Re: persianate design origins

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Posted by Michael Wendorf on January 02, 1999 at 11:04:44:

In Reply to: persianate design origins posted by Michael Wendorf on December 31, 1998 at 21:58:00:

: Dear Daniel and Turkotek fans:

: In my earlier post labelled "Sauj Bulagh or Mahabad rugs" I commented on the border of the Eagleton rug #4 and commented that this simplified border was not related directly to the borders of the other rugs but that it was consistent with Sauj Bulagh weaving. That post and the insights of others have caused me to go back in the literature for additional examples of rugs likely to come from this area for a better sense of context and the design continuum. Perhaps someone with a scanner can insert some of the images I will be referring to.
: At ACOR 3 in Santa Monica, the English dealer Richard Purdon offered a remarkably beautiful carpet on a blue field with harshang and avshan design elements. The rug measured 6' 5 x 11' 0'' and was later advertised in Hali Issue 86 in May 1996 on page 128. He attributed this rug to circa 1800 and after examining the rug it did appear to be very old. The colors were glowing, it had red wefts and a flat back. The border is very close to that on what we have been referring to as the Eagleton rug #4 here. The minor border on a yellow ground is identical to that on another 19th century rug of this group formerly owned by the Massachusetts dealer D. B. Stock and seems to appear on rugs made throughout northwestern Persia and old Azerbaijan. I believe that the Purdon rug may be an example of the rugs that gave rise to the smaller Sauj Bulagh of the 19th century that are more folky such as the Dodds rug in this Salon and The Nagel/hali rug #2.
: Another example of a rug from this period that may be the forerunner to the Dodds rug (and which appears at plate 116 of Atlantic Collections as well as in Daniel's links) is a rug that was auctioned at Sotheby's NY in April 1997, lot 56. This rug on an ivory ground was compared by Sotheby's to the Dodds rug and to plate 14 in Jim Burns' book Caucasus: Traditions in Weaving. The Burns rug is not thought to be Kurdish or Sauj Bulagh though related in design. However, the Sotheby's rug is also a bit different from both the Dodds rug. The use of color is perhaps the biggest difference. I think most people who saw it thought the colors more numerous and consistent with the dye qualities associated with the best of the Sauj Bulagh production. The tulips were piled in yellow, red, dark blue, purple or aubergine and green. The execution of the floral lines and arabesque elements was delicate and sophisticated compared to the dramatic but stiffer drawing of both the tulips and arabesques of the Dodds rug. Also important for this discussion was the existance of the so-called running dog reciprocal minor border that we have seen on several of these rugs. The main border used cartouches which is related to the border on a later carpet that is owned by Textile Conservators in Chicago (there is a link from this site I believe to their site).
: The running dog reciprocal border is not unique to anyone, but it does appear to help us distinquish a particular group of 18th century/early 19th century rugs to the so-called Sauj Bulagh rugs of the next period. Another example with this minor border is partly depicted in a Lerch Teppich Antik advertisement in Hali issue 89 November 1996 at page 54 ( In that same issue a rug belonging to Winterthur Museum in Delaware is partly depicted at page 93 with beautiful palmettes but a different border system).
: Going back to the Dodds collection and Atlantic Collections who can ever forget plate 83 a glorious carpet with the same running dog reciprocal border in typical mid blue and red color combination that makes me think Kurdish. The editor makes the point that this is another variation of Safavid design in the process of rustification, including the surprising inclusion of a horse and rider in the upper left hand corner. I would also comment on the way the major border is articulated. This border has a number of analogies but the drop repeat format of the elements that could be seen as an S so that they all lay the same way seems to be a Kurdish interpretation.
: Finally, we should not forget plate 28 in Orient Stars. Here again we see the running dog reciprocal border with the main border on the Eagleton carpet (#4) displayed in this salon again with a varient drawing with elements of the harshang/ avshan pattern with only one tulip arm. Kircheim calls his rug early 19th century, I doubt it but the point is that we are starting to see enough examples to form a sample.
: A problem is that none of the rugs referenced above are on a brown ground. It may be that the brown ground corrosive type is either a little later production or just a closely related group from a less organized production than that responsible for some of the larger, highly sophisticated rugs referenced above.
: As for Sophia Gates' concern that tribal weavers might not have occasion or opportunity to see more sophisticated or highly organized weaving. It think most did though there may have been some so isolated that they did not. In general, I believe there is sufficient evidence to conclude that there was sufficient trade, contact and interchange for the weavers to have had contact sufficient to be aware of and be influenced by what we refer to today as classical or persianate designs such as we are seeing on these carpets. Certainly Kurds served many roles beyond that of tribal pastoral nomads, some even served in high governmental positions and traditionally they amde the most of their presence as a potential border/buffer to other powers thereby extracting privileges and material benefits from more urban authorities.

: I hope this information helps us better understand the context of weaving in the Sauj Bulagh/Mahabad area. Thank you and Happy New Year. Michael Wendorf

Dear TurkoTekkes:

I have visited the site for the L.A. County Museum of Art and found an interesting fragment of a dress or furnishing fabric from 17th century, Iran woven in a compound twill weave with silk amd metallic yarns. As a follow up to a discussion of the tulip rugs that are part of the Salon and some of the thoughts Sophia Gates has raised concerning abstract and naturalistic elements I thought the comments of the Musuem on its fabric might be helpful.
In summary the Museum states that: Great garden builders as well as warriors, certain Persian rulers were known to have outstanding plant collections, particularly of the exotic tulip. Thet often commissioned arts that featured images of the flowers they grew and prized. As a result, Persian manuscripts and textiles reveal a catalogue of near eastern plants; the lost gardens of Safavid Iran have been reconstructed in part from these works.
Among the influences was the work of Shafi - i - Abbasi who produced a number of naturalistic drawings for textiles which seem to have been widely influential in Iran. (the Iranian Audubon?) (Note for Jim Allen: he spent time in India).
The Musuem then notes referring to the fabric depicted: Although the flower forms are natural, there is an element of artifice and restraint in the repeating vine pattern which sprouts in disparate blooms, and the birds which perch at such regular intervals. This balance between abstraction and naturalism was a permissible way to deal with muslim theological opposition to the depiction of living forms.
Perhaps this fabric and the balancing noted combined with more technical limitations such as loom tension help us understand some of the specfic rugs we are seeing in this salon as well as the context in which they were made. I think it is also worth noting that due to cultural stratification between tribal and more sedentary folk it seems to me more likely that the interchange of ideas and influences was more city to land, urban to rural than vice versa. I also think the visual memory of tribal women is well documented by Lois Beck and others and that their willingness to see, internalize and copy something as insignificant as the design on a notepad is, well, noteworthy.
Thank you. Michael Wendorf

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