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When is Shared Design a Basis for Common Ethnic Attribution?

Daniel Deschuyteneer

I don't have enough knowledge to be able to answer this question, so I hope our discussion participants will contribute at least parts of it.

I suspect that the shared designs are an expression of the fascinating ethnic mix of the Caucasus and north Persia and that same ethnic groups may have woven these pieces. As an introduction to this topic, I will show some connections in design between Caucasian, Anatolian, and northwest Persian rugs, and two of my rugs.

Part One: The Transcaucasian/Moghan/Shasavan rug

I have recently acquired this unusually attractive piece of nomad art, almost naive in its simplicity, which captured my collector's heart. It was most probably woven in the Moghan area, perhaps by the Shahsevan, although the question of whether the Shahsevan wove pile rugs is controversial. (Dimension: 7'x 3'2"; 237cm x 94cm)

The hooked Memling guls and the secondary guls are arrayed very much in the classical Turkoman manner. This design, which followed the great 12th and 13th century Turkmen Oghuz migrations, appeared very early in Anatolia. It can be seen in 15th century rugs, and has spread throughout Anatolia and westerly into the Caucasian Kazak and Moghan areas during the 17th and 18th centuries .

My rug is related to many Moghan rugs with two columns of Memling guls and, as in the best of its genre, it shows a powerful and nomadic variation of the usual pattern. The Memling guls attract the eye more than usual because they are widely spaced, free floating, and not restrained within the strict lattice often seen in later Moghan rugs.

Note also the wonderful and astonishing shades of purplish red, apricot, light blue, very saturated marine blue, saffron yellow, medium green, ivory, and oxidized medium brown that were joined with one another in such a harmonious way as to give to this piece an artistically unique effect.

The secondary white ground guls appearing in the negative spaces, with the smaller hexagonal devices containing opposite Turkish elli belinde motifs as centers, greatly contribute to the excellent aesthetic effect of the field. It's also noteworthy that the "endless repeat", characteristic of Islamic art is here displayed by the negative spaces.

Some features are not consistent with a strict Caucasian attribution, namely

1. This rug, with only one border flanked by tiny guard stripes, lacks the very formal and balanced three borders structure seen in most of Caucasian rugs.

2. It lacks the zoomorphic idioms most often seen in the mystic repertoire of Caucasian rugs.

These features suggest a more southern Transcaucasian or even northeast Azerbaidjani attribution, suggesting that it may be Shahsevan.

The following facts argueagainst this hypothesis:

1. According to Adil Besim, this rug lacks the stylistic ambivalence of most Azerbaidjani rugs and especially of Turkish Shahsevan weavings, which most often display a mixture of old Turkish formal idioms and Persian floral elements.

2. It's regular weave and the even warp tension suggest that it was woven on a vertical loom and not on a horizontal loom that was frequently dismantled and reassembled, as is the custom during nomadic migration. So it could be a village product and, therefore, not Shahsevan, as these tribes stayed almost nomadic since they arrived from Anatolia in the late 16th century and settled in the Persian Ardebil province having the Moghan plain as a winter encampment and the Savalan Mountains as summer quarters.

Along with the problem of its attribution this rug raised also the following questions: Must a rug be crowded to imagine that it was nomadic and woven on a horizontal loom? Are there technical characteristics that allow us to identify whether a rug was woven on a horizontal or a vertical loom?

The main border (direct scan showing the apricot shade) is very attractive and the interlacing ornaments are in fact formed with "four assembled arrows" pointing to the center. They are drawn in ever new perspectives and surprising new variations following the arrangements of the colors, recalling somewhat the Talish rosettes, and in some of them, even variations of the far east Swastika motif.

Structure Analysis:

Dimensions: 7' x 3'2"; 237cm x 94cm
Yarn: spin Z
Pile: 2 singles
Knot: symmetrical, H6.5 V8 52psi ; H26 V32 832/dmĀ²
Warp: fine 2 ply ivory wool; no depression
Weft: fine 2 ply light brown wool , 3 to 6 picks
Selvage: not original
Ends: missing

This circa 1800 Anatolian rug from the Konya area illustrated in Antike Anatolische Teppische aus Osterreichischem Besitz ( plate 42 ) is used as a link to the second rug, to show the common Turkish ancestry in the designs of the two rugs presented here.

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Click Here to Proceed to Part 4

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