Posted by R. John Howe on 11-01-2006 05:11 AM:

Shahsavan Jajims

Dear folks -

Here is another set of textiles for rating.

All of these are Shahsavan jajims (spellings vary) estimated to have been woven in the Moghan area of Azarbaijan in the late 19th century.

Jajims are used in a variety of ways, but often for covers over items on pack animals and to cover items like bedding in the tent. They are flatwoven.

Here are the three pieces side by side:

And again sequentially with closer-up details of each interspersed.

Jajim A

Jajim B

Jajim C

The scale again is:

Best: 7-9
Better: 4-6
Not good: 1-3


R. John Howe

Posted by LOUIS_DUBREUIL on 11-01-2006 06:08 AM:

rating problem

Bonjour à tous

This exercise applied to this kind of items suggest to me the following questions :

- the rating can be made by a modern occidental eye (who has not special knowledge about this type of weaving) only from visual/artistic criteria based on the personnal perception of colours and shapes, on the personnal taste for bright colours or mellowed colours, on the visual culture learned in modern art museums ... In this case I personnaly rate B best (8), A better (5), C good (2.5)

- the rating can also be made by a person who knows this kind of weaving, especially from the market point of view. Other criteria than visual ones are to be appreciated : the quality of the wool, the quality of the weaving, the handel. A problem can appear : those three weavings are quite different in design and dimensions, they are likely examples of three types of jajims (maybe from different tribes, maybe of different uses). And for each type or group they can be classified following different criterias : in the group corresponding to the A ex, the A ex can be rated by the specialist as "best for the type" and in the B group the B ex can be viewed by the specialist as "just good" for the type. and so on. In this case it is very difficult to compare the three ex even if rating before the three groups. But even after this the problem remains : if A group is the best group and if A ex is just "better" in the group, how can it be compared to the B ex if this one is the best in the B group in the case of the B group is the "better" group ?

- the better rating system would in this case be done by weavers of the tribal groups who have made them, or by their descendants if they have kept the basis of the weaving technic and culture. I think in this case that the results would be quite different. This method of "tribal" rating has been experimented for KUBA Raffia welvet squares with interestig results (I can find the publication ref for those who could be interested).

Amicales salutations


Posted by R. John Howe on 11-01-2006 12:09 PM:

Hi Louis -

There is no doubt that a variety of systems could be designed within which various pieces of the sorts we collect are compared and evaluated.

And it is likely true that if the evaluations were done by those with a "market" orientation, the results would likely be different since the objectives would be distinctly so. A person selling items in the market is only concerned with the aesthetics of the pieces handled if the customers also are. They are perfectly willing to sell items that most collectors would grade "ugly," a category not available directly in my scale. That would seem to be the sort of explanation needed to account for the sale of most of the Kerman rugs marketed in the U.S. in the 20th century (and Kerman rugs, as we have seen recently can be things of exceptional beauty).

I have responded to the wool quality, texture, handle, back of the pieces dimensions repeatedly indicating that they are not available to use here. It is clear that there are some uncomfortable with evaluating pieces if they haven't that sort of information. Well, there is no way (usefully) to make it available here.

I am not sure I am understanding your point about "differences." I think I acknowledged that rating pieces that exhibit more differences can be difficult and I have tried to deal with that, somewhat, by choosing items that are estimated to have come from the same approximate geographic area, woven by the same group (tribal and sub-tribal attributions are still difficult in many areas) and (with an exception or two) about the same period of time.

As I said above these three "Jajims" (a particular format) are attributed to Shahsavan weavers in the Moghan area of Azarbaijan. All of them are estimated to have been woven in the 19th century. So I have actually attempted to deal with that problem to some extent WITHIN the sets.

Now if your point is that differences BETWEEN the sets may require different criteria, I think I agree. I don't take such differences to be disabling of the kind of aesthetic evaluations I see us making all the time. So I'm puzzled about the argument and particular point you are making here.

Last, I think it is certain that the weavers who wove the pieces of the sort in a given set would have clear opinions about which were best. These might well differ from our own and the reasons given might surprise us. I am willing to tap their perspective and expertise if you can suggest how we might contact them. Muslim restrictions on contact between the sexes would be the least of our problems here.

Anyway, say a bit more about the points you have made here, since it is possible that I have misunderstood.


R. John Howe

Posted by Richard Larkin on 11-01-2006 08:08 PM:


I take Louis' chief point to be that the three jajim pieces represent three different types or levels of this sort of weaving, and that there are significant qualitative diferences among the groups. The groups may differ on functional grounds, or other grounds. At the same time, they're all jajims. So 'A' can be a mediocre example of its type, but far above 'B', even though 'B' may rank relatively high among its peer types. Etc. Sort of like comparing a very fast sports car from the showroom floor of your local dealer with one of the slower Indy race cars.

I think that's what he's saying. Whether that is how it is among these jajims, I'm unqualified to offer an opinion.

Rich Larkin

Posted by R. John Howe on 11-01-2006 08:41 PM:

Hi Rich -

Thanks for this additional reading of what Louis has written.

I will be interested in what he says additionally.

But if perchance your reading is correct here are some indications about Azarbaijani jajims by Parviz Tanavoli one of the serious students of Persian weaving.

He says first that Azarbaijanian jajims can be divided initially into those in which the stripes are plain and those with patterned stripes. Next he says that the most important jajim weaving areas in Azarbaijan are Moghan, Hastrud, Mianeh, Takob and Zanjan. He further says that most jajims were woven by the Shahsavan.

In addition, he indicates that all of these pieces are all wool and their weave is "warp-faced plain weave patterned by warp substitution." In addition, they are all composed of from 4 to 9 narrow widths sewn together, one of his essential "jajim" features.

As to function, he says that the word "jajim" refers both to a floor covering (he shows one being used as a blanket) and to a weave. He argues that some similar seeming textiles like "verhehs" and a particular kind of wall hanging (his Plate 240 in his "Persian Flatweaves") are not "jajims."

Since all of these three weavings meet all of Tanavoli's criteria for Azarbaijani jajims and were made by the same tribal group in the same area using the same weave, I am wondering what additional distinctions Louis either knows of or suspects. In my unstudied experience they seem to be a pretty similar group of items.


R. John Howe

Posted by Richard Larkin on 11-01-2006 10:04 PM:


You've jogged my memory with the structural details, warp-faced plain weave and sewn together strips, etc. I note that Tanavoli suggests the term is used too loosely in some instances. Maybe Louis is taking a wider view. However, you seem to have held to a tight grouping with your choices. We'll see.

I think Louis' broader point is well taken, i. e., if one doesn't have a particularly keen understanding of this sort of weaving, one is left pretty much with what Filiberto would call the gestaltic response. That really describes how I react to them. It's a respectable way to approach the subject.

Rich Larkin

Posted by louis_dubreuil on 11-02-2006 08:41 AM:

style comparing

Bonjour à tous

I know the Tanavoli infos about those weavings. The thing I was trying to say was that the three pieces shown here are of three different styles of design. This type of fabric is among the weavings made for family use and generaly not for the export market. We know that there is generaly a great continuity of style for "utilitary" items made by a group (family, tribe...) and that there is generally a particuliar design for a particuliar purpose (ex for Ru-korsi or sofreh, Itea -kilim for bread, see Hali#146...). Tanavolis infos about Shasavan or Mogan jajims are not so precise about the use of this type of weavings (covers, pieces for the ground...). So the available infos are not enought precise first to identify the groups who made the pieces and second to say what was the use of them.

For those reasons I am not sure that the variability of design between the three pieces has just its origin in the fantasy of weavers (in this case we could give a rating without problem). My opinion is that the three pieces belong to three different groups, either familiar/tribal or use. And this is for this reason that I think it is impossible to rate correctly the items except from a subjective aesthetic instantaneous point of view.

Posted by R. John Howe on 11-02-2006 11:00 AM:

Hi Louis -

As I said in the Yuncu kilim thread, I now understand the requirement you want to impose before you think legitimate comparison can be made.

In this case you want to know very specifically (perhaps at the "family" level) who wove each of these pieces before you will allow that they can be usefully compared.

Second, you want the precise ways in which those who wove these pieces used them, also as a prerequisite for comparison.

The truth is that, with some exceptions (dye analysis of late 19th century Navajo rugs) things seem often now to be moving away from specificity not toward it in rug and textile analysis. Balouch analysts are now very cautious about what they know. Opie's attributions of SW Persian rugs are more general in his second book than in his first (he largely gave up sub-tribal attributions). And "Middle Amu Darya" is a kind of public confession that "Beshiri" says things that are either false or that we don't know. Walter Denny said at the recent TM Symposium that is it remarkable how many of the questions raised 30 years or so ago in rug studies are still open. So if precise tribal, sub-tribal, even perhaps family attributions are a requirement of legitimate aesthetic comparison, we're not going to be doing much of the latter in the near future.

Now about "use." John Wertime is fond of saying that most textiles that had practical uses in the weavers' lives probably served in multiple ways. This seems plausible given what life must be like in a tent. So the fact that something is, say, a torba didn't necessarily delimit the use of an available one in a variety of ways should the occasion demand. How much more flexibly might a rectangular piece of woven cloth be used in a tent setting, or while traveling?

Now if you were very fortunate you might find some deep practices and beliefs that affected the range of uses permitted of a jajim, but I don't see things moving in that way. The people we need to talk to have been dead for over 100 years.

All of these jajims have patterned stripes, are made in wool, about the same period, using the same technique, are attributed to the same tribal group in the same approximate geographic area. Why is it illegitimate to assess their relative aesthetics?

I think you go too far. You recommend a "shot in the foot" standard that appears to be based largely on your own personal sense of what is required.

Unless you can show some basis for adopting such prerequisites of useful comparison, I dissent.


R. John Howe

Posted by R. John Howe on 11-06-2006 08:16 AM:

Dear folks -

It could well be that Louis is right and that these three jajims are not really comparable (at the very least no one has moved to rate them following his objection). But we have only the fact that they have different designs, somewhat difference color palettes and Louis' suspicion that these signal non-comparability.

Louis has give a set of ratings from an "occidental" point of view and I am going to as well.

I have not studied or collected jajims at all and so am merely rating the aesthetic attractiveness of these pieces to me.

Jajim A: Better: 6

Rationale: I find this jajim the most difficult to rate fairly. I suspect that if one could see its color directly that one might rate it higher. But its colors are mild and the devices in it seem more readily drawn than those on the other two.

Jajim B: Best: 8

Rationale: The bright, attractive colors and the impactful drawing combine, for me, to make this piece the most attractive of the three.

Jajim C: Best: 7

Rationale: This is a piece for which I am glad to see the detail since it shows both the design and the colors more clearly and they are better than they seem in the overall image. I think the colors on this piece are better than those on Jajim A.


R. John Howe

Posted by R. John Howe on 11-12-2006 06:53 AM:

Comments from Person Experienced with Azarbaijani Weavings

Dear folks -

I have received the comment below from a person experienced with Azarbaijani weavings.



"It is particularly impossible to assess jajim quality
from printed pictures scanned and then turned into
jpegs. Jajims are all about texture and color
harmony, which simply doesn't come thru the way you're
doing it.

"You are showing your examples sideways, which is quite disorienting."

ed.: The orientation is that of Tanavoli's presentation of these pieces in his "Persian Flatweaves" volume.

My thanks to this experienced person for this additional comment.


R. John Howe

Posted by R. John Howe on 11-14-2006 08:15 AM:

Anonymouos Expert Comments and Ratings

Dear folks -

Overnight I have received comments and ratings from my anonymous expert on these three jajims.

Here they are:


Comparing 3 Shahsavan Jajims

Criteria for comparing three jajims of the Shasavan are difficult without having the materials in hand to examine.
I outline the general criteria to describe what makes a jajim better than another for comparison. I consider handle, color, fineness of weave, materials or graphic variety and play. I do not consider market value in my criteria. I do not judge beauty in that way.

I will not describe how the jajims are used as they are described in the introduction of this comparison.

1. Handle: Jajims exist with a wide variety of handles. Some can be course and ‘wooly’ in texture. Some can be stiff as well. Some jajims, especially with age can be soft and sometimes spongy in texture, almost reminiscent of Balkan blanket weaving. Some are so fine that they are more like a fabric than a cover or blanket. Their materials will dictate the handle.

2. Color: Color repeat and repetition in pattern are important characteristics in the jajim. Color is of a striped variety with graphic interplay on the vertical warp axis. Certain color combinations might enhance the beauty of these jajims. Certainly to this viewer copious bright white, green, gold, yellow and aubergine hues would greatly enhance the quality. Occasionally simple color combinations with saturated color will also make for a handsome jajim as well. Color contrasts in value and hue, such as lights and darks will play a role in determining the beauty of a jajim. Certain jajims use silk and other materials in their supplementary weaving on the jajims which add color highlights.

3. Fineness of weave: Jajims come in a variety of weaves with a variety of thread thicknesses. Some jajims have a very thin red dyed will which can be very finely spun. Some can have course brown wool as well. Silk jaijms are very finely spun and although rarer as very desirable weavings. Some jajims are so finely woven they take on a tight gauze appearance and are more akin to finely woven fabrics. Those are usually from the N.W. Persia Zanjan area, where Kurdish and Shahsavan weavers exist.

4. Condition/Size: An intact mint condition jajims of the 19th C. do exist. As utilitarian objects mint condition pieces are rare. Condition is important as these pieces are very hard to repair and usually the wool is spun out to be used in other repair work. Usually a patch weave is done in a variety of plain weave to repair a whole. Usually in a 19th C piece the wrapping between panels is loose or missing, this is easily repaired and stabilized.
An intact piece of jajim varies in size and at times they are disassembled. Commonly jajims are approximately 6x6 foot, close to square or 2 meters square. Sizes vary depending on the length of the ct off the loom and the number of sections wrapped side to side.

5. Materials: Wool/wool, wool/silk, silk/silk (very rare), wool/cotton combinations exist in the warps and wefts.
The most common certainly among the Shahsavan is wool/wool.

6. Graphic Play and Variety: I believe this is the most important criteria for an outstanding jajim. Many graphic combinations complicate the weaver’s technical skills in the weaving of a jajim. Certain graphic patterns exist like “7 Brothers “, or the “Eagle” designs. I value immensely the graphic play and break of graphic repetition in the jajim.

The diversity of graphic symbols or graphic elements will enhance the over beauty of a jajims. This will insure also the excellent skill of a weaver if they can show this variety and do it well throughout the weaving with their expert color choices.

By using some of these criteria I conclude Jajim B, bases on color and possible fineness of weave is best. Jajim A is better, and a very nice piece and pattern, and Jajim C good in many ways as well. There is monotony in Jajim C that makes it less inviting visually.

My thanks to this anonymous expert for these indications.


R. John Howe