Rug #1

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Posted by Wendel Swan on February 15, 1999 at 16:48:52:

There are several points upon which I would disagree with Daniel in his presentation of Rug #1. To begin with, there is the attribution to the first half of the 19th Century. The first half of the 20th Century is more likely.

The colors are very unpleasant and I find it difficult to believe that they are all natural. The yellow is very strong and may be from weld, which is common in Anatolia and is not light sensitive as is yellow from saffron. The yellow may suggest a Central Anatolian origin rather than Western Anatolia. Rugs from around Konya frequently have pronounced yellows that are not sensitive to light. Those from Western Anatolia, particularly northwest, generally have yellows that will fade upon prolonged exposure to light. (By the way, Konya is considered to be in Central Anatolia even though it is in the West, just as Ohio is considered Midwest even though it is in the East. Go figure.)

The gray wool wefts are yet another indication that this was a cheaply made product. Traditionally, the wefts from northwest Turkey are red, although certainly other colors can be found, but gray is not among them.

It is difficult to make some judgments without seeing the rug, but it probably has indigo sulfonic for the blue. Some abrash suggests that the red may also have been made with dyes in the fuchsine group, but my experience is that indigo sulfonic is generally not found in the same rugs with fuchsine. What Daniel has described as an "unusual bluish green" with tip fading is most likely indigo sulfonic. Indigo itself, although it may wear off, basically doesn't fade much at all.

It is also possible that the rug may have been chemically treated to soften the colors. Regardless of how it came to be what it now is, it holds little appeal for me. If this is a mystery rug, it is because it is of a commercial type that has never been cherished and therefore has not researched, collected or documented. In essence, except to know what to avoid, there is little purpose in knowing what this is.

I can see no relationship between Mystery rug #1 and the other two Turkish rugs shown. Admittedly, the 13th Century Seljuk rug bears a remote general resemblance (essentially red octagonal motifs on a cream ground) to Rug #1 (essentially red hexagonal motifs on a cream ground) and both were probably made in Anatolia, but there the similarities end. The rug detail from Hali has even less relevance.

I will disagree with the statement that the rug was not woven with the aid of a cartoon. Rug #1 is quite apparently a commercial product, not a traditional Turkish village piece. It may have been woven in a workshop that produced lesser quality rugs or in a home or village pursuant to requests for this type of inexpensive product. It could have been copied from a cartoon, but simply not copied well. The corners of all the borders are resolved. This would not happen unless it was either copied precisely from another rug (Persian or Indian) which itself had been woven from a cartoon or, more likely, Rug #1 was itself woven from a cartoon.

The Turks never seem to have occupied themselves with resolving the corners of the borders. Even the great Ushak rugs make no serious attempt to do so. Its curvilinear nature and the resolution of the corners put the design itself, as Daniel initially suggested, outside the greater Turkish tradition.

Persian rugs were copied in Turkey well into the 20th Century. The rugs which the trade calls "Sparta" were cheap rugs made with inferior wool and dyes, but they were exact copies of the "American Sarouks" that were so abundant in the 1920's and 30's. I have seen many other copies as well, but most were done on a cotton foundation. Rug #1 is not of the "Sparta" group, but the copying process undoubtedly went on wherever enterprising loom owners were found.


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