The Salon du Tapis d'Orient is a moderated discussion
group in the manner of the 19th century salon devoted to oriental
rugs and textiles and all aspects of their appreciation. Please
include your full name and e-mail address in your posting. An
Interesting Rug, Probably Arab Khamseh
by Daniel Deschuyteneer
Most Khamseh rugs are rather dark and, in my view, fairly
unexciting. The one shown here is unusual in the liveliness of
the palette, the small size, and the nearly square format (4'2"
x 4'4"). The upper and lower borders are worn, but it is
otherwise in good condition with low, evenly worn pile. Most
of us wouldn't find it outstanding, but the colors and skillful
drawing do make it attractive to me.
The central stepped bluish red (perhaps cochineal) medallion,
outlined in white, seems to float upon the dark indigo ground.
The central axis includes what is probably a stylized tree of
life, and many multicolored squares and other geometric ornaments.
The central medallion is decorated with very small boteh of varied
colors in the inner edges of its lower half and the outer edges
of its upper half.
The indigo ground contains a number of motifs, including three
"murgh" (chickens, two at each side at the bottom,
one on the right side). According to James Opie, murgh are common
to Arab Khamseh weavings and those with elongated shapes like
the two at the bottom of this one are a feature of older pieces.
The field is full of motifs scattered in contrasting, vivid
colors, a feature more common to Qashqa'i than to Khamseh rugs.
To me, they are like a fireworks display in a night sky. The
ground is framed by bird-like boteh of different shape and contrasting
colors, standing on two legs and viewing the spectacle from another
The outer border on a medium brown ground is a common type
in Khamseh rugs, consisting of meandering boteh and flower heads
framed by two running dog minor borders in white and brown.
This rug typifies good folk art for me. Its unusual dimensions,
the skillful drawing and the exceptional display of color lead
me to suspect that it is a dowry piece. It has been said that
the two most important things about any rug are its colors and
its colors (I believe this is a paraphrase of George O'Bannon).
If so, then this one meets the two most important criteria for
Dimensions: 125 cm x 129 cm; 4'2" x 4'4"
Knot: Wool, symmetric. 30 x 30 per square dm; 57 per square
Warps: Wool, Z2S, white, natural brown, mixed white and brown.
Alternate warps slightly depressed. Loosely twisted, straight
Wefts: Wool, Z2S, Two shoots of dyed brown
Selvages: Round, one thick cord of three warps overcast in
bands of brown and orange wool
Colors: Appear to be natural