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The Kaffel Cedar Chest Session at ACOR 7

edited by Steve Price (various authors)

Part of the collection of Ralph and Linda Kaffel was exhibited at ACOR 7 (Seattle) earlier this year.  John Howe and Patrick Weiler photographed 16 of the pieces, which became the basis for a discussion thread on our Miscellaneous Topics forum.  That format was awkward for discussion, in part because of the fact that the pieces could not be separated into different threads.  Some of their images are presented here, some were replaced by images provided by Ralph Kaffel, who also very kindly provided images of the rest and sent me the descriptions that accompanied all of the rugs at the session.  I have modified the sequence of presentation of the pieces from that used at ACOR, edited some of the content of the thread that appeared on Turkotek and the notes that the Kaffels used for their ACOR session in generating this Salon for discussion.  Thanks to John, Patrick and the Kaffels for making it possible.

Except where otherwise indicated, all of the text was written by the Kaffels and sent to me by Ralph.

Linda and I very much enjoyed doing our two Out of the Cedar Chest sessions at ACOR 7.  Sharing is one of the joys of collecting.  We brought 25 pieces, plus two pieces that we were able to borrow from our friend and fellow collector Albert Mazzie for comparison purposes.  In selecting which pieces to bring we were guided by the following criteria:
1. We excluded any of our pieces that were either recently published or exhibited; therefore we did not bring any Caucasian prayer rugs that were exhibited at the Denver Art Museum during ACOR 4 in 1998 (or published in Caucasian Prayer Rugs), any pieces that were included in the Northern California collectors’ exhibit Passages II during ACOR 5 in Burlingame, CA in 2000, or any of our central Anatolian rugs which were published (except for a small mat) in my article “Heart and Soul - the Yellow Ground Rugs of Konya” in Hali 128, May/June 2003.
2. Variety was a major consideration. Since we are by no means “focused” collectors, we wanted to include a broad spectrum of types that were representative of our interests. We brought 7 Caucasians, 5 Persian, 5 Anatolian, 5 Turkmen, 2 Soumaks and 1 Beluch.
3. We excluded any of the larger pieces for convenience sake.

Linda and I would like to acknowledge the people who so kindly assisted us during our presentations: Gerard Paquin, Ray Rosenberg, Danny Shaffer, Jerry Silverman, Tom Walrod, Marilyn Wolf and Sally Youell. Our sincere thanks to all.


Published:  Vanishing Jewels, pl.12 (collection Marvin Amstey)
3’2 x 2’5, 2nd half of 19th century.  Asymmetric knot, open left. 
Colors (6):  camelhair, bright red, rust red, dark blue, brown (corroded), white.

This is one of my all-time favorite Beluch prayer rugs. We were very pleased to be able to acquire it at Sotheby’s New York (10 September 1996, #120), where it was unobtrusively listed, unillustrated and without reference to prior publication.  The unusual floral motifs in the hand panels add to the rug’s charm.  The few prayer rugs with this particular pattern include a related example in Minasian’s Rug Co (Chicago) pamphlet titled Beluchi Heaven (from the Joseph Fell collection), attributed to the Farah district of western Afghanistan, and an example on the Samarkand (UK) website in November 2003. Secular examples include Skinner, September 15, 2001 #214; Hali 51, p.113 and Hali 59, p.113, #3, a balisht from the Anne Halley collection attributed to the “Hari Rud Tribes” of western Afghanistan by M. Craycraft.


Published: Frauenknecht Best of Bach/A German Collection, plate 23
2'1 x 2'0, 19th century, NW Iran - Moghan

While there are many soumak bags with a pattern of all-over octagons on an ivory field, what particularly attracted us to this piece is the odd relationship of field to border - the small field almost functions as a central medallion against a disproportionately bold border.  This particular "anchor" border is known on many bags with a single octagonal central
medallion, but it is unique for the type with an all-over octagon design.  Note that the negative white space can be read as perfectly-formed six pointed stars.

Some analogies having all over octagons on an ivory field:
1. Sotheby's, NY 4/7/99 #108
2. Skinner 12/5/98 #15
3. Benardout catalog 1978, #1


Published: Rippon Boswell 11/16/96, lot #114; Hali 91, p.157
1'6 x 1'5, c. 1860-70, Southeast Caucasus

While this motif frequently appears on cargo bags, it is relatively rare in saddle bags. A blue ground pair (piled) was offered by Woolley and Wallis on 7/2/03, lot #46.  A reverse-soumak khorjin was offered by Sloan's 9/26/00, lot # 219 (Kabul Antique Rugs, Hali 104, p.136).  A rare Qashq'ai bagface was published in A Skein Through Time (1996), pl.36.  Werner Weber displayed a worn, old bagface at the Dealer's Fair at ICOC 9 (Milan).  Sotheby's NY 9/17/92, lot #96, offered a reverse soumak bag; an almost identical bag is plate 6B in Persian Flatweaves.  Parviz Tanavoli, in Shahsavan, attributes cargo bags with this motif to Hashtrud, as well as to Khamseh/Bijar areas.

Our piece is notable for its colors and fine weave.  The border pattern is more typically Caucasian than Persian. No other red-ground soumak bag with this motif is known to me.  Quite a rare piece.



Published: Herrmann, S.O.T. II (1979), plate #71; Rippon Boswell 11/16/02, lot #90; Hali 127, p.141.
3'0 x 3'3, 19th century, Northwest Persia

Note ground color change in spandrels from yellow-gold to indigo.  Only five other Bijar saddle covers published in Hali, each very different from one another.
1. Hali 58, p.152 (Rippon Boswell 5/11/91, #94)
2. Hali 74, p.103 (Mideast Meets Midwest Pl 16; a rectangular cover with dense floral patterning)
3. Hali 88, p.144 (Rippon Boswell 5/11/96 #1; a cruciform-shaped cover)
4. Hali 3/2, p.87 (Herrmann S.O.T. III, (cover, arch shaped with lions)
5. Hali 89, p.116 (Mideast Meets Midwest, plate 17, Opie, Tribal Rugs, plate 9:13; arch shaped with lions in the corners)

Other Bijar saddle covers:
Discoveries from Kurdish Looms, plate 16
Collector's Choice, San Francisco 1973, #208 (Leslie Hindman Galleries, 2/27/94 #418; Oriental Rugs, Exhibits from Area Collections (1974) #5, (red-ground with gold spandrels)
Sotheby's NY 4/7/92 #5; Sotheby's NY 4/15/93 #5; Rippon Boswell 5/14/94 #17 (rectangular with botehs & floral branches)
Skinner 4/13/97 #19
Nagel 5/16/00 #79
Rippon Boswell 5/17/03 # 7 (arch-shaped with branches and lions in 2 corners, trimmed all around)


4'0 x 3'4, 3rd quarter 19th century

While many bags with this complex boteh motif are known, rugs with this all-over pattern are few in number.  This is the smallest of the group, with four rows of alternately-facing botehs, divided by tree-like motifs, on blue ground.  This rug is the most similar of the known examples to the oft-referenced Hartley-Clark rug**, considered the grandfather of the group.  (The H-C rug is also on blue ground, with six rows of alternately-facing botehs, measuring 6'1 x 4'8).  One other blue ground
rug, with 9 rows of botehs (no dividing tree motifs) was offered at Christie's NY 12/6/8 #8 (7'11 x 4'0).  Jack Corwin's well-known rug is on red ground, with 5 rows of botehs (no "trees") 5'1 x 4'1 (published Hali 2/3, p.266 and Hali 53, p.246).  The largest by far of this group was sold at Christies London on 4/25/95, lot #534, with botehs arranged diagonally by color, measured a monumental 13'7 x 7'10 (10 rows; Hali 81, p.120).  Another of the group, with 5 rows of botehs, (5'1 x 6'10) from the James Burns Collection, was exhibited at ACOR 7, The Weavings of the Afshars, and published in the exhibition catalog, Pacific Northwest Collections, plate A-10.

** The Hartley-Clark rug:
Published: Major Hartley-Clark, Bokhara, Turkoman & Afghan Rugs, (1922), dated to the 17th C, p.124; The Qashqa'i of Iran, plate 7 (H-18); exhibited World of Islam Festival 1976; Whitworth Art Gallery, University of Manchester; Sotheby's London 6/15/83 #189, bought, but not paid for, and re-offered Christie's London 4/16/84 #18


Published: Hali 1/1 (1978) p.15, ad for Marcuson, Hall & Muse; Hali 34 (1987) p.17, A Persian Collection; Nathaniel Harris, Rugs and Carpets of the Orient, p.55

3'4 x 3'6, mid 19th century, Kirman Province, South Persia

I am not aware of another example with inverted botehs.  A series of 3 narrow borders with no obvious main border.  Very finely woven.  The row of six animals (rare) indicates direction.  To date, a unique example with no known close analogies.


Published: Lefevre & Partners, 15 February 1980, #1 (as Central Asian prayer rug); Hali Vol.2, #4, p. 344.
4’5 x 2’8, dated 1236 AH (1823 AD).  

A rare, interesting, and to date unique, prayer rug with a camel-ground mihrab, and whose attribution was the subject of much debate.  Jean Lefevre attributed it to Central Asia and proposed that “it might be an early example of a particular type of Beluch”.   Hali, in “Auction Reports” suggested that it might have been woven by Arab nomads in southeastern Persia, who, according to the map in James Opie’s Tribal Rugs of Southern Persia, are located just to the west of the Afshar territory.  Michael Craycraft positively identified this rug as Afshar, and that was confirmed by Parviz Tanavoli, who indicated that he would like to publish this rug in his forthcoming book on Afshar weavings.



Published:  David Black & Clive Loveless, Woven Gardens, plate 46.
4’10 x 1'11, 19th century.
Colors (11): purple-brown, red-brown, red, pink, yellow, navy, light blue, pale blue, dark green, light brown, ivory.

The tree forms which create a lattice containing the botehs are similar to Afshar motifs. The authors tentatively ascribe this piece to one of the tribes in the Kerman area, but suggest that it appears to be more closely related to pieces futher west, and may well be Qashqa’i.  Soft, lustrous wool.  Woven in both asymmetric knot open left and symmetric knot (right side only). A green ground torba with 3 rows of similar botehs and a closely similar border, tentatively attributed to Kashguli (2’2 x 1’6; Edelmann, May 23, 1984, # 204), purchased by Dennis Dodds and exhibited at a recent Hali Fair.  A red ground torba with a similar lattice pattern and 3 rows of botehs, ivory ground floral border (3’7 x 1’9; Rippon-Boswell, November 12, 1994, #180), dated to mid-19th C. and attributed to Qashqa’i, Fars region.

Identical or very similar borders appear on a torba of variant design (3’11 x 2’0, Rippon-Boswell, May 24, 1997, #160), an eye-dazzler torba (4'11 x 1'11; Bernadout, Woven Stars, #25) and a Herati-design carpet with a central medallion in Woven Gardens, plate 6.


Published: Sotheby's NY, 12/15/00, #2
2'9 x 2'4, Last quarter 19th century

An uncommon example of a north Caucasian mat (described as a bagface in the Sotheby catalog), with an intricate patten which is actually a complex lattice.  The linked floral border is typical of Zeikhur, and is used as both major and guard borders.  There is an extremely closely related small rug with this identical field pattern and border in the Al Mazzie
collection in San Francisco (this rug was exhibited at the ACOR session for comparison purposes), while another rug with an identical field but multiple borders was offered at Sotheby's London on 4/21/99, #116.


Published: Skinner, December 6, 1997, #1; Hali 97, p. 135
3 ’5 x 2’7.   Dated 1303 AH = 1885/86 AD

Zeikhur prayer rugs are rare (about 15 published) and all different from one another.  This example has the same floral border as our mat.  The rose flowerheads appear on secular Zeikhurs (see Skinner, April 8, 1995, #58) and on a bagface with this identical border advertised in Hali 109 by Hazara in Oakland.  The pagoda-like arch is unique on a Caucasian prayer rug, but there is a rug with related exotic arch with dots on a white ground in Plate 58 in Oriental Rugs from New England Collections.



Published:  Hali 66 (December, 1992), pps. 82/83.

3’1 x 5’3, ca. 1850-1875.  Symmetric knot; Warp: Z2S ivory wool Weft: natural brown and/or goat hair, some blue wool Sides: 2 cords, wrapped in a continuous figure 8 with blue wool.
Colors: (17) black, maroon, medium red, light red, “Zeikhur” pink, “Karagashli” blue, medium blue, light blue, slate blue, blue green, dark “Bijov” green, forest green, light green, medium yellow, light yellow, gold (Technical analysis by Michael Craycraft).

There is little unanimity when it comes to attribution of similar pieces.  An example with an identical “S” border was attributed to Derbend in Battilossi’s catalog #4, plate 8.   Rippon-Boswell's (#168, 6 November, 1976) was attributed to Kazak, and what is arguably the most interesting of these examples (Christie’s London, 14 June, 1984, #41) was attributed to south Caucasus. We bought this rug from a dealer’s car trunk in the parking lot at Skinner’s  (Bolton, Massachusetts) in what used to be a sale during an auction.  I dated this rug as mid 19th c. in Hali; I now tend to see it as a somewhat later product.


Published: Hali, Vol. 1, #3, 1978, p.38:  ad for “The Old Rug ” in Oakland, CA.
5’0 x 3’10.  19th century.  This type is called “Star Kuba” in the trade.

The few published analogies include:
1.   Rippon Boswell, November 26, 1983, #142, similar but more crowded and without a row of animals at the bottom or top.
2.   Oriental Rug Review, April/May 1990 (Ad for Shaver Ramsey, p.59)
3.   Sotheby's London, October 16, 1996; Rippon-Boswell, May 24, 1997, #115, attributed to Zakatala.
4.  Azerbaijan: Mountain Jews, Urban Moslems, p.127, #247, attributed to Kuba/Gyryz.
5.  Sotheby's New York, January 20, 1990, #79 (a 2-medallion long rug) attributed to Konya, 18th century.  Purchased by Krikor Markarian, who attributed it to Karabagh and advertised it in Hali 97, p. 37.
6.  Sotheby's New York, December 2, 1983, #1 (collection of James Lane); Nagel, May 11, 1983, #47 (no central medallion, just stylized tree forms).

The late Tom Weisbuch, who owned "The Old Rug", was more of a collector than a dealer, and parted with his pieces with great reluctance.   This rug was one of the pieces that he always had prominently displayed and never wanted to sell.  He finally relented, long after "The Old Rug" closed, and we were pleased to acquire it.


Published:  Oriental Rugs from Pacific Collections, plate 209, page 201;  Oriental Rug Review, Vol.10, #4 (April/May 1990), p.6.
4’1 x 3’3.  ca.1860-75.  Small tree Kazaks with a single column of 1,2 or 3 trees are rarer than their larger counterparts with 2 columns of trees and (usually) a central column of octagons.   Most have red grounds; green grounds are extremely rare.  A red ground example with a single tree and “chafer” palmettes as an inner border was published in Orient Stars, pl.22; Nagel, 3 November 1979, #136a;   Lefevre, 1 December 1978, #52.   In his catalog caption, Lefevre commented on the “unusually small” size of his rug (5’1 x 4’2).   Herrmann published a single tree, red ground example in  S.O.T. II, pl.21, and a 3-tree, red ground piece in S.O.T. III, pl.22.  A 2-tree, red ground rug is published in Eskenazi’s L’Arte del Tappeto Orientale, p.168.  Other small examples include Sotheby's London, April 16, 1986, #490 (Museo Montagna pl.7; Sotheby's London, November 22, 1988, #31; May 12, 1987, #81; Rippon-Boswell, November 22, 1997, #130; November 16, 2002, #32 ; March 19, 1988; Nagel, September 3, 1989, #3969; Hali 45, p.86; Austrian Collections II, pl 47 (with 3 barber-pole, diagonally striped borders, dated to c.1900); and, the only other green-ground example that I know of, a 3-tree rug with a barber pole inner border, dated to C1870 (but probably closer to c.1900) at Christie ’s London, April 25, 2002, #8.


Published: Rippon Boswell 11/17/01, lot #74
5'2 x 2'6, circa 1880

The pattern of rising palmettes often appears in east Caucasian prayer rugs; in Shirvans, Daghestans, Akstafas, and more rarely, Kubas.   A good example, ascribed to Daghestan, is published in Schurmann, Caucasian Rugs, pl.125; another, attributed to Shirvan, in Caucasian Prayer Rugs, pl.81 (coll. Wells Klein).  In our example, the palmettes, which are sometimes likened to floral shields or giant insects, are combined with a variety of motifs which include hexagons, octagons, botehs, cruciforms, and rayed motifs resembling pineapples.  Only one other similar example is known to me, a Daghestan offered by Nagel on 5/25/1979, lot #189 (color plate 107).  Both rugs share many characteristics, including the linked arrowhead borders, large arrow-like motifs beneath the prayer arch, as well as field decorations.  Nagel's is more structured, ours more free-form.   Nagel ended their catalog caption with - ".....a piece of baffling charisma and beauty".


Published: Rippon Boswell 5/20/00, lot #65; Hali 112, p.149
4'3 x 3'9, 2nd half 19th century

I have long admired a related prayer rug from the Rudnick collection which I was happy to publish in Caucasian Prayer Rugs, plate 40 (previously published in Through the Collector's Eye (1991, plate 23).  Until this unpublished rug appeared at auction, I knew of no other Caucasian prayer rug with a chevron-striped pattern (most striped prayer rugs have either
vertical or diagonal orientations).  Both rugs have the same border of small crosses separated by "x" motifs.   A third such rug appeared soon after the Rippon sale, with a palette as in ours, but with hands in the spandrels and a "dragon" main border (Hali 114, January 2001, p.36, ad for Michail di David Sorgato, dated to mid-19th century).  Contemporary rugs with this pattern are being produced in Azerbaijan, one was advertized on Cloudband in November 2001 by Azer Ilme.

Discussion  Proceed to Part 2