Re: Shahsavan weavings

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Posted by Mike Tschebull on July 30, 1999 at 07:00:23:

In Reply to: Re: Shahsavan weavings posted by Wendel Swan on July 29, 1999 at 21:49:57:

: There's a whole lot I can't say for certain, but there are reasons to believe pile was viewed as a luxury by Azarbayjani nomads.

: First of all, pile is a luxury and has always been. It consumes several times the amount of wool needed for any flatweave and is more time-consuming to make than most flatweaves (sumak wrapping may be an exception).

: Second, of the weavings extant which are truly old (say 200 - 500 years) there is far more pile than flatweave, indicating that pile was more highly revered by all the cultures which produced it.

: Third, because they are easier and cheaper to make, flatweaves are the utilitarian structures. And no culture tends to value its merely utilitarian products. Part of the basis against nomads making pile is that it isn't utilitarian. If it isn't particularly useful and it costs more, it is a luxury.

: Fourth, ever since you and I began to collect, the Persian dealers we have known virtually disdain kilims and other flatweaves. I assume that this reflects a very old cultural bias in favor of pile and weavings which require a significant amount of labor to make. I have never met a Persian who would prefer flatweaves as a group over pile as a group.

: Fifth, if anyone ever caused flatweaves to be really prized, it was Americans in the 1970's (not Persians, for example) and our friend Russ Pickering lead the way.

: Sixth, over on the Show and Tell section there is a full-pile Lur mafrash presented by a Mike Tschebull (a relative perhaps?) who, like me, assumed that its raison d'detre was to be "in your face" for its 19th Century owner. If the Lurs could hold such a belief, why not the Shahsavan?

: Mike, on that last point you just have to believe Mike.

: Best,

: Wendel

The value of flatweaves vs. pile is viewed thru a cultural prism, both Western and, in this case, urban Iranian. Most Iranian dealers are originally from urban environments, which, in both Turkey and Iran value not only pile but pile with high knot count, silk, and elaborate designs developed in a separate atalier.

Of course, more pile was exported, so there's much to be seen, but Turkish mosques have both pile and flatweaves. (What happened to the weavings in Caucasian mosques?) Much of the fancy workshop stuff that appears in museums in the West was exported by urbanites with the bias described above.

On the pile mafrash, I was speculating that the piece was made for an URBAN Iranian, so it makes sense that the piece is pile, don't you see?

I've seen flatweaves treasured by rural people in Azarbayjan. With the nomads, I go back to those jajim and varni: I think, suspect, that's where the women left their hearts and souls, because these textiles were so important in their lives.

Yes, there is the-grass-is-greener approach everywhere, which I think accounts for the pile rugs I've seen in yurts. And sure, some level of the same envy probably existed in 1875. Still, it's more interesting to me to know where they come from than it is to try, in a vacuum, to get into the head of the 19th century weaver about luxury preferences.

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