TurkoTek Discussion Boards

Subject  :  Caucasian Seeming Rug with a "White" Back
Author  :  John Howe mailto:%20rjhowe@erols.com
Date  :  04-29-2001 on 06:24 p.m.
One of the items of advice that is often given to fledgling rug repair aspirants is that one should practice on rugs that are fairly coarse and in bad enough shape that one can really do no serious harm. So I have over time assembled a collection of such pieces (the repairs needed on some of them suggest that I am very optimistic about how long I am likely to live).

The rug referred to here is one of my repair rugs. It is about 4 1/2' X 10' and on the front seems to be a pretty straightforward Caucasian piece. It has never been worthy of an overall photo. Here is one corner of the front.

The main border is a red ground version of the "wine glass and leaf" design.

It has white ground foliage meander minor borders on both side and these in turn are bracketed by narrow maroon and white stripes.

Here is a small section of the field:

It has a dark blue ground with multi-color small botehs. The coloration on the botehs give a diagonal pattern to their arrangement on the field.

But the thing that seems odd to me about this piece is its back.

The first thing I noticed when I first turned it over was how much "white" there was on it. Novices are showered with a lot of bad rules but one I had heard was that a lot of white on the back of a piece signaled that it might be Persian. Well, this one surely had it but it didn't look Persian at all to me in other respects.

This is a back that I know I would recognize anywhere that I encountered it and likely without turning the rug over to see its front. (The odd thing this is not the kind of application of Neff and Maggs' perspective that I have felt might be most useful: that of closer comparisons. Weave pattern appears to be more useful to me so far at the extremes.)

I have never done a real technical analysis of this piece but it has brown and ivory warps in some areas and ivory ones in others. The wefts seem natural or light tan and there seem always to be at least two of them between rows of knots but often there are three and four wouldn't surprise me. The original selveges are gone and the sides of this piece have been crudely overcast.

One other thing noticeable on the back of this rug is that it has the interpenetrating blue wefts in places that some say are the hallmark of Talish rugs. So another question I've asked is does this back resemble other rugs said to be Talish and I would invite examples? (I say this knowing that Wright and Wertime have recently suggested that "Talish" rugs were woven in a number of locations and that it is more appropriate to talk about "Talish style" rugs. But here I'm interested in whether anyone has something they think is a Talish and whether the back of at least some such rugs have the kind of white that this one does.)

So what do we think? This seems clearly to me to be a distinctive back at the level of analysis that Neff and Maggs recommend. Does that help us at all determining where this piece might have been woven?


R. John Howe

Subject  :  Re:Caucasian Seeming Rug with a "White" Back
Author  :  R. John Howe mailto:%20rjhowe@erols.com
Date  :  04-30-2001 on 04:02 p.m.
Dear folks -

One more thing about this back.

More than one experienced rug student has looked at it and handled it almost fondly, saying "This is an 'old' back."

I have looked for signs of abrasion that I felt was likely mostly what they were referring to (there seem to be some 'handle' qualities too) but admit that I haven't taken in fully what people mean when they say that a piece has a visibly "old back."


R. John Howe

Subject  :  Kazak is closest
Author  :  John Howe mailto:%20rjhowe@erols.com
Date  :  05-01-2001 on 08:28 a.m.
Dear folks -

Overwhelmed by the interest expressed in what this tired old piece of mine with the "white back" might be, I have taken refuge again in the pages of Neff and Maggs, searching for a back that seems similar.

This one is the closest.

Neff and Maggs call it a Lambalo Kazak. Here's what it looks like on the pile side.

This is what Neff and Maggs say about the Kazak weave pattern:

"The two main characteristics of the Kazak weave pattern are the use of the weft and the shape of the nodes. The weft shoots pass two, three, four or more time after each row of knots without apparent order. On a horizontal line the nodes of the symmetrical knots are longer than they are wide. In this rug the nodes are on an equal plane but this is not an invariable feature of the Kazaks, as some are found with a depression of alternate warps…."

Despite its similarity in weave pattern to this Kazak example (the knot nodes on my repair piece do seem less more squarish) my humble piece does not seem like a Kazak to me. I would place it further East but it is clearly not a Shirvan either by handle or palette. Some experienced folks have thought that the Lenkoran area might in fact be a possibility.


R. John Howe

Subject  :  Re:Caucasian Seeming Rug with a "White" Back
Author  :  Daniel Deschuyteneer mailto:%20daniel.d@infonie.be
Date  :  05-01-2001 on 08:32 a.m.
Dear John,

As all this Salon, this is an interesting rug.

1/ Without paying attention to the blue selvage yarns, extending into the field, and interlacing PAIRS of warps as in Talish rugs, this back looks like the "back" of many coarsely woven rugs, with three – four weft picks, no warp depression, and a floppy handle.

I have seen lots of rugs from several area with related back.

Come to minds :

Eastern Anatolian rugs (mostly dark brown wefts), some Kazak (mostly red wefts), Karabagh (often a slight warp depression) , Gendge, Moghan, Karadagh and Kurdish rugs from the South Caucasian-Persian border.

Here is one example from a Moghan rug.

And another one from a NW Persian Kurdish rug with a Gol Henai design

2/ You are right, the erratically selvage reinforcements extending into the field to make a firm edge are similar to those seen in Talish rugs and Marla Mallet shows on her website (Woven structures Update – Part one)


one Talish example explaining the construction of this unusual selvage.

I have seen similar selvage construction in Northwest Persian rugs, Sarab and Karadja rugs, but the reinforcing selvage yarns interlacing pairs of warps, extended NEVER so far into the field.

I have also seen this construction in Caucasian rugs but the reinforcing selvage yarns interlaced only the first warp pairs (one or two). Here is an example from a Karabagh Chondzoresk rug.

3/ The main border version of the leaf-and-calyx is drawn in a manner which suggest Kurdish rugs from the Caucasian-Persian border and the floral meander of the minor borders is one of the most ubiquitous designs seen in Persian rugs such as Kurdish pieces from the Caucasian border, Luri, Baluch…..

4/ I don’t think the rug you show is a classical "Talish" rug even if the selvage construction my suggest this attribution. The design (borders and field) are against this attribution. It is also too much coarsely woven.

My best guess is Transcaucasian Kurdish rug or Moghan (not so far from the Talish area).



Deschuyteneer Daniel

Subject  :  Re:Caucasian Seeming Rug with a "White" Back
Author  :  Steve Price mailto:%20sprice@hsc.vcu.edu
Date  :  05-01-2001 on 09:35 a.m.
Dear John,

An old rule of thumb (some day I'll explain the term "rule of thumb") is that if you can't decide where a Caucasian rug was made, you call it a Genje.

That seems as good as any.

Steve Price

Subject  :  Re:Caucasian Seeming Rug with a "White" Back
Author  :  R. John Howe mailto:%20rjhowe@erols.com
Date  :  05-01-2001 on 10:42 a.m.
Vincent -

Thanks for your thoughts and examples here.

A couple of things in response:

First, the wefts on the pieces your provide seem much more uniform, regular than do those on my "white back" piece.

Second, the "white back" rug does not have a very floppy handle. It's surprisingly firm.

I do think as you do that an attribution that centers on the area where the Caucasus and Iran meet is likely. And if it was made on the Persian side, that may even explain the "white back."

Steve -

I've heard you make this offer before and I would like to know more about the expression "rule of thumb," since as an old "rule miner" I use it a lot in my work.


R. John Howe

Subject  :  Re:Caucasian Seeming Rug with a "White" Back
Author  :  R. John Howe mailto:%20rjhowe@erols.com
Date  :  05-01-2001 on 10:47 a.m.
Daniel -

Please forgive me. I was thinking your name but for some reason wrote Vincent's.

From over here, all you guys who put up a lot of images look alike.

My apologies. My mother trained me to be more careful with names.

R. John Howe

Subject  :  The Rule of Thumb - WARNING: POLITICALLY INCORRECT!!
Author  :  Steve Price mailto:%20sprice@hsc.vcu.edu
Date  :  05-01-2001 on 12:40 p.m.
Dear John,

"Rule of Thumb" comes from English common law, in which a man was not permitted to beat his wife with a stick having a diameter greater than that of his thumb.

Remember, folks, I am simply reporting, not advocating.

Steve Price

Subject  :  Re:Caucasian Seeming Rug with a "White" Back
Author  :  Marvin Amstey mailto:%20mamstey1@rochester.rr.com
Date  :  05-01-2001 on 03:43 p.m.
Dear John
I would guess that the "old rug hands" who think "this is an old back" may be responding to the fact that the wefts are irregular. At least to me (I'm not old, however:)), the irregularity in the weave pattern is a clue to age. That is certainly true in very old Tekke torbas.
Best regards,

Subject  :  Re:Caucasian Seeming Rug with a "White" Back
Author  :  Kenneth Thompson mailto:%20wkthompson@aol.com
Date  :  05-01-2001 on 05:36 p.m.
Steve--if any of your female students come after you and you need a politically correct version of the origin of rule of thumb, here is a web reference with a less interesting derivation:


Best regards,


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