Kufic.
Regards,

Filiberto
April 16th, 2012, 01:35 PM 96
Cornelius Frandes
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Hi Filiberto, Horst and Lloyd!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni
Because there isn’t such a thing like a Georgian Kufic. Or Syriac Kufic.
Perhaps there isn't yet this is a thorny, highly contencious issue.
I just found this sentence in
Claude Reignier Conder's book 'The Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem 1099 to 1291 A D' - (Page 322) originally published in 1897, and republished by
Kessinger Publishing in 2004


Quote:
The old Syrian script known as Kufic, and used near Damascus before the Moslem conquest, was unintelligible to the Crusaders in the time of William of Tyre, but the Latins became acquainted later with the flowing Neskhi writing of Saladin's age closely resembling the modern Arabic script.
(you can read here the page in full)

Yet we must view the findings of a 19th century historian with circumspection and search for further references. Perhaps Horst was aware of these findings when he centred his hypothesis around them.

Regards,
C.
April 16th, 2012, 03:13 PM  97
Horst Nitz
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Hi all,

over the last three decades it has become the generally accepted standard in the debate of the kind of border under scrutiny here, that it is Kufic by name only and otherwise illegible, i.e. Bartels H (1983) at 3rd ICOC London, Balpinar B & Hirsch U (1988), Denny WB (2002) and Beselin A (2011), to name just a few authors / presenters. Walter Denny in ‘The Classical Tradition in Anatolian Carpets’ is a model in consistency and throughout the text maintains the ‘kufesque’ label. Other authors switch between terms; Beselin uses the term ‘Kufi orientiert’ (Kufi orientated). The surprised reaction caused here by my cautioning reference against the laissez faire use of the term ‘Kufic’, in turn surprised me. I suppose, wherever there is progress in a debate pushed by some, there also is slow uptake with some others. I am not free of it, and in this case here, Martin, it was greatly prompted by you misleading the discussion by presenting the 15th c Herat plaster with highlighted Kufic inscription as if it was your own montage. I had to assume you had grown fond of David Hunt’s approach to your Beshir khordjin and you were now having a go yourself at Photoshop manipulation of visual data - after David had made up the tulip in your khordjin. An ‘unknown’ or ‘unspecified internet source’ as a reference would have made everything clear and would have been a correct way to quotation etiquette.

And there are more inconsistencies and flaws in your argument. When you mirror the ‘readable’ parts of established Kufic inscriptions to create a superficial kufesque border - at closer inspection far off from what we have in those rugs - you do this at the cost of the base line syntax of those inscription without which the phrase whatever it is becomes illegible. This applies to all Kufic insciptions that come to my mind, i..e. 7th c earliest Quran manifestation on the ‘Dome of the Rock’; the early 8th c Damascene Sura 19, verses 12-29 Quran script on parchment kept in Berlin; the 9th c Quran leaves in Cufic script carried out in ink and gold on vellum being kept in Riyadh; the kufic inscriptions and girih arabesque decoration in the wonderful dome of Karatay Medresse, Konya (Denny 2002, p. 20f). Clipped away the thing becomes illegible. Clipped away or not, and mirrored, you never arrive at something like we find in those rug borders. Those unfortunate weavers you are accusing of having corrupted the Kufic inscription in the border design and made it illegible, according to your own guesstimate needed 200 years for it – you are much quicker in achieving the same ends. Speaking about time, I have little of it available and for me your time is up to come forward with a readable border design that could justify the term ‘Kufic’ border. The in principle reasonable research hypothesis, the term ‘Kufic’ in its application to a particular border design is justified on terms of it once having been readable Kufic and now is not, due to corrupting processes or because the skill of interpreting a peculiar ductus of Kufic script had been lost, could not be verified by you, Martin and Filiberto.

I am more certain than ever, that ‘real’ Arabic Kufic script was not at the basis of that border design we are discussing. ‘Kufic’ in this context seems to be a spirit that has been invoked by slapdash summoning or labelling, that now keeps us in its fangs and we can’t get rid off. More on this calamity in the Bartimaeus trilogy – this makes sense only for the initiated, the others may just as well forget it. In my next post I will demonstrate an alternative, developmental access to the Kufic border that stays within the field of tapiology.

Regards, Horst

p.s. Hi Cornelius, I am very impressed by those late posts, including references and conclusions. You are not by any chance a friend of Bartimaeus – ‘Solomon’s Ring’ ?

Last edited by Horst Nitz; April 16th, 2012 at 03:27 PM.
April 17th, 2012, 01:59 AM   98
Martin Andersen
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Hi Horst

Have to admit that I find your condescending and "initiated" way of augmenting a bit offensive - but also a bit funny

Here is a readable kufic border ornamentation, Islamic Spain, Granada, Nasrid period, 14th century:



It has been discussed here http://www.turkotek.com/VB37/showthread.php?p=9535

best Martin
April 17th, 2012, 03:13 AM  99
Filiberto Boncompagni
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Hi Cornelius,
Quote:
The old Syrian script known as Kufic,
Syrian and Syriac are not synonyms. Syrian is and adjective, “of or relating to or characteristic of Syria or its people or culture”.
The Syriac noun is an Aramaic language.
Regards,

Filiberto
April 17th, 2012, 07:38 AM 100
Filiberto Boncompagni
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Hi Horst,

Before you dismissed the mere concept of “Kufic border” as “rug lore”. Now you seem to accept it, as long as it’s illegible?
Quote:
over the last three decades it has become the generally accepted standard in the debate of the kind of border under scrutiny here, that it is Kufic by name only and otherwise illegible
The general idea expressed in this thread – by me, at least – is that the “Kufic border” is derived by Kufic script which was also used as a kind of decoration in Islamic Art.

D-E-R-I-V-E-D.

Nobody said that it MUST have a meaning.

However, Martin tried to find the possible origins and meanings. What it’s wrong with it? I think he did an interesting job, because there must have been rugs whose border had ALSO a meaningful Kufic script. Because decoration with meaningful Kufic script was used everywhere: on pottery, lamps, metalwork and so on. Why not on carpets?

Nevertheless, DERIVED is enough to justify the general denomination “Kufic border” in the carpet literature. There’s no need of other proof besides a similarity of design – which Martin also found.

How can you dare to dismiss Martin’s method as flawed if you have no idea of how to read Kufic? Which is evident since you didn’t recognize a proper Kufic inscription in the 15th c. Herat carving.

How about you adding the term of “Georgian Kufic” to the jungle of misnomers and skewed conceptions, with a map that doesn’t match the territory?

How can you accuse Martin of “misleading the discussion by presenting the 15th c Herat plaster with highlighted Kufic inscription as if it was your own montage” considered that he presented it two years ago on a different website and never said that this particular one was his own montage?

And what difference it makes if that image comes from a book instead?

Regards,

Filiberto
April 17th, 2012, 03:33 PM  101
Martin Andersen
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Hi All

The starting point for me in this were the 13th Seljuk rugs which I posted earlier this tread. The 11 most important of these rugs and fragments have been found in the Alaeddin Mosque in Konya and in the Esrefoglu Mosque in Beyshehir. Their size and age suggests that they have actually been produced to the Mosques.

Here are 3 of the simple versions of the Seljuk kufic borders compared to readable ornamental kufic script:



The two first calligraphies are in floriated and knotted kufic, spelling the word "Allah". And the third is square kubic spelling "Al hamdu lillah" / "praise to Allah" from George Potter’s website http://www.kufic.info/architecture/balkh/parsa.htm

In the 13th century setting of the Mosque I personally find it highly unlikely that these border shouldn't have carried a strong religious connotation for the visiting Muslim, be he literate or illiterate. Partly dye to the general use of kufic ornaments in religious contexts and partly due the close visual relation to the word "Allah" (in its many forms)

But then again, I also see other sources than the kufic script, as a part of the possible background of these borders, but that is a lot more speculative than the direct and straight forward relation to kufic ornamentation and script.

The border ornamentation on the Islamic Spain, Granada, Nasrid period, 14th c fragment shows readable ornamented script, according to The Cleveland Museum of Art "...consisting of central wide band with knotted Kufic inscription ("beatitude"), framed by narrower bands with knotwork, Naskhi inscriptions ("success and prosperity") in cartouches and crenallations."



The kufic ornamented inscription has probably even in its own time in 14th not been decipherable for most people. The weavers have probably, perhaps as opposed to the weavers of the Seljuk rugs, rigorously followed a detailed carton/drawing.

best Martin

Last edited by Martin Andersen; April 20th, 2012 at 04:39 AM.
April 20th, 2012, 04:31 AM  102
Martin Andersen
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The base argument against kufic being a source in the rug patterns seem to be a ridged distinction between readable script and ornament. Perhaps an understandable and necessary distinction if the talk were purely about alphabets and development of scripts. But in an architectural context (and the rugs of course are closer to architecture than to text) it is in my opinion a wrong distinction. In the architectural context ornamental kufic script naturally tends towards illegible geometric ornament.

Here an example in stucco were the border text in the cartouches and the kufic ornamental script in the outer section of the star is readable,while the star and its geometry is ornamental. Generating a fluent totality with a center of pure ornament and void:




It is not only the borders of the Seljuk rugs which are related to kufic, also some of the main fields are in my opinion clearly kufic ornamentation:



best Martin
April 20th, 2012, 06:41 AM  103
Martin Andersen
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The Seljuk rugs are compared to other contemporary Islamic art forms and decorations rather brute and primitive in their aesthetics, I suppose they are clearly Turkic in origin, and may also express an illiterate nomadic tradition and its adaption or intersection with a more refined urban architectural and literate tradition.

Perhaps the illiterate Seljuk weavers adaption could be illustrated like this:



Martin
April 20th, 2012, 08:10 AM   104
Martin Andersen
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Just a side note but isn't the majority of the kufic rug borders on the Timurid miniatures and the Caucasian rugs (like the one which started this tread) white ornaments on dark ground? Actually strikingly white compared to other border designs? Perhaps it could be seen as a reminiscence of the borders being derived from stucco and architectural ornaments.

best Martin
April 20th, 2012, 03:05 PM  105
Horst Nitz
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Hi Martin and all,

with reference to your post of 17th April.

I appreciate the effort of presenting the original images 'undisturbed' and your graphic hypothesis in an ordered and more easily accessible way. On a ‘similarity scale’ of 0 -100 (0 = totally dissimilar; 100 = congruent) I would set the mark at around 50. Expressing it in words, there is a considerable discrepancy between the originals and your graphic hypothesis which needs to be bridged by a theory, a model or other explanation. Without this it remains an artificial association. Illiterate weavers who have messed it up is not good enough as an explanation in this context. Now, I know that development sometimes takes leaps. But since you are arguing within the paradigm of a stable religious context, it is particularly astonishing that within a few centuries only script and ‘script’ (the Kufic proper and the ‘Kufic’ in Kufesque rug borders) should have run apart so discerningly. If the antecedent form from which the ‘Kufic’ ornament was derived originally was embedded in another context (an elder Christian or Pre-Christian one) such leaps and alterations of shapes and symbols would be much better understandable.

The Granadan lampas you put up in that post I would prefer to leave out of the discussion. It is no rug; it comes from far off in relation to those Near Eastern rugs under scrutiny; it would lead us into another discussion for which I have no time and where we probably would find ourselves in very deep water. If the ‘Kufic’ border really contains legibly a repetition of ‘Beatitude’ – it could be a reference to the ‘Beatitudes of Christ’ in Matthew 5:3-12 and Luke 6:20-22, a sequel of teachings by Christ to focus on the ‘inward’ virtues of love, mercy, compassion, humility, modesty, respect etc. rather than on success and prosperity (as in the Naskhi script in the narrow borders) in the outward world.

Regards,

Horst

Last edited by Horst Nitz; April 20th, 2012 at 03:16 PM.
April 21st, 2012, 12:53 AM  106
Pierre Galafassi
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Hi Martin,

Excellent thread. Very interesting indeed.

Quoting you: «Just a side note, but isn't the majority of the kufic rug borders on the Timurid miniatures (...... ) white ornaments on dark ground?»

In all 15 miniatures (of my limited data bank) featuring a rug with kufic border (or pseudo kufic or whatever..), the motif is indeed white, or a pale shade, on a much more saturated background (See B to O). It is also the case of the kufic inscription in A.

FIG 1.


FIG 2.


Your predictions seem pretty accurate, Martin: 15 out of 15, one cannot complain. Any idea about next week’s stock market? I would certainly not mind a short mail of yours.

The details in FIG 1 and FIG 2, have been extracted from the following miniatures.
A. 1300-1340. Il-khanid period. Conversion of Il-khan Ghazan to Islam.
B. 1330-1340. Il-khanid period. The bier of Iskander. Tabriz. Freer Gallery.
C. 1396. School of Junaid.
D. 1400-1425. Timurid period. Herat school. Iskander.
E. 1425. Timurid period. Herat school. Poet Sa'di and friend. Chester Beatty Lib. Dublin
F. 1427. Timurid period. Herat school. Drunken prince and maiden.Chester Beatty Lib.
G. 1429. Timurid period. Herat School.
H. 1438. School of Shiraz. Güyük Khan. Bibl. Nat. Paris.
I. 1438. Timurid period. Tekuder receives an embassy. Detail. Bibl. Nat. Paris.
J. 1444 ca. Timurid period. Herat school. Firdawsi's Shahnameh. Royal Asiatic Soc.
K. 1446. Timurid period. Shah nameh. Zahhak enthroned. British Lib.
L. 1450-1500. Timurid period. Herat school.
M. 1469-1470. Shah nameh. Jamshid instructs his people. Chester Beatty Library.
N. 1493-1494. From Gilan. Gurgin before Khusraw. Freer Sackler.
O. 1500 ca. Aq Qoyunlu ruler Ya'qub Bey.

Best regards
Pierre

Last edited by Pierre Galafassi; April 21st, 2012 at 01:02 AM.
April 21st, 2012, 03:04 AM 107
Horst Nitz
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Hi Pierre, Martin

the colour white in Islamic Art was and is used as a symbol of high distinction: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Mohammed_kaaba_1315.jpg . It also was the colour of the divine Christ in western and eastern Christian Art (Mount Tabor http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tabor_Light).

In other words, white in the Kufesque borders is not for visibility alone but also for connotation.

Regards, Horst

Last edited by Horst Nitz; April 21st, 2012 at 03:31 AM.
April 21st, 2012, 04:52 AM  108
Martin Andersen
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Thanks a lot Pierre

Do you have the full miniature of the detail 1A? I am totally sure that the border on 1A is readable ornamented kufic



And here is a ceramic border with ornamented kufic, iran 13th. c. The corner solution is very interesting, as it shows symmetrised kufic, parallel to the borders on the Timurid miniature rugs.



best Martin
April 21st, 2012, 07:34 AM   109
Martin Andersen
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Hi Horst

I have previously read your contributions here on Turkotek, both in the discussions and in the Salons, with great interest. You have contributed with a lot of highly interesting and informative material. And I have the general impression that your approach towards the rugs and their historical and cultural context is both open minded and knowledgeable. So I am kind of disappointed that you in this tread seem to corner your self out in a focus on proving me wrong, instead of just looking at the material.

Your evaluation of some of my comparative illustrations using your invented ‘similarity scale’ ending op dismissing them as "artificial association" seem to me to be a very contra productive approach towards a discussion on a design development which obviously is filled with gaps and leaps as the surviving material from 12th-15th c of course is extremely rare, especially regarding the rugs.
If one should insist on a "100 -100 fit on a similarity scale’ one would not be able to describe any development at all in this material.

And if you are not able to see the direct relation between the following borders, then I am sorry, I cant help you.



best and with respect
Martin
April 21st, 2012, 08:00 AM   110
Filiberto Boncompagni
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Hi Martin,

Here is “the full miniature of the detail 1A”:



But it doesn’t seem a rug border.
Quote:
Just a side note but isn't the majority of the kufic rug borders on the Timurid miniatures and the Caucasian rugs (like the one which started this tread) white ornaments on dark ground? Actually strikingly white compared to other border designs? Perhaps it could be seen as a reminiscence of the borders being derived from stucco and architectural ornaments.
I see what you mean but it could be, perhaps, simply for an aesthetic reason.
I am trying to imagine the Kufic borders with inverted colors: for my taste, at least , the borders “work” aesthetically better with a dark background.
Regards,

Filiberto
April 21st, 2012, 08:09 AM 111
Steve Price
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Hi Filiberto

My thoughts, too. Given that white carries religious connotations, I'd think those connotations would be independent of whether the script or the background was the lighter color. Not so?

Regards

Steve Price
April 21st, 2012, 11:09 AM  112
Guido_Engel
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Hi all,

Maybe it helps. In some cultures the colour white symbolizes the creative aspect and red the destructive one; just remember the red and white dooblehooks of Caucasian kelims.

Best

Guido
April 21st, 2012, 11:38 AM 113
Pierre Galafassi
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Hi Martin and all,

As far as the proportion of white kufesque motifs in Caucasian rugs is concerned, the ruling Grand Master of the Caucaso-maniac sect, Filiberto, is surely better informed.

I only tried to get a «Pi-mal-Handgelenk» (1) measurement of the importance of white kufesque in
- fifteenth- to seventeenth century extant Anatolian rugs and
- fifteenth- to seventeenth century paintings featuring rugs.

Kufesque motifs can be found in roughly 10 % of the rugs (both extant- and painted ones) with a peak of frequency (for painted rugs) in the sixteenth century, followed by a quick decrease (2).

The first (European)painted kufesque border is probably dated 1423 (G. di Cecco. Marriage of the Virgin. National. Gallery. London), while the first extant kufesque borders are dated, by C14, from somewhere around the middle of the thirteenth- and the middle of the fourteenth century (A handful of so-called «Seldjuk»- and «Animal» rugs).

Pending a severe review by Filiberto, who shares the same data bank, I have found that out of 54 rugs with kufesque border, featured in old master’s paintings, 51 had white kufic motifs on dark background (94%) and 3 had pale shade kufic motifs (6%). I have been unable to find any case with deep shade kufic motifs on white- or pale background.

As mentioned before, most (by far) painted rug-borders did not show kufesque motifs and, in these other borders, the dominant shades of the motifs were various red- or blue shades, white coming, at best, a distant third.

Similar results are obtained when checking extant Anatolian rugs:
Out of 23 extant rugs with kufesque border, 18 have white motifs (78%), 2 have motifs in pale shade (both on dark background, of course) and 3 have dark kufesque motifs on a pale shade background (13%). The latter being "Seldjuk".

Notes:
1) One « Pi-mal-Handgelenk» in German Units is exactly equal to one « Rule-of-thumb-and-seven-wiskers» in American Units.

2) I have once found a paper on the Net (of which I have of course lost the reference), claiming that when sixteenth-century Ottoman Ulemas realized that rugs had become an important export business, they frowned at the idea of impure European feet walking on them and imposed a ban of export for some patterns. I can’t remember that any proof of this claim was ever mentioned in the paper. Pero, se non é vero é ben trovato...


Best regards
Pierre
April 21st, 2012, 11:55 AM   114
Filiberto Boncompagni
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Wow!
Pierre, you have definitely a penchant for statistics (besides the other one: merciless bombardment of my inbox with paintings-related images, that is).


Filiberto
April 21st, 2012, 12:11 PM   115
Horst Nitz
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Hi Martin,

I am sorry and don't understand. I was referring to your comparisons of 17th April in my assessment. What has that got to do with those bands, please?

Regards, Horst
April 21st, 2012, 02:54 PM 116
Martin Andersen
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Hi Horst

These 5 borders for me clearly illustrates that the Caucasian kufic border which started this discussion is closely related to or even directly derived from ornamented kufic script.



If you are not able to recognize this (and this you haven't done so far), then our eyes simply see things fundamentally different, and I then cant really take your critique seriously regarding the connection between The Seljuk rugs and kufic script and ornamentation which I tried to illustrate with a very general comparison to kufic calligraphy in the post from 17 April

best Martin
April 21st, 2012, 03:37 PM 117
Horst Nitz
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Hi Martin,

associated yes, related perhaps, legible doubtful. Possibly, I see the development leading to those borders fundamentally different. I'll explain soon, just too much on here right now.

Best wishes, Horst
April 21st, 2012, 03:48 PM 118
Martin Andersen
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Hi Horst

I will look forward to seeing your explanation. As I have stated earlier I am generally all for multiple sources in design development of the rugs

Best Martin
April 22nd, 2012, 02:46 AM  119
Martin Andersen
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Hi Pierre, Filiberto and All

Surely a very impressive work your are doing going trough the entire history of European painting and the Islamic miniatures searching out the rugs

The sixteenth century quick decrease of the kufic borders in European painting and your note 2) "..that when sixteenth-century Ottoman Ulemas realized that rugs had become an important export business, they frowned at the idea of impure European feet walking on them and imposed a ban of export for some patterns." is fascinating as it suggest that the kufic borders, even unreadable, carried religious connotation in the Islamic world. And that connotation must have been related to the borders being seen as closely related to religious script.

Regarding the white color (which Horst suggest in itself might point to religious significance) and my speculation that it might be a reminiscence of the borders first being developed in stucco and then transformed into rug patterns I have a few more points:

Islamic stucco is of course a spatial art form based on low relief effects.



Text and kufic ornamentation is usually placed in the front layer of a low space, and if there are geometry and floral decoration in the stucco this is usually placed in the background layer - in the shadow. Translating that into the flat plane of a rug would naturally be white kufic text on a dark background.

And it is not only the white color which makes me think of stucco. There is also in the Timurid kufic borders a strong element of illusionistic space in how the lines are constantly drawn as going up and down under each other.



This element of illusionistic space is a lot less prominent in the Kufic calligraphy of black ink on white paper. And if the rug patterns are derived from spatial ornamentation instead of directly being derived from text in book form, we are actually not looking at a text but more kind of looking at a "picture of a picture of a text", and the rugs could be seen as translating the elitist arabic text into a commonly perceivable sign in basically illiterate non-arabic societies.

The rugs laying flat on the ground, without a prioritised reading direction, compared to books or reliefs on the walls, might also, in the architectural decorum in which they belonged, in itself have contributed to the symmetrisation and ornamentalisation of text into sign.

best Martin
April 22nd, 2012, 04:19 AM  120
Filiberto Boncompagni
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Hi Martin and Pierre,

I counted on my books, besides the Seljuks, 20 extant rugs (between Holbeins, Lottos and para-Mamluks). All of them on dark background and pale or white script, three or four with some part of the script also colored with different, darker colors.

I was thinking about the "sixteenth-century Ottoman Ulemas that imposed a ban of export" too and I don’t think that the claim is true.

The main reason being the fact that there should have been a production of this pattern for the, let’s say, “internal market” and a few specimens should have survived somewhere, at least on the floors of Mosques. But, no, the Kufic borders disappeared completely…
To reappear three centuries later in East Caucasus, starting with this Lotto-like 1806 A.D. prayer rug:



Posted by Cornelius in the original “Karagasli” thread, from the book "Eine Sammlung orientalischer Teppiche"

(I also re-post the scan from Ralph Kaffel’s “Caucasian Prayer Rugs” of a rug of similar age)



Which I find rather strange. Unless these Holbeins and Lottos (but not the para-Mamluks) where of Caucasian origin. And the "Hobeins large-patterns" have a lot of similarities with Caucasian sumaks, by the way.

And, as Pierre wrote in http://www.turkotek.com/VB37/showthread.php?t=989

If all these extant and painted rugs were actually woven in southern Caucasus, the lack of painted evidence and / or of extant rug from the early 16th century to the 18th century could reasonably be explained by purely political reasons:
Trebizond (South-west of the Caucasus on the Black Sea) was an important port of call for ships of Venice and Genoa. Until the end of the Ilkanid domination (and of their Pax Mongolica) it was the main terminal of the Silk Road as well. If Caucasian rugs ever were shipped to Europe, it was probably through this commercial trading city populated mainly by Greeks, Armenian, Jews and Georgians.
After the fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans in 1453 this traffic was made increasingly difficult by the Sultan and his growing navy, until Trebizond fell too in 1462. Making these rugs scarce on European markets.


Regards,

Filiberto
April 22nd, 2012, 05:06 AM 122
Martin Andersen
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Hi Filiberto

It is strange with the disappearance of the Kufic border. But perhaps it is still related to the unclean feet on the script, not just for export but in general. The customary prohibition, which seem to be consensus today, must have started in some point of history, perhaps causing the rather strange and sudden disappearance of the border.
Not sure how much one should put into it, it might be a coincidence, but still interesting that the oldest surviving versions of the Caucasian kufic border then are on prayer rugs.

best
Martin
April 22nd, 2012, 06:09 AM 122
Filiberto Boncompagni
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Hi Martin,

You see, the lines I quoted from Pierre were about the “leaf and wineglass” border - so common on Caucasian rugs - that also disappeared from European paintings at around the same time as the Kufic border.

When there are several of these coincidences, including design similarities, and they start forming a pattern, one begins to wonder if at least some of the absolutely unproved claims by Latif Kerimov & Co. may hold some truth.
Regards,

Filiberto
April 22nd, 2012, 06:57 AM  123
Steve Price
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Hi Filiberto

I'm sure some of what Kerimov wrote is correct. The problem with sources that are unreliable is that the information they provide is, well, unreliable. That means that you can only give credence to the part of it that you can confirm independently. And if you can only trust what you can confirm independently, the unreliable source is superfluous.

Regards.

Steve Price
April 22nd, 2012, 07:09 AM 124
Martin Andersen
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Hi Filiberto and Steve

I will stay out of the wineglass discussion, it seem at least as complicated and dangerous as the kufic And I am not sure what the implications of Kerimovs claims are, could you briefly sum it up?
And didn't the Timurid version of the kufic border equally disappear in the 15th-16th ?

best Martin
April 22nd, 2012, 08:07 AM   125
Filiberto Boncompagni
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Hi Steve,


Martin,
I don’t think the wineglass discussion may be dangerous at all.
At worst, you could be exposed by Horst to another YouTube link to a Dita von Teese’s striptease, like in post #29. No big deal.

About Kerimof, here is a link to the pictures of “The Azerbaijan Carpet Volume II”:

http://artyx.ru/books/item/f00/s00/z0000040/st067.shtml

Don’t be afraid: a look at the first pictures and their captions is sufficient to understand what I mean.

Regards,

Filiberto
April 22nd, 2012, 08:28 AM 126
Martin Andersen
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hi Filiberto - I see. Kerimov seem kind of like throw-it-all-in-a-stew and get your favorit national dish
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April 22nd, 2012, 08:40 AM   127
Filiberto Boncompagni
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Hi Martin,
I forgot your other question: And didn't the Timurid version of the kufic border equally disappear in the 15th-16th ?
Timurid carpets disappeared with the Timurids. As far as I know, there is only a fragment recently identified as Timurid at the Benaki Museum, Athens.
April 22nd, 2012, 09:16 AM   128
Pierre Galafassi
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni
Hi Martin,

Timurid carpets disappeared with the Timurids. As far as I know, there is only a fragment recently identified as Timurid at the Benaki Museum, Athens.
Right, and not a spectacular one.
We can only guess their aspect from miniatures, keeping present that the usual pigments for miniatures (lapis, cinnabar, gold leaf..) and dyes for rug wool (indigo, madder, cochineal,...) did not lead to similar shades and Timurid miniaturists did not share the taste of some Renaissance painters for details.

To be precise, my note about disappearing kufic borders was specifically related to rugs featured in European paintings. I haven't yet verified whether they also nearly disappeared from extant rugs, (I will). I share Filiberto's feeling that it was so, though.

Best regards
Pierre
April 22nd, 2012, 09:39 AM   129
Pierre Galafassi
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QUOTE=Martin Andersen;10241

The customary prohibition, which seem to be consensus today, must have started in some point of history, perhaps causing the rather strange and sudden disappearance of the border.

I fully agree Martin,
Even Muslim illustrations of the Prophet were rather frequent at some point in history and fully unacceptable at others.

Then, also various ethnic groups interpreted islamic rules in different ways, as examples we can mention this site's ethnic favorite the 18th century Turkmen, who, according to their visitors, were quite Zen in their interpretation of some Islamic rules, especially the ban on enslaving other Muslims, not to speak of the Persian intellectual elite whose celebrations of wine reached the apex of poesy.
Best regards
Pierre
April 22nd, 2012, 10:44 AM 130
Filiberto Boncompagni
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Hi Pierre,
Quote:
To be precise, my note about disappearing kufic borders was specifically related to rugs featured in European paintings. I haven't yet verified whether they also nearly disappeared from extant rugs, (I will). I share Filiberto's feeling that it was so, though.
My turn to be precise: while the “wineglass” border disappeared only from European paintings (I am not sure about extant rugs), the Kufic border disappeared also from extant rugs, until it reappeared on Caucasian rugs. Unless I am wrong, that is.
Regards,

Filiberto
April 23rd, 2012, 01:12 AM   131
Filiberto Boncompagni
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Hi Pierre,

I realized that I forgot to include the Mamluks carpets among my survey of extant rugs. A few of them have Kufic borders.

So, to summarize the general situation (and, please, correct me if I am wrong, you are the historian here): until the end of the 15th century the use of Kufic borders was quite generalized, from Moorish Spain to Egypt (Mamluks rugs), Syria (para-Mamluks rugs), Persia (Timurid rugs) and Anatolia (Holbein and Lotto rugs).

Then it started to disappear. Why? Let’s see.

After 1500, and following the expulsion of the Moors, Spanish carpet design began to prefer classically inspired European Renaissance.

Mamluks and para-Mamluks started extinction.

Same for Timurids rugs: the new rulers of Persia, the Savafids, introduced a completely new style.

It’s not clear what happened in Anatolia. Either it was a change of fashion (that could have been inspired by religious reasons) or the Holbeins and Lottos stopped coming from Caucasus


Regards,

Filiberto
April 23rd, 2012, 08:26 AM   132
Pierre Galafassi
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Hi Filiberto, Martin and all

Yes, Filiberto, grosso-modo this was the picture.

Your remark about the Safavid makes a lot of sense to me: the new curvilinear rug style favored by Shah Abbas and his successors, was hardly compatible with the geometric and angular Kufic. It is perhaps interesting for this discussion to note that there are a number of extant Safavid rugs which do carry religious texts, but woven in a curvilinear script of course.

FIG 1. Persian. Safavid period, sixteenth century, F. Spuhler, Thyssen collection.



FIG 2. (Persian. Safavid period, sixteenth century, Friedrich Sarre ), shows the one case where the weaver really pushed the concept a little bit too far: The rug is fully inscribed with the 99 names of God! Note what looks as 4 cartouches with «square kufic script» (right, Martin?) in the border.




Thus, at least in Safavid Persia, a religious inscription woven in a rug was a perfectly acceptable practice. A fact which IMHO would rather support Martin’s guess that kufic motifs too might have carried a religious signification (1). His hypothesis, (confirmed by facts), that these motifs were nearly exclusively white (pale shade) on dark background, unlike most other border motifs of the time, seems also to be pointing in that direction.

The Moghol rulers of India copied the Safavid curvilinear floral style from the very beginning of their own carpet industry. This style was also favored by the Ottoman court manufactures.

In Spain, even long before the fall of the little Nasrid kingdom of Granada, most rugs were already woven in Christian territory, by Mujedars, Muslims or superficially (2) christianized former Muslims. However, there was initially a good measure of religious tolerance in Christian Spain, tolerance which ended under the rule of Isabel and Ferdinand. Before the joint ruler’s law of expulsion of all hardcore Muslim Moors from Spain, the Mujedar used quite freely many of their typical motifs, including a specific form of «kufic» border. Given the well known lack of sense of humor of the Spanish Inquisition, the Mujedar weavers might have gradually preferred avoiding kufic motifs (A confirmation of their implicit symbolic / religious content?), even when they still kept weaving some «large pattern Holbein» rugs.

In Egypt, one can doubt that the Mamluk rulers had much rights for claiming paternity of the «Mamluk» rug style, since most of these extant rugs were probably woven after the last Mamluk ruler was hanged in 1516 by the Ottomans (3). It is more probable that Ottoman Egypt and Syria sheepishly followed the fashion (or Ulema’s decisions ?) dictated by Istanbul.

Not only to make you, Filiberto, feel good, but I do think it possible that many painted- or extant rugs attributed to Anatolia might actually have come from Caucasus:
Historians have analyzed the inventories of a number of Renaissance grandees and «Circassian» rugs apparently made a significant percentage of the listed carpets (4).
Where are now these «Circassian» extant rugs (Is it possible that moths had a particular liking for them?) and which Renaissance paintings feature them (Did painters suffer a general allergy to them?).
From the sixteenth- until the eighteenth century (when the first Caucasian rugs hit the European market again), these carpets probably had changed enough to make it difficult for us to identify the extant- or painted ancestors woven around 1400-1500.

Besides, the Venetian ambassador Barbaro, visiting the Aq Koyunlu ruler in Tabriz, around 1470, very much praised the beauty of local rugs, in his opinion superior to Anatolian- or Cairene ones. It would seem very unlikely that the eager Italian merchants would have neglected such a juicy potential market, given a chance to contact the supplier.

I would not bet the house on it of course, but many rugs with «Memling guls», with «leaf and wineglass» borders or with «Crivelli" medallions might indeed have come from the Caucasus, as in part discussed in earlier posts. Not sure about those with kufic borders, Filiberto.

Best regards
Pierre

(1) I would not be too much concerned by "lack of readability"as an argument against Martin's theory, as Marla mentioned in an earlier post, the kufic signs might have been used either for Arabic or Turkik language. And we could perhaps even add Farsi or Uyghur Turkik as well .
(2) Several generations after the expulsion of the Moors, the supposedly Catholic Mujedar populations still created problems especially in the South.
(3)After 1518, the Mamluks leaders were mere beys, subject to the Ottoman Sultan.
(4)See for example: Rosamond E. Mack «Bazaar to Piazza», pages 77 and 200 (note 24)
April 23rd, 2012, 10:54 AM  133
Martin Andersen
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Hi Pierre

Beautiful rug fig 2. and sure that's square kufic in the shape of a eightpointed star. There seem to have been a Safavid tradition for using square kufic. George also has one http://www.kufic.info/othermediums/rugs/fletcher.htm

These rugs are of course made for the elite, I wonder if compared to the Seljuk (and the perhaps also the Timurid) the Safavid elite were more literate? And thus less inclined to accept a bordertype like "the kufic border" ? It might have been seen as too simple and naive.

best Martin
April 24th, 2012, 04:14 AM  134
Martin Andersen
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Hi Filiberto, Pierre and All

How about this one (not quite sure how to label it) :



For me it raises a lot of highly interesting aspects of pictorial representation in the niche/prayer rugs.
And as you might know if you have read the old tread on rugtalk.com it is for me also directly related to the Seljuk rugs and their impact on later Anatolian rugs (I will try to explain more later, I have some new points which are not quite easy for me to formulate in english )



best Martin
April 24th, 2012, 05:04 AM   135
Pierre Galafassi
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Quoting Martin: "These rugs are of course made for the elite, I wonder if compared to the Seljuk (and perhaps also the Timurid) the Safavid elite were more literate?"

Hi Martin,

I don’t know whether there was any statistical difference between the intellectual level of Safavid-, Timurid -,Il-khanid- and Seljuk elites. My uneducated guess is rather that there was none.

True, the nomadic founders of the «Great-Seljuk»(of iran) or of the Il-khanid- dynasty, as well as Timur-Lan (son of an obscure clan chief of Transsoxiana) were illiterate, but Turks and Mongols were very quick to assimilate foreign cultures and, in general, strongly supported the development of civilization, especially literature and architecture, in their empires. The successors of the dynasty founders were often highly cultured fellows. The Timurid princes, for example, although not always competent rulers, were frequently generous patrons, talented intellectuals, scientists (like Ulugh-beg), poets and chroniclers ( like Babur the founder of the Indian Mughal empire). One of the Il-khanid rulers was a remarkable polyglot etc..

Beautiful prayer rug in your last post! Its pattern looks "para-mamluk" to me. (Another designation which probably only hides our ignorance of their origin). Looking forward very much to your theory, Martin.

Best regards
Pierre
April 24th, 2012, 05:11 AM  136
Filiberto Boncompagni
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Hi Martin,

That rug has been discussed in the “Mills on para-Mamluks” thread in the “Geometric Rugs in Early Renaissance Painting” section:
http://www.turkotek.com/VB37/showthread.php?t=1175

Regards,

Filiberto
April 24th, 2012, 05:24 AM  137
Martin Andersen
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Hi Filiberto

Thanks, nice to see it in higher resolution. But "Para-Mamluk"? that must be a label on account of the medallion rug "depicted" on it?
I found it on an Farsi net-site (lost the link) where I, as far as I remember, Googletranslated it to being dated 17th persia, and the rug should be in the collection of the museum in Teheran. This of course may be wrong.

best Martin
(and I certainly have to seriously read up on all your treads in the "Painting section")
April 24th, 2012, 05:30 AM   138
Filiberto Boncompagni
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Hi Martin,
I rather trust Mills on the attribution.
There is a lot of nationalism in the different fiefs of the Rugdom...
April 24th, 2012, 05:39 AM   139
Martin Andersen
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Hi Filiberto

yes surely persia 17th seem rather odd.
Do you have photos of other Mamaluks of this type, or just with the kufic border?, you mentioned them in your the 23th.
April 24th, 2012, 09:42 AM   140
Filiberto Boncompagni
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Hi Martin,

I don’t remember other para-Mamluk rugs but I am traveling again and I don’t have access to my books.
However, there is a proper Mamluk carpet with Kufic border at the V&A Museum


1468-1496 (made) - This is one of the very few examples of Mamluk carpet-weaving that has survived from the reign of sultan Qa’itbay. The Egyptian weavers who made it drew on Iranian techniques and designs.

For more examples of Kufic borders, see also Pierre’s “Geometric Rugs in Early Renaissance Paintings”
http://www.turkotek.com/old_masters/salon_2.html

and one of its sub- threads “Beautiful rug with Rub el Hizb medallion”. The latter is quite interesting on the subject of a possible Timurid derivation:
http://www.turkotek.com/VB37/showthread.php?t=1218

Pierre, thanks for your post. I have forgotten the “Circassian” connection.
Regards,

Filiberto
April 24th, 2012, 10:50 AM 141
Cornelius Frandes
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pierre Galafassi
In Spain, even long before the fall of the little Nasrid kingdom of Granada, most rugs were already woven in Christian territory, by Mujedars, Muslims or superficially christianized former Muslims. However, there was initially a good measure of religious tolerance in Christian Spain, tolerance which ended under the rule of Isabel and Ferdinand. Before the joint ruler’s law of expulsion of all hardcore Muslim Moors from Spain, the Mujedar used quite freely many of their typical motifs, including a specific form of «kufic» border. Given the well known lack of sense of humor of the Spanish Inquisition, the Mujedar weavers might have gradually preferred avoiding kufic motifs (A confirmation of their implicit symbolic / religious content?), even when they still kept weaving some «large pattern Holbein»
rugs.
Dear all,

Pierre's polymathic contributions are always a pleasure to read here and my about to be written thoughts should be taken as a humble P.S. to them.
Yet the truth is that it is impossible to assert for certain until (and at) which stage kufic motifs survived or further permeated (even under cautious disguise) into the Christian Romanic (later to become Spanish), respectively into the Carolingian caligraphy, weavings and generally speaking "art" and crafts of mediaeval Catholic Spain or France.
Or for that matter why the early Irish manuscripts, of which 'The Book of Kells' is an outstanding example, have a 'Kufesque' tinge about them.



This Book of Kells manuscript is nominally written in a hybrid Latin-Greek inspired script but there is an Oriental tinge about its Insular majuscule letter to the point of it bordering on what we here call for a reason 'Kufesque'.

Quote:
For rivals to the Korans and to Muslim manuscripts one can only look to the carpetlike pages of the great Book of Kells, certain title pages of the gospel books prepared in the Monastery of St. Gall, the Psalter of Folchard, and books dating from the eighth and ninth centuries that were the productions of those scribes whom the Latin writers of the Middle Ages grouped together as "Scots".
Around a swirling swastika, abstract floral forms, like the Celtic drawings of the Book of Kells, indicate a restless motion, which forces the eye not only over the surface but also into the depth of the picture...
(Raymond Somers Stites - The Arts and Man, Whittlesey House, 1940)
Quote:
Ian Finaly in his work "Celtic Art: An Introduction" writes: "it [the Book of Kells] is a revelation of the marriage of pagan superstition and Christian belief, quite as spiritually significant as Michelangelo's great manifestation on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel." (p.146) Byzantine, Arabic, Oriental and other foreign influences combine with Irish tradition to produce a work of magnificent intricacy and detail.

Human figures, abstract designs and animals comprise the symbols used by the artists. Great imagination and talent were used to weave these images into the text. In many cases, animal figures are manipulated and stylized to form letters. . -- The third Milham Lecture delivered in April 1990 by Dr. Thomas Power on the Book of Kells; Harriet Irving Library.
Or take the Pictish Saint Ninian's Cross which looks like a fragment of a chain of a Kufic border despite its extreme boreal origin.




Quote:
"There certainly existed patterns of cultural syncretism between Norman, Angevin, Byzantine, Andalusian, and Maghreban artistic productions. It is indeed an extraordinary thing to view, for instance, an ivory box with copper and silver niello Kufic inscriptions glorifying Allah, yet which came to function as a reliquary for the remains of Saint Regnobert in Bayeux."
Perhaps one of the most fascinating (and lesser known) episode of the cultural and political history of early mediaeval Europe was the so-called (and already mentioned in this thread) Abbasid-Carolingian alliance. that predated the Franco-Mongol alliance to which Horst recently alluded and whose cultural sequels have recently been traced.

Quote:
The use of Phags-pa Mongol script in Medieval European painting had remained unnoticed however, until it was first identified in the 1980s by the Japanese scholar Hidemichi Tanaka. His findings were published in his 1983paper 'The Mongolian Script in Giotto Paintings at the Scrovegni Chapel at Padova'. Kufic Arabic script is even more often used in a similar way, known as Pseudo-Kufic.
On the other side, many a historian of art such as J.W. Williams were reluctant to accept the extent of the Moorish influence on Spanish or even Frankish textiles and works of caligraphy.

Williams suggests that so-called 'kufic' borders may be linked to a Touronian (Carolingian) type of border formed by pennons and half discs rather than to Islamic writing, as had previously been thought.

(Williams J.W., 'Tours and Early Medieval Art of Spain' in Florilegium in Honorem Carl Nordenfalk Octogenarium Contextum, Stockholm 1987, p. 199.)

Perhaps we should stick to the compromise term of "Interlace" rather than to that (more strict) of Kufic. Yet when it comes to the so-called Kufic borders of the Caucasian carpet the Kufic alphabet is obvioulsy one of the candidates for the (possible) source of inspiration of the lady weaver who mechanically reproduced its shapes without actually mastering the letters and the meaning of the words that presumably it was supposed to contain in it.

Regards,
Cornelius

Last edited by Cornelius Frandes; April 24th, 2012 at 11:01 AM.
April 24th, 2012, 12:28 PM   142
Pierre Galafassi
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Hi Martin,

The so-called «para-mamluk» rugs are part of these many groups of classical rugs of unclear origin. One can still read a number of theories about them (Woven in Syria, Egypt or even Iran...).
They are supposed to date from the fifteenth- and sixteenth century and several rugs in excellent state of conservation are extant. Most para-mamluk rugs carry a kufik border.
I believe that at least some of them have been tested by C14.
Some extant examples:
FIG 1. Para-mamluk XV XVI. W. Denny. «Anatolian Carpets».

FIG 2. Para-mamluk fragment. XVI. F. Sarre..

FIG 3. Para-mamluk. XVI.


Old masters have used them in a fair number of paintings too. The best known one being Lorenzo Lotto’s «The Alms of Saint Anthony, 1542», in which a «para-mamluk» lurks in the background, behind a «Lotto» rug.
FIG 4 shows another example featured in a 1530-1540 painting from the North Italian school (Unknown painter, «Portrait of Venice protonotary Zuan Zulian» . Nat. Gal. London).


Best regards
Pierre
April 24th, 2012, 02:23 PM  143
Horst Nitz
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Hi all,

whilst I am wrestling for time to shape the argument for an all ornament derived origin of the Kufesque border, I came across a piece of sumac from the bottom of my trunk where I nearly had forgotten about it. I offer a detail of it here for starters:







Going by its geometric ‘Kufic’ it probably is Selcuk, 13th c.

Regards, Horst
April 24th, 2012, 03:34 PM   144
Martin Andersen
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Hi Horst

Nice to see that you have the time for another joke. Will look forward to see your argument backed up with relevant historical material pre-15th c.

best Martin
April 24th, 2012, 05:52 PM  145
Martin Andersen
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Hi Cornelius

There is of course no doubt that there has been cultural exchange between the Islamic and the Christian cultures. But I would say tracking the Timurid, the Seljuk, the Mamaluk and the Caucasian kufic border back to a sole origin in Europe would be rather adventures. I don't hope this is your point.

That a script is ornamented (like the Insular script) doesn't in it self make it kurfesque, that is at least for me making the term far to broad. There has to be some direct correspondence to the stylistic aspect of kufic. I would say the main stylistic feature of ornamented kufic script (of course apart from the arabic letters) is the pointed angular ends in the vertical lines - the stylization of the ending of the stroke with a brush. Pseudo-kufic seem to be used slightly broader, covering any arabic letter-like decoration, but I don't see that either in the Insula script.
All alphabets in Europe and Middle east are of course interrelated, but I doubt that there is any direct connection between the specific ornamented kufic script and the celtic.

I were about to say the something similar regarding the generic samples you give on knotted or interlaced ornamentation, which in its simplicity may have been derived simultaneous in different cultures just from for example the technical aspect on knitting or weaving. But on the other hand:
Knotted kufic ornamentation and script is not a generic term but a specific historical style which gets developed in the 11-12th c, and though I find it unlikely I dont think one can rule out that there may have been an influence from northern knotted ornamentation in this, one by many examples could be the Normans ruling over a multicultural Sicily in this period. So perhaps we might be able reach some kind of compromise

But still any influence of European knotted ornamentation without the specific stylistic articulation of ornamented Islamic kufic script would not give us anything close to the borders we are discussing. Sorry for reposting this once more:



best Martin

Last edited by Martin Andersen; April 24th, 2012 at 06:26 PM.
April 25th, 2012, 02:11 AM  146
Horst Nitz
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Hi Martin, Cornelius

no 'carpet pages' with interlaced ornamentation prior to 669 on the British Isles, the year of the arrival of Theodore of Tarsus (according to Volkmar Gantzhorn) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theodore,_Archbishop_of_Canterbury .

Tarsus is situated by the Cilician Gates, the ancient throughway connecting Anatolia (and Phrygia) with the Levante and Mesopotamia. Tarsus and vicinity has been a centre of learning since earliest time and in the beginning of Christianity it was one of the theological cradles of ideas that later led to Nestorianism http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diodorus_of_Tarsus . The apostle Paulus was there.

Interlace and knotted ornamentation and its divine connotation was known there before either, Paulus or Theodore arrived - and before Alexander http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phrygia ; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gordian_Knot ; http://www.maa.org/devlin/devlin_9_01.html .

Regards, Horst

Last edited by Horst Nitz; April 25th, 2012 at 11:02 AM.
April 25th, 2012, 03:07 AM   147
Martin Andersen
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Hi Horst and Cornelius

Must admit that I don't find it quite easy to read your posts, might partly be a question of language (I assume none of us have english as first language), so sorry for any misunderstandings on that account.

I can easily accept that some ornamentation reached the Celts together with the alphabet and the monks, and that it merged with celtic ornamentation, but I don't hope that you are seriously suggesting that a local development in Ireland is the origin of the kufic rugborders ?

Martin

Last edited by Martin Andersen; April 25th, 2012 at 03:20 AM.
April 25th, 2012, 03:42 AM 148
Pierre Galafassi
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Hi Cornelius,

Needless to say, I am neither an expert of art nor of Muslim script. Actually I am fully ignorant of both.

In this thread there is no agreement and probably no proof, either way, to support those who favor a direct filiation between the kufic script and «kufic» rug-borders and those who reluctantly tolerate the terms «kufic», «kufesque» or «pseudo-kufic» as mere practical designations, similar to «leaf-and-wineglass». Although I find Martin’s hypothesis credible, very well argued and his thread highly entertaining.

When it comes to the question of the influence of the Mudejar on Spanish and Portuguese art and architecture, I am aware that an old school of thought, mainly in Spain, has tried to minimize it. Call me cynical, but I tend to dismiss these attempts as being a bit contaminated by considerations of Spanish internal politics (remember the military threat of the Ottomans in Europe and in the Mediterranean area during the 16th and 17th century) and by ethnocentrism. There is no shortage of excellent publications contradicting them, though. For example the remarkable work of Maria del Carmen Lacarra Ducay «Arte Mudéjar en Aragón, León, Castilla, Extremadura y Andalucía (Available on the net).

To stay strictly with rugs, publications like «Alfombras Españolas de Alcaraz y Cuenca, siglos XV-XVI», by the MNAC and those mentioned below (1) (2), make no fuss at using the term « rasgos cúficos» or «kufic» for borders of a number of fifteenth century Spanish rugs, for example from the type known as «alfombras del Almirante». The primary role of mudejar artisans in rug making is also universally agreed upon (1). It was only my personal, mischievous, hypothesis, that post-1508 Mudejar weavers might have prudently put away the kufic borders (while keeping weaving traditional-looking rugs until well into the 16th century in order to avoid trouble with a nosy inquisition.
Please find below three pictures, two of extant rugs and one of a Spanish painting featuring a rug, all showing quite credible «kufic» borders.(IMHO)

FIG 1. Spanish. Alcaraz? with star field pattern. Detail. XV. MNAD. Madrid.


FIG 2. Spanish. Alcaraz? with small Holbein motif. XV. Boston.


FIG 3. Unknown Spanish painter, 1480-1500, Last supper, San Esteban Church. Burgos


Martin and Filiberto, if you are reading this, what do you make of FIG 3? Does it not look suspiciously like real script? What if «your» calligraph, Filiberto, would give us his competent opinion about it?

[i](1) See for example:
Partearroyo Lacaba, «Alfombras Españolas», or
M.S. Dimand «Two fifteenth century Hispano-Moresque Rugs», both available on the Net


Best regards
Pierre

Last edited by Pierre Galafassi; April 27th, 2012 at 05:16 AM.
April 25th, 2012, 04:53 AM  149
Filiberto Boncompagni
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Hi Pierre,
Quote:
What if «your» calligraph, Filiberto, would give us his competent opinion about it?
I prefer don’t ask because:
- I don’t like to bother people, especially when I don’t know them
- There’s no need to prove anything else besides the apparent similarity to Kufic script as far as Kufic borders are concerned
- It doesn’t look like Kufic anyway

Then, may I remind to some respected visitors of our establishment that Kufic decoration isn’t an invention made on these pages out of thin air but an element of Islamic Art?
Its possible provenance and influence may make an interesting point of discussion but here the real matter under scrutiny is resumed by Martin Andersen’s image:


nothing less, nothing more.

The present discussion has already become extremely long and unfortunately this goes to the detriment of comprehension. Therefore, may I exhort some respected visitors of our establishment to get to the point before old age gets the best of us?

Thanks,

Filiberto
April 25th, 2012, 11:05 AM  150
Horst Nitz
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Hi Martin,

Quote:
"but I don't hope that you are seriously suggesting that a local development in Ireland is the origin of the kufic rugborders?"
No, definitely not. It is a case of east to west transfer.

Regards, Horst
April 25th, 2012, 11:40 AM  151
Cornelius Frandes
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Hi Horst, Martin, Pierre and Filiberto!

Thank you all for your answers!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Horst Nitz
Interlace and knotted ornamentation and its divine connotation was known there before either, Paulus or Theodore arrived - and before Alexander http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phrygia ; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gordian_Knot ; http://www.maa.org/devlin/devlin_9_01.html .
Horst,
The last link that you provide makes interesting reading. To quote from it:

Quote:
Physicists are interested in knots because the latest theories of matter postulate that everything is made up of tightly coiled (and maybe knotted) loops of space-time, and biologists are interested in knots because the long, string-like molecules of DNA coil themselves up tightly to fit inside the cell
The space-time bit is intriguing because what many of the interlaced/knot-like/Kufic elements that are depicted of certain rugs do allude to is the concept of 'eternity' (resilience, durability, non-perishability). It is what ultimately a rug is all about: an attempt to wage war on time and on the flimsy vagaries of history by sending (metaphorically speaking) a message from the distant past towards an uncertain future. For what else is a rug if not a statement? It's a bit like a message in a bottle that belatedly reaches us from far flung corners (both of geographical space and historical time). When I look at or grab it I'm connecting to a past that (though otherwise gone) it has survived nevertheless via the very rug that I now 'appropriate'. It's fascinating. Perhaps not coincidentally the mathematical sign that denotes 'infinity', is ultimately a knot-cum-loop: ∞.

I don't want to aggrandize the issue of the knotness/ tangledness or drag it out of the strict context of this thread but out of an exaggerated urge to be too concrete and on topic, we may end up by simplifying too much the issue to the point of trivializing it. The facile conclusions and those at hand are not always the most valuable ones.
Clinging too much on the word 'Kufic' (logical and commonsensical though it be) ultimately amounts to throwing the baby out with the bath, to remain with preciously little save for an at hand label (if not outright logo!)

Martin,
I wholeheartedly agree with your April 24th, 2012 10:52 PM post. As to the issue of our English, it is a particular, peculiar breed of English, I must admit Sorry for seeming incomprehensible, which it probably is.
Though I'm currently temporarily residing abroad where I have a house too, I've been living in London since 1994 (got married and one of my degrees there, most of my collections are there) but then English, official language though it be, it is just one of the many languages that happens to be spoken in fatally miscegenated London It is not my first language by virtue of birth, though it kind of became in time the main one by virtue of my residence.
Anyway, this is the Turtotek so what should bind us should be all things 'Oriental'


Quote:
I can easily accept that some ornamentation reached the Celts together with the alphabet and the monks, and that it merged with Celtic ornamentation, but I don't hope that you are seriously suggesting that a local development in Ireland is the origin of the kufic rugborders ?
No, I am not! What I am pleading for are the "patterns of cultural syncretism between East and West", South and North or whatever the cardinal points. The Kufic alphabet itself is, as you yourself so wisely pointed out, an adagio to previous scripts and scribblings, which it completes and enriches but from which it draws its origins. We must view Kufic as a particular strain of 'something' that at a certain time in history existed simultaneously in a more or less blatant form, both in East and West or whatever the cardinal points. (A good example is that of the Arabic numerals that we use to this day in Europe and which do not hail in their initial form neither from Latin or from Greek but from a script which was related to the Kufic)

Pierre,

I really hope that Steve and Filiberto will archive this thread and index it on the selected discussions board because your (and many other participants' contributions to this thread) are quite illuminating. What could I, as a novice, say, other than cunningly and quietly learn from the expertize of the likes of you? (And I am dead serious. My personal pride took a fatal hit yesterday when I mistook Louis' SW Persian for a NW Persian so I now decided to keep quiet and sit in my corner, and 'steal' knowledge from the more learned until I grow up older and wiser)
Quote:
When it comes to the question of the influence of the Mudejar on Spanish and Portuguese art and architecture, I am aware that an old school of thought, mainly in Spain, has tried to minimize it. Call me cynical, but I tend to dismiss these attempts as being a bit contaminated by considerations of Spanish internal politics (remember the military threat of the Ottomans in Europe and in the Mediterranean area during the 16th and 17th century) and by ethnocentrism
A friend who had been a school-girl during Franco's epoch told me en detail what and how they were taught at school etc. (the anti-Moorish sentiment was part of the curriculum, much as Franco gained power and defeated the Republican side by the sacrifices of his Morrocan soldiers, but then this was conveniently forgotten). So I'd risk to say that the 'old school of thought' as you euphemistically call it, has survived until recently. It should thus come as no surprise that the Mudejar (or Morisco as Braudel calls them) influences have been belittled. Yet we should not fall into the other extreme and ignore the Romanic, Alan or Visigothic influences on Spain's cultural and artistic realm. Williams thinks that the Spanish Kufic is Visigothic influenced pennons and half-discs (the pennons would explain the pointed angular ends in vertical Kufic lines to which Martin alludes). That is very much an issue of Western Crusaders vs. Moorish expansionism (both military and cultural) to obviously half-jokingly play a bit with words


Quote:
The present discussion has already become extremely long and unfortunately this goes to the detriment of comprehension. Therefore, may I exhort some respected visitors of our establishment to get to the point before old age gets the best of us?
Indeed it has. Couldn't agree more with you Filiberto I thus end up here my share of thoughts and hope that it shan't be me who will have the last word

Regards,
C.
April 25th, 2012, 12:04 PM 152
Filiberto Boncompagni
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Hi Cornelius,
No bad feelings, I hope. Just trying to keep things moving.

Filiberto
April 25th, 2012, 01:02 PM 153
Steve Price
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Hi Cornelius

There's no question - this thread will definitely be archived. It has lasting value to ruggies, and will be a good resource. I think it ought to be modified into a publishable form, and suggested that to Martin many pages ago.

Regards

Steve Price
April 25th, 2012, 01:33 PM  154
Rich Larkin
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Hi Folks:

Quote:
The present discussion has already become extremely long and unfortunately this goes to the detriment of comprehension.
Ahah!! I understand this part!!

Rich Larkin
April 25th, 2012, 01:47 PM 155
Rich Larkin
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Hi Folks:

I was being cheeky in that last post. But I think this is the essence of the matter. Martin has been trying to link the familiar, so-called "kufic border," to antecedents of actual kufic script, i. e., written inscriptions, in rugs. Horst is suggesting the border evolved from other sources, and written script was not part of the development. We are awaiting Horst's particulars. Is that about it?

Rich Larkin
April 25th, 2012, 02:39 PM  156
Pierre Galafassi
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[quote=Cornelius Frandes]

My personal pride took a fatal hit yesterday when I mistook Louis' SW Persian for a NW Persian so I now decided to keep quiet and sit in my corner,

Don't! I too misquoted yesterday a Spanish painter and won't shut up because of such a banal error. None of us here is an art expert or historian, I guess. We are only a bunch of aficionados having fun.

Yet we should not fall into the other extreme and ignore the Romanic, Alan or Visigothic influences on Spain's cultural and artistic realm.

Absolutely. And you can add Gothic (medieval gothic, that is) and of course Renaissance.

Regards
Pierre
April 25th, 2012, 06:26 PM 157
Cornelius Frandes
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Hi Horst, Martin, Pierre, Filiberto and all!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Martin Andersen
I can easily accept that some ornamentation reached the Celts together with the alphabet and the monks, and that it merged with celtic ornamentation, but I don't hope that you are seriously suggesting that a local development in Ireland is the origin of the kufic rugborders ?
The so-called Celtic-Oriental kinship (let's call it East-West Diwan ) intrigued many a scholar. I don't know if you are aware of Christopher Aslan Alexander's book titled 'A Carpet Ride to Khiva' Icon Books, 2010 (must have been discussed here). Some pages of it are fully available to the reader on the web (see link). Here are some relevant lines though there are many more pages that deal with Kufic and Celtic.



Quote:
"...Although part of it is obscured from view, enough can be seen to appreciate its stunning design. The border immediately marks out the rug as being from the time of the Timurid dynasty in 15th-century Persia. Gold interlacing motifs that were once letters of Kufic script, now evolved into stylised motifs, adorn a rich crimson background. The field design (the area within the central rectangle framed by the border) is made up of tessellating hexagonal star-flowers. The balance of colour is masterful and yet it flouts many of the conventions of colour in practice today. Each flower is framed in orange, containing a green centre pierced with a yellow circle, and surrounded by a blue hexagon. These hexagons are entwined in a complicated geometry of white interwoven threads on a vivid red background.
They create a pleasing interlaced-knot effect and tessellate in six different directions to join up with other star-flowers. Sadly, over time, this style of carpet design suffered from the caprice of fashion, as arabesque medallion designs from the later Safavid dynasty eclipsed the more geometrically staid Timurid carpets, leaving no trace of them except in illustrations to poems and epics. But I see these pictures as blueprints, ready to be woven to life once more. I wanted to find out more about Timurid carpets. They followed the tradition of most carpets, consisting of a central field design framed with a border. I was learning how to spot their distinctive fields, typically consisting of repeating guls, interlaced with banded knots rather than the later medallion design most associated with classical oriental rugs.
The main giveaway that a carpet was Timurid was in the border, which consisted of stylised letters, evolved and embellished to appear like Celtic knots in some cases.
I preferred Timurid designs to their more floral successors, but what had led to this transition in carpet patterns? Had the freer style of calligraphy led some miniaturists to experiment with new carpet designs in their pictures, which were then copied by the carpet-weavers themselves, or had this transformation occurred first with carpet-weavers themselves or had this transformation occurred first with carpet-weavers and been merely mirrored by the manuscript illustrators of the time?
There was no definitive answer or even much scholarly work on the subject, though a footnote in one carpet book mentioned an article on Timurid carpets and I tracked it down at the University Library. Heaving the dusty hardback edition of Ars Islamica (1940) onto a table – noticing that it had last been taken out five years previously – I paged through to the essay on Timurid carpets by an American, Amy Briggs.
She refuted the suggestion that Timurid carpets were merely works of a pen and had never actually been woven. If the Timurid tilework, carved wooden doors and buildings – many of which are still standing – had been painted in faithful realism, then why would the carpets have been mere experiments in geometrical calligraphy and not a rendering of the real thing? There was no actual proof, though. While the tiles, doors and buildings of the 15th century had survived, these carpets hadn't withstood the constant tramping of feet and the scourges of moth and damp. In fact, there was just one known carpet fragment from the Timurid era, now part of the Benaki Museum collection in Greece.
I loved the Benaki fragment's striking interplay of burgundy and gold and was excited at the prospect of reviving it. The ustas had assured me that the absence of a third colour would make it fairly easy to weave. The only drawback was that we weren't sure what its original border had looked like, experimenting instead with a border popular in many Timurid designs.

* * *
My next stop in London was the home of an Oxford professor of carpet history. Arriving at Jon Thompson's house I was greeted by the stereotypical professor, resplendent with luxuriant moustaches and half-moon spectacles.
I had barely stepped through the doorway before we were both down on our hands and knees, examining and discussing the rug in his hallway. It was woven as part of the Dobag project, reviving natural dyeing in western Turkey. Jon told me about his involvement with the German chemistry teacher Harald Boehmer, founder of the Dobag project. Boehmer, intrigued by natural dyes, wondered what it was about them that appealed to him so much more than the same shades in chemical colours. With chemical analysis he discovered that the harmony of natural dyes is partly due to the presence, for example, of madder red, which also contains elements of blue and yellow that the conscious eye doesn't see.

We entered Jon's study, where I could happily have camped for a week, working my way around his impressive collection of carpet books.
Finally I had found someone who might answer my questions. 'So, Jon, this Celtic-looking knot pattern that appears on so many Timurid carpet borders – where did it come from? Did the Celts somehow end up in Central Asia? I know the Vikings travelled far further east than anyone used to think. Or did manuscripts somehow end up in Celtic monasteries? Or maybe ...'
I was instantly admonished by Jon.
'Now Christopher, if you wish to study carpets, one fundamental lesson you must learn is not to make assumptions about design similarity and design causality. That said, the world of Timurid carpets is a fascinating one and little explored . I expect you know about Amy Briggs. There's really been so little scholarship since then, and yet Timurid carpets have been the foundation and starting-point for a wide variety of carpet types.' We continued our discussion as I showed Jon my album of photos of carpets we had already produced. 'Ah, now this one here is interesting. You didn't tell me you' d produced a Lotto. You have done well with that deep red.
Extra oak galls in the madder bath, or forays into cochineal?' he asked. I didn't think we would find cochineal I didn't think we would find cochineal beetles in Central Asia, or the particular cacti they fed on, so our attempts at red had been limited to powdered madder root and oak gall. 'Yes, I'm glad you've made this connection, Christopher he continued.
'This really is an example of carpet causality. You know, I assume, that the carpet type is named after the Renaissance painter Lotto, who often included such carpets in his paintings. Look at the border and you can see how it still mimics Kufic script much more closely than some of the classical Timurid carpets do. Of course, we can only speculate, but it seems likely that, just as the Timurid empire sucked in in artisans from a vast area, so they later dispersed, taking with them Timurid carpet themes. This Lotto rug was probably woven by a weaver influenced by Timurid carpets, and maybe even trained in a Timurid workshop. The weaver was from Anatolia and the rug must have found its way from eastern Turkey through the bazaars and eventually to Florence..."
Regards,
C.
April 26th, 2012, 02:32 AM   158
Martin Andersen
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Hi Cornelius and All

Yes this tread is too long (and perhaps too knotted)

Christopher Aslan Alexander's book sure looks like an interesting personal narration. And a good find in concluding this tread as we actually seem to get John Thompsons view on the subject: "I was instantly admonished by Jon....."

I somehow think this tread started a bit unlucky, perhaps putting Horst into a rhetorical trap because he a bit too quickly (or in an elevated not-to-serious state of mind) and too categorical posted that the Kufic border has "nothing Kufic about it", and thus forcing me and Filiberto to repeatingly state the obvious relation. The Caucasian kufic border may have a complexed relation to local Caucasion design developments, I am sure Horst is right about this (if this has been his unarticulated argument), but stating that it is totally unrelated to kufic ornamentation is in my opinion a very adventures position.

But it has still been an interesting discussion, and the loads of informative stuff from Filiberto and Pierre sure is impressive. And all in all treads like this for me proves that Turkotek is a very valuable and fun forum for exchange of knowledge, ideas and interests regarding the rugs and their history.

This tread started of with the Caucasian kufic border. I have some more, perhaps less obvious, speculations regarding the kufic relation to ornament and pattern, but they are more related to the Seljuk rugs. So I will probably save them for another tread perhaps with the Seljuk rugs as main subject.

Best Martin

Last edited by Martin Andersen; April 26th, 2012 at 03:46 AM.
April 26th, 2012, 05:31 AM   159
Filiberto Boncompagni
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Hi Rich,
Yes, that is roughly the idea

Same for you, Martin.

Nothing forbids to treat the whole subject of Kufic in a new, different thread.
Perhaps in the "Old Masters" section, why not? And re-using some of the material already posted here. But this thread will be archived on its own, I guess.

Regards,

Filiberto
April 26th, 2012, 08:13 AM 160
Rich Larkin
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Whoaah!!!

Hey Martin!

That last post sounds like a farewell to the thread. You can't do that! There's another shoe to drop here, which is Horst's view of the subject. We have to wait it out. Your initial question, whether the "pseudo Kufic" borders (Louise Mackie in The Splendor of Turkish Weaving) were derived from examples with actual script, is one that is and always has been begging to be answered. As far as I know (which isn't much), other illustrious authorities (e. g., Kurt Erdmann and Şerare Yetkin) have skirted the issue. Your efforts to suggest an affirmative answer have been admirable and interesting. (You have great talent in this area.) Now, we have to see how Horst sees the question. He has been taken up with other things, but he will come through. The debate has been very slightly testy here and there, but that's nothing. We need to get the other argument. So, you must stay on for it. Right?

Rich Larkin
April 26th, 2012, 10:23 AM 161
Martin Andersen
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Join Date: Jul 2008
Posts: 78

Hi Rich

Well this tread started more than one and a half months ago and it is now post no160 (beside those deleted) part of it has been rather polemic in an not so nice tone (if we had lived in the 17th we would probably have asked for "satisfaction" ) and the digressions are far and wide.

I have no problem in imagining more than one possible background for these borders, as I have stated many times I am all for multiple sources in design developments, actually I generally see the merging of multiple source as one of the important generators in how new stylistic features comes into existences. So if Horst or anyone else presents a plausible string of design development regarding the kufic borders I am simply interested. But I have a hard time imagining it would change my basic viewpoint that the Timurid, Seljuk and Caucasian rugs also are directly related to kufic ornamentation and script. In this tread its is only Horst who has insisted on an "either/or" and after one and a half month he hasn't presented his "or"

best Martin

Last edited by Martin Andersen; April 26th, 2012 at 10:46 AM.
April 26th, 2012, 11:16 AM  162
Richard Larkin
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Join Date: May 2008
Location: Massachusetts
Posts: 9

Hi Martin,

Yes, everything you say is true. And I am with you on the multi-source approach to design evolution. In truth, my usual objection to most claims or theorizations about provenance or artistic development in carpets and related items is that they are too simplistic. But may I ask you this question, based on your best guess: Do you think there existed at one time carpets (presumably lost to history) that exhibited actual legible kufic inscriptions in their borders on the scale (and in the style) of, say, the Seljuk carpets from the Alaeddin Mosque in Konya?

And, in case I didn't make it plain in earlier posts, with regard to your prodigious work in this thread:

Rich Larkin
April 26th, 2012, 11:57 AM 163
Martin Andersen
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