Re: South Persian Art

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Posted by Wendel Swan on November 18, 1998 at 07:13:05:

In Reply to: South Persian Art posted by Marvin on November 16, 1998 at 19:05:48:

I agree fully with Yon Bard that fear is no factor as to whether any individual rug or group of rugs is crowded and also with Stephen Louw in declining to believe that the diverse forms of Islam play a role in this aesthetic consideration.

I'll be the first to say that I also look for the spaciousness that Marvin seeks, although his quest is taking place with another group of rugs. I can't say whether that our common viewpoint is because I have adopted the learned conventions of Western rug collectors or whether my natural preference is for a framework motifs and a separation of the elements of the design.

But I don't agree with Marvin that South Persian weavings are crowded. In fact, I don't think they are, as a whole, any more or less crowded than those of any other group. Luri and Bakhtiyari Gabbehs are among the most open and "modern" looking of all rugs. On the other hand, the so-called Tekke Salor rugs from the turn of the century (roughly the age of this Khamseh) are about as crowded and mechanical looking as any I can think of.

So what may account for so much activity in the field of the little Khamseh rug?

To begin with, the exquisite formal style of rugs and other art preferred, developed and commissioned by Shah Abbas still influences rug making in Iran, and was probably at least a conceptual model when this Khamseh was on the loom. The Persianate style is quite distinct from that used by weavers of Turkic origin, whose motifs traveled far and swiftly and appear in many variations from Turkey to the Caucasus to Persia and to Central Asia, although using widely differing color palettes. While this Khamseh may be geometric, it is Persianate in style - in my opinion.

Intricacy and curvilinear designs accentuate the skills of both the designer and the weaver (or other artisan) and elaboration is a characteristic of most Islamic art. Look, for example, at the tile and brick work on most mosques.

Playing with the number and placement of the filler motifs may be the one of the few bits of discretion that the weaver has in making a rug within the Khamseh tradition, so this is where she shows her skills. As I pointed out in another posting on this topic, there isn't much in the way of composition in the rug in question. There is a big stepped medallion and a border and that's about it.

The medallion rugs of the nearby Qashqai trace directly back to Shah Abbas and many of them are quite floral and formal, but not necessarily crowded.

At some point perhaps we can have a discussion on the distinction between our preferences in the latter part of the 20th Century and the artistic preferences of those in the rug producing regions over the last 500 - 2,000 years.


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