TurkoTek Discussion Boards

Subject  :  Summary
Author  :  Yon Bard mailto:%20doryon@rcn.com
Date  :  12-02-2000 on 03:35 p.m.
This Salon is based on the following two propositions:
1. Many types of pattern irregularities in oriental rugs occur with greatest frequently in a ‘zone’ comprising the area from just above the bottom of the field to just below its center, including the adjoining stretches of side border.
2. These irregularities are often (though not always) intentionally inserted by the weaver, and their placement in the ‘zone’ is often due to tradition or custom. Following Shiv Sikri’s Philadelphia ICOC lecture, we use the term ‘internal elem’ to designate the horizontal band above the bottom of the field containing such irregularities.
Proposition 1 can be verified purely by observation. I have cited statistics showing certain types of irregularities occurring at a ratio of 16:1 within the zone among pieces in my collection. Steve Price opened the Atlantic Collections book with the most skeptical attitude, yet the examples he found within the zone outnumbered those outside by at least 3:1. We have little doubt that with sufficient study this proposition can be verified to anybody’s satisfaction.
Proposition 2 is more difficult, since it requires divining the weavers’ intentions. Furthermore, the ‘zone’ is exactly where you’d expect to find irregularities from several other sources, such as the weaver changing her mind, adjusting an unsatisfactory design, or being replaced by another weaver. Fortunately for our thesis, among the observed irregularities there is a considerable number that cannot be explained by these alternative suggestions. Most cases with an overall regular pattern that is merely interrupted locally at a certain level fall into that class. Since in many of these cases there is also no esthetic benefits from the irregularity, our proposition 2 remains the only viable explanation. If one accepts this line of reasoning, one inevitably starts to wonder if the motivation of custom and tradition does not also account for at least some of the irregularities, such as a sudden change in pattern, color, or border alignment, that could also plausibly be otherwise explained. It appears that ultimately one needs to approach each case individually and try to infer which cause is operative. Though it would be hard to prove conclusively, I think an observer with open mind will have to concede that in many cases the change in pattern represents more than a mere change of mind. For example, just yesterday I came across the following two specimens at the display for today’s Skinner auction, a Kuba (lot 61) on the left and a Baluch (lot 242; picture in catalog is upside down) on the right.

The discussion threads in this Salon fell into several categories:
1. Examples of internal elems provided by contributors. These included among others Kurdish, Baluch, Turkmen, and Caucasian pieces. An interesting contribution was provided by Giambattista D'Alessio who demonstrated that Moroccan rugs often had a compartmentalized design with possible suggestions of internal elems. These rugs require further study.
2. Persistent attempts, led by Marla Mallett, to discredit proposition 2 entirely by claiming alternative explanations for all observed irregularities. Since none of these explanations could plausibly account for the consistent occurrence of, say, single displaced knots in specific locations, I consider these attempts as misguided.
3. A general skepticism, spearheaded by Steve Price, who refused to take our propositions seriously unless we provided scientific proof with certainty levels around 95 or even 99%. While on the face of it such an attitude seems to have much to recommend it, in reality if we applied it impartially to all rug studies we wouldn’t be left with much. HALI would contain little beside ads, and auction catalogs would describe the vast majority of antique rugs simply as ‘East of Suez, fourth quarter of second millenium.’ And it is particularly ironic that the same people who demand this level of proof for our propositions are willing to assert with certainty, yet without shred of proof, that illustration 1 in our introduction (a Baluch Balisht) is a case of mere border adjustment! (I am not saying that it isn’t; just that there is no more proof for that supposition than for its being an internal elem).
4. An argument, led by Michael Wendorf (a strong supporter of the internal elem concept and provider of wonderful Kurdish examples), of whether Shiv Sikri’s definition of the internal elem applies to all the cases to which I applied the term. I feel that until (if ever) we can distinguish between the traditions or customs that engendered the various types of irregularities, there is no point in quarreling about the terminology – it’s just a matter of semantics. It’s interesting to observe that the examples he wishes to exclude are mostly woven by the Turkmen, who do tend to do many things differently.

To conclude, I hope that y’all go at look at as many rugs as you can, both in books (where these effects are sometimes hard to discern) and in the wool, and come back a year from now – hopefully convinced that the internal elem is, indeed, not myth but reality.

Regards, Yon

Powered by UltraBoard 2000 <http://www.ub2k.com/>