Posted by Patrick Weiler on 08-25-2002 12:52 PM:

Candles in the Garden


One suggestion of the engsi design mentions candelabra. I do not recall ever having seen a picture of a Turkmen walking around with a candelabrum. I also do not recall a Turkmen tradition of placing dozens of them in a rectangular enclosure.
Now, I can visualize a Victorian carpet scholar wandering around his granite castle with one, puzzling over the mystical iconography of his rugs. "Eureka! They must be candle holders!" he excitedly exclaims.

You briefly noted:

Some have also suggested that the "hatchli" design denotes a kind of "garden."

The garden theory makes the most sense if you assume that the oldest engsi's are those of the hatchli design. A family would weave their own garden as the entrance to their family home, representative of fecundity, wealth and stature.
The inner border is the fence of the garden, with the mihrab as the entrance arch to the garden. The cross-hatch in the middle is the typical stream of water, similar to those seen on the Kurdish garden carpets.
The so-called "candelabra" devices are fruit trees pruned for maximum yield and short stature, just like any commercial orchard today, in regular rows.
Outside the inner border is the main border of larger trees, seen "from the front" in the panel at the bottom of the field and see "from the tops" as these trees march up the sides of the rug.
At the top of the field is a garden of shrubs, and at the bottom of the engsi the elem is the beginning of "the outside world" of a desert or scrublands.
The outer border of white rectangles with hooked crosses may be the border of the property within which the formal fruit tree garden resides.

So, until I see a picture of a Turkman candle carrier, I will stick with my own fanciful idea.

Patrick Weiler

Posted by Steve Price on 08-25-2002 02:55 PM:

Hi Patrick,

Nice thoughts, but one problem: the oldest pieces would come from the early Turkmen - say, 18th century (there are some people who think it's earlier, but it doesn't matter right now whether they're right or wrong). The early Turkmen didn't have houses and gardens, they were nomadic.

I agree, though, that the "candelabra" aren't likely to have been intended to represent candelabra, that's just what they look like to us.


Steve Price

Posted by Yon Bard on 08-25-2002 04:51 PM:

The 'candelabra' are generally assumed to be stylized bird's heads. According to some 'experts,' the more articulated the 'heads,' the earlier the Ensi. One of the first 'lessons' I received as a Turkmen collector was from George O'Bannon who said that the marks of an early Tekke ensi are: rounded rosettes at the bottom, small number of birds' heads per row (two on each side), and 'realistic' portrayal of the heads. I am merely repeating what he said - I have no opinion one way or another on the matter.

Regards, Yon

Posted by Marvin Amstey on 08-25-2002 07:51 PM:

The bird-head idea is probably the most accepted by Turkoman collectors. Here is another Yomud engsi from my collection which demonstrates the "feathers" on the "eagle". Is it an "eagle"? In my opinion it is two birds or othwer animals facing a central tree.
Best regards.

Posted by Patrick Weiler on 08-25-2002 07:55 PM:

No House ! No Garden !


I appreciate that nomads had no house or garden , but the representation of a formal, walled garden/orchard is not too far fetched, considering that the oasis cities of Eastern Turkestan and the settled towns of Iran to the south had gardens for many centuries.
Similarly, just as the Qashqai didn't "have" their own Persepolis, that did not preclude them from representing it on their rugs - it was their only way of "taking it with them".
The Garden of Paradise is a theme that goes way back before these rugs we have today were made in the 19th century.
The Garden of Paradise would take the shape of the most perfect garden they could imagine, one with flowing water, fruit trees and the security and privacy of a wall.
If they were just trying to imitate a door, then why are the rugs not made with vertical panels imitating boards? And where is the latch, lock or handle?

It has been suggested that many rugs have themes of flowers so the weaver can keep a picture of a beautiful spring day with her when perhaps the environment is a little less pleasant. Maybe even really dry and hot.

Patrick Weiler

Posted by Marvin Amstey on 08-25-2002 08:03 PM:

I wouldn't disagree that the fields of this engsi represent some kind of plant form or a whole garden.

Posted by Steve Price on 08-25-2002 09:25 PM:

Hi Patrick,

Your argument that they aren't candelabra is that the Turkmen probably didn't have candelabra, so they wouldn't represent them on the ensi. But if that argument is sound, wouldn't it also follow that the thing doesn't representa garden because the Turkmen didn't have gardens?

I don't know what the motif represents, and I agree that on a scale of probabilities a garden seems more likely than candelabra. I'm not sure I can conjure up a consistent argument for this point of view, thougn.


Steve Price

Posted by Ali R.Tuna on 08-27-2002 12:33 PM:

Candles in the garden

I am a first time writer into these forums but follow frequently the discussions.

I thought these candelabra discussion being too "recent" and of few meaning to the nomad's life. In the explanation of the engsi designs, has anybody thought about making parallels with the famous Orient Stars Seldjuk rug (from potala palace) that is also divided into 4 distinct spaces with a magic animal in each quarter? If one looks at the negative space , one can easily see the engsi cross design. The rug is filled with four magic animal symbols but also with a lot of small birds whose heads remind of the engsi designs.

Looking for an animal, magic symbol into the door of the tent, the entrance of your intimate space probably meant more to the early nomads than a usual object. The engsi form existed wherever people lived into tents. So it would be interesting to make links with non central Asian engsis, - as long as one is able to identify them!


Posted by Steve Price on 08-27-2002 05:31 PM:

Hi Ali,

The possible relationship of the Orient Stars animal carpet to Turkmen ensis has been mentioned from time to time. I'm pretty sure I remember hearing Thomas Cole say something about it, and Michael Craycraft suggested it explicitly in a letter to HALI (issue #58, p. 89, 1991).

I have a copy of Orient Stars, but it's too big to fit into the space where my scanner sits. I wonder if anyone out there would be good enough to scan the image and post it (or send it to me or Filiberto for posting).


Steve Price

Posted by R._John_Howe on 08-27-2002 07:42 PM:

An Early Turkish Suggestion

Dear folks –

Mr. Tuna joins our discussion with the suggestion that we look more deeply for possible sources of some of the design and layout aspects of the Turkmen engsi.

He suggests that we might look at the “Potala Palace Compartment” fragment that is Plate 185 in the Orient Stars volume. I have scanned that image and here it is:

The text says that this piece is estimated to be “early Konya,” 12th to 14th century. The fragment is 73 X 43 cm.

As Mr. Tuna points out the full rug seemingly had at least four compartments, the “filler” devices in the red ground compartments could be read to resemble in outline crude Turkmen chuval guls, and the “major” border (the text says we cannot tell if it is so) is a design that (again crudely) protrays two birds facing a tree. This could be an early instance of the “animal trees” that caught the eyes of Pinner and Franses in Turkmen Studies I. Or if one was intent on comparing this border design with the “candelabras” in the panels of many Turkmen engsis, one might argue that the “Y” shapes with beaks result from the “birds” having “flown” into the “trees.” J Rotation and reflection of devices by weavers is after all a longstanding tradition.

Thanks to Mr. Tuna for this imaginative suggestion.


R. John Howe

Posted by Steve Price on 08-27-2002 07:50 PM:

Seljuk Animal Carpet

Hi People,

John Howe kindly scanned the Seljuk animal carpet from Orient Stars. Here it is.

The four panel, ensi-like layout is obvious; the animal's curled tails look mighty like Turkmen curled leafs.

Steve Price

Posted by A.R.Tuna on 08-28-2002 06:58 AM:

Dear Steve and al.
Thanks for mentioning the previous references to the same idea in the past. Thanks also for posting the Orient Stars Animal carpet for more clarity on the idea.
Actually, as I have sent the message out ,I thought a better reference is the Anatolian Animal carpet from the Metropolitan museum , probably same provenance and similar period. (it can bee seen at the MET's site , under islamic art highlihts , carpets)
The MET carpet does not have the field separated into the two compartments and one can better see the 4 zone division and the resulting negative form. In addition , it is closer in dimension to the Turkoman Engsis (49 1/2 x 60 1/4) - this said , I do not dare to suggest it was made as an Engsi. The existence of these rugs show that there was a design tradition with that composition.
When I look at the marvellous Engsi posted by Marvin Amstey in this tread , I also feel the same Animal references both at the head of the pole , at the Elem and inside the field. So the symbolism and the general layout seem to have survived.
With the Salor engsi design , we more clearly see the presence of animals.
With this body of - small I agree - evidence , to me the Engsi language seems to have its origine within the animal realm and its protective magic of the tent space rather than garden or candelabra symbols.

Posted by Kenneth_Thompson on 08-29-2002 06:01 AM:

Dear All,

To follow up on references to garden and animal-tree designs, I am attaching three photos of a Tekke ensi that clearly shows animals beside trees. Some are facing the trees, others facing away. The "candelabra" motif also shows what appear to be stylized crested bird or horned animals, but those images are more ambiguous than obvious animals and trees.

Best regards, Ken

Posted by Steve Price on 08-29-2002 10:58 AM:

Hi Ken,

The "bird head" motif on your (very attractive) piece looks very much like the heads on what probably represent goats on many Caucasian and NW Persian flatweaves. So, like you, I am unconvinced that they are birds at all.

As long as we're on the subject of multiple bird heads affixed to stems, here's an image for you:

It's a woven raffia bag (natural and indigo dyed raffia are what gives it the two colors) from Cameroon, made in the 1930's or so. These were prestige objects within the tribal community, but many were made for sale to tourists. I don't know which category this is from - it came from a missionary's estate. I think the relationship it shows to Turkmen iconography is pretty striking, another example of how certain motifs recur in places geographically remote from each other. Generating the motifs in the negative space is characteristic of these Cameroon bags.


Steve Price

Posted by Kenneth Thompson on 08-29-2002 10:55 PM:

Dear Steve,

Thanks for posting that very fine Cameroon bag. I hadn't realized that the two-bird or two-headed bird was also present in West African art. Your bag is a remarkably sophisticated piece. Now if you can find a Dogon ensi, we will really have some connections to explore.

Best regards, Ken

Posted by Steve Price on 08-30-2002 06:58 AM:

Dogon Door

Hi Ken,

The Dogon don't use door rugs, but they do have doors. Large ones for their homes, small ones for their granaries. These can be very elaborate and are highly collectible.

Here's a full size Dogon door:

It's got a rich iconography, and with a little stretching it's possible to see lots of formal similarity to Turkmen ensis.


Steve Price

Posted by Richard Tomlinson on 08-30-2002 09:09 AM:

That's ONE door I won't be knocking on......

Posted by R. John Howe on 08-30-2002 11:08 AM:

Tibetan Door Rugs

Dear folks –

Since we are beginning to make analogies with similar things in other cultures, it might be useful to note that the Tibetans made and used door rugs all of which seem “compartmented” and most of which have the “hatchli” format.

The usual Tibetan door rug was apparently of cotton applique but pile versions of this format have been published.

Chris Walters has for years used the door rug design below as the signature piece for his Cultural Survival non-profit project with Tibetan weavers in Nepal.

The “Woven Jewels” volume (1992) on Tibetan rugs in Southern California collections provides two examples of Tibetan door rug designs in pile.

The first is plate 40 in that volume. This rug is precisely 3 feet by 5 feet.

The second piece is plate 107 in this volume.

This third rug is 2 feet, 8 inches wide and 5 feet, 2 inches long.

There is even one published (also in “Woven Jewels,” plate 41) Tibetan “window rug” with a similar format attributed to the 19th century.

It measures 4 feet 4 inches by 3 feet, 6 inches.

I asked Chris recently why Tibetan door rugs seem noticeably smaller than Turkmen engsis. He said that it is likely because the Tibetans tend to be small people and their tents and tent furnishings are appropriately smaller.

Eiland says in his most recent “Comprehensive Guide” in his caption for the second rug above, that settled Tibetans still sometimes use these door rugs in their homes, despite their origin in a nomadic setting.


R. John Howe

Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 08-30-2002 11:52 AM:

A-hem… and what about the ensi cruciform layout being just an imitation of a REAL door?
Like this one, for example: the Kaaba door - with protective curtain:

(It looks ancient but I have no idea of how old it is.)

Or it’s a too prosaic idea?



Posted by David R.E. Hunt on 09-07-2002 07:12 PM:

Meaning of Tent Door Rug?

Significance of the Symbolism In the Engsi Carpet Design - Much has been made of the meaning or representitive significance of the design of the Turkmen Engsi, some explanations fanciful and some prosaic,and hopefully this interpretation of the design consists of a judicious admixture of both qualities. My interpretation of the symbolic meaning of the Engsi design proceeds from four points, the first point being the linguistic significance and implifications of the term "Tent Door Rug", the second would represent the illustrious history of the "Garden Carpet" design, a third the traditional interpretation of the Engs design as being that of the garden and/or door design,and a fourth which asserts that the engsi represents a visual and artistic "double entendre"; as such I believe that the engsi format depicts the superimposition of a door or window upon the field of a garden carpet and in turn a symbolic door to or window looking out upon a garden, either heavenly or earthly. I believe that the engsi design is not format specific and could well have seen dual use as an appropriate design for either a tent door or a prayer rug- even as a votive or decoration on festive occasions. -Dave Hunt

Posted by David R. E. Hunt on 09-12-2002 05:39 PM:

Origin of Engsi Design?

"Architectonically" rendered Garden Carpets, such as these three from the Ellis translation of Antique Rugs of the Near East by Wilhelm Von Bode, are believed to have been the inspiration for the garden designs of the Saryk Engsi, and there are some interesting simularities. They are viewed as from above, the garden being divided by irrigation and waterways, and dating from the 17th to mid 18th centuries. Some of these rugs are quite large at 12'x30', and speak much to Turkmen weaving. David Hunt

Posted by Patrick Weiler on 09-13-2002 09:38 AM:

Candles in the Garden?


I am glad you thought to reproduce some Garden Carpet examples for this salon. Your middle example shows quite clearly the dark, diagonal trunks of trees with finger-like branches. These branches, which angle off at the tops, look remarkably like the "candelabra" in many engsi's. Particularly the "sideways" candelabra in the Saryk engsi's. This may indicate a more accurate rendition of the garden carpet among the various engsi types.

The first rug shows trees which jut out perpendicularly from the waterway and may represent an earlier, more naturalistic version.

One conclusion that may be drawn from the Turkmen making "knock-offs" of formal Persian Garden Carpets is that they wanted to emulate the wealth and beauty of their neighbors.

One question that may be asked is where did they get the Mother of All Garden Carpets to use as an example? Perhaps at one of the Jiffy-Mart Quick-Stop Gas & Go stations along the Silk Road.

Patrick Weiler

Posted by R. John Howe on 09-13-2002 10:23 AM:

Pat -

The Turkmen wove knock-offs of Persian designs???


I'd sooner believe they were inspired by the "heavens."


R. John Howe

Posted by David R. E. Hunt on 09-13-2002 09:42 PM:

To All- Please don't think of it as being a knock-off, so much as a reinterpretation, for the Safavids inhereted an artistic heritage from the Turks and Mongols which they retained and integrated inro their own style. Mosques and architecture from the Safavid era clearly retained the Turkic Styles. Note the medallions and indeed the overall geometric rendering of elements in the second of the three rugs, for the ornamentation both this rug and turkmen rugs in general are Turkic in origin.- Dave H.