"Alien" Necessarily Less "Sophisticated?"
Dear Michael and Menduh -
Thanks for this carefully argued and well-documented salon essay.
One of my questions in my initial reading occurred in a sentence of a paragraph in which you cited my description of a Walter Denny discussion of knot ratios and the implications of this for age and also for ease of migration of designs from other media to pile rugs.
It is clear that you feel that usually this is not a good thing. You wrote in part: "...this 1:1 ratio is the most easy available way to transfer alien motives to carpets - but leads to weaves of a much lower degree of sophistication, much less appropriate, than a gabbeh type of weave with a highly asymmetric ratio and many very fine wefts..."
Now I wonder whether the prejorative character of the term "alien" is necessary, but that is not my main question here. It is, rather, why must the designs implicated in such tranfers be seen as somehow "less sophisticated" than those the might be produced by the kilim weavers following their own design traditions?
One of the presentations given at the recent Textile Museum Rug Convention was by Julian Raby, Director of the Freer and of the Sackler Museums here. In it he suggested that in the second half of the 15th century there was a transformation in the designs of carpets produced in the courts of Eygpt, Iran and Turkey. The best documented guide to these changes are in bookbindings on manuscripts dedecated to The Ottoman Sultan Mehemed the Conqueror. There seems a close relationship between the designs used on these bookbindings and those on Medallion and Star Ushak carpets and Raby argued that they likely originated from a court atelier.
Now it is easy to see why you might see such transfers as "alien," in the sense that they may have a less than indigenous source, but in what sense must these designs, when transferred to pile carpets, be seen as "less sophisticated?" A "man-on-the-street" estimate would, I think, always rate their sophistication above that of the "gabbeh" example you cite.
Am I misunderstanding your argument here?
Are you, perhaps, referring strictly to the sophistication of the weave structure itself rather than to the designs employed?
R. John Howe
sorry for the "...the prejorative character of the term "alien" . This is not what we have had in mind.
Plus: it is a bit more complicated, we guess.
There are two "alien" kind of design sources:
Hallo everybody, hallo R. John Howe,
"alien" was not meant pejorative. And it is also important what type of alien design is implemented into this art.
Very early implementations we see in brick-work and in tile work in Central Asia - but in this case the "source" of thesedesigns is the same mentioned ideogrammatical one than it is in this authentic textile art. If you, as a secondary step, re-import this into weaves it is less "alien" than if artists, far avway from and without any feed back to the loom, paint the fashionable ornamentsof their time on paper and leave it to the weavers to transform this into wool, literally speaking. And this has happened in the period that you mention.
In fact it is another question that these weaves are structurally "poorer", less sophisticated, but more often than not much finer. Fineness is not a mental step forward but just a higher density of the old idea.
It is an advantage of early kilims that they were not touched by this development. So, as a necessity, they worked stronger on their own roots to find a consequent language, an own face, on their own.
And the man on the street does not accept all this art, workshop or not, as art anyway , ;-)
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