TurkoTek Discussion Boards

Subject  :  Where are the Sheep?
Author  :  R. John Howe
Date  :  08-13-2000 on 09:43 a.m.
Good question, Jerry - I've been asleep in this area. I never really noticed but it's worth noticing. I'm currently reading a book that Wendel Swan recommended to me entitled "The Emergence of Agriculture." It's a beautifully produced Scientific American paper book and oddly enough a kind of rug book since "agriculture" includes the domestication of animals as well as plants and sheep and goats were among the very first animals domesticated (about 8-10,000 years back) so we've been looking at them for a long, long time. The really odd thing about what you have noticed is their total absence. Wasn't there at least one special sheep or great goat worthy of memorialization or at least mention in oriental rug design? Let's challenge anyone reading this who knows of an oriental rug that has either a sheep or goat on it to speak up. (Now I know I'm going to hear immediately from someone with a Navajo rug that has such an image since I recently saw one of these with an image of a "Frigidaire" refrigerator with the Frigidaire trademark on it but Navajo rugs are outside what I'm calling "oriental" today. Hooked rugs are out too on the same grounds.) I have a little contemporary Tibetan rug with an image of a yak but that's not close enough. Regards, R. John Howe

Subject  :  RE:Where are the Sheep?
Author  :  Guido Imbimbo
Date  :  08-13-2000 on 02:25 p.m.
miaom@pacific.net.sg Dear friends, I am not sure if the "sheep hunting" prompted by the always brillant Jerry Silverman and reiterated by John Howe was confined only to antique oriental rugs. In any case, it may be interesting to note that some sheeps appear clearly in the beautiful modern oriental rugs manufactured under the label "Azeri". Look for example at the adv on Hali April 1992 Issue 62 pag. 3 or, in the same issue, at the picture at pag. 148. Regarding antique carpets, I know many examples of rugs where small four legged animals are depicted. Nevertheless, in these carpets I am not really sure how I should distinguish a "dog", from a "sheep" or from a "ram". Saluti, Guido

Subject  :  RE:Where are the Sheep?
Author  :  Jerry Silverman
Date  :  08-13-2000 on 02:45 p.m.
Dear Guido, No slipping through the gaps of ambiguity in this salon. How do you tell a sheep from all the other four-legged creatures in a rug? Easy. A sheep's fat and wooly, rounded, bulky, short-legged. The others aren't. Someone who isn't on a quest to find a sheep in a rug would look at it and say, "There's a sheep!" -Jerry-

Subject  :  RE:Where are the Sheep?
Author  :  Marvin Amstey
Date  :  08-13-2000 on 03:07 p.m.
mamstey1@rochester.rr.com Here are several examples of antique rugs with sheep and/or goats in them: PRJ Ford's book, The Oriental Carpet: page 157 clearly has distinct goats among a myriad of animals, including rabbits and deer. Page 160, plate 361 has a goat and a herder with a flock of five sheep. Page 162 has obvious lambs. I also remember, but can not site the photo, an "important personage" rug sold in the early 80's depicting an individual holding a lamb - an image supposedly representing Jesus. This wasn't a very hard challange, guys, when you consider the fact that the Persians have woven everything including Maggie and Jiggs (a silk rug that sold for over $50,000 about 12-15 years ago. Best regards, Marvin

Subject  :  Best I can do
Author  :  John Howe
Date  :  08-13-2000 on 03:57 p.m.
rjhowe@erols.com This is the best I can do Jerry. Supposed to be hand-spun, natural dyed yak hair. I have a photo of the lady who supposedly wove this little piece. Maybe itís an image of a family yak. But why no sheep?

Subject  :  RE: Baa-aa-aad subjects
Author  :  Wendel+Swan
Date  :  08-13-2000 on 05:42 p.m.
Dear Jerry, The most widely traveled rugs designs don't have animate origins. Floral motifs are far more common than those of animals. But when they are used, the animals are symbolic. For example, the lion (for many the king of beasts) has been associated with royalty for millennia. What culture at any time wouldn't prefer to depict elusive antelope, mythical dragons (first used in silk textiles), songbirds, powerful lions, swift horses or beautiful peacocks? Sheep are silly looking, of suspect intelligence, guileless, slow-footed and they make preposterous sounds. I'm told they're very hard to ride. In short, sheep are boring. They join chicken and cattle as creatures to be enjoyed on the sofreh rather than in it. Jerry, you should take a three-hour drive west to Cambridge, Illinois, the county seat of Henry County. On the first floor of the courthouse there used to be a large poster of two hogs nuzzling one another (almost smiling) in what appeared to be affection. The slogan read: "Hogs are beautiful." Nearby Kewanee proclaimed itself the Hog Capital of the World. Fortunately, neither the hogs nor the thousands of acres of corn used to feed them found their way into the regional folk art. Sheep, like hogs and corn, make baa-aa-aad subjects. Wendel

Subject  :  RE:And Also the Goats?
Author  :  Patrick+Weiler
Date  :  08-13-2000 on 08:15 p.m.
jpweil00@gte.net Jerry, The bird with a human head may represent the similar Egyptian "Akh", "the spirit of a deceased person...transfigured so as to reflect the deeds of the person in life." (Websters) The Egyptians commonly showed a bird with a human head hovering around a mummy to represent part of the spirit of the deceased. Your rug probably shows the "akh" of the weavers "mummy". As to sheep not being found in rugs, they would have no apotropaic value such as a lion or amulet. There are a number of SW Persian rugs showing quadrupeds of indeterminate species which could represent sheep, but they are not obviously sheep. Perhaps incorporating sheep in a weaving would be inviting "trouble" to the weaver and her family or tribe. Patrick Weiler

Subject  :  RE:And Also the Goats?
Author  :  mesut ulusoy
Date  :  08-15-2000 on 03:06 a.m.
mezut@aol.com hi,goats are here on the field and border of this marasali rug.

Subject  :  RE:And Also the Goats?
Author  :  Steve Price
Date  :  08-15-2000 on 08:30 a.m.
sprice@hsc.vcu.edu Dear Mesut, The goats you show appear frequently on NW Persian and Caucasian rugs and flatweaves. I'm pretty sure that your identifying them as goats is accurate, too. I see no alternative that makes sense unless they're dogs fitted with antennas. This leaves Wendel's comments as a sort of paradox. The sheep is a pretty unexciting animal, but so is the goat. Both are raised by locals in rug weaving country, and both are pretty significant economically (the sheep more so than the goat), so the people who wove rugs and utilitarian textiles were familiar with both animals and saw them frequently. Why, then, are goats common on rugs while sheep are rare?
Regards, Steve Price

Subject  :  RE:And Also the Chickens?
Author  :  Jerry+Silverman
Date  :  08-15-2000 on 03:24 p.m.
I think people are going to be able to find motives that could - arguably - be goats. Like the above example, for instance. But I'm not sure I agree with Wendel who typed too quickly when he added chickens to the barnyard of animals the are more likely to be on the sofreh than in it. Even the lowly, familiar, boring, chicken appears in Khamseh Confederacy rugs (murghi rugs)...so frequently that I've heard dealers say that they could tell whether it had been a good or bad agricultural year by the fatness/leanness of the chickens! So where are the sheep? -Jerry-

Subject  :  RE:And Also the Goats?
Author  :  Wendel+Swan
Date  :  08-15-2000 on 10:31 p.m.
Dear Jerry and all, In Tribal Rugs, Jim Opie, said of the "chicken rugs" of the Khamseh federation: Dealers in the Bazaar Vakil in Shiraz called this the murgh motif; "murgh" means either "chicken" or "bird" in Farsi. Many western dealers, favoring the first of the alternative translations, call these "chicken rugs." The sacred si-murgh ("thirty birds"), spoken of in the twelfth-century Persian masterpiece The Conference of the Birds, reflects the "bird" connotation. If the meaning of these motifs does relate to chickens, it is not as common barnyard fowl but in a more symbolic sense. Among Yezids, images of roosters were sometimes substituted for peacocks. Birds were a favorite symbol in both nomadic and urban art in ancient periods, not only in Iran but in all parts of Asia. He also said that, next to trees, birds are mankind's most popular image. I suspect that our use of the "chicken rug" label is not much more than jocular western convention. I have a Kerman hunting carpet fragment that clearly depicts a raptor and a goat. There are undoubtedly many other examples of goats being illustrated in carpets, although it is difficult, if not impossible, to tell which of the stick figure quadrupeds are really goats or simply some other animal. Wendel

Subject  :  Chickens? Chickens!
Author  :  Steve Price
Date  :  08-16-2000 on 06:39 a.m.
sprice@hsc.vcu.edu The question of whether the chicken-like birds that appear on textiles from western and central Asia are actually chickens comes up from time to time and has been raised again here. Some points to ponder. 1. Cockfighting is/was a fairly popular sport in that part of the world, so the chicken is more than just a cheap meal. 2. Among the Belouch, at least, the cock is a symbol of authority and power, and the word "Belouch" in the native language is said to mean "cockscomb". Steve Price

Subject  :  RE:And Also the Goats?
Author  :  R. John Howe
Date  :  08-16-2000 on 06:47 a.m.
Dear folks - I am speaking to you from a strange computer with an unfamiliar keyboard so odd things can happen. I want to respond to a couple of comments in this thread. First, the "goats" offered above might in fact be read as goats, especially in the border. But they also resemble closely the figures in Turkmen "tauk naska" guls. "Tauk" I am told means "chicken" and "naska" means "design," so these figures are also credibly chickens rather than goats (and I never had any trouble distinguishing them before). Second, Wendel in one thread above has offered as one reason why we might not see more sheep and goats in rug designs, that these animals (especially sheep) are "boring" and therefore unlikely to draw attention. I want to counter that thought mildly by noting that nursery ryhmes seem to reflect aspects of life that are central to and readily taken in by children and both sheep and goats are visible in them. Little Boy Blue and Baa Baa Black Sheep give testimony to the unambiguous presence of sheep and goats in other cultural artifacts. Sheep in fact get quite good press among children. They seem likely soft and cuddley and good candidates for hugging. Lambs are as appealing puppies to someone who has no personal experience with sheep. Now it may be that this "bloom" is puntured pretty quickly among those who have good numbers of sheep and goats about but it seems to me that "boring" or "ordinariness" don't quite explain the phenomenon Jerry has noticed here. I still have not seen an unambiguous image of a sheep on an oriental rug and I discount Marvin's Jesus-carried example as a Western anomaly precisely like the Maggy and Jiggs cartoon Kashan he also mentions. Regards, R. John Howe

Subject  :  RE:And Also the Goats?
Author  :  MESUT+ULUSOY
Date  :  08-16-2000 on 03:11 p.m.
mezut@aol.com mezut@aol.com hi since nobody has any pictures of sheeps on rugs i thought i put a few pictures up here i dont think there is any question that this is a goat this one looks like a duck in flight rather than a chicken this one is a guess ,but i think they look more like a dog or a goat than sheep.but maybe these 3 legged creatures represent all domestic animals you are likely to see in a caucassian or kurdish village such as sheep,goat and dog

Subject  :  RE:Where are the Sheep?
Author  :  Bob+Emry
Date  :  08-19-2000 on 11:11 p.m.
emry@starpower.net Hello all: Here is what remains of an old eastern Caucasian rug that has a flock of quadripeds (and a few bipeds and even some pentapeds---count 'em). I interpret most of these as goats, but there are a couple that could be interpreted as sheep. A closer view shows two--even with the top of the lower medallion and to its right and left--that could be sheep. At least they differ in some features from the others. The one in the center of this detail has shorter legs and neck, and no (or short) horns. And this one seems to have petite feet extending from a body that has wool extending down to the knees. Of course it's impossible to achieve anything approaching photorealism using the medium of knotted pile, so none of the animal forms here is really anatomically correct, but, like much in art, what you see is what you want to see. I want to see some of these as sheep. What do you think? Best wishes, Bob Emry

Subject  :  RE:Where are the Sheep?
Author  :  Guido Imbimbo
Date  :  08-19-2000 on 11:20 p.m.
Dear Jerry, I found your goats in an antique carpet. Lot 499, Christie's London, 21 Oct. 1993. It is a very rare a beautiful Khamseh carpet with an indigo field densely scattered with small floral motifs and a variety of animals (373cm x 188cm). The rug was also commented in Hali, Issue 72, pag. 127. The goats are very well depicted in all their realistic details. Beside this carpet, let us assume that sheep and goats are not frequently (or clearly) represented in antique oriental carpets. I read the explanation given by Wendel Swan: floral motifs are prevalent in oriental rug s tradition and when animals are represented, they are used mainly as symbols. Sheep and goats do not seem very powerful icons in Islamic culture. This explanation does convince me. What is, instead, your explanation ? Best Regards Guid

Subject  :  RE:Where are the Sheep?
Author  :  Guido+Imbimbo
Date  :  08-21-2000 on 08:34 a.m.

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