Pics #3 and #4

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Posted by Wendel Swan on December 16, 1998 at 07:10:54:

Pics #3 and #4

As to the Shahsavan bags. I own Pic #3 and have special fondness for it in spite of the fact that the border is totally screwed up. The field, ironically, fairly closely follows a traditional hexagonal tessellation pattern. The border should, I believe, look something more like the border in the face (Pic #4), which is a model of compositional balance and use of color, clearly the work of a talented and experienced weaver. In particular, one can readily see the care taken in planning and executing the work in the alternation and variation of colors in the border.

I am very familiar with this design in many different structures. It is most commonly found in zili, but beyond that the order of occurrence would roughly be in: extra weft knotted wrapping, true "reverse" sumak, sumak and pile.

I am not aware of any other examples of pile bags done in this hexagonal tessellation, although a long rug of this design was just sold as Nagel. Further, it is only one of two complete pile khordjin (that I know of) which can be attributed with any degree of certainty to the Shahsavan. (While some find it "ugly," it has marvelous tactile qualities and nicely saturated dyes and is a rare old artifact.)

What may account for the varying qualities of workmanship in the border and the field? I might suggest:

1) The weaver was familiar with the field design, but not that of the border.
2) The border design has more diagonals and other drawing which are somewhat more difficult to execute than the field.
3) The weaver was working in a different and less familiar medium (pile vs. flat weft wrapping) and this made the execution more problematic. This is the least likely explanation.

For a comparison with a third variation of this border, see Plate 5.24 in the front part of Opie's Tribal Rugs. That sumak bag face has the same "Milkbone" border, each of which is rendered in but a single color, although the colors alternate. The three pieces together show how differently the three weavers conceived and executed the same border, even all three can probably be considered to be contemporaries of one another.

The fact that the khordjin border of Pic #3 is more clumsily drawn than that in Pic #4 or the face in Opie means only that it is more clumsily drawn and nothing more. In this case, I draw no conclusions about age from the appearance of the "devolved form." It all depends on who is copying, what is being copied, when and where.

We nearly all want at least some deviation from the mechanical look, the perfect look. That is, I supposed why we are attracted to handmade rugs and not to Karastans. I tolerate the border in the khordjin, but I do not celebrate it.


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