TurkoTek Discussion Boards

Subject  :  Kurdish Rug
Author  :  Richard Farber mailto:%20farberr@netvision.net.il
Date  :  12-23-2000 on 03:54 p.m.
Editor's Note: This thread was on our Show and Tell Board before the current Salon opened. Because of its relevance, I have moved it to the Salon.

Dear Turkotek,

As some of you know, I am a collector of embroideries, but I do have an "old" rug or two.

I am, at the suggestion of Steve, posting this rug with a couple of comments about its origin.

This carpet is one of a lot of three Kurdish rugs found in a village on the West Bank some years ago. The story is that the father of the grandfather (this might be just a statement meaning, one of our forefathers, and not necessarily three generations ago) bought the carpets while at Mecca for the Haj. It seems that many pilgrims bought carpets with them to sell, as a form of ready cash, to help finance the trip. The other two carpets were in very very good condition and expensive and this one with some damage was within my budget especially as the dealer had already earned his profit on the other two. And anyway my eye trained for natural colors in embroidery was pleased with the palette and assumed it was a good one. I preferred it to the other two in any case colorwise - but that may be a typical response of you like what you can have. (I also like some of the carpets at the MAZ in Vienna).

I am of course prepared to hear otherwise about the colors, otherwise I wouldn't post the piece.

The second point is the idea that there is a direct correlation between the length of the pile and the micro-climate of the area it was woven in.

Or to say it in the way the dealer put it "the higher up the mountain the longer the pile in Kurdish rugs." Any response on this????

I sewed the rug onto a heavy canvas back to conserve it.


Richard Farber

Thanks to Dr. Berkovich who photographed the rug.

Subject  :  Re:Kurdish Rug
Author  :  Michael Wendorf mailto:%20wendorfm@home.com
Date  :  12-23-2000 on 09:36 p.m.
Dear Richard:

I have been studying Kurdish rugs for a solid six or seven years and can confirm that your rug is Kurdish. As you probably know, Kurds inhabit and have inhabited historic Kurdistan since antiquity. Kurdistan is an area consisting largely of northern and northeastern Iraq, eastern and southeastern Anatolia and northwestern Iran. Your rug almost certainly comes from northwestern Iran and is of a type that is well known among Kurdish rug collectors. Rugs of this type pop up frequently in the marketplace and consist of stepped polygons repeated throughout the field. Note how the repetition of this simple device is broken only by color juxtaposition. I have always thought of this design having its origins in a more restrictive weave such as slit tapestry.

The minor borders are quite typical of a group with two ply ivory warps and double soft red wefts with slight warp depression. Sometimes we see that minor border repeated three times with no major border. William Eagleton displays several examples in his book, "An Introduction to Kurdish Rugs". The ground color can be a brown that is usually corrosive, blue or occasionally apricot. The main border on your rug is also a common ashik type element that works well with this field.

It seems to be that your rug could easily be three generations old or more. Though I cannot be certain, the colors all look to be old colors with a nice variety. The red and apricot are typical of the group and the use of a green and purple are indications of an older rug as are the two distinct blues. As these rugs get later the purple and greens tend to disappear and we see only one blue. Based on the photos I would suggest that it is more likely than not that this is a 19th century weaving though rugs with good color seem to have been made as late as the teens in many parts of Kurdistan. Mazeltov.

The other information you received seems basically solid. Kurdistan is mountainous and if Kurds have an identity, it seems to me that the identity as a people of the mountain. The Taurus and Cudi mountains are a back drop. The Turkish government has often referred to Kurds as "mountain Turks."
Consistent with this back drop, Kurdish weavings do tend to get thicker and longer in pile as you get away from the cities and towns and up toward the heartland although it would be easy to over generalize. I am not certain how long the pile in your rug is, but I would not consider it a mountain rug given the borders. I would say it is at least as likely that your rug comes from a village in n.w. Iran around Orumiyeh or some distance south of there. The dyed wools may well have been purchased or bartered. Incidently, living with the rug in Israel, you may be interested to know that when ever weaving was organized in Kurdistan (such as a cottage industry), it was common for specialized tasks to be performed by specific ethnic groups. In many villages, Jews were master dyers. Thus, it may well be that the colors you admire were the work of a Jew living in Kurdistan.

Similarly, I have heard repeated stories about barter and trade occuring during a pilgrimage. However, yours does not seem of the type I would imagine being traded there. The taste seems more toward urban production such as a Nain etc.

Thanks for posting images of your rug and the story.

Best, Michael Wendorf

Subject  :  Re:Kurdish Rug
Author  :  Richard Farber mailto:%20farberr@netvision.net.il
Date  :  12-25-2000 on 10:21 p.m.
Dear Mr. Wendorf,

Thank you for your prompt and informative responce. I am amazed by the level of scholarship. I know how difficult or in fact impossible the attribution of embroidery often is and I impressed by the level of knowledge amassed in your field.

The background is brown with a distinct greenish tinge and is corroded and much much lower than the other colors. Warfs red as you predicted.

My input on the market of carpets at the Haj was a description of what was related to me through the dealer that the family that sold the carpet said . . . that the three carpets were bought by the father of the grandfather THEN and this might be some indication of what was happening perhaps a hundered on more years ago.

As to Jews being in the dyeing trade this is related by my name [and I dont mean Richard.]

Thank you for the book title. I will attempt to peruse it at one of the dealers or in library in the coming days.

Best wishes for a happy and healthy new year. To you and all the readers.


Richard Farber

I am sure that there are alternate opinions out there and I love an academic debate . . . so please. . . .

Subject  :  Re:Kurdish Rug
Author  :  R. John Howe mailto:%20rjhowe@erols.com
Date  :  12-26-2000 on 06:54 p.m.
I received the following comments via e-mail from Michael Wendorf.

Michael's first comment:
"I refer to the minor borders as Eagleton omits rugs with stepped polygons. I thought he had more of this border, as he has other examples known to me in collection. The clearest example of the border, and with it repeated three times and omitting a standard major border, is plate 29. You will have to trust me that I know this border and the group very well."

Michael's second comment:
"You also have an image of my rug of the same type with stepped polygons among the photos you took at the TM conference this past fall. I know because I recall you posting at least a partial image of it in the Salon you put up a month or two ago. You can post that again if you wish. Mine is from around the Sauj Bulaugh or Mahabad area - a little further south than Richard's piece."

Michael's third comment:
"One more thought - a closely related rug was just on eBay. If you do a recent, two week, list of completed auction for Haliden, it should come up. There was another on the Christie's website recently."

Michael's last comment:
"The design is a simple and timeless one. It was done in many places. The color in the images is not clear enough to allow detailed comment. I will only add that I share Eagleton's conclusion that the minor borders that appear on Richard's rug and which appear sometimes repeated three times come from a group that seems to be woven fairly far north in Iran in a cottage industry environment. They are found in the marketplace frequently, usually damaged. They were probably inexpensive when initially purchased."

Subject  :  Re:Kurdish Rug
Author  :  Daniel Deschuyteneer mailto:%20daniel.d@infonie.be
Date  :  12-26-2000 on 06:59 p.m.
Dear Richard and Michael,

Although, I would have preferred a more southern attribution, like Mahabad (Sauj Bulaq) where most Kurdish rugs were woven by the Dehbokri tribes, I feel more comfortable with Michael’s attribution.

Is it first hand ?

Orumiyeh, formerly known as Rezaiyeh (after Reza Shah) and better known in the West as Urmia, is the capitol of the Gharbi province (Northwest South Azerbaijan). The city is located about ten miles west of lake Orumiyeh (Urmia).

Until 1918, just after the outbreak of ethnic violence between Azerbaijanis and Armenians, Christian Armenians formed nearly half of the population while presently 90% of the population is Azeri. The kurds, essentially Herki tribes, are located is the most North Western part.

As you know ethnically and linguistically, the Azerbaijani people are descended from the nomadic Turkish tribes that migrated west across Transcaucasia into present day Turkey during the 11 and 12th century A.D

It’s interesting to notice that this rug with a clear Kurdish pedigree shows the multiple ethnic influence of this area. The main border with its ashik motif related to Turkmen designs is certainly of Azeri inspiration while the more Caucasian lattice design shows Armenian influence and last the white ground minor border is clearly Persian.

Another example like yours is illustrated in "Discoveries from Kurdish Loom" plate 57. The photo is unfortunately a B&W photo. It is labelled Turkish Kurdish rug but the author agrees that there is a degree of uncertainty about the attribution of rugs of this type. This piece was identified as Yorük (Turkish nomadic people with Turkoman backgrounds), when previously published. An Iranian Kurdish origin has also been suggested.

An interesting rug. Thanks to share it with us.

Thanks, Daniel

Subject  :  Re:Kurdish Rug
Author  :  Guido Imbimbo mailto:%20miaom@pacific.net.sg
Date  :  12-29-2000 on 10:52 a.m.
Dear All,

other examples of Kurdish rugs related to the attractive piece proposed by Richard Farber are:

-Lot 249, Nagel, Nov 2000

-Lot 133, RB, 21 Nov. 1998

-Lot 152, RB, 18 Nov. 1989 (in black and white)
-Lot appeared on January 2000 on the Sothebys website ( http://www.sothebys.com/sac/lot-images/3/1/00010396-A.JPG )

Finally another specimen related to this group is represented by a rug that belongs to my friend Giorgio of which I included a detail.

Best regards and Happy New Year to all of you.


Subject  :  Re:Kurdish Rug
Author  :  Richard Farber mailto:%20farberr@netvision.net.il
Date  :  12-29-2000 on 01:12 p.m.
Dear fellow voyagers in cyber space,

I noted a very different set of proportions in the rugs just posted.

There are rugs where the length is three times the width [more or less] and those where the length is apr. twice the width. The dimensions of my rug are between 130 and 137 width by 240 to 245 length. Aprox. two to one.

Different functions? Rugs to eat on and Rug to sleep on ????

all the best

Richard Farber

Subject  :  Re:Kurdish Rug
Author  :  Daniel Deschuyteneer mailto:%20daniel.d@infonie.be
Date  :  12-30-2000 on 11:41 a.m.
Dear all,

Thanks Guido for your useful, as always, photo’s. I have a bad envy of your database...

Richard, I don't think such rugs were ever used as sofreh. To my knowledge sofreh are always flatweaves.
As you very accurately noticed these rugs were woven with a 1/2 or 1/3 length to width ratio. More the color palette isn’t uniform and I guess that the same design has been used in several area.

Thanks, Daniel

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