Posted by R. John Howe on 12-27-2004 01:51 PM:

Old Fragments at a Rug Club Picnic

Dear folks -

The show and tell at our annual rug club picnic last summer here in the Washington, DC area, had a "fragment" theme.

Harold Keshishian, the long-time rug dealer and collector likely has a more extensive collection than anyone in our club. So he can produce interesting fragments.

Here are four, at least two of them are Harold's. (He has kindly given me descriptions.)

First, there are several shots of a large piece with curvilinear designs.

This is what Harold says about it:

"Khorassan Carpet Fragment, originally forming the lower right hand corner of the carpet 3' 3" x 9' 3" (99cm x 281cm ).This frag and its larger host rug, a reconsituted 14' x 22', were purchased in 1995 at Christie's London, from the estate of Paulette Goddard, former wife of Charlies Chaplin."

Here is image of another smaller fragment with over-sized curvilinear designs.

Again here are Harold's indications:

"Agra 2' x 3' is a fragment of a late 16th c. or early 17th c. Mogul rug. The scale of the fragment tells us that it probably came from a large rug. I suspect that this is the same venue that produced the elephant headed tendrils."

Here is an image of a third fragment. I'm not sure who brought it.

Last, here is a piece of an Ottoman silk garment. I think this may be Harold's as well.

Comments are invited.


R. John Howe

Posted by Patrick Weiler on 12-27-2004 08:03 PM:

Shabby Fragment


As you can tell from my own collection, I do not shy away from tacky, shabby fragments. However, the shirt that Wendel is wearing should definitely be discarded.

And it looks like the piece Wendel is holding is a wagireh or sampler, not a fragment.
Interestingly, the bright orange in one of the lower border flowers (of the piece Wendel is holding) would indicate a more recent origin, even though the other fragments you show also have orange colors. The older, natural orange colors have a less harsh tonality. They don't bite like the synthetic orange does.

Any idea what the wording on the silk garment says?

Patrick Weiler

Posted by R. John Howe on 12-27-2004 08:31 PM:

Hi Pat -

Please note that Wendel chooses his own shirts and confesses to feeling that he has, in general, a "good eye." So he is unlikely to be struck by your assessment of it.

More seriously, it may well be that the one piece that looks like a sampler is one. I think though that there was some claim perhaps that despite that it was incomplete in some respect. I also noticed the orange on it that tends to "jump out" from the rest of the color palette. This piece, as you say, may not have great age.

I do not know that the translation of the writing on the Ottoman silk piece is. Harold sometimes looks in on our conversations and if he knows might be tempted to speak up.

I do think that Harold's two pieces raise the bar in a discussion about fragments in a way similar to that that the publication of Jim Burns' book had on wide-spread conceptions of what "Kurdish" rugs might look like.


R. John Howe

Posted by Matthew J. Miller on 12-27-2004 11:38 PM:

the large middle panel: La ilaha ila Allah wa-Muhammad rasul Allah- "There is no God but God and Muhammad is the messenger of God.

large panels on either side: Allah, Muhammad

the other stuff is too small and jumbled for me to read.



panton metron anthropos

Posted by R. John Howe on 12-28-2004 08:00 AM:

Matthew -

Thanks a great deal for the translation.

Have you noticed that often inscriptions lose some of their power to charm us when they are translated? Often the aesthetic attractiveness (perhaps even our sense of momentary, vicarious participation in another exotic society) is mostly about the caligraphy, not what it says. Often what it says seems mundane.

I saw a Navajo rug of some age not long ago that chose a refrigerator image for its central medallion. On it was written the word "Frigidaire." It did not seem all that charming.

I wonder if future generations will be attracted to a rug from our time that says "Sam's Used Cars" in its field or has a Budweiser or Viagra ad slogan woven into one border. There are recreational weavers weaving such things.


R. John Howe

Posted by Steve Price on 12-28-2004 08:16 AM:

Hi John

Some inscriptions are best left mysterious. I have a Hereke prayer rug with an inscription that I had translated. It says "Marka Duruder", loosely translated as "Registered Trademark, Duruder Workshop". How exotic!


Steve Price

Posted by R. John Howe on 12-28-2004 09:04 AM:

Steve -

Exactly my point.


R. John Howe

Posted by Wendel Swan on 12-28-2004 10:34 AM:

Hi Pat,

I can understand why you thought that was me holding the wagireh, but it seems to be a picture of my father. I'm not that old and I cetainly don't squinch up my nose to peer through reading glasses.

In any event, I covet my father's shirt.

Best regards,


Posted by Jerry Silverman on 12-29-2004 03:00 AM:

There is currently an ad running on television for some product or another (can't remember what it might be) that has a big, beefy guy telling a little asian guy about his tattoo - which is a Japanese ideogram.

He tells the asian guy that it means, "Man of extreme power". The asian guy looks at it carefully and say, "No. It says 'Of two men in love the one who plays the woman'".

I've always wondered about people who get tattoos in foreign languages and whether they really know what they've put on their bodies for all time. I guess others have, too.


Posted by R. John Howe on 12-29-2004 06:18 AM:

Jerry -

We're hanging onto talk about rugs and textiles just by our very tippy toe through stories about inscriptions.

There is a similar story to the one you tell above, that I encountered years ago in a book that introduced you to Asia. That author, too, was making the point that often folks are attracted to caligraphy on an item without having any notion of what it says.

In this case someone had returned from a trip to China and had bought and brought a piece of fabric with Chinese characters on it that she found attractive. She had it made into a blouse.

Someone, who read Chinese, saw the woman wearing it and elbowed a friend that it was clear the woman did not know what it said. "It was likely a banner that hung outside a grocery store to lure folks in. It says 'Good things inside---cheap.'"


R. John Howe