TurkoTek Discussion Boards

Subject  :  Corner brackets
Author  :  Wendel Swan
Date  :  01-08-2000 on 09:27 a.m.
Dear John, The rug you have chosen to present a rug offers the opportunity to notice centuries of what can be called "rug design evolution." It is largely immaterial whether your rug is from the 17th or the 19th Century or whether it adheres closely enough to its ancestral forms to imbue it with what you collie breeders would call "pedigree." In spite of the weaver's apparent ineptitude, it reflects a long heritage of Anatolian weaving. However, examining other rugs within that tradition should provide alternatives to the "more fanciful" explanation you offer for the "spandrel-like devices." In short, I think you are seeing animate forms in a context where they have not historically prevailed. Corner brackets are a relatively common feature of Anatolian rugs, including village pieces. Normally, one sees a set of four - one in each corner - but sometimes they can be found surrounding each of two or more medallions. They are usually more or less symmetrical, but range from the rather complex to the rather simple; in fact, some are not much more than simple triangles. The more complex versions, it seems to me, have evolved from the methods used in designing star Ushak rugs. (I hasten to add that the design technique probably long predates Ushak rugs; it's just that we can see the process in them most clearly.) The corners of star Ushaks generally consist of quartered sections of the central eight-lobed medallion(s). One can see this same approach in village rugs, except that the brackets themselves are usually separated from the edge of the field by a plain strip - thus no longer giving the appearance of an infinitely repeating field. While the village rugs may be a bit more geometric, I think there could be little doubt that the quartering technique is used in them as well. In the oldest examples, you would see the real ancestors of what you are striving to envision as animal forms. A perusal of illustrations in Orient Stars or McMullan's book or other on old Turkish rugs will reveal many variations of the corner brackets, but none of these corner brackets contain animate forms (at least not to my eye). A second possible explanation is that the simpler corner brackets (of the same family as in your piece) are renditions of a very old element that is found in Kufesque borders found on 12th and 13th Century Anatolian rugs. These Kufesque elements consist of inward facing serifs with ascenders, flanking a vertical element with a turned "C" at the top. One reason to accept this second explanation is that these simpler corner brackets appear in some of the very oldest known Turkish village rugs and that raises the issue of whether the more elaborate quartered medallions had enough time to evolve (or devolve) into much simpler geometric forms or whether they were simply adapted from the important Kufesque imagery. The tradition of using these corner brackets continues, not only in Anatolia, but in the Caucasus and Northwest Persia as well. Very similar corner brackets are even found in Shahsavan cruciform medallion sumak bags. I note with considerable amusement the discussion about Turkish village rugs having somber colors. Yours is quite lively, not nearly as somber (again, to my eye) as the Belouch and Turkmen rugs that are the constant source of discussion on TurkoTek. Regards, Wendel

Subject  :  RE: Colors
Author  :  Steve Price
Date  :  01-08-2000 on 12:50 p.m.
sprice@hsc.vcu.edu Dear Wendel, I think it was me that mentioned Turkish colors as one of the reasons for their general lack of popularity in Collectorville. I don't think I used the word "somber", but "muddy" or "dirty". While this is not true of all Turkish rugs, it is characteristic of many of them. And, I think I mentioned a bunch of other reasons why they are not more popular; thissi only one of them. Regards, Steve Price

Subject  :  RE:Corner brackets
Author  :  Wendel+Swan
Date  :  01-08-2000 on 03:09 p.m.
Dear Steve, While you didn't use the word "somber" you did say that Turkish rugs tend to be "'dirty' looking rather than clear and bright." I should have had the text in front of me. This is a matter of perception, perhaps, but I tend to find many Turkmen and Belouch rugs to have "dirty" or "muddy" colors, but not Turkish rugs. Of course, there is so much more variety in the color palette of Turkish rugs that it is difficult to make generalized statements about them as a group. The rugs in Western Turkey tend to resemble Caucasian rugs in both design and color scheme, while those from the Central area are among the "brightest" one can find anywhere. For many, the rugs from around Konya with the lavish use of colors such as magenta and yellow are simply too "bright" even though they are not made with synthetic dyes. In the East, colors are considerably darker, more somber. Turkmen and Belouch rugs both use a fair amount of brown or brownish reds, unlike the colors predominantly used in Turkey. Browns can be either "clear" or "muddy." Regardless of the quality of the colors, it still seems to me that Turkmen and Belouch rugs have more "earthy" colors. You and Marla have pointed out many of the reasons why Turkish rugs are less popular among collectors than other categories. For centuries, that was not the case. Today, I think it is very difficult for the average collector to encounter attractive old Turkish rugs. It seems that there just are not enough of them to create an active market. Regards, Wendel

Subject  :  RE:Corner brackets
Author  :  Christoph Huber
Date  :  01-08-2000 on 05:48 p.m.
huber-ch@pilatusnet.chDear Wendel I agree with you that the corner brackets (my dictionary refuses to tell me the meaning of "spandrel") most probably have to be seen as quartered medallions/guls. I came to the same conclusion playing a little bit with the pictures of the Bergama and the Seljuk prayer rug. I wonder whether such a "Dyrnak- and Gurbaka- carpet" of which the centre of the latter seems to be a part ever existed. I'm not sure of which border design you speak (my English...) but I guess that both of your explanations maybe could be the same because many border elements, if mirrored, turn into ornaments which we are more familiar to see. Or said the other way round, many border designs seem to be construed of parts of actual ornaments, just as the corner brackets. Apropos border designs, could the similarity between the Mihrab of the Seljuk prayer rug and the border found on some early Turkish carpets be more than coincidence? And am I wrong or tend the border design elements of earlier (Turkish) carpets to be less symmetric (having less mirror axes) then later ones? Regards, Christoph

Subject  :  RE: Naive weavings
Author  :  Marla Mallett
Date  :  01-08-2000 on 09:05 p.m.
marlam@mindspring.com I'd like to pick at just one part of one question above...about whether elaborate forms "had enough time to evolve (or devolve) into much simpler geometric forms..." I think that sometimes the time needed may be only the time it takes for one village weaver to travel between the city and her home in the perhaps not too distant countryside, carrying a currently fashionable idea in her head. Mosques and markets are public places, so it's easy to see a variety of current production. Or how about the time it takes to cross town? Can we be sure that all so-called "village" rugs were made in villages and not by people living in sizeable towns? Isn't that just another popular romantic notion? Even today there are "country" weavers working in their homes in parts of Istanbul. The same is true in other Turkish towns. Are their rugs "village" rugs, if they are indistinguishable from work done in the countryside? I think we are wrong to assume that design "degeneration" must proceed in nice measured steps, and that both the most sophisticated and most simplified, derivative, naive versions cannot be produced almost simultaneously. Marla

Subject  :  RE:Corner brackets
Author  :  Wendel+Swan
Date  :  01-08-2000 on 10:32 p.m.
Dear Marla, Nowhere did I express the romantic notion that "design 'degeneration' must proceed in nice measured steps" nor have I ever, ever suggested so. In fact, I have consistently argued against the notion of strict linear design progression or regression. One of the points of my post was that the geometric forms and the more curvilinear ones may well have existed more or less contemporaneously and that fact merely "raises the issue" of the time line of design "evolution." By questioning this time line, I was suggesting, I believe, the very thought you express: that these two kinds of designs could "be produced almost simultaneously," to use your words. I had no idea that my use of the term "village rug" (which is, after all, part of the title of John's Salon) would be viewed as "just another popular romantic notion." I used the term as I think collectors and dealers almost universally use it: to describe a style of rug, not the size of the municipality. Wendel

Subject  :  RE:The Last Few Posts
Author  :  R. John Howe
Date  :  01-09-2000 on 07:42 a.m.
Dear folks - I have come back to the salon after several of the above posts had been made and find myself a little frustrated that one of the inflexibilities of our new software is that it doesn't permit us to respond to particular posts in a thread, only at the end of that thread. So this post responds to aspects of several above. First, thanks to Wendel, for suggesting a simpler explanation of oddly shaped corner brackets. This seem more plausible to me that the convoluted one I offered. Wendel suggested to me on the side that I spend a half an hour looking at corner brackets in the Woven Stars volume and that experience is telling. In one instance, Plate 132, a seemingly inexplicable shape in a crude corner bracket quickly resolves into a central device that is a simple rectangle with arrow-like anchors at both ends. So I now think many of these odd shapes do result from quartering of some larger design. The interesting thing about this is that I had encountered this interpretation repeatedly in the past but it did not spring up for me when I began to wonder why the corner brackets in my fragment had the odd shape that they do. Also a very large thanks to Christoph Huber for demonstrating with a little electronic wizardry, just how quartered corner backets can be reassembled into the likely source figure. Cristoph, in his Lexicon, Peter Stone offers a definition of 'spandrels" as "designs spanning the corners of a rug inside the borders." I note that some of the more experienced people use "corner brackets" which may be a generic term that communicates the intended meaning more transparently. I introduced the term "village" rug and thought that I did so at least initially in quotes, obliquely signaling that we do not really know to what this term should be applied. But any "romance" however, inadvertently introduced into this conversation is probably best layed at my doorstep. Wendel, my reading is that Marla's thought here might have been triggered by your wondering whether (since some relatively crude versons of designs appear in rugs that seem quite old on other grounds) there was "enough time" for more elaborate designs to move to more abstracted ones. Her thought, which I think was not intended to strike sparks, was only that such "evolutions" can sometimes occur (in what we might be tempted to call a "village" rug) as the result weaver leaving a mosque (having seen an attractive complex design), going home in Istanbul and weaving a crude, "evolved," abstracted version in one fell swoop. It seems to me that all these contributions above advance this conversation usefully. Regards, R. John Howe

Subject  :  RE:Corner brackets
Author  :  Steve Price
Date  :  01-09-2000 on 09:15 a.m.
sprice@hsc.vcu.edu Dear John, Let me begin by showing you how to respond to a particular part of any message in a thread. First, copy it to your Clipboard. Then paste it into your posting and put it into italics, like this: one of the inflexibilities of our new software is that it doesn't permit us to respond to particular posts in a thread, only at the end of that thread. Then go on with your response. Mine would be to point out that despite its shortcomings, messages like Christoph's (showing a progression using several images, each in an appropriate place in the message), are impossible in WWWBoard. And all you have to do to convince yourself of the instability of WWWBoard (one of its major disadvantages) is log on Shihadeh's Discussion board (Newsgroup of Oriental Rugs). Regards, Steve

Subject  :  RE:
Author  :  Marla Mallett
Date  :  01-09-2000 on 12:36 p.m.
marlam@mindspring.com Dear Wendel, My comments were not directed at you specifically. I was questioning widely held misconceptions about relationships between sophisticated workshop and naive home production. Marla

Subject  :  RE: Tendencies in 20th Century American Approaches to Art
Author  :  R. John Howe
Date  :  01-09-2000 on 03:12 p.m.
Dear folks - I want to say something explicitly that is visible in Wendel's last post but might be useful to spell out again. One of the marked tendencies in American approaches to art in this century (notice how I count and why I didn't celebrate recently) is an assumption that it is usually "representative." Just as "plot" is usually seen to be primary in fiction, (The first usual question is "What's it about?")the prevailing assumption in general American approaches to visual arts is that the appropriate first queston is "what's it supposed to be?" It's assumed to be representative of something. This is true, I think, despite the fact that there is lots of American modern art that isn't vaguely representational and that there are goodly numbers of Americans who can appreciate it with trying to press it back into the world of representation. Come now to the historical approaches to art in Turkey (and I think other Asian and even other Western societies). There is considerable evidence that the images produced in Turkish art are often purely, strictly "geometric" without any representational referents intended. Yet many of us can easily be lured into interpretations sourced in the world of representation, as I was in this salon, that are quite unnecessary. I said that I was surprised that, despite knowing that corner brackets are often quarters of larger designs, I was easily seduced by Alexander's inventive suggestion of "bird forms." I think this provides one tiny item of evidence of the pervasiveness of this tendency toward representation. If one is not alert, that is the way we tend to go, despite knowing intellectually that there are often other more plausible explanations. One participant in our discussions has sometimes been discouraged about how often we tend to try to see birds, animals and people in the designs we examine. I think this discouragement is unrealistic and premature (wait a century or two). This behavior, I think, simply mirrors the basic bias toward representation in general 20th American views of art. Ironically, this may be true even for those who feel that they are in fact recommending a return to the perspectives and perceptions of non-Western peoples in earlier times. A truth that we need to hold constantly in front of ourselves is "It ain't necessarily representative of anything." Regards, R. John Howe

Subject  :  RE: Corner Brackets
Author  :  Daniel Deschuyteneer
Date  :  01-10-2000 on 08:34 a.m.
Dear all, First, I apologize if some parts of this posting are somewhat redundant with what Wendel said, but I was already preparing this posting before Wendel posted his. In the earliest known so-alled Animal Anatolian carpets from the 14th century the corner brackets appear only when animals (confronting birds, dragon and phoenix,….) were represented into octagonal panels. In this case the corner brackets appear only as simple symmetric triangles, framed by hooks, filling the corners of the panels containing the animals. The best known examples are the Marby carpet, the Cairo (Fostat) dragon and phoenix rug in the Orient Stars collection (plate 186), and the dragon and phoenix rug from the Islamische Museum in Berlin. Similar rugs can be seen in paintings such as the Spedale della Scala in Sienna in a fresco from Domenico di Bartolo dated around 1440. It’s interesting to notice that in those "animal" rugs not any "animate" forms can be seen in the corner brackets. I have collected in this picture the corner brackets from the above cited animal rugs. During the 15th century, maybe because more pieces are available, the corner brackets, which were widely used in Anatolian rugs, appear in a lot of various forms as well in workshop products such as the so called "Holbein" rugs as in village rugs. The drawing of the corner brackets is very simple or complex, symmetric or not. Small dotted triangle framed by hooks devices pointing inside or outside, or more complex Kufic forms, floral forms …. I don’t see any rug design evolution, design tradition, or animate forms in the drawing of the spandrels. The drawing of the corner brackets isn’t specific of any rug products in Anatolia. The same corner brackets appear all along the centuries in various shape in village rugs or in so called Holbein rugs, keyhole Bellini rugs or Crivelli star rugs, to cite the best known type of the 15th century. I have collected in this picture the corner brackets from the above cited 15th century rugs. (Close-up from Orient Stars plate 196,189,190 and from Le Tapis Chrétien Oriental ill. 254 TIEM N° 701 ill. 259 BOIM and 260 BMIK N° 79. Even in the same rug several kinds of corner brackets framing panels or not can be seen. In the following picture (close-up from plate 198 in Orient Stars -16th century) the drawing of the top and bottom corner brackets are already different. In the following picture (close-up from plate 198 in Orient Stars -15th century) at least two different type of corner brackets are used in the same rug And it appears really clearly in this closeup from a Crivelli star rug (ill.352: from Le Tapis Chrétien Oriental) The corner brackets stayed almost simple and symmetrical when they framed geometric panels, and more complex asymmetrical forms appear only when they were "disconnected". If we look carefully to the asymmetrical corner brackets, it’s almost their vertical bracket which are longer. They follow the shape of the rug to conserve a balance in the design. Another reason is that there wasn’t enough place to draw symmetrically the horizontal and vertical bracket. This can be clearly seen when medallions with pendants were used. In this case the weaver often needed to reduce the horizontal bracket because of the place occupied by the pendant. This can be clearly seen in the following picture where I have collected the corner brackets coming from plates 131, 132, 204, 205 in Orient Stars. Commenting the spandrels of plate 203 in Orient Stars, a "small pattern Holbein" prototype from the 15th century, Heinrich Kirscheim says: "Why did the weaver choose to knot-in the complex serrations on the long sides of these spandrels? No doubt because it was vital as faithful as possible a representation of this design element – the pregnant human female, seen in section….the upper part is pointed, to form the head of the woman; her swollen belly contains a red fetus shape, and the vertical blue line ending in two curls represents her feets…" May be you will see it …… I don’t. Cordially, Daniel

Subject  :  Message Deleted
Author  :  Erwin Olsen
Date  :  01-10-2000 on 09:16 a.m.
Deleted - Pseudonymous Post. (Steve Price - 1/11/00)

Subject  :  RE:a fetus?
Author  :  Wendel+Swan
Date  :  01-10-2000 on 11:27 p.m.
Dear Daniel, Your images were enormously helpful in understanding the point I was trying to make simultaneously. Your quotation of the text accompanying those images in Orient Stars was a revelation to me. Remember that most of the text in Orient Stars was written by persons other than Herr Kirchheim. Garry Muse in fact, wrote the section that you quote. I do not know whether Herr Kirchheim shares Muse's special vision. Although I had examined the images themselves many times before, I had never stopped to read the accompanying text that declares these old Turkish rugs depict fetuses and the birth canal. If the rugs did depict such objects, it seems to me that we ought to be able to really see the fetus (and not mistake it for a chicken's foot) or that similar depictions should exist within the culture contemporaneously (and not have to make reference to Neolithic wall paintings as proof of the interpretation). I concur with your statement: "May be you will see it …… I don't." Wendel

Subject  :  RE: The
Author  :  R. John Howe
Date  :  01-11-2000 on 07:24 a.m.
Dear folks - Aha!. Wendel says Gary Muse writes about seeing fetus-forms in some rug designs. Since my fragment came by indirection from some material once owned by Mr. Muse, perhaps traces of his tendencies still persist in the fabric of the piece itself and were part of what moved me to see geometric corner brackets as "birds." Regards, R. John Howe

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