Thanks to Patrick for a well researched Salon.
There is an additional source that you may wish to consider. It is an article in Hali 1, 1 by Mike Tschebull. He references the catalog of on Lori flatweaves produced by the Tehran Rug Society in 1976 concluding that the Lori seem first to have been predominantly makers of flat-weaves and then attempts to describe pile weaving. He mentions the lack of distinctive design and structural charcteristics.
He does tentatively identify two groups. The first with 6 x 6 or 7 x 7 knots to the square inch with the vertical count limited by the large amount of wool used and heavy wefting. He notes that knots are usually densely packed between 2 or 3 rows of wefts that are Z2S red dyed wool put in with moderately high tension. Warps are Z2S grey-beige wool, rarely goat hair, and generally tightly spun and plied. The pile can be up to 3/4" long and is shaggy with straight, coarse high gloss wool. Colors include yellow and orange, dark to light red, deep purple, dark and light green and a black that can be used as a field color. Selvedges tend to be one bundle with up to 6 warps wrapped in either black goat hair or red wool. Kellai format is found in this group.
Lori rugs from Varamin are the second tentative group - he notes they are more loosely knotted than group 1.
Mike also references asymmetrically knotted Lori rugs sometimes called Yalamehs in the trade. These were made near Isphahan and west of the Zagros near Iraq. This latter group is also referred to sometimes as Arabbaff in the trade. the knot is open left and they look like big, coarse Qashqai carpets.
The only unique bag motif referenced is a small diamond form in the corners of the field. Structurally, mike reports that Lori bags are heavier and about 1/4 as finely knotted, with longer pile, heavier wefts and less flexibility.
Personally, I tend to look for some goat hair and darker mixed warps to identify Lori rugs. The Lori do seem to have distinctive interpretations of the Mina Khani pattern and related floral patterns some with creative bird imagery and interlocking design units. But I have never seen a Lori knotted pile weaving that I thought was older than the late 19th century and I think we need to ask the question of whether Lori knotted pile weaving represents any indigenous tradition. Flatweaves seem more likely to be traditional.
Thank you, Michael Wendorf
Thank you for your kind remarks.
I do not have a ready copy of Hali 1/1. I do not think I have even ever seen a copy!
The 1976 Tehran Rug Society catalog was titled Lori and Bakhtiyari Flatweaves, by de Franchis and Wertime. It did not deal with all-pile weavings or rugs. It did not say that there weren't any. They did say that Luri tribespeople had been weaving commercial rugs for nearly 30 years, but did not say that there were not pile rugs of traditional tribal design woven before that time. They may have been speaking of the Yalameh-type of commercial rugs that Mr. Tschebull wrote about.
Many Bakhtiyari and Luri bags have panels of pile weaving at the bottom and corners, so a pile weave tradition is not unknown to them. Whether or not that tradition goes back very far is inconclusive. In the Salon I noted:
"Nonetheless, there are few if any credible examples of Luri, or for that matter QashqaÕi, Khamseh, Afshar or Bakhtiyari tribal weavings from before the middle of the 19th century.Ê Is it because they did not make rugs before the mid 19th century?"
I had to double-check that contention to see if I had included Kurdish rugs, because I had just recently read Mr. James Burns beautiful book on Kurdish rugs showing many predating the mid 19th century, several from the 18th century and even some older than that.
What can be made of this bounty of very old Kurdish rugs appearing like a beacon of light from the near-total darkness of other tribal weavings from that era around them?
I must confess that the rugs I have shown in the Salon were not purchased at high-end international auction houses with a bountiful supply of ready cash. One reason for their appearance in my modest collection is their equally modest prices. And one constant theme in nearly every publication dealing with tribal rugs notes the relative value of Luri weavings compared to their more glamorous bretheren. I wouldn't want to characterize them as "the poor collector's Kurdish" rugs, but the cachet they have gained is more in their authenticity than in their value.
As Mr. Tschebull has noted, Luri rugs were woven, and with some identifiable characteristics. Low knot count, red wefts, long pile, single-bundle selvedges.
I would tend to think that Mr Opie's contention, that Luri weavers did weave rugs for local use, explains why there are not many around. Most of the truly old rugs that made it relatively intact until today did so because they were sent away. And mostly only the tribal trappings collected by the pickers in the mid 70's remained intact in-situ.
Your statement that:
"...I have never seen a Lori knotted pile weaving that I thought was older than the late 19th century and I think we need to ask the question of whether Lori knotted pile weaving represents any indigenous tradition."
may suggest that the "late" tribal pile rugs shown in the salon are the last remaining vestiges of a long and distinguished tradition.
I think Patrick is right. Luri pile rugs haven’t enjoyed a good reputation
value-wise: they are shaggy and coarse, in a word "cheap" for the market.
As such they weren’t collected - as they should deserve - and the old one were actually "consumed" on the spot.
By the way, the shaggy and coarse Kurdish rugs still suffer from the same bias in the ME. Unfortunately the local dealers are well aware of their value on western markets…
Thanks for your interesting Salon, Pat.
I think the question is more important than the answer, which as you point out is inconclusive. It could be that the Lori/Luri tribal knotted pile rugs that we do find, including those in the Salon, are the last vestiges of a long and distinguished tradition. My point is merely to ask what that tradition is or was?
The knotted pile rugs woven by the Lori/Luri as Opie and others have eloquently written do reflect certain elements that suggest a long weaving tradition. Further, your point concerning pile existing on various types of flatwoven bags is well taken. Nonetheless, I think that taken as a whole Luri/Lori knotted pile weaving falls into two or three catagories - (1) commercial weavings using assymmetrical knotting such as the Yalamehs, (2) derivative weavings in which Lori/Luri weavers adapt or adopt and interpret floral Persianate designs such as the Mina Khani, and (3) weavings which seem to come out of a flatweave tradition. I think it is this last group which is the most interesting and reflects a long tradition. But when did this transition take place? Or was there always a small production of knotted pile in addition to flatweaves? And where to place the bird rugs in this?
These issues are not unique to the Lori/Luri. It could also apply to other groups including the Kurds. I believe Kurds and their ancestors have woven since antiquity, but I do not know whether this was knotted pile or something else. The weaving traditions we are discussing have probably changed with time. I have never heard of Kurdish rugs representing a beacon of light in terms of age though relative to Lori/Luri knotted pile rugs the point is made. That said, I think we need to remember that none of the dates assigned to the rugs in Jim Burns' wonderful new book have been verified by any kind of independent or objective testing - they are the author's best guess based on 40 years of experience collecting these rugs. Are they late 19th century, generally no. But in the context of a long tradition, none of them are really old enough on age alone to establish that long tradition.
One more thing, it was not so long ago that Kurdish rugs were a poor collector's Caucasian rugs.
Thanks again for the Salon. Michael