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Salon du Tapis d'Orient

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The Turkmen Brocaded Palas
as Pile Woven Gul Format Prototype

by David R. E. Hunt

The two following Palas from Pinner and Eiland in Between Black Desert and Red seem as familiar as strikingly different, confirmed by a close up image of the two pieces.

I credit these graven wood door panels from a photo of the Emir of Bokhara, dated 1905-15, with providing much of the inspiration for this salon.

Both complex and simple, the design consists of nothing but parallel rays extending from metered points; points which could be counted or measured and most importantly, layed out and reproduced with ease.

The Palas design, and by extension the lot of Turkmen gul format weaving, consist of columns of staggered diamond shaped elements both horizontil and vertical.  These diamond shaped structural elements serve as a template or temporal grid for both the overall spacing, planning and execution of design; and the variation and/or modification of design structures within the diamond shaped unit itself are reflected in both border patterns and the major/minor gul format variations of Turkmen rugs.  In short, the Palas design structure and the Turkmen gul format design are one and the same.  The memorization process, the counting aspect of the execution of the weaving itself , the layout of design; all are the same.

The varied manifestations of carpets reflecting this history and relationship are striking, so let's look at some examples.

I bought the following Palas a few years ago for little, and although it is not an antique and it sports some obviously synthetic dyes, I have found it to be one of the more interesting examples.

Quite a lot going on here, with large kochak guls seeming to float on a background of diagonal stripes and a green lattice.

I assume that we have the upper end of the weaving here, operating upon the assumption that this is the end that was stationary and cut from the loom.  I base this upon the loose, filamented ends and course knotting of the warps, especially in comparison to the other end, fitted with a fine flatwoven panel and warps which have been finished by doubling back and integrating them into the body of the warp with a tightly twisted loop like effect.

Notice that execution of the elem commences at the center or widest portion of the diamond shaped element, and that spacing of these elements are the reciprocal of their breadth.

This border, consisting of a vertical column of diamond shapes and flanked by two guard stripes of meshing triangles, is fascinating.  It is a study in reciprocal, consisting of nothing but rows of triangles, varying only in size and orientation to each other.  Notice the use of color in the guard borders, as in barber pole banding.

This detail image is interesting, not only for the details concerning the construction of the piece (for here we glimpse the underlying warps between the expanses of brocade banding), but more importantly, for it's relationship to structures and geometry of both major and minor Turkmen guls.  If we imagine this diamond shape as an embryonic gul, it is easy to see how the upper, middle, and lower segments of this central and axial structure, in fact a set of three triangles set back to back,
could morph into brackets and zoomorphic geometrics, as such already demonstrated.

And what of these bird forms, flanking either side of this center, in reciprocal transposition and so reminicent of the "bird border" found on so many Turkmen rugs?

Notice the close analogies found in this Yomud gul, with it's upper, lower brackets and central diamond.   Even the lateral pendants can be viewed as vestigial lateral columns.

The entire design of the Palas, and in turn the gul format, is nothing but a series of columns of these design elements, differing only in their sizes, proportions and orientation to each other.

Here we see not only the rows of vertical diamonds,alternating small and large, but an inverse in relationship usually presented by the pile woven major/minor gul format, in which the lozenge shape is the major element and the kochak/chemche is the minor element.  This relationship of design in itself lends to the proposition that the piled gul weavings proceed from flatwoven.  Consider the following examples of what I believe to be artifacts of the relationship between flat and pile woven Turkmen designs and their derivatives.

Of these Palas and/or flatweaves: is it possible that they represent two different "cultures" if you will, with the distinction representing a rough approximation of eastern vs. western, or brocaded vs. flat/slit weave?

I have my suspicions.


Dave Hunt