Posted by R. John Howe on 08-31-2006 06:41 AM:

Wagirehs and Beauty

Dear folks -

In another thread here, Rich Larkin, said and asked:

"...I would be interested to hear some views of afficionados about the aesthetic merits of these pieces (I can't spell it, either). How are they viewed as contrasted with, for example, the sorts of weavings for which they provide a sample?"


This is something that will likely draw a range of opinion. Here are a few of my own.

First, I think we likely need to cut wagirehs (with the possible exception of the "strike-off" variety) a little aesthetic slack, so to speak because of the primary functions they were made to perform.

They are not made, mostly, to be beautiful, but rather to document or guide. So their function is to communicate more than it is to tap our aesthetic nerve ends skillfully.

Dilley suggests that some wagirehs had within them the design potential for as many as five different rugs. Such a piece, if it exists, cannot provide all of the colors that would be used in the ultimate version of the various rugs potentially woven from it. In fact, it is the approximate version of the potential uses of wagirehs that seem to me to conspire most against their necessarily being beautiful. The little printed cotton handkerchief "pattern" of Edwards' Heriz weavers is not a thing of much consequence at all, much less beautiful.

That said, I think there are some vagirehs that most would agree are aesthetically superior to others. Filiberto and I looked around a little to make sure that we had some examples that we thought among the more attractive ones. Barry O'Connell has collected a number of very good and interesting ones on his site.

It might be useful to put up images of some that we think are particularly successful in aesthetic terms in this thread.

But in general, I think to apply an aesthetic standard too harshly to vagirehs is to miss the primary point of their purpose.

Others may feel differently.



R. John Howe

Posted by Steve Price on 08-31-2006 07:01 AM:

Hi John

The question of vagireh aesthetics raises virtually identical issues to those surrounding the aesthetics of fragments. I will be interested in seeing how the fragment collectors react to it.

The vagireh does have a direct link to the practices of the weavers' cultures, something about which collectors enjoy fantasizing (I'm no exception).


Steve Price

Posted by R. John Howe on 08-31-2006 07:40 AM:

Hi Steve -

I hadn't thought of your point about the aesthetics of vagirehs and those of fragments being close.

I don't think they are identical since fragments do not have the excuses that wagirehs can offer for their aesthetic deficiencies.

I think fragments carry a little heavier aesthetic burden.

Of course, as you know, that doesn't prevent me from buying them with some frequency.


R. John Howe

Posted by Richard Larkin on 08-31-2006 07:55 AM:


You're right about cutting them some aesthetic slack for the reasons you cite. That really was the basis of my question. They aren't intended to be the ultimate product of the weaver's art, but people presumably collect them anyway. I don't have any myself, and don't have strong opinions about them as a group. Some are striking, of course, in spite of their circumstances, such as the one Filiberto put up. I'll gladly make room for that one.

Steve, I agree with you on the similarity of the aesthetic issues raised between wagirehs (did I get it right?) and fragments. If there is a difference, it is that the weaver of the wagireh wanted it to come out that way. The end result on fragments must be more serendipitous. I'm not sure what we can make of that.

As to fragments, I think many weavings can claim levels of beauty apart from considerations of overall pattern. Color, quality of materials (particularly wool), ultimate fabric quality all carry their own weight in my opinion. Still, I've never met a top notch fragment that didn't frustrate the heck out of me.

Rich Larkin

Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 08-31-2006 08:14 AM:


Sure, wagireh weren’t meant to be beautiful, but there are three or four among the ones already posted in our Salon that I like, in spite of their incompleteness and asymmetry.

One of them is the Safavid to which Richard made reference.

What about you? Would you choose any of them to take home?


Posted by Richard Larkin on 08-31-2006 09:17 AM:


"...there are three or four among the one already posted...."

I saw your original and the flatweave. Are there others to see that I missed?

As to the flatweave, it really is a "sampler," with all the design motives packed in there. I'm not a huge kilim guy, but I like it. It has a cheerful feel about it.

Rich Larkin

Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 08-31-2006 09:24 AM:

Hi Rich,

When I say "three or four among the ones already posted in our Salon" I mean inside the Salon. Page 1 and page 2, obviously, no images on page 3.

Posted by Patrick_Weiler on 08-31-2006 09:58 PM:

Ugly is in the eye of the rugholder

John and Filiberto,

The question of the beauty or attractiveness of these wagireh (is this plural already or does it need to be wagirehs?) is related to the fact that they are not symmetric. You searched for attractive examples nothwithstanding this common asymmetry and you have certainly provided several very good looking pieces.
As with other rugs, though, the matter of beauty transcends the symmetry of the design and also encompasses the intrinsic beauty of the colors used and the motifs represented. In other words, a rug with a great design, well drawn and woven, can still be rather ugly if the colors clash or the motifs are unattractive.
Here is a perfect example of an ugly wagireh.

It is a single-wefted piece 43"x60". It is probably no older than late 20th century. It looks like a wagireh, but I am suspicious that it was made as a rug which was supposed to look like a wagireh. I saw another nearly identical example a few years after I acquired this one, so my suspicions were perhaps validated. After all, who would want a room-size rug that looked like this?

The cartouche border is not very pleasant due to the awkward drawing. The field is too busy and crowded, and without conveying a wholeness of design. The central medallion and pendant looks like it would be too big for the field and shows no coherence. The colors, while relatively pleasant, are a bit harsh and include a radioactive orange that stands out like a large bird dropping on your windshield. The bird in the upper, left of the field looks like an amputee with a rocket-pack on its back. The overall effect is jarring.
It is placed just inside my front door, subjected to the mistreatment, abuse, damage, neglect and ignominy it deserves.
If you come to visit me, you are welcome to walk all over it.

Patrick Weiler

Posted by Richard_Larkin on 08-31-2006 10:02 PM:


No offense, but what would a nice guy like you be doing with a rug like that?


Richard Larkin

Posted by Patrick Weiler on 08-31-2006 11:47 PM:



I am loathe to place a valuable rug in the entryway to my home. So, a volunteer must be willing to "take one for the gipper". This notable weaving has been specially selected to endure the indignities of visitors.
Besides, I could never sell it since nobody would be ignorant enough to buy it.
It also speaks volumes about my taste and knowledge in buying valuable, important weavings.

Patrick Weiler

Posted by Richard Larkin on 09-01-2006 07:19 AM:


I'm taking a harder look at that thing. Some judiciously placed mud (on the orange!) and it might not be that bad.

Rich Larkin

Posted by Chuck Wagner on 09-01-2006 07:26 AM:

Keep those sunglasses out...


That's not orange. This is orange:



Chuck Wagner

Posted by Richard Larkin on 09-01-2006 07:47 AM:

Hey Chuck,

Thanks for that great link. I got my orange fix, good through all next week (my favorite was the pink lined number John put up); plus I got to find out that Steve has trotted out the battery joke before.

Rich Larkin

Posted by Steve Price on 09-01-2006 08:51 AM:

Hi Richard

Among my people, anything worth saying is worth saying over and over and over and over...


Steve Price

Posted by Detlev Fischer on 09-03-2006 05:53 PM:

Thanks for the great Salon on Vagirehs. Regarding the aesthetics, I have been particularly attracted to those that look less like diminuitive rugs or a quarter of a rug with borders appended, but rather those that pack in a lot of design information often without caring much about the overall effect. The aesthetics then appear essentially as side effect and display the same kind of beauty as other unintended things, for example in nature's patterns. (Let me recommend Jon Elster's book "Sour grapes" if you are intrigued by the notion of things that are essentialy side-effects -- i.e. cannot be achieved via a directed effort).

Here is an example of an early 20th century Bijar Wagireh that I could not resist buying. For me it is like a visual poem, and I do not tire looking at it (I keep it hung loosely over the back of an easy chair).

Posted by Richard Larkin on 09-03-2006 09:02 PM:


That one must be the last word among the kind you like!!

Rich Larkin

Posted by Chuck Wagner on 09-04-2006 05:27 PM:

The Eye of the Beholder

Hi all,

I don't know about the rest of you, but I consider this a beautiful vagireh. From Peter Stone's Oriental Rug Lexicon (credited to the collection of Dr. Herbert Exner). It's interesting that the border corners were not included in the designs. Kinda makes ya wonder about that old "if turning the corners isn't resolved, it's probably not commercial" rule, eh ?:

Chuck Wagner

Chuck Wagner

Posted by Richard Larkin on 09-04-2006 06:06 PM:

Wow! I'm guessing a really fancy Bijar.

Rich Larkin

Posted by R. John Howe on 09-04-2006 06:43 PM:

Guys -

It's basically the same design that was used on Joe Fell's piece that John Collins thought was a "strike-off" type sampler.

The colors of the Stone piece are more dramatic, but he likely knew of the Joe Fell piece when he wrote his Lexicon. Stone is part of the Chicago rug club universe.


R. John Howe

Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 09-05-2006 05:14 AM:

Somebody likes it big

And what do you think of this one? Is the biggest in the “Vaghireh” book and of the bunch of other examples we have found so far. It’s a Malayer, 19th century, 300x160 cm.