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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.

Elongation, Compression and Perspective

by Vincent Keers

Dear participants,

Some of you may have read some of my previous blockheaded postings. Sometimes I act like a bull terrier when I think I've stumbled onto something important. At least it seems important to me. If it is really of importance at that moment I never really know, but without investigation one will never find out.

It may well be that at the end of this discussion, we will be left with a hangover. My first objective is in getting people to look at our art in the proper way. This means that a rug on display needs to be top up, bottom down, pile down. With images it's difficult to establish which way is up, because the direction of the pile doesn't show. I think the elongation aspect can be of help. This 18th century Yuruk is correct. Or is it upside down? I would like to feel this one.

Why? Sometimes one encounters a word, a sentence that sticks. In my case it was the word sloppy I think it's a beautiful word because it sounds sloppy. Here sloppy was used in a description of a rug that had an elongated appearance. "A sloppy job". This pushed a button with me, because in labeling this rug as a sloppy job, I suddenly became aware of our museums with sloppy jobs in their collections, and the people looking at them as works of Asian art. What am I to think of this?

I began looking in the literature, HALI, etc., hands on the rugs investigation....... Lot of sloppy jobs around. People around me got concerned because I was reading the books upside down.

A feature one sees in rugs in which the designs get elongated along the vertical axis (the warp length) of the rug.

I'll try to make it comprehensive with this drawing I made. In discussing the elongation and compression aspect with Marla Mallett, I learned that compression in the first half doesn't occur only because of the hammering down of the wefts, but it's elongation in the upper half because the warps get tighter. Because the warps are pushed out of the straight vertical line by the wefts, the wefts tend to "eat" warp length. Because of this, the warps tend to get shorter if they can't be adjusted. And if the warp tension can't be adjusted and stays tight, it will push up the wefts if the weft tension isn't adjusted.

The result of this will be: Adjusting the warp tension by giving it extra length makes the rug longer. Not adjusting the warp tension, the design elongates. Adjusting the weft tension (giving the wefts extra length), the rug grows in width. Not adjusting the weft tension, the rug is slender at the top, can't widen.

I made this drawing because the 2 panel kilim design puzzled me. How did the weaver make it? Marla kindly took a look at it, and proposed the following: "The weaver finished one panel and used it as a model for the next one without noticing the direction." It didn't do the trick for me. I couldn't imagine a weaver rotating the panel and taking it as an example with the back side showing. It could be...but.

It's a nice puzzle. In short: If I'm correct, a weaver can freely decide to work elongated or compressed if the loom has adequate technical features that allow her to do so.

First I will try to cast some light on the subject with this example. An English Egyptologist found that there is a precise northern orientation of the pyramids, in association with two stars. Because the Egyptians reestablished the north for every pyramid they build, the pyramids don't all point in the same direction. Some are more to the east, some more to the west. This is because of the wiggling of the earth's axis.

It tells us something about the mental condition of Egyptians. It tells us something about the obsession to be precise. They didn't build one pyramid facing the north, and subsequently build the next pyramid, and the next one at the same direction. They reestablished the north again and again, disregarding the obvious variation in direction on the earths surface. That's why we couldn't understand it, although we did think it had something to do with the sky at night. I think this tells us something about the way our ancestors perceived their world.

Our way of looking at objects is programmed because of the use of the perspective that evolved in the Middle Ages. We think our brains can tackle more complex constructions. I think that's true, but because of our realistic, mathematical approach, the soul is blocked. So, if we are looking at objects from the past, I think it's essential to look back in time and spatial perception.

Cave wall paintings from Dordogne in France are two dimensional to our eyes because we know the third dimension as well. Did the artist, who made the paintings around 20,000 B.C., know he worked with two dimensions? No. He had no dimensions at all. He projected what he saw and felt in his soul onto the wall. We can speculate about the reasons he pictured the animals and human figures the way he did in trying to discover some of the everyday problems he encountered in his struggle for life.

Now, I could give thousands examples of pre Middle Age art, in which we accept the pre-Middle Age perspective as a given status. What bothers me in the world of rugs is the absence of any reflection at all about this issue. I do not want to get in Christian, Islamic or whatever worldly beliefs. I think that's too easy a way out. I'm reflecting about an environment, with no rules about perspective, dimensions at all.

We can see in the way the rugs are painted that the artist had some difficulty with the perspective. But the artist wasn't aware of any problems. He tried hard to show us what the design of the rugs was by making the designs bigger although they are further away. Looking at the total painting, the artist shows us he knows something about perspective and how to use it. So, maybe he did this deliberately.

This Karabagh shows it very well. The upper half is elongated. It's a very small rug (130 x 170cm = 51 x 67 inches). I do not think this is a sloppy job. Couldn't it be intentional? Looking at pre-19th century large rugs, I found the medallions to be below the metrical centers of the rugs. Not always, but too often to declare them all "sloppy jobs".

Here the central design is deliberately not in the metrical middle. Measuring it doesn't give shocking results, but looking at the rug, it shows clearly.

European rugs, Spanish, French from the 17th century onward, never show this strange effect. All Savonnerie and Aubusson rugs are very symmetrical. Couldn't our Asian weavers get it right, where we, so obviously, did succeed in getting the center in the center?

- Elongation of design starts in the second half of old rugs.
- Elongation of design starts in the first half of new rugs, but it's compression of the second half
- Elongation creates visibility of design.
- Elongation and compression are means of expression, tools for the weaver.

- In art it's normal to place oneselves in the time and place the object under investigation was made.
- In art it's normal to contemplate the impact an object has at this time and place, in relation with the past.
- Images of rugs are sometimes, too often, upside down.

The pyramids are mere objects with no special meaning at all. Huge shrines for potentates. So they are directed to the north.....so what?
Some rugs are elongated, some are compressed..... So what?
Some rugs are upside down....So what?

Some questions: Could the elongation aspect be of help in constructing a reliable, easy time table? If this is thecase, it would force us to display all rugs pile down, and a 1910 rug can't be from 1850. I have this weird idea about the perspective. I know this can't be solved, but I would like some comment on the subject. The question is, if the elongation isn't due to technical reasons, could it be an intentional solution to a certain problem by a creative weaver?

I would like to give the weavers, artists, more credit for translating their time, their world and place to me. I would like to see my art handled as art.

Some more examples.

Did HALI publish it upside down?

I'm not sure about this one.

This is a new Sarouk. It isn't elongated, it's compressed. Lots of new rugs show this. Time stress?