TurkoTek Discussion Boards

Subject  :  What Do We Know About Turkish Village Rugs?
Author  :  R. John Howe
Date  :  01-03-2000 on 06:39 p.m.
Dear folks - The fragment discussed here is one of a group usually labelled Turkish "village" rugs. What do we know about these rugs? Although they now appear in some collections (e.g. Kircheim's collection had a wonderful group of them), it seems they were largely ignored for quite awhile. Why do we see so few of them and why weren't they admired more earlier? Why do things usually get quieter when one mentions Turkish rugs? Regards, R. John Howe

Subject  :  RE:What Do We Know About Turkish Village Rugs?
Author  :  Steve Price
Date  :  01-04-2000 on 08:24 a.m.
sprice@hsc.vcu.edu Dear John, You wonder aloud why Turkish village rugs aren't more fashionable. Here's the answer: nobody knows. The same question can be rephrased to cover different specifics with the same answer: Why are Caucasian rugs less popular with collectors than they were 10 years ago? Why are tribal rugs so popular today while workshop products get hardly a glance from most collectors? Why are Belouch rugs considered beautiful today when 30 years ago they were dull and dreary? There are some things about Turkish village rugs that contribute to their not being particularly fashionable today, though, and perhaps some hints come from mentioning those things. The colors, for instance, tend to be "dirty" looking rather than clear and bright. And, for reasons I don't understand at all, they tend to be in poor condition compared to most of the other kinds of things I see on the market. Here comes a personal confession. I went through the yastik exhibition at ICOC in Philadelphia a few years ago. I've been assured that these were outstanding examples, and I believe these assurances. Still, out of 50 or so yastiks, I saw no more than half a dozen that I thought interesting, and those had "Caucasian" colors. I'm prepared to accept as fact that this reaction reflects my lack of educated appreciation of Turkish village aesthetics; that is, the criticism for there being no connection between me and the yastiks is a criticism of me, not of the rugs. But whatever the reasons, if the exhibition was a sale I would not have reached for my checkbook, and I think I am fairly typical of the collector community in this regard. There, now I'm out of the closet. Steve Price

Subject  :  RE:What Do We Know About Turkish Village Rugs?
Date  :  01-05-2000 on 12:30 a.m.
jpweil00@gte.net John, I think you answered your own question about why there is a deafening silence regarding Turkish village rugs. There is not as much information about them available. The ebb and flow of interacting cultures, ethnic cleansing, remote and difficult access, intermingled influences, limited production except for large town manufactures, wear from use, somber coloring and numerous other factors have contrived to obscure the pedigree of many village rugs. Also, the sheer magnitude of variety in Turkish weavings is overwhelming. Some of the unworthy hype of Turkish kilims a while ago could also have contributed to a bit of disfavor shown to Turkish weavings now. A significant factor in the availability of large numbers of specific types of Persian nomad rugs was the forced settlement of the formerly nomadic cultures. A similar situation did not occur in Turkey. There are also probably plenty of Kurdish weavings attributed to other weaving areas because of the remote market towns they were brought to. We know that many Armenian rugs have been misattributed to the Caucasus. We know that the tragic displacement of Armenian weavers and dyers contributed to a significant demise in rug quality, as did the introduction of synthetic dyes. These factors make Turkish village production a treasure trove of potential for astute collectors. Your rug delights me for the simple reason that it resembles several rugs in my own collection which are in a similarly dilapidated condition. I think that a few believers, among them Marla Mallett, are leading the way to a new appreciation of the intricacies and beauty of older Turkish village weavings. Patrick Weiler

Subject  :  RE:What Do We Know About Turkish Village Rugs? Does it matter?
Author  :  Steve Price
Date  :  01-07-2000 on 02:31 p.m.
sprice@hsc.vcu.edu Dear People, We had a Salon discussion awhile ago that dealt with the question of why people collect what they do, and a number of factors were mentioned. I think John has hit upon one that was missed - people collect things about which they know a little. This follows more or less directly from the fact that ethnographic rugs are currently more popular than any other group. How can you even begin to fantasize ethnographically without knowing a little about the rug's origins? And this, I believe, accounts for the relative lack of interest in Turkish village rugs in today's marketplace even more than the colors and condition of the usual examples. Steve Price

Subject  :  RE:What Do We Know About Turkish Village Rugs?
Author  :  Marla Mallett
Date  :  01-07-2000 on 03:46 p.m.
marlam@mindspring.com A few random thoughts...probably nothing that's new to anybody: Why are Turkish rugs less fashionable? First of all, because "fashion" presupposes reasonable quantities of goods. It's hard to collect what you rarely see. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries rug production in the Caucasus and Persia was actively promoted and supported by Western merchants, and rugs were even designed and color ways specified in Hamburg, Vienna or New York offices to suit the tastes of European or American clients, while Turkish production was judged too difficult to organize. The Caucasian Kustar committees also did what they could to encourage production suited for Western markets. Why are Turkish village rugs so often in poor condition? In the first place, we're often talking about earlier pieces (like John's rug) than are being collected from other areas. And of course the Caucasian and Persian rugs exported and used in the West have often been "restored" in the West. With Turkish pieces, since just a few types of village rugs were actively exported (Ghiordes, Kula, etc.) it's primarily because of donations to mosques that other early village rugs have survived. These have been affected by heavy use, poor storage, attacks by rodents, and even disfigurement by merchants and peddlers who have cut out chunks to get rid of mosque inventory numbers. I know of one instance in which a large number of kilims with mosque identifications were confiscated by Turkish authorities before this butchery could be accomplished, and the pieces sent on to their European market. So fashion is a matter of merchants promoting what they can get. It's hardly worth while to publish glossy catalogues of merchandise that one can't easily replace with comparable items. And there simply isn't enough "suitable" pre-synthetic Turkish material to make the venture worhtwhile. So the publication of early Turkish material has been left to a couple of well-heeled collectors. We can hardly speak of a "lack of interest" in Turkish pieces, however, with prices on early village fragments reaching the $500,000 - $1,000,000 range! Jurg Rageth's new publication on the carbon dating of 69 early Anatolian kilims is now generating renewed interest in the early Turkish flatweaves, with attention now focused on their esthetic power rather than phony ties to 7000-year-old mother goddess cults. Although this dating methodology is controversial, testing of some of the old mosque fragments has produced tantalizing data suggesting that several may have originated within the 1450-1650 AD period. From a design evolution standpoint, the "proper" pieces are actually carrying the earliest dates. I've been a skeptic, but am starting to come around. As a parallel, the same "promote what you've got" attitude prevails in the field of antique furniture. For several years I collected 17th century furniture, both English and Continental, along with a few 16th century Italian pieces. Good, genuine pieces appeared only rarely, but were never so pricey in the U.S. as the 18th century Georgian pieces that appeared in much greater quantity. Nobody ever bothered to promote the 17th century pieces because there were so few--you certainly couldn't furnish an entire room at once, and they didn't "mix" well--and because the stuff was so scarce, few collectors were interested. It's all circular. As for lack of information in rug literature on Anatolian rugs, governmental policy in Turkey in the past has discouraged research or publication of information (to say the least!) on the accomplishments of Armenian, Kurdish and Greek ethnic groups. These three groups were major pile-rug producers, with the gradually settling Turkoman nomads slowly switching, over the years, from their traditional flatweaves to pile carpets. Many of the information deficiencies in this area will be remedied once Josephine Powell's incredible archives are made public. During my early years of collecting, I had a poor impression of Turkish pile carpets. Not much in the rug books was interesting. Then came the publication of pieces from the Vakiflar museum in Istanbul, and visits to those museums. No dirty, drab colors there! The palettes are incredibly rich, although decidedly different from those of the Caucasus, Persia or Central Asia. In particular, some of the red/yellow/green color usage requires acclimation, but soon renders much other work bland and dull. But there is a big difference between early Turkish work and that from the late 19th century on. Some of that is truly dismal. Only among a few groups of nomadic flatweaves was quality maintained for a bit longer. Marla

Subject  :  Josephine Powell: Photo Essay
Author  :  Steve Price
Date  :  01-07-2000 on 03:54 p.m.
sprice@hsc.vcu.edu Dear Marla, Your points are important and well taken. I'm glad you mentioned Josephine Powell's work, but you forgot to put in the link to the marvelous photo-essay on your site, so I'll do it for you. http://www.marlamallett.com/powell.htm Regards, Steve Price

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