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Salon du Tapis d'Orient

The Salon du Tapis d'Orient is a moderated discussion group in the manner of the 19th century salon devoted to oriental rugs and textiles and all aspects of their appreciation. Please include your full name and e-mail address in your posting.

When is Shared Design a Basis for Common Ethnic Attribution?

Daniel Deschuyteneer

Part two: The Kazak Rug

This Southwest Caucasian (circa 1860; 6’9" x 5’2", 202 cm x 154 cm) interesting rug is related to a rare first half 19th century group.

The bright purplish brown madder red ground dominated by three bold eight point medallions with alternating bottle green and white ground colors is a classic Kazak design.

The uneven shape of the medallions, which are nevertheless still well proportioned, suggests that this rug was woven by a village folk artist before the Russian influence which, according to Wright and Wertime, began around 1860 with the installation of commercial workshops. Do you have any opinions about this?

The color palette with a large use of white, green and red, the eight point medallions and the bold large "S" seen in the center of the medallions are some of the characteristics of this group. The three related examples I know have white ground main borders and blue ground minor borders containing small polychrome diamonds, as in this rug. Here, as in two of the three related rugs, the eight point medallions are surrounded by a mass of varied symbols and motifs from the magical Caucasian repertoire: hooked motifs with bird heads, rams horns or old kochanac motifs, stars, small polychrome diamonds, four "C" motifs also called "four naldaq", abstract flowers and shrubs.

This photo and the next one, a direct scan reduced in size without any correction of the colors or the contrast, of its main border give us a good idea of the quality of the colors used in this rug as well as the skill of the weaver.

The main border displays a repeat of "four arrows" motif in a cheerful interplay of colors, contrasting against the large white ground. It is surrounded by small corner brackets. Although the "four arrows" motifs are repetitive, no motif has been drawn with the same arrangement of colors. This feature suggests an early piece. It is a very unusual border for a Kazak rug and I know of no other Caucasian rug with a closely similar border. Perhaps our readers can provide reference to some.

One could easily describe the reds visible in the direct scan as two different colors, but according to Marla Mallett: "the variation is a naturally occurring change within one hue. The exaggerated variation may not even have been present originally, but have occurred as the rug aged. This kind of variation seems to occur much more often in early pieces...more rarely as the products became more and more commercial, and as the dye processes were left increasingly to professional dyers."

Structure Analysis
Date: circa 1860
Dimension: 6’9" x 5’2"; 202 cm x 154 cm

Yarns: spin Z
Warp: 2 ply, variegated ivory, light brown and gray wool – no depression
Weft: 2 singles, brownish red wool, 3- 5 (principally 3) picks – wefts don’t cross.
Knots: symmetrical, 2 singles, H6.5pi V6pi 39psi, H26/dm V24/dm 624/dm²
Selvage: as the free floating outer warp is not original, it was probably a reinforced selvage.
Ends: missing
Colors: natural and saturated, ivory, various purplish and pinkish hues of red, light pink, light blue, deep aquamarine blue, ochre saffron yellow, bottle green, oxidized dark brown used to outline the several motifs.

The next pictures will show the common Turkish roots and design similarities in between this Caucasian rug and Anatolian or north Persian rugs. First, the "crown like" motifs which appear at top and bottom of the bold medallion in my Kazak rug are common to a lot of Fachralo and Star Kazak rugs (see picture below).

This picture was constructed with close-ups from James Burns, The Caucasus – Traditions in Weavings – plates 31 & 49, and Mark Keshishian, Guide to Oriental Rugs – book cover

In a previous Salon we indicated that these medallions have old Turkish Holbein and Ushak roots and that the pattern of such medallions migrated from Anatolia to the Caucasus and northwest Persia.

Here is a picture containing three variations of the same type 4 Holbein pattern in rugs of different areas; Anatolia, Caucasus and northwest Persia.

This picture was constructed with close-ups from Oktay Aslanapa, One Thousand Years of Turkish Carpets - plate 77, Dennis Dodds, Oriental Rugs from Atlantic Collections – plate 62, John Wertime, Soumak Bags of Northwest Persia – plate 98.

Although the two rugs presented in this Salon are clearly from different areas, they have related main borders containing the same "four arrow" motifs. So it was not surprising to find exactly the same border as in my Kazak rug, with another color palette, in a Hashtrud or Khamseh northwest Persian mafrash panel illustrated in Jenny Housego’s, Tribal Rugs (plate 8), reproduced below, showing once more the close relations in design between Caucasian and north Persian rugs. Notice that even the small corner brackets surrounding the "four arrows" motif, with the same diagonal display of colors appear in the Housego’s mafrash.

I don't know if this motif also appears in Anatolia, but perhaps some of you have relevant references.

Very often I have read that these abstract rosettes, as well as the more rounded Talish rosette, with their inner interlacing, derived from the Coptic tradition. I haven’t any knowledge in this field, but perhaps one of you can help. As you know, Marla Mallett is convinced that the origin of the "angular arrow motif" lies in the warp-substitution structure. She has made the justifying argument and demonstration in a series of lectures and articles on pile motifs borrowed from warp-substitution patterning.

Another motif which appears in my Kazak rug and which attracts my interest, is the "four naldaq" motif,

This motif is common to Caucasian and Anatolian rugs. Its origin may be Turkmen, and James Burn tells us (The Caucasus – Traditions in Weavings, p. 23) that it has been his observation that this motif enclosed into a box appears only in old carpets. Has anyone else made the same observation?

Part of the fun we have when reading these Salons is to try, if a piece is unusual, to determine where it comes from and to establish comparisons with related pieces. If you don't want to be influenced by my own researches, don't proceed to the next part of this Salon, where related pieces are presented.

1. Jim Burns, The Caucasus – Traditions in Weavings
2. Mark Keshishian, Guide to Oriental Rugs
3. Antike Anatolische Teppische aus Osterreichischem Besitz
4. Oktay Aslanapa, One Thousand Years of Turkish Carpets
5. Dennis Dodds, Oriental Rugs from Atlantic Collections
6. John Wertime, Soumak Bags of Northwest Persia
7. Jenny Housego, Tribal Rugs
8. Eberhart Herrmann, Kaukasische Teppichkunst
9. Ulrich Shürmann, Caucasian Rugs
10. Peter Willborg, Textile Treasures
11. Taher Sabahi, Ghereh, No. 20
12. Kendrick and Tattersall, Handwoven Carpets Oriental and European
13. Vrouyr’s Gallery Antwerpen
14. Ralph Kaffel, Caucasian Prayer Rugs
15. Marla Mallett, Oriental Rug Review, Vol.14, No. 2

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