Posted by R._John_Howe on 11-29-2002 08:29 PM:

Tuning Forks or Animal Trees?

Dear folks -

In another thread Richard Farber asks how this design exhibited itself as it came forward in time from the usages provided in the salon essay.

I'm not sure I can provide any real answer but while looking through P.R.J. Ford's book on oriental carpet design I found the following more recent example, not under his "tree designs" section but rather under "geometric designs."

Ford calls this a Kuchon Kurd piece and says "the double-headed heraldic motif...reminds us of the bird and animal forms which predominate in Central Asian motifs and emblems of the earliest times..."

Now I do not know how far one can stretch the similarities one might see in some designs, but this "heraldic" device seems similar to me to some of the instances of "tuning forks" that Daniel and Guido have provided in their salon essay.

Other "tuning forks" devices are encountered, for example, in Turkmen weaving and even in the Scandinavian "rolakan" we discussed on the show and tell board, but these latter renditions are not necessarily positioned upright and do not have any central element between the "forks."

In contrast, some of the devices our salon hosts have provided have, not just the "tuning forks" at the side, but also a central element.

This made me conjecture about whether what is being called a "tuning fork" device in these Kurdish rugs is not in fact closer to what Robert Pinner and Michael Franses have called, in "Turkoman Studies I," an "animal tree."

Such "animal trees" have a center tree-like element flanked with an animal form (most usually a bird form) on each side. Pinner and Franses analyzed both asmalyks and engsis in this volume that had "animal tree" devices in them. Later in this same volume Pinner surveyed, rather comprehensevely, the symbolism associated with the animal tree and its elements.

So I ask: do we think the salon theme devices that Daniel and Guido have attracted our attention to are best seen as "tuning forks" or can they be seen with at least equal credibility as species of "animal trees?"

And if they are seen as "animal trees" does this affect the analytical possibilities of the salon in some way(s)?


R. John Howe

Posted by R. John Howe on 12-01-2002 02:26 PM:

An Argument Against the "Animal Tree" Proposal

Dear folks -

I've been looking again through Pinner's article on symbolism related to "animal tree" devices and there is one pattern that augers against seeing the "tuning fork" devices in our salon rugs as "animal trees."

It is that in nearly all of the examples of animal trees that Pinner provides the animals FACE the trees.

None of the "tuning fork" devices do.

All of them have lips (or "heads") on both sides that curl away from the central element. In this respect they seem better candidates for the floral form interpretation most are accepting here.


R. John Howe