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Salon du Tapis d'Orient

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.

Design Interpretation in Turkomen Rugs

One of the most interesting and provocative papers presented at the 8th ICOC in Philadelphia was that given by Jim Allen about the possibility of three dimensional figures in a Salor chuval. I have not heard a more imaginative and insightful discussion of the designs in Turkomen rugs. Whether one agrees with Jim or not, he must be given credit for seeing things and interpreting devices that we glance over as commonplace. His interpretations require some work on the part of the viewer, but that effort can be rewarding when considering the ethnographic history of these tribes. I have been taken by Jim's thinking because of his vast knowledge of the history of these people and his extensive reading from ancient sources. Because of this I have asked Jim to present this discussion topic in order to give all of us some practice in seeing common images in another (perhaps correct) way……….Mavin Amstey

The Leopard Gul Torba

James Allen

There is a rare type of Turkomen weaving, often Tekke, which uses a variation of the Salor octagonal gul. This ancient Salor Gul is the prototype for the lobed gul found on Arabatchi chuvals and Tekke main carpets. These diverse octagonal guls are given over to the representation of a khan's hunting privilege, and thus reflects his power.

"The great khan uses many leopards and lynxes for the purpose of chasing deer.

It is a rare sight, when the cat is let loose in pursuit of the game, to see the

Savage eagerness and speed with which he overtakes it. The khan has them

Carried in cages on carts, along with a little dog, with which they become

familiar. The khan also has eagles that are trained to catch wolves, and such is

their size and strength that none, however large, can escape from their talons."

It is easy to see why a Tekke khan would want to associate himself with such a glorious past.

The octagonal gul pictured below represents a hunting cat standing over game. This is the dominant white form. The secondary small boxes define three legs and a tail while a triangle defines the head of the leopard which is standing over downed game.

There are maybe 4 to 6 of the smaller 2x3 gul trappings and three known to me of the larger 3x4 gul trappings. They can be seen in Loges' Turkomen carpets (German) (fig. 7), in Eiland's Oriental Rugs from Pacific collections (fig. 116), and in Vanishing Jewels (the Amstey collection) (fig. 51). There is one other 3x4 octagonal gul trapping in Oriental Rugs of the Hajji Babbas (fig. 41) which is not as tightly woven as these Tekke masterpieces; its gul represents a horse.

The white image of the cat is interdigitated with that of an eagle. On the opposite axis from the cat is a galloping horse in the field color framed by the white aspects of the chemche gul. This conjunction of the great khan's hunting animals designates that a fine weaving of this type is the property of a great khan. Nobody else would have been allowed to show them.

1. Polo, Marco. The Travels of Marco Polo in Collection of Biography and Autobiography, M. Rugoff, ed. New American Library, NYC. 1986. P.118

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