Posted by R. John Howe on 02-19-2003 06:43 AM:


Dear folks –

This was a salon based on a Textile Museum rug morning program given by Joe Fell, who was for a long time a high-end dealer and astute collector of oriental rugs in Chicago.

I used Joe’s nice rug morning as a salon with some apprehension, since quite often these photo essays produce more spectators than participants. But this time some goodly discussion emerged.

The longest thread demonstrates that mistakes can be functional. Perhaps I want to claim that since the mistake was mine, calling a “Shahsavan” bag face of Joe’s “sumak,” when, as Pat Weiler immediately noticed, it appeared to be (and is) a pile weaving.

This led me to describe briefly, and I thought in passing, the debate about whether the Shahsavan in fact wove in pile much if at all. What happened then was that Bertram Frauenknecht, a long time dealer and scholar, who has visited the regions where the Shahsavan reside and Mike Tschebull, also a long time dealer and rug scholar, who has also traveled in these same geographic areas, and who is perhaps the leading skeptic about Shahsavan pile weavings, rehearsed usefully various points in this debate. It was good to have two knowledgeable people go over this ground for us and to do so while maintaining a moderate tone all the way. No resolution, of course, but it is not often that a thread reaches 53 posts.

Another interesting and entertaining thread was initiated by Filiberto Boncompagni, who alertly noticed that an unusual Caucasian prayer rug brought into Joe Fell’s rug morning by Carol Ross was very similar to Plate 28 in Ralph Kaffel’s book on Caucasian prayer rugs. Both of these rugs are dated and the dates are only one year apart and this led Filiberto to pursue the Ross rug to see what we could determine about its structure. Ultimately, Carol Ross responded and put us in touch with her sister, Sharon Larkins-Pederson, who owns the rug. Since the piece was located close to Steve Price, we imposed on him to do a technical analysis of it, which revealed that it is about half as fine as the Kaffel piece, despite having some curvilinear drawing in places where the Kaffel weaver opted for the rectilinear. This thread ended with an entertaining message from Ms. Larkins-Pederson, in which she talked about how she acquired this piece. It was given to her by a movie actress of her acquaintance.

In a third thread of note, I tried to call attention to what I think is a quite wonderful small Bidjar rug that Joe Fell presented that has a delicate single border and seemingly out of scale arabesque devices in its field. I tried to lure John Collins into this discussion and did briefly. John indicated that he sees this piece as a kind of sampler, what Tracy Davis suggested might be called a “strike-off.” Michael Wendorf was skeptical of Mr. Collins’ suggestion, arguing that samplers usually show a greater variety of designs and are often of a different size. At the end of this thread I put up some of the photos of impressive Bidjar pieces from an ORR article that John Collins did some ten years ago.

Richard Farber, at one point, initiated a thread, asking if sometime we might not explore the distinctions and similarities between Kurdish and Lur weaving. I expressed surprise that there was confusion about this, and confessed my ignorance of any debate in this area. Pat Weiler spoke up to indicate that in fact there are places where the Kurds and the Lurs are fairly close to one another and said that their weavings can be structurally similar. Pat agreed to do a salon soon on Lur weaving. Tracy Davis applauded and promised support with a few Lur pieces of her own.

In some other posts/threads I summarized a Hali article on “RKO” or “sound wave” rugs of which Joe Fell had one in this presentation; I confessed having attempted to copy two of Mr. Fell's nice Central Asian pieces; and I asked if others felt that the Jaff Kurds had woven their diamond designs, not just in pile, but also in flatweave. Michael Wendorf responded to the latter question in the affirmative.

Filiberto also noticed another piece similar to the Anatolian Kurdish rug with Memling guls that Joe Fell presented. Michael Wendorf commented. Yon Bard was almost successful in using this piece to raise the now dreaded “internal elem” debate once again. Fortunately, this aspect of the thread did not develop.

I want to thank Mr. Fell once again for permitting us to use the excellent material in his rug morning presentation as the basis for this salon. We are all green with envy about a great many of these pieces.

Thanks too, to all those who participated in what has seemed to me to be a useful and enjoyable discussion.


R. John Howe