Posted by Vincent Keers on 09-25-2002 10:44 AM:

Heavy stuff

Dear Fred,

Thanks for the salon.

Here's a face that says it all:

If you look at the legs, the O shape, this is a heavy weight Turkman Cowboy.
The girl that made this didn't do a very good job, but whatever, she knew what her man should look like.
Notice the nice belt, white hat and white swinging shoes!
There...that's my baby

Best regards,

Posted by R. John Howe on 09-25-2002 07:53 PM:

Not Such “Heavy Hitters”

Dear folks –

This example seems to go with Vincent’s above, and may an instance of what statisticians might call “regression to the mean.”

The is a gabbeh rug in Jim Opie’s other book, “Tribal Rugs,” Plates 10.11 and 10.12.

In both the top and the bottom diamonds there are human figures.

Although it’s hard to tell in my scan here, these figures seem male since there are traces of penises in the book image that don’t come through fully here.

The penises are not even really fully visible here in this close-up (my scanner reacted to this image and translated it somewhat and dropped out the white lines and dots that are used to draw the penises and testicles).

Here’s what, with magnification, the drawing looks like in the book schematically: ‘|’

Now, these guys can’t compete with Vincent’s Turkmen, but this is an example of an explicit sexual image in a South Persian rug.


R. John Howe

Posted by Fred_Mushkat on 09-26-2002 05:33 AM:

Hi Vincent,

Some time ago, I posted this image from a Balouch rug. I have seen similar images on rugs as mundane as a Hamadan runner. The abundance of these images in tribal art reinforces the idea that these items are found with greater frequency on nomadic textiles, and in decreasing numbers on village, city, and court textiles.


Fred Mushkat

Posted by Yon Bard on 09-26-2002 09:02 AM:

Perhaps many of these images are just naive attempts at 'anatomic correctness' and have nothing to do with sex or reproduction? After all, giving people legs is not indicative of walking, etc.

Regards, Yon

Posted by Steve Price on 09-26-2002 09:25 AM:

Hi Yon,

Your point is right on the money. Equating display of certain body parts with sexual suggestivity is culture specific, and many cultures don't find depictions (or, for that matter, live display) of penises, female breasts, and such to be titillating or even particularly interesting. At the other end of the spectrum, some forbid display of any part of a woman except her eyes.

The fact that titillating stimuli differ so widely among cultures seems to me to bear on the thesis that "beauty" has a hardwired, innate basis. If sexual stimulation by visual images doesn't (and I think it's difficult to explain the cultural variability any other way), it places real limits on the likelihood that less significant visual stimuli do have hardwired meanings. There aren't many things more important, evolutionarily speaking, than reproductive matters.


Steve Price

Posted by R. John Howe on 09-26-2002 08:20 PM:

Yon, Steve -

"Sex" is, likely many others, an ambiguous word. It is used to indicate that a person's or animal's sex is being identified and it can be used to point to sexual behavior.

I think we've actually been fairly careful so far to indicate that the "sexual" character of the images we have been putting up are (excepting in the case of the horses' erections), is that the genitals and other indicators shown (e.g., skirts) are instances in which the central issue is whether the figures are male or female, not whether they are engaging in sexual behavior.


R. John Howe

Posted by Chuck Wagner on 09-27-2002 10:34 AM:

Greetings all,

I'll offer up this peculiar Qashqai rug as a possible example of what Yon suggested, a nod toward anatomical correctness. The genetalia are not highlighted in any way and, in fact, are overwhelmed by the imagery of a polka-dotted lion. But his "Occams razor" argument has a ring of correctness to it.

On the other hand, maybe the presence of genetalia in eastern weavings is an inside joke on the part of the weavers, getting even with husbands for not paying attention when asked: "Do you like my new design ?" Sort of an ad-hoc Ya-Ya Sisterhood of the Dasht-i-Kavir...


Chuck Wagner

Posted by Fred Mushkat on 09-28-2002 10:40 PM:

Hi all,

I completely agree with Steve and a number of others on these threads that there is a huge difference between depicting sexual characteristics to identify the sex of the figure, and depicting any sexual or reproductive act. For example, in the salon, the people in figures 9 & 10 are part of a series of 4 people, 3 males and a female. It is my conjecture that the number and sexes of the four images represent some sort of family unit in which there were 3 men and a woman. Perhaps there were two sons and their parents. The weaver chose to use breasts and penises to portray this family unit, and in my opinion, there is no sexual content to the group of figure.

On the other hand it is considerably more rare to find images like figure 1, which, in my opinion, allude to the act of intercourse. In all fairness, this may be yet another family unit, but the placement of the figures and the fact that a similar image has also been identified on another band strongly suggests sexual content, and not just identification of a man and a woman.


Fred Mushkat