TurkoTek Discussion Boards

Subject  :  Representational art?
Author  :  Steve Price
Date  :  01-10-2000 on 10:06 a.m.
sprice@hsc.vcu.edu Dear Folks, In another thread, John introduced the topic of whether oriental rug ornamentation is strictly representational, and I think this warrants some attention. John cautions against the tendency to presume that the art is representational because that tends to be the 20th century western approach to things. Much of what John says is right, of course. The question of what motifs and designs mean comes up often and a lot of people really seem determined to find answers. The possibility that the designs and motifs are not representational at all is often ignored. Having said that, I should add that I suspect that most motifs are either representational or are evolved from motifs that were. Decoration, when that was the objective, seems to include the sorts of things people might reasonably find beautiful in their environments - flowers, water, certain animals, sunlight, fire. When the objectives were/are to invoke beneficial supernatural powers or to inspire respect or awe (frequent purposes in tribal arts), the motifs would tend to be symbols of power, fertility, abundance, wisdom, and so forth, often embodied in animals perceived to have those characteristics. Birds, with their remarkable power of flight, appear frequently, as do flowers and plants, with their ability to materialize from the earth suddenly and spontaeously. Much of what is seen in rugs is obviously derived from such representations, and much of what's left can easily be imagined to have evolved from such things. As a little thought experiment, suppose we are aliens who discover western art and try to decipher it. One thing we'd see pretty often is the form of a cross. Now, there aren't many motifs simpler than a pair of intersecting lines, and if we knew nothing of Christianity and its place in the west, we might well conclude that it's absolutely abstract and nonrepresentational. John offers the caveat, A truth that we need to hold constantly in front of ourselves is "It ain't necessarily representative of anything.". I would add, "but it might be." Regards, Steve Price

Subject  :  RE:Representational art?
Author  :  R. John Howe
Date  :  01-11-2000 on 11:09 p.m.
Hi Steve - I've been reading this post a bit trying to decide what best to say in response. First, it appears that your thoughts are offered as a kind of corrective, making sure that my suggestion, that designs, especially in Turkish rugs, may often be geometric and that we Americans may be exposed to the tendency to misinterpret them because of a bias in contemporary American views of art toward representative, is not carried too far. I would suggest that if you agree that there is such a bias then no corrective cautioning is necessary. The bias already takes care of that. Secondly, I think your suggestion that many (perhaps most) designs did likely orginate as representations is itself too thorough going. As Wendel and Carol Bier have pointed out in some recent work, there is a Turkic tradition of art that is strictly geometric. Although we often "see," for example, "wine glasses" and "serrated leaves," it seems when one examines such designs that they are more likely portions of larger geometric designs visible in a number of sectors of Turkish art and architecture. And of course there's the old saw that suggests that representation was something of an anathema among Sunni Muslims. This doesn't mean that there are not sometimes representional devices in Turkish pieces; there clearly are. But it should, it seems to me, give us pause any time we find ourselves straining to see representation in pieces by Turkic weavers. Regards, R. John Howe

Subject  :  RE:Representational art?
Author  :  Steve Price
Date  :  01-12-2000 on 06:28 a.m.
sprice@hsc.vcu.edu Dear John, There are a couple of issues here: 1. Are most motifs representational (or evolved from motifs that were)? I think the answer here is probably yes, although the evolutionary process may have taken some of them far from their original forms. And I would include under the general term "representational" anything that's symbolic because symbols presumably have some relationship to that which they symbolize. The far eastern "Yin/Yang", symbolizing duality of all sorts of things, is in this category. 2. When a motif looks to us like it represents something, is that really what it represents? That is, do we "read" motifs pretty accurately? I think we frequently don't, our cultural biases (among other things) showing through and taking over. The "wine glass" border is a good example. It's almost unthinkable that it originated as a wine glass. But the possibility that it began as a tulip bed seems completely plausible and likely to me, notwithstanding the fact that it can be generated from strictly geometric forms. After all, anything made without curves can be generated from simple rectilinear geometric forms, and motifs on anything other than cartoon-drawn rugs are virtually without curves. Regards, Steve

Subject  :  RE: Sunni prohibitions on representational art
Author  :  Stephen Louw
Date  :  01-12-2000 on 02:15 p.m.
John Howe raises the point that (at least some) Sunni sects had certain prohibitions against representational art. This is true, of course, but I think he is wrong to assume this meant that art was not representational, or at least that it was less likely to be so. By contrast, I would suggest that Islamic theologians in the urban areas – particularly in the late nineteenth century, who represent what Gellner calls "high Islam" – did indeed oppose art which represented human forms, and in some cases opposed three dimensional representation in general. But that does mean: a) that the art produced under such directives was not representational, only that such representation was very different to representations produced in a Judao-Christian milieu. A possible example of this might be a weaving where the perfection of Allah is expressed through certain forms of geometrical representation produced with mathematical rigour etc., or b) that prohibitions had any real impact on the majority of Muslim peoples in the pre-industrial period, whose contact with and fidelity to the dictates of "high Islam" was limited, and whose beliefs were a combination of Islam and local sects / spirit beliefs. I fall on the "lets not read too much into images" side of the carpet lovers equation. However, in my view, this interesting mix between high Islam (or other faiths, not all weavers are Islamic) and local sects and spirit beliefs makes up much of the beauty of many Turkoman images. Hope this has some relevance to the topic.

Subject  :  RE: What's
Author  :  R. John Howe
Date  :  01-13-2000 on 08:24 a.m.
Dear folks - This responds to Steve's last post in this thread and to Stephen Louw's subsequent one. Steve points out that "representative" devices in rug designs can include those that are "symbolic." This seems correct to me. The sufficient condition of "representation" in art, as we have been talking about it here, is that a rug design or device must "stand in the place of something else" in order to be so. I have been using the word "geometric" to refer to designs in which there is not any visible "standing for." Steve goes one to say that "wine glasses" are obviously not but that he feels that they are not only plausibly "tulips" but likely actually so. I think this ignores the argument of parts and wholes offered by those who feel that Turkic designs are often strictly geometric. Steve's intepretation insists still on seeing the "wine-glass/tulip" form as a complete element. But if it is in fact an incomplete portion of a large device then the whole form might not look like a tulip or even two tulips at all. If joined head to head two "tulips" form a kind of thinly anchored rectangle or diamond (depending on the shape of the "tulip"). For example: |--[ ]--| It seems to me that a minimum requirement of claiming that this design element was likely sourced in the form of a tulip would be that it retain it's tulip-like integrity in the recomposed larger design. Stephen Louw points out usefully that there were important non-Turkic, non-Isamic elements in Turkish society. This is true and is a potential weakness in the non-representational thesis since Armenian and Greek members of Turkish society also comprised large portions of the universe of weavers there and these would seem more likely to have woven in terms of the press of their respective cultures. Stephen also suggests that our line between "representation" and "non-representation" may itself be ethnocentrically defined. It may in fact be an open question where exactly this line was drawn in the Islamic tradition of art in Turkey to which we are referring. On the other hand, Stephen's suggestion that it might be that "the perfection of Allah is expressed through certain forms of geometrical representation produced with mathematical rigour" may go too far. If the suggestion is that representative designs were sometimes produced with great care and rigor or even that some "geometric" devices could either have had or have acquired symbolic meaning, I would not object. But if the phrase "geometric representation" is to be read to indicate that a distinction between devices meant to represent, and devices not intended in this way, might in fact have not been recognized in Turkish and Islamic art traditions, I would argue that that cannot be. Such a distinction is recognized in the sometimes Islamic prohibition of representation. Some distinction of this sort was recognized in the society and art tradition we are discussing. Regards, R. John Howe

Subject  :  RE: Tulips
Author  :  Yon Bard
Date  :  01-13-2000 on 10:02 a.m.
John, I don't get your argument that things that look like tulips probably aren't tulips because if you join two of them head to head they don't look like tulips anymore. By the same argument, something that is clearly a person or a camel or a bird isn't that because if you joined two of them head to head they won't look like a person or camel or bird. I am not claiming that the 'tulips' in the border are tulips - just that your argument against their being tulips is, to say the least, strange. Regards, Yon

Subject  :  RE:
Author  :  R. John Howe
Date  :  01-13-2000 on 03:11 p.m.
Hi Yon - Thank you for your thought here. I was not focusing on the tulip itself in isolation, although that is the part I illustrated. The argument offered, and I expect we will hear soon from Wendel who has worked on it in some detail, is that the entire border system that is often referred to as a "wine glass and serrated leaf" border is visible as part of even larger Turkish designs that do not seem to be instances of representation. One can, if one tries, get peculiar results even from combining corner bracket designs. If we just double them head to head they seem incomplete. Rotating them once vertically and then rotating the resulting half once horizontally seems to be the most inteligible conjecture and procedure. On the other hand, your example may make my point. If we put human forms head to head both halves retain their character as individual human forms, perhaps oddly placed, but nevertheless still human forms. (Perhaps they are acrobats or sun bathers.) My point with the "wine-glass" element was that, if one had not previously seen them as individual "wine-glasses" but initially only encountered them in the larger geometric design of which they are likely a part, one would not, I think, move quickly to the conclusion that they looked like "wine-glasses" since that image would likely be "lost" in and seen as an integral part of some kind of rectangle or diamond with thin anchor lines off the sides. The visibility of the wine-glass -like image is heavily dependent on the breaking apart of the larger design in a way that recognition of the individual human figures in a design composed of two head to head human figures is not. Regards, R. John Howe

Subject  :  RE: Wine glasses and tulips and people, oh my!
Author  :  Steve Price
Date  :  01-13-2000 on 03:40 p.m.
sprice@hsc.vcu.edu Dear John, You argue that images of people would still be recognizable as people if they were rearranged head to head. This is true as long as the people are drawn realistically to begin with. But it isn't true if they are stylized geometrically into stick figures, which can give rise to all sorts of forms if you manipulate them with the freedom you describe. Playing Devil's Advocate here, I'd point out that if you are allowed to manipulate a big design to give rise to tulips, you are also allowed to do the reverse operation, and are left with the question of whether the Primordial Weaver in the Turkic tradition did the big design or the tulips first. My guess is that the tulips were there first, since they are local and every artistic tradition about which I know anything includes floral forms. I'm pretty sure the wine glass exists only in the mind of the beholder, though, and the ease with which we perceive it emphasizes the extent to which our internal information processing systems are involved in the whole business of reading art. Steve Price

Subject  :  RE: Representational art?
Author  :  Wendel+Swan
Date  :  01-13-2000 on 05:25 p.m.
Dear participants, This Salon has taken a turn toward discussing complex matters that so depend on "who, what, where and when" that short and simple postings are nearly impossible. I would first like to comment on the definitions of some of the terms that have been used. We commonly apply the word "geometric" to rugs that use rectilinear lines. But high Islamic art's foundation in mathematics means that Islamic geometric art means much more than the mere use of rectilinear lines. In the context of this discussion, the ability to execute curves (a frequent topic on TurkoTek) becomes a separate issue that is nearly irrelevant to the question of whether objects can be or are represented in rugs. I see a distinction between symbolic art and representational art. At least as far as I have always understood it, representational art is that which depicts something that may be seen - more or less as the eye sees. Abstract art is that which does not depict objects. Symbols can be either abstract or representational. Representational art can be broadly geometric (e.g., Cubic Picasso) in the sense of using straight lines, but formal Islamic geometric art is not representational in that it does not depict objects. For those interested in the topic, I suggest perusing some volumes on Islamic patterns. Several good books are available, including those by Critchlow and Wade. For a discussion about symmetry, see Carol Bier's presentation on the Swarthmore Math Forum: http://forum.swarthmore.edu/geometry/rugs/carpets/index.html Steve has raised the question of whether someone alien to a Christian culture would understand the meaning of a simple geometric cross. While the Christian cross is often found symbolically (for example, atop a tombstone) in simple, nearly abstract, form, it is also quite realistically depicted or represented with or without the crucified Christ in and on churches, in homes and cars and around women's necks. And painted images of Christ on the cross abound. Accordingly, deciphering the meaning or symbolism of an abstract cross would not be difficult for any inquiring mind or alien. However, crosses can and have symbolized many concepts other than the crucifixion of Christ. They were used before Christ (perhaps for the four corners of the earth or for the seasons) as well as in non-Christian communities (for example, pre-Columbian South America). There is, of course, always the debate about whether any form of the cross in an Oriental rug signifies that Armenians made it - but let's not get into that. While the entirety of Islamic geometric art can be said to symbolize or represent the belief of the unity of the universe with Allah, even the most complex of them may well not represent any particular object or symbolize any specific concept. For example, an eight pointed star which is created by the intersection of various other lines is merely one of a great many "motifs" or patterns that are created in the complex process. Mosques and sacred buildings are the least likely to contain images of humans or animals and are the most likely to embody the principles of geometric art. Especially in Turkey, there is a direct relationship between the architectural motifs and the primary motifs or themes found on pile carpets, suggesting that pile carpets have a kinship to geometric, non-representation art. If most oriental rugs (pile carpets) do either symbolize or represent specific objects (birds, plants, the sun, mushrooms, and fetuses) and, if the culture so values them, where in the Sunni world are the contemporaneous realistic counterparts to these abstracted or symbolic forms? Of course, the world of Islam, like its art, is not monolithic. Exceptions to the prohibition against representation certainly can be found. Because the Shi'ites in Persia did not accept or adhere to the prohibition against representation (idolatry), the most representational of all rugs are Persian. While floral elements are clearly found in Central Anatolia, animals are almost never to be seen in Turkish weaving. On the issue of the "so-called leaf and wineglass border," I delivered a paper on that precise topic at the 8th ICOC in Philadelphia in 1996, which has been published in OCTS V (just now available). Therein I demonstrated (I hope) that the "leaf and wineglass" border is not at all representational, but is composed of purely geometric forms that are manipulated in various ways to create a what seems to be a meander border. If I gained anything from that exercise, it was learning the importance of examining how certain patterns are created as opposed to what is depicted. Once one understands the techniques by which Islamic patterns are created and replicated, the less concerned one becomes with "the what." To use John Howe's phrase, we don't have to ask what it is about. In this Salon, Christoph Huber used techniques related to mine to further show the non-representational nature of the spandrels or corner brackets. Initially, John thought he was seeing an animate form in his rug, but became convinced that that was not the case. Perhaps it is presumptuous of me, but I think that if he reads my paper, Steve will no longer "see" leaves and tulips in that common Anatolian and Caucasian border. This is not to say that animate objects, including tulips and leafs are not found in borders. They are, but I will forever maintain that leaves and tulips (wineglasses, flowers, etc.) or any other similar objects are not the basis for this border. Regards to all, Wendel

Subject  :  RE: Turkish representational art
Author  :  Yon Bard
Date  :  01-13-2000 on 06:00 p.m.
The Turks were no more averse to representational art (including human figures) than were the Persians. I have, for example, a book about Iznik ceramics which has many miniatures showing people using Iznik dishes in their meals. There is even a 1595 drawing of Mohammed performing ritual ablutions. As for representational depictions on Turkish rugs, clearly the pendant mosque lamps in prayer rugs are examples. Even the mihrab itself is, arguably, representational. As for people and animals, they do seem to be rare in Turkish rugs, but common in other Turkic weavings, such as Azeri and Turkmen. I don't think those are Shiites. Regards, Yon

Subject  :  RE:Turkish v. Persian representation
Author  :  Wendel+Swan
Date  :  01-13-2000 on 10:16 p.m.
Dear Yon, Since the Savafid era, the Shiites in Persia did not accept the Sunni interpretation of the Koran that representation of human and animals is contrary to the teachings of the Prophet. That essentially explains why so many Persia rugs are pictorial while Turkish rugs almost never are. The prohibition against idolatry applies most widely to humans and animals, then to plants. I don't believe that the representation of architectural elements is considered taboo anywhere in Islam. Thus, the architectural element of the mihrab is often seen on Turkish rugs. Iznik ceramics are but one example of human depiction in Islamic art. If you look long enough, you can find almost anything depicted on some form of Islam art - including the depiction of Christ. That does not detract from the conclusion that Turkish rugs are almost infinitely less representational (at least of human and animal forms, but also of floral elements) than are Persian rugs. It is very difficult to generalize on this topic, because there always will be exceptions to any statement involving a religion and art form that spans 1,300 years and thousands of miles. So, on the Turkmen issue, I can only say that at least Salor and Tekke pile carpets share with their Anatolian counterparts and with much Islamic architecture that distinctive Islamic geometry. Wendel

Subject  :  RE: Representation in Turkmen Weaving
Author  :  R. John Howe
Date  :  01-14-2000 on 06:31 a.m.
Wendel et al - Just to follow a bit on the last sentence in your preceding post and in support of Yon's indication that the "Sunni" Turkmen sometimes used representational figures in their weavings, I'm sure you remember that some versions of the Salor main carpet gul are also versions of the "tauka naska" gul since they have the little "animals" in them. And plant forms abound in Turkmen weaving. A less frequent usage is exemplified in Plate 30 in the Mackie/Thompson "Turkmen" volume. Jerry Thompson who owns the piece in Plate 30 has said that Jon Thompson (no relation) included this piece in this volume because it has two small animals placed very unobtrusively in the skirt. In 1980, Jon Thompson considered this usage rare in Turkmen weaving. So if the argument is that Turkic weavers generally shunned representation, it does seem that Turkmen weaving provides possibly anomalous evidence. Regards, R. John Howe

Subject  :  RE:
Author  :  Wendel Swan
Date  :  01-14-2000 on 07:52 a.m.
John, There are lots of floral elements in various Turkmen rugs, but less in Salor and Tekke than others. Very generally speaking, they tend to be minor elements, not the major design themes. Perhaps more important, they appear as plants or animials. I have been careful not to use words like never or always in this discussion. The discussion began with the statement that most elements are representational or derive from representation and I have simply tried to state an alternative to that position. Wendel

Subject  :  RE: Floral elements in Salor and Tekke weavings
Author  :  Yon Bard
Date  :  01-14-2000 on 09:48 a.m.
Wendel, the elems in Salor chuvals are almost always floral, and that is often the case with Tekkes too. Regards, Yon

Subject  :  RE: representational art?
Author  :  Wendel+Swan
Date  :  01-14-2000 on 11:31 a.m.
Dear Yon, Yes, elems are generally floral, but I wouldn't consider the elems in a chuval to be a major design element, which was my reference. Also, when floral elements appear in Turkmen weavings, they seem to be clearly floral. They look like flowers or plants and they are representational. You really don't have to interpret them. The major elements of the fields of Salors and Tekkes as well as the borders are of the same design construction as the major elements in the Holbein carpets. Of course, you will find exceptions. There is a long tradition in Islam of using geometric principles to create non-representational patterns. Some cultures, such as that in Anatolian, tend to preserve that geometric character. In other areas, representational images are integrated (Turkmen and Belouch rugs could be considered good examples). I am probably one of the very few contributors to this board who has any interest in Persian city rugs, which are notoriously representational. I also have a special fondness for Turkish rugs. In these polar opposites, I see significant and consistent differences in the basis of their patterning and the way the patterns are created. Having just said that, I will say that I have a Bergama that I (and I believe most books) would refer to as a garden design. If it is not representational, it is at least symbolic of the various elements in a garden - from an architectural standpoint. There are watercourses and tufts of cotton that MAY symbolize water sprays, although no fish or plants that can easily be seen as plants. It is a very well known design that I simply consider anomalous. I would still maintain, however, that the overwhelming number of pile carpets from Northwest Turkey are not representational and are based on geometric art principles. I entered the discussion by taking exception to the notion that MOST oriental rugs have designs that are representative or are based on motifs that once were. I have no idea how we could ever come to ANY conclusion about MOST oriental rugs and perhaps I appeared as advocating the opposite: that MOST rugs are not symbolic or representational. Again, there would be no way to quantify or support such a thesis about MOST rugs, even if I did advance it. My buttons get pushed when I hear arguments made for the existence of objects like fetuses, birth canals or mushrooms, especially in groups of rugs that arise from a tradition of geometry. Others may argue that the same images represent birds or animals or other more commonly represented objects in other traditions. Ultimately, it seems that discussions on this point are a bit like discussions about religion. Either you believe or you don't believe. Perhaps I have been particularly inarticulate or simply wrong or not a good evangelist, but I don't seem to have convinced anyone here that there is even a reasonable alternative to representation. Regards, Wendel

Subject  :  RE: Representational vs. nonrepresentational
Author  :  Yon Bard
Date  :  01-14-2000 on 03:17 p.m.
Wendel, don't get me wrong, I agree with you that much of what you see in rugs is probably nonrepresentational. Just trying pointing out that generalization either way are unconvincing. To come back to Salors, e.g., aren't the 'kejebe' elements in the great trappings representations of the bridal tent? and aren't the creatures inside them heads of some kind, the camel's or the bride's? And what about the animal processions in Salor ensis? Or the winged creatures in the elems? Or the birds' heads in the field? And as for the Tekke, have we forgotten the animal and bird asmalyks, the animal-tree ensis, and again the birds' heads in the ensi field? I really don't understand why you picked the Salor and Tekke as being less representational than other Turkmen tribes. Regards, Yon

Subject  :  RE: What happened?
Author  :  Steve Price
Date  :  01-14-2000 on 04:28 p.m.
sprice@hsc.vcu.edu Dear Friends, I'm astonished at the amount of emotion this topic has generated. let me quote here the main point of what I had in the post that opened the thread: The possibility that the designs and motifs are not representational at all is often ignored....Having said that, I should add that I suspect that most motifs are either representational or are evolved from motifs that were. This doesn't say or imply that I believe there is no alternative to representational motifs, but that I suspect that most motifs are or derive from representational or symbolic precursors. That is, I believe that artist-craftspeople usually invented motifs based on what they saw and considered important, beautiful, or interesting. In the case of the "wine glass" border, the notion that the motif is a wine glass is obviously absurd. The notion is that it is a result of manipulation of some architectural element is plausible but, to me, less likely than that it is a stylized flower - probably a tulip. I haven't seen Wendel's paper on the subject, so I may well be persuaded that my view is incorrect. Steve Price

Subject  :  RE: my last words
Author  :  Wendel+Swan
Date  :  01-14-2000 on 10:04 p.m.
Dear Yon and all, Yon has posted: "To come back to Salors, e.g., aren't the 'kejebe' elements in the great trappings representations of the bridal tent? and aren't the creatures inside them heads of some kind, the camel's or the bride's?" Yon, I assume you are referring to trappings such as the Jenkins piece which graces the cover of the Turkmen book. If so, you have picked an ideal example of a weaving that shares its essential format with relatively common architectural motifs and geometric patterns. I have never known the architectural motifs to contain representations of objects of any kind. It may be that some do consider them to represent the bridal tent but I have not heard that theory myself. The main field of the Jenkins piece is likely drawn from a slice of what can be (too briefly) described as an infinitely repeating pattern wherein an eight pointed is surrounded by crosses with points on the ends of the arms. What you may view as the peak of the tent is the pointed end of the cross. Although the origin of this "kejebe" format in architecture has been further discussed and analyzed publicly on several occasions since 1980, at the time of the publication of Turkmen, the authors said that the vestigial octagons at the edge of the field "point to the conclusion that the central (incomplete) eight-pointed star containing the lobed medallion was originally part of a four-and-one (two-one-two) layout." They continue on to say that this is rooted in a pre-Islamic solar world view. (I can't comment about that.) I can also say that the checkerboard/diamond border is rather similar, at least in concept, to borders that sometimes surround this format in architectural settings. One telling connection to Turkish rugs is the exact replication of a Holbein type endless knot in the center of the medallions. Some might argue for its symbolism, but I doubt that anyone would contend that it is representational. You should be able to find an example of this kind of motif in one of the various books on Islamic architecture. One can be found on page 297 of Issam El-Said's Islamic Art and Architecture: The System of Geometric Design. Yon asks: "and aren't the creatures inside them heads of some kind, the camel's or the bride's?" Let us hope that the poor groom would be able to readily distinguish between the face of a camel and his bride's face. If he can't, let's hope that he can tell by the naughty bits once inside that dark bridal tent. I don't know what those elements are. They look to me like jolly, helmeted space aliens, but taking that position might be a bit contradictory to other statements I've made on this Salon. Nor do I think they originated as plants, even though in some kejebe pieces they take on a quasi-floral appearance. I have an Ersari (or Kizil Ayak) kejebe piece in which these elements seem even more floral, but I think the profusion of interpretations is a case of weavers not being certain of what they were copying. If Christoph could find a kejebe piece and perform more of his visual gymnastics on it, you would begin to see the full pattern. Yon asks: "? And what about the animal processions in Salor ensis? Or the winged creatures in the elems?" Camel caravans are depicted in many cultures. In the ensis, they're in a panel and quite realistically drawn. I am far less certain that the "winged creatures" are just that. Why are they so "stylized" when the camels are not? Even if they are, the entire format of Salor ensis doesn't fit into the formal Islamic geometric tradition anyway. Ensis as a whole seem to have their own format, designs and elements, so I just don't know how to compare them with the main carpets and chuvals. Yon's final comment was: "I really don't understand why you picked the Salor and Tekke as being less representational than other Turkmen tribes." I actually said: "There are lots of floral elements in various Turkmen rugs, but less in Salor and Tekke than others." I was thinking of Ersaris as often being quite floral and at the other end of the floral spectrum from the Salors and Tekkes. But I was also thinking of how similar some of the Salor iconography is to that of the Turkish carpets and within that geometric tradition. The Jenkins piece speaks to that issue itself. Not only is the Salon about to close, but I have prattled on for far too long on this subject. Perhaps Steve will let it stay open a bit longer so that others can post their thoughts. I wish I had some time to post images. It would have helped the conversation. Best, Wendel

Subject  :  RE: Representational Art
Author  :  Christoph Huber
Date  :  01-15-2000 on 10:20 p.m.
Dear Wendel I don’t have much books about architecture (perhaps because of the difficulties to collect whole mosques) but I have some pictures which probably can illustrate what you described above. The star-and-cross tiles shown on the first picture are from Persia, dated to the 13th century and are now preserved in Vienna (Glück, H., in: Geschichte des Kunstgewerbes IV, Berlin, 1930, p. 385f). I have turned the first panel 45° and marked with a red line what we would see in a (Arabatchi) kejebe trapping. From my point of view even more interesting is an early 13th century inkwell from Khurasan (Sotheby’s London, 15 Oct. 1998, Lot 82). Here, although being contemporary with the tiles, we don’t have an infinite pattern anymore, just as on the trappings. And there is as an other little detail which possibly is only accidental but perhaps more than this: Unlike the tiles, where every single piece has its own border, the stars of the inkwell as well as those of the Arabatchi trappings share (at least a part of) the border where they meet (if one sees the border as a part of the stars themselves.) Having in mind that many of the cross tiles are decorated with floral motifs I’m not surprised that the ornaments within the kejebe design often appear to be of floral origin. But if we follow this way of thinking, we cannot exclude that Yon is right in seeing a human figure within the kejebe, just as depicted on the inkwell. But, the assumption that the theory of a connection between the star-and-cross design and the kejebe design is right, raises an other problem: Why is this ornament called kejebe (bridal tent) if it is in reality only a part of a cross? Are the weavers themselves sometimes as wrong in interpreting carpet designs as we are, despite being the heirs of this culture? And how would such misinterpretations affect the further development of an ornament? Regards, Christoph

Subject  :  RE:Representational art?
Author  :  Wendel Swan
Date  :  01-15-2000 on 11:31 p.m.
Dear Christoph, Thanks for the post. It is informative, challenging and interesting. I have already begun to re-examine some of my assumptions. You have clearly found examples of the star and crosses design with ornamentation that I would not have expected. My familiarity with the design comes primarily from mosques, where the ornamentation is either geometric or calligraphy. I have already noticed other tile examples of the cross and star design with human figures, but, like yours, they originate in Persia. My assumption has been that this design originated with architects working on the mosques. It may be that the tradition is much older than I had thought. The star and crosses format is a creation of geometry, but its ornamentation has obviously not exclusively remained so. On the kejebe question, I believe (others will have to confirm this) that the kejebe name is applied because of the use of various kinds of rugs on the kejebe, not because of what appears within the rug. Wendel

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