Posted by Patrick Weiler on 12-10-2004 11:34 AM:

Fragment of a bird?

Here is a piece of a bag. I believe it to be Kurdish. It could be Shahsavan.
Notice that there are several quadrupeds in the central panel. They are interspersed around and between a couple of larger, upside-down animals.

Here is a close-up showing one of the upside down animals

This motif appears to be a modified version of what is called a "bird" in numerous Shahsavan weavings.
Did the weaver just not know that these animals are upside down and usually have a beak? Or did she weave this having seen only a fragment of a complete example?
Or was there a reason for de-beaking the birds and placing them upside-down, such as showing subjugation of the originator of the design?

Here is the back, in case it helps!

Patrick Weiler

Posted by Richard Tomlinson on 12-10-2004 08:54 PM:

Hi Patrick

I cannot answer your questions regarding the birds, but I have noticed that the quadrupeds have their feet facing backwards.

This is an irregular feature when compared to all of the Shahsavan examples I have looked at. Most face forewards, or are simply straight, with no feet. Some have are straight with 'socks' (a change in colour)


Richard Tomlinson

Posted by Louis Dubreuil on 12-11-2004 05:39 AM:


Except for the feather device those bizarre forms have not great affinities with birds.
The only thing we can say about them is that they look like fantactic creatures with to groups of four "legs". In the eastern bestiary fantastic creatures are often "dragons". As nobody never see dragons all is possible.

meilleures salutations

Louis dubreuil

Posted by Steve Price on 12-11-2004 05:44 AM:

Hi Pat

The large devices are not upside down birds, they are motorboats. The propeller is obvious.


Steve Price

Posted by Richard Tomlinson on 12-11-2004 06:44 AM:

Hi again Patrick

You wrote:

"Here is a piece of a bag. I believe it to be Kurdish. It could be Shahsavan"

Firstly, I would be more inclined to think it is a mafrash panel rather than a bag.

Secondly, it looks very similar to pieces that have been attributed to Shahsavan weavers. You are obviously more inclined towards a Kurdish attribution. May I ask why? I am guessing colour.

Richard Tomlinson

Posted by Wendel Swan on 12-11-2004 07:33 AM:

Hi Pat,

Yours is certainly, as Richard suggests, a mafrash end panel. It was done in Karabagh, most likely by the Azeri Turks. These panels are seldom fine, but the design would circumscribe the complete mafrash.

The weaver(s) did not or could not execute some of the details of the larger animals, including the head and mouth, but I do not think they derive from the dragon motifs. Both brds and quadrupeds are often seen on mafrash and khorjin. Perhaps these big guys could be referred to as bi-genus.

I would guess it to be second quarter of the 20th Century.



Posted by Patrick Weiler on 12-11-2004 08:53 PM:

Kurd for sure


It is obviously a Kurd because the tag says so!

Or maybe it says "Burd", I can't really tell.

I have seen a few examples of "bird" weavings labelled Kurd. I will be glad to call it whatever makes it worth more
Karabagh Azeri Turk certainly sounds more exotic than simply Kurd, Wendel.

And, yes, it is most likely the end panel of a mafrash. The "top" is folded over and sewn down as would be with a mafrash. There is no closure strip.

As for the date of mid 20th century, it does have some wear to the cotton whites, which is not uncommon to Shahsavan weavings. It certainly looks better than I do for being mid-20th century.

It was probably not made as a "fake" piece, so it may have been made at the tail end of a long weaving tradition. The birds without beaks may have lost them due to the size of the central panel not being big enough. The rest of the design of these eight-legged creatures follows the "norm" quite closely.
I will post a picture from the Wertime book soon. I exported the photo to Jordan for processing at the Filiberto Foto and Painting Repair Laboratory, so it needs to pass through customs before I can post it.

Patrick Weiler

Posted by Patrick Weiler on 12-12-2004 02:39 AM:

Copy Cat

Here is a photo of plate 97 in John Wertime's book, Sumak Bags of Northwest Persia and Transcaucasia:

And the close up of my piece for comparison:

Notice that the feet on the quadrupeds are facing forwards, not backwards as in my example. This would be another reason, besides the headless upside-down Large Animal Figures (Wertime's description) in my piece compared to the elegantly eared, eye-balled and beaked "Octoped" (my description) creatures in John's piece, to consider that my piece is "removed" from the origin of this design. Perhaps just by age, or perhaps by tribe. Nearly all other aspects of the design have been retained. The same major and minor borders, the same small filler devices such as the "dice"and "quartered squares".
Both pieces have a band of "S" motifs in the bodies of the Octopeds.
Wertime notes the "less fine and smooth" extra weft wrapping, especially in the borders and guard stripes, compared to other Moghan-Savalan area examples, leading him to wonder if his example was either not as old as the others or possibly the weaving practices of this community were responsible. My piece also has less fine weaving than other pieces I own. You could call it "robust" weaving rather than fine weaving.
So, was this design borrowed by the Karabagh Azeri Turks from the Moghan-Savalan Shahsavan, leading to these curious changes? Why are the Large Animal Figures in my piece upside down and missing their heads?

Here is a picture of a couple of two-headed creatures from a Khamseh saddlebag. Note that the one on the left has forward-facing feet and the one on the right has backward-facing feet. Early genetic engineering?

I suspect more examples of this odd genetic engineering will turn up in other weavings.

I guess that the only conclusion one can come to is that my piece is one of the end panels of John's piece.

Patrick Weiler

Posted by Richard Tomlinson on 12-12-2004 05:42 AM:

Hi Patrick

As I said before, it seems to be more common (like 95%+ of examples I have looked at) for quadrupeds to have their feet facing forward. Often, these quadrupeds are placed in random positions.

I have noticed in a small number of pieces that some quadrupeds do have their feet facing backwards. But these examples usually have quadrupeds placed in 4 corners - around a design.

I'd be interested to know of your Khamseh saddlebag has 4 animals arranged roughly in a square around a medallion.

You also say that the animals in the Khamseh saddlebag example are 2-headed. I would think that one 'head' is actually some sort of tail - just that the design is not precise enough.

Richard Tomlinson

Posted by Richard Tomlinson on 12-12-2004 06:43 AM:

OK, I am going to retract my comments about feet. I think I have put my foot in it :-0

I have just had a good look through all of my books.

It appears that the general trend is for forward facing feet, but there are examples - some old ones too - where the feet face backwards.

There appears to be no pattern. I am not sure we can even say that backward facing feet are a degeneration of design.

And the quadrupeds in the Khamseh saddlebag example may actually have two heads.

Richard Tomlinson

Posted by Patrick Weiler on 12-12-2004 04:58 PM:

Funny Feet


Here is the full bag, with two-headed quadrupeds in each corner:

Here is the half of the bag with the quadrupeds from my earlier post at the bottom. The design is one usually associated with Qashqai weavers, but I believe this to be an early 20th century Khamseh version. It is known as the "Nuclear Reactor" design. You can easily see the blue fuel rods in the red reactor "core", with the super-heated red water surrounding it and being routed to the lighter blue cooling ponds at the perimeter. The so-called "Memling" guls are actually a diagram of the uranium atom undergoing fission, with Alpha and Beta particles (also known as "rosettes") flying away around each atom. The Alpha particles are the larger rosettes:

And here is a close-up of the top of this face of the bag, showing a truly confused (obviously radiation induced two-headed) quadruped with three feet facing one direction and one going the other way:

You might notice a "crease" running right along these creatures' foreheads. That is because the weaver miscalculated somewhere along the line and made this face too long. That required it to be folded over, so a couple of inches of pile is on the back.

Patrick Weiler

Posted by Richard Tomlinson on 12-12-2004 07:32 PM:


You forgot to mention that the main border is clearly a razor wire fence, hence the positioning of the quadrupeds. They are clearly 'guard dogs' of some type, patrolling the perimeter.

Richard Tomlinson

Posted by Patrick Weiler on 12-13-2004 12:18 AM:



Don't be ridiculous. Barbed wire wasn't invented until the 19th century!
The outer border is a group of politicians trying to decide what to do.

Patrick (from a blue state ) Weiler