The Point I Intended

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Posted by R. John Howe on November 30, 1998 at 18:24:19:

In Reply to: Omission posted by R. John Howe on November 30, 1998 at 05:52:10:

Steve et al -

The point I intended with my cite of the Close article was not to indicate the uniqueness of this interpretation but to respond a bit to Irwin's suggestion that he feels some of the earlier version of the eagle Kazak fit Jerry's notion of "ethnographic." I was simply taking this design back a little further to some carpets that most of us would likely say are less so. Are the Persian vase carpets also "ethnographic," and if not, when in the movement toward the eagle Kazak did the design become so? And my friend, Helfgott is suggesting that such 17th century Persian rugs were often commercial productions made explicitly for the European market. So the "made for use" line was broken over for the rugs thought to be behind the eagle Kazak possibly that far back. What I was attempting was to give a little credence, concretely, to my initial observation that I felt the "ethnographic" distinction is hard to use reliably. This is the reason I would say it needs, perhaps, more work. I would like very much to have it, and act often in my collecting as if I do, but when one tries to ground it seriously, too often it doesn't pick anything out.

Hope that's not too much ado about a relative "nothing."

John Howe

: Dear folks - The Christine Close article is in "Ghereh," the Italina rug magazine. Sorry.

: John Howe

: : Dear folks -

: : A possible instance of response to Jerry's call for commercial records is in the Wertime & Wright book "Caucasian Carpets and Covers," Hali with Lawrence King, 1995, pp. 184, in which they describe the "kustar" movement and provide some documentation of it worked. If I understand correctly, the kustar movement was a kind of small business administration that began in the late 19th century to promote quality production of "traditional" Caucasian rugs. Wright and Wertime note that one of the objectives was to get rid of existing European influences in Caucasian rug designs. So these existed already. They offer (p. 93) a 1913 photo of an eagle Kazak as one of their "anchor" rugs.

: : And without deflecting our discussion unduly, there is one response to the question Irwin raises when he looks for older examples of the eagle Kazak design. Christine Close has argued in Issue 14, p. 7ff. that the eagle Kazak design is tracable to 17th century Persian vase carpets. And with regard to the latter, I'm reading Leonard Helfgott's "Ties That Bind: A Social History of the Iranian Carpet, Smithsonian, 1994, 358 pp., who argues that there was significant commercial production of rugs in Iran in the 16th and 17th centuries and that some of it was explicitly in response to European demand. About this apparently there is some commercial paper documentation, especially in Italy. I do not know how others read such chains of information but for me they get muddier and muddier concerning the distinction that we are exploring.

: : Regards,

: : John Howe

: : : : Jerry's musings on Eagle Kazaks have stirred up my own empirical findings. The earliest Chelaberd's were squarish in shape, had a wide major ivory crab border, and contained a single medallion. A good example is the Bortz rug, recently sold, shown in Hali, Vol. 98, pg. 64. A distinguishing old feature which I was told by several rug dealers is the pendent above and below the medallian. Other early single medallian designs contained the large latched or serrated leaf design above and below the medallian. (See Ulrich Schurman, Caucasian Rugs, plate 28). I believe these early pieces are ethnographic and their colors are lighter and brighter.

: : : : At some point in time, possibly 3rd quarter of the 19th century, this design became so popular that it was commercialized, and the medallians multiplied on the rug, as many as four, and the leaves and pendents disappeared. The colors became darker. The multiple medallians were most likely the result of increasing the rugs length to accommodate Western sized rooms, and now the length was often more than twice the width. If length to accommodate specific "retail markets" was of paramount importance, maybe this would account for the large number of eagle kazaks found with 1/2 medallians (e.g., 1 1/2, 2 1/2) woven in the field.

: : : : What's your thoughts? Does this seem plausible?

: : : : Regards,
: : : : Irwin

: : : Makes sense, Irwin. And it matches similar stories I've heard told.

: : : But it raises the question, where's the paper trail? (Maybe I've been paying too much attention to Washington affairs, so to speak.) Where are the commercial records ordering the production of longer, multi-medallioned Eagle Kazaks? This work didn't take place in the hoary past of a completely pre-literate time. We're talking about the last quarter of the 19th century - scarcely more than 100 years ago. Granted, it is possible that the weavers were illiterate. (Were they?) What do we know of them? What do we know of the ways in which workers were employed at that time? Were there import/export documents that mentioned Eagle Kazaks or whatever they might have been called at that time? If they were being made to order, who was doing the ordering? And are there records of those orders?

: : : -Jerry-

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