Posted by Wendel Swan on 03-30-2002 10:51 AM:
3 chanteh; 1 sweetmeats bag
I offer four images. The first is similar to the example Pat posted with a possible camel hair plain weave. I believe this also to have camel hair. Among the eleven colors are a pink and one blue that I tend to associate with material from the Chahar Mahal, but I cannot attribute it to that area. The colors are a little lighter than they appear here.
The body of the chanteh is 8.5 inches wide and 12 inches high, as folded. Both sides are decorated with the same animals. It clearly was woven to be folded into its present configuration.
The next is an even smaller chanteh.. This is Shahsavan and has a plain weave cotton back. It is 9 inches square and has very fine brocading. All of the edges indicate that the body is complete and original, but a braided cord (not visible) is not original.
Next is a prototypical Shahsavan design done in slit weave tapestry. Measuring 12 inches square, it is stuffed and used as a pillow. The image may look like there is an orange in it, but there is not.
The last is an English bag advertised by Bernheimer about 10 years ago that is English and said to be from circa 1600 and for carrying sweetmeats. Small bags are universal.
First bag first
The first bag you show does appear to be quite similar to the bag I posted earlier.
This one is a bit larger, at 9 1/2 x 13 1/2. The tassles and field color make them appear alike and only the actual designs are different.
I had attributed mine to the Jebal, or Jamal, Barez Afshar in SE Iran due to the similarity in format and size to one shown in Oriental Rug Review, December/January 1992, in an article by P.R.J. Ford, Flatweaves of Kirman Province. He also shows a Jamal Barez salt bag with a weft substitution border design similar to the one in my bag shown above. Referring to this type of bag, he says it "...at first sight reminds one of the Baluch-type torbas from Afghanistan..." and "The structure, pattern and colors all remind us that this is the Afshar area closest to Baluchistan." He also notes that one flatweave rug shown "...represents the nomadic art of the Osturi, while the flatweave copies of pile rugs are probably the work of the settled tribespeople..." This may indicate that these small bags are tribal rather than the work of settled Persian villagers.
Parviz Tanavoli, in an article in Hali 57, (the small English embroidered sweatmeat bag is advertised on page 86 of this same issue if you want to see a much larger image) discusses the group of rugs, salt bags and khorjins from the Jebal Barez area "...which resemble the work of the Baluch of Sistan, baluchistan and, occasionally, of Khorasan so closely that even experts misattribute them,"
To further complicate the attribution, Tanavoli, in Bread and Salt, shows a salt bag, plate 97, from the Baluch of Kerman. It is remarkably similar to the one fromm ORR attributed to the Jamal Barez by Ford.
Tanavoli also shows several Sofreh from the Veramin area and remarks about "The use of camel wool for the colour of the field...". You mention Chahar Mahal as a possible source (or at least similar colors are used there) for your bag. It verges on the Veramin plain, a meeting place for numerous tribes in the winter - including Afshars and the Lurs who use the border design of botehs in your bag - but the format of a square or rectangle folded over is unusual.
This is the only reference I find to camel wool in these tribal weavings, other than in The Rugs of the Wandering Baluchi by David Black. He indicates that the Baluch of SE Iran roam about in a desert area of such desolation that they are not able to sustain sheep, but travel with camels and goats. They do not weave pile rugs, but instead weave the trappings of a nomadic life.
Many of these references, a decade and more old, perhaps do not reflect the actual circumstances of the lives of the weavers and their weavings we collect. The intermarriage and relocations of the weavers further complicate things. I have seen many references to Laks, but no confident attributions to their weavings. Many weavings of SE Iran are attributed to Afshar, but there are many other tribes represented there, also. We need to see more of these bags and which areas they are attributed to in order to produce a "critical mass" of these things that would allow a more confident provenance to be determined.
Diamonds are Forever
Your Diamond Shahsavan bag uses a design that has been suggested as being derived from tile patterns of Turkic origin (among others). The following bagface has a diamond lattice with cross-centers, too:
This one, though, is not slit-weave, but countered soumak. There are two rows of wefts between rows of wrapping, indicating perhaps a Kurdish or Bakhtiari origin according to Marla Mallett in Woven Structures, page 65. She says soumak weavers "borrowed designs from slit tapestry, brocading, warp substitution..." and apparently from the Shahsavan weaver of your bag, too!
The weft color in this bagface changes from red in the top inch to green for a couple of inches to red for several inches, then gold for an inch then red, then orange, then finally red for the last several inches. The appearance on the front is one of a vague shift in ground color.
The lattice in this bag is not stepped as your slit-weave bag needs to be for a structurally sound weaving. Each diamond is bordered with dark brown wool and a layer of dark blue, for a thick three-layer lattice.
The border here is familiar from Baluch rugs and trappings and Turkmen ensi borders, too.
I must disclose that this bagface is NOT a chanteh. It is 19" wide x 17" tall and most likely was a khorjin face.
Strange To Us Maybe
It has been noted that, among some of the tribal weaving clans, first-cousin marriages were common. The intent was to maintain the wealth within the family, so to speak. Other marriages were from clan to clan for the purpose of strengthening ties and reducing the likelihood of war. These traditions may have engendered weavings as closely related as the cousins. This has certainly made the study of these weavings considerably more fascinating than if the weavings were strictly divided into recognizable groups.
The similarity between the camel-field bag Wendel shows and the "pipe-bag" I posted does not confirm a relationship, any more than it precludes one.
One of the features of the pipe bag is the weft-substitution border along the top. It is certainly reminiscent of Baluch weavings. This photo shows the top of the pipe bag placed on a "Baluch" khorjin:
Note the similarity of the diamond shapes with jagged surround.
Now, take a look at the face of the "Baluch" khorjin:
It has several weft substitution designs in panels. You probably can't see very well that there are even tufts of wool placed every several inches along the two-color back-wrapped and bound borders which separate the weft-substitution panels. This pretty, but structurally unnecessary, feature adds to the charm of this bag. It is quite likely from the Kerman/SE Iran area, made by a Baluch weaver. But. Now take a look at this Afshar salt bag:
Notice that the major design is almost identical to one in the Baluch khorjin!
As Mr. Rogers would say, "Won't you be my neighbor?"
The Shahsavan bag you show has an interesting allover design. I haven't found another like it yet. Do the shells have any special meaning that you are aware of? I believe I read that they are fossil shells found in the desert area that was once water. Do the shells indicate a likely place of manufacture for your bag?
The shells on Wendel's bag are cowries, and they seem to have special significance in many parts of the world. In parts of central Africa they were used as money, and decorating art objects with them was a show of wealth. There are also cultures in which they represent fertility.
Continuing the theme of different uses for chanteh, Tanavoli
shows several "Spoon Bags", saying that they ate with their fingers, but needed spoons for preparing
and stirring their food. The spoon bag (qashoqdan) consists of a large chanteh and two smaller flanking chanteh
joined together with a band and netting. It is possible that some chanteh may have been spoon bags separated from
Tanavoli goes on to say that "...its pockets filled with things that need to be kept at hand: not just spoons, but knives, scissors, the top of the hubble-bubble, matches, etc."
Several of these qashoqdan show the diamond-with-cross design in Wendel's bag above. So, Wendel, where do you keep your Hubble-Bubble?
The Shell Game
A quick note on cowries and their symbolism. Steve is right, cowries were used as currency in the past. The rug dealers of today understand this. Last weekend I was rummaging through some heaps in a local hole-in-the-wall shop. I noticed that behind one heap was a small plastic bag with three bundles of yarn, two needles, and several dozen cowrie shells.
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