TurkoTek Discussion Boards

Subject  :  Is the
Author  :  Wendel Swan
Date  :  05-08-2000 on 08:34 a.m.
wdswan@erols.com Dear Daniel, I would like to address your "mystery rug." During the plenary session on mystery rugs at ACOR, the following unusual item (which Clive Rogers sold during the conference) was presented to the panel. The approximately 3.5' x 6' rug was woven on a cotton foundation with depressed warps and the handle of a thin floor carpet woven in a Northwest Persian town or city. The panelist could agree that it was probably around 100 years old and that it was something in the Sarouk family, but no consensus could be found on its function. Suggestions were made that it could be a mafrash, but the size, shape and number of the panels, the lack of wear in folded areas, and the nature of its construction precluded a definitive mafrash denomination. Even more curious was the fact that while it lacked wear where one would expect it in a mafrash, it had been repaired in precisely those places where one would expect damage from a closure system (as one would find on a mafrash). Because of the relative lack of ornamentation in the center panel, the suggestion was made that it served either as a sofreh or as a ru-korssi or some other form of rug onto which some object or furniture would have been placed. But no agreement could be found on that theory either. Surprisingly, neither Taher Sabahi nor Parviz Tanavoli could identify its use. Finally, someone in the audience relieved the panelists of their agony by saying that he had owned a similar, but intact, piece, which had end panels much like a mafrash. Its purpose, however, was not transport or storage, but to cover some form of a wooden box with the "bottom" covering the top of the box - much as some of us may now display our mafrash. The format of your fragment (if, indeed, it is only fragmentary) is quite similar to one end of the box cover shown at ACOR. A detailed comparison of the panels on your piece with that shown at ACOR reveals even greater similarity, even though the structures are completely different. Of course, we don't know how large your piece may have been at one time. The ends and sides of the one shown at ACOR were more or less original, although bits of the now missing "end panels" had been scavenged for repairs. The portion you see is as it was woven. Without further information from you and without what we might imagine is the rest of the original weaving, we cannot conclude that yours is also a "box cover," but that is certainly possible. I don't think it is a mafrash or any other form of bag or storage container, but others may have a different opinion. Nor do I think it is a wagireh (also speculated for the ACOR piece). Mafrash were made primarily by the Shahsavan, the Bakhtiyari and certain Central Asian groups. I cannot recall ever having seen a Kurdish mafrash, nor a Turkish one nor a Turkmen one. The border of your example bears some resemblance to borders found in South Persian rugs and bags, but almost the same border appears in a finely woven group of Hamadan rugs having realistic bowls of fruit. Such designs are, of course, highly mobile, so we tread on a slippery slope if we try to make our attribution solely on the appearance of one border. Nevertheless, it is safe to say that your mystery rug has a main border that is reasonably well known in Northwest Persian in almost exactly this format. Based on the similarity of the border, the stripes, the botehs and other aspects of your piece, Northwest Persian certainly seems logical, perhaps more specifically around Sanandaj or Hamadan. If it were ultimately believed that your piece is a box cover, then we must reconsider the accuracy of our terminology when we refer to weavings as "tribal" or "nomadic" or "village" or "city" products. Often we assume that a coarsely woven, loose handled, vibrantly colored weaving falls within the nomadic or tribal category simply because of its construction. If, and this is a big IF, your is a box cover intended for use by sedentary peoples, the entire relationship between structure and nomadism comes into question. Of course, we need look no further than the vast majority of Caucasian rugs woven in cottage industries that have for decades been erroneously referred to as tribal or nomadic simply because they are coarsely (and less expensively) woven. Whether the box cover theory is or is not accepted, your mystery rug illustrates just how limited we often are in our knowledge and understanding of large groups of weavings and that our incremental knowledge is generally advanced only in excruciatingly small steps. Congratulations on another interesting Salon. Best, Wendel

Subject  :  RE:Is the
Author  :  Steve Price
Date  :  05-08-2000 on 01:57 p.m.
sprice@hsc.vcu.edu Dear Wendel and Everyone Else, It's generally recognized that some village people (not to be confused with The Village People) in central and western Asia are often descended from nomads who settled. It's also thought that they continued to use and make some of the weavings that their nomadic ancestors did, sometimes living in tents and sometimes living in houses that were furnished more or less like tents. This being the case, perhaps we shouldn't be too surprised to find things like box covers. In fact, from time to time I've wondered whether Shahsavan cargo bags were sometimes used that way in the places where they were made. Perhaps we clever Euro-Americans didn't invent that use after all. Steve Price

Subject  :  RE:Is the
Author  :  Deschuyteneer+Daniel
Date  :  05-08-2000 on 06:05 p.m.
Daniel Deschuyteneer Dear Wendel and you all, Thanks for your very interesting input. I don’t know if my piece was a box cover. It’s only a fragment and I don’t know what was its original size. Kurdish weavers have woven large chuval having this size. The top end has frayed and not any remnants of an eventual closure system can be seen. Most traces of wear are seen along the main border of the stripped panel, just under the white ground border, as if this panel was folded and regularly eroded by friction along this border. Nevertheless the bottom panel is in perfect condition and shows no traces of wear. The bottom end is missing. Following Raoul (Mike) Tschebull and Parviz Tanavoli, if the striped panel was folded as I imagine it, it can’t be a fragment from a mafrash, because pile bottom are very unusual in mafrash. Large Lori-Bakhtiary chuval with pile bottom panel are well known but the two faces are always flatwoven, Yesterday, Chritoph Huber informed me that a four panel Ferraghan rug with a related design was actually for sale in Europe and available on the Web (URL available outside the board). Thanks, Daniel

Subject  :  RE:Is the
Author  :  Wendel+Swan
Date  :  05-08-2000 on 06:55 p.m.
wdswan@erols.com Dear Daniel, Since the "box cover" that I encountered in Burlingame was the first and only one I have ever seen, I can only speculate as to how it may have been folded in use and, as I stated earlier, wear patterns didn't provide the answer. It seems logical that the box cover would have been folded at or near the ivory borders so that the two ends would have met to form either the bottom (that seems unlikely) or the top (thus exposing the greater decoration). At the time, however, the explanation as to which was the top and which was the bottom seemed to be just the reverse. The damage from an apparently removed closure system was at the ends of the weaving, consistent with a supposition that the two yellow panels met to close the cover. Given the wear pattern in your fragment, it appears that the striped panel would have been one half of the top (or, less likely, the bottom). That could account for the wear along the border of the striped panel. I have never heard of any mafrash having a pile bottom, but I had never previously heard of a box cover either and the box cover is really not different conceptually or much different in construction than a mafrash. It just happens to be all in pile and a "top" is woven. Incidentally, the pile on all Lori and Bakhtiyari mafrash I have seen does not cover the entire bottom, only the corners and edges subject to abrasion. The four-panel piece to which Huber referred seems to have an entirely different purpose, with all of the four panels being of the same dimensions. There are other kinds of Persian bags that share an essentially similar shape, but are nevertheless produced for different purposes. Salt bags and tobacco bags come to mind. Perhaps box covers were more prevalent than we might imagine and they and mafrash are merely variation of the same theme. On the other hand, yours may represent yet another kind of container with which we are unfamiliar. Wendel

Subject  :  Box bag?
Author  :  Kenneth+Thompson
Date  :  05-10-2000 on 10:40 a.m.
wkthompson@aol.com Dear Daniel et al: Mystery pieces must conspire to reveal themselves at chosen moments. About three weeks ago at a Textile Museum presentation, James Ffrench, formerly Christie's rug expert, displayed a NW Persian carpet divided into three rectangular panels with repeating motifs. (I don't have a picture of it and am working from a non-photographic memory). It looked a bit like the ACOR piece posted by Wendel, but it only had three panels. The immediate audience reaction was an opened mafrash or bedding bag, but there were no wear or folding lines and no sign that it had had side pieces. And, like the ACOR piece, what in a bedding bag would be the "bottom" center panel was piled. There were various suggestions, ranging from a divan cover (Ffrench's surmise) to a cover for a box-like object. Ffrench said he and some colleagues believed that this was an unidentified form that may be more common than we think and were exploring the problem. The design reminded me of a "Kurdish bagface" that I had bought on e-bay in January simply because it had an odd two-panel, slightly unbalanced form, with the lower panel resembling some sort of skirt. But upon examination I found my piece had been neatly cut and might well have had the same "skirt" motif at both ends. Again, there is no wear along what logically could be a fold line between the panels. Here is the description as bought along with the photos: Origin: NW Iran Size: 3'7" x 4'2" Warp: Ivory wool Z2S Weft: Ivory wool Knot: Symmetric (Turkish) Reselvedged Dyes: Vegetal and synthetic red-orange (i.e., a hot, though not entirely obnoxious orange. Condition: Added selvedge, slight wear to the skirt area of the field. The knot count roughly 8 x 7 or 56 per sq in. Regards, Kenneth Thompson

Subject  :  RE:Is the
Author  :  Stephen Louw
Date  :  05-11-2000 on 01:24 p.m.
See also the following, which is attributed by the auction house selling the piece -- I wont reveal details -- to the Feraghan region, ca.1900. It is 216 x 136 cm. slouw@global.co.za

Subject  :  RE:Is the
Author  :  Daniel Deschuyteneer
Date  :  05-15-2000 on 09:59 a.m.
daniel.d@infonie.be Dear all, Like Wendel I had never previously heard of a box cover and as Kenneth said this unidentified form that may be more common than we think. Unfortunately, neither my chuval nor the Kenneth Thompson piece are box covers. In "Tribal and Village Rugs from Arizona Collections", George W. O’Bannon illustrates two closely related pieces tentatively labelled Sanjabi Kurd. The first one, plate 45, is an unusual two panel torba from a private collection,. measuring 4’8" x 3’6" The front face, the upper part in this picture is in diagonal soumak weaving, with a typical Persian slits and loops closure system and the slits are edged with vertical wrapped and bound borders. The second panel, very similar to the piece shown by Kenneth Thompson with geometric flowers within a lattice, is knotted. It was originally folded up and had loops. The second related piece, plate 49, is a bagface measuring 2’2" x 2’5". This bagface has exactly the same design as mine. Same borders, same two panels, same colour palette, and a related structure. As few Kurdish rugs have been attributed to specific Kurdish groups, O’Bannon, tentatively attributes these and six others published in his book to the Sanjabi Kurds. He says : "The items tentatively labelled Sanjabi Kurd have several features which separate them from Jaf and other Kurdish weavings. 1/ No offset knotting 2/ a usual blue red palette, but almost combined with a good green, yellow and purple. 3/ White, ivory, beige wool warps 4/ Mostly red wool wefts – two or more picks 5/mostly Persian patterns, but with a specific two panel geometric design 6/edges usually overcast in red wool 7/in soumak weaving a 45° diagonal wrapping Thanks, Daniel Deschuyteneer

Subject  :  RE:Is the
Author  :  Patrick Weiler
Date  :  05-16-2000 on 12:21 a.m.
jpweil00@gte.net Daniel, I had a chance to see the Clive Rogers rug at ACOR. Your rug with the same theme makes me think that, similar to the "Triclinium" rugs imitating and incorporating the features of the traditional Persian rug format, some adventurous (or commissioned) weavers had the idea to reproduce, in pile weave as an area rug, the mafrash style for a city dweller. It appears that the size of both weavings is close, and the overall size is approximately that of an average "area" rug. I have seen some mafrash opened up and displayed without the end panels. The appearance of these mafrash might influence a desire to reproduce the format on a weaving entirely of pile which could be not only displayed, but used as a floor rug. The wear pattern may be misleading, and could represent merely usage not designed into the weaving, but as a result of later applications. These are a fascinating and little known item that, in retrospect, could be more akin to late '50s automobile tailfins; decorative rather than functional appendages. Patrick Weiler

Subject  :  RE:Is the
Author  :  Wendel+Swan
Date  :  05-18-2000 on 07:47 a.m.
Dear all, Daniel has privately brought to my attention a bag that may take some of the mystery out of the Mysterious Two Panel Bag. You will recall that one theory that Daniel advanced was that this two-panel rug utilizes a "pile bottom panel at the bottom outside of the bag - half exposed, half turned under - to act as a cushion against a donkey." The following bag from Brian McDonald's Samarkand site and described as "Antique Storage bag, Kurdish Tribes" illustrates perfectly the concept of the folded pile panel (a bottom panel) on a bag. The nearly square proper "face" of the bag matches the flat-woven and nearly square "back" with the pile bottom panel acting to resist abrasion where it is most likely to occur. In plate 209 of his seminal work Shahsavan, Parviz Tanavoli shows a complete khordjin (attributed to the Shahsavan of Varamin) with sumak faces and a pile bottom panel that is functionally identical to the McDonald bag and to the second bag that Daniel posted on May 15 (although in the latter the flat-woven back is missing). We know that the Bakhtiyaris and the Lors produced many flat-woven khordjin or chanteh bags with pile bottom panels, some of them with faces twice as wide as they are high, just as in Daniel's example. Some of those bottom panels are "I"-shaped to provide extra protection at the corners while some are simply rectangular. Best regards, Wendel

Subject  :  RE:Is the
Author  :  Deschuyteneer Daniel
Date  :  05-18-2000 on 04:32 p.m.
Dear all, I want to add that it was Mike Tschebull who suggested me the idea that this bag utilizes a "pile bottom panel at the bottom outside of the bag - half exposed, half turned under - to act as a cushion against a donkey." Also it's Kenneth Thompson, who first brought to my attention the bag from Brian McDonald's Samarkand site. He posted me also privately the photo of one of his two panel bag. A very interesting piece. I asked him some more information's and the permission to show it on the board. It's the last rush. Stay with us. Daniel

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