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Salon du Tapis d'Orient

The Salon du Tapis d'Orient is a moderated discussion group in the manner of the 19th century salon devoted to oriental rugs and textiles and all aspects of their appreciation. Please include your full name and e-mail address in your posting.

ICOC XI: April 2007, Istanbul

by Patrick Weiler

Part 3: The Private Collections, including a spectacular display of yastiks, was to be held a couple of miles away at the Tophane, a 15th century cannon factory, but due to typical Turkish logistical efficiency (not!) the display had to be moved hurriedly into the Swissotel. Wendel Swan and other tireless volunteers toiled until 3AM the night before ICOC opened to hang the show. This change was fortunate because we could view the Private Collections between seminars instead of taking a trip away from the action. Here are a couple of pieces from the Private Collections. More are available on Jeff Krauss’ web site, http://krauss.ws/travel/t/t3/indext3.htm

The Academic Sessions

The academic sessions ranged from delightful to insightful to downright sleep-inducing. The sessions were conducted in two separate halls, meaning that one could only attend half of them at most. Only one session that I attended included actual weavings, the one on Daghestan Kilims. Here is one from the Private Collections exhibit:

The session on Feshane (Fez) carpets went on so long without even a picture of a rug that one attendee lamented “Where are the rugs? Show us the rugs!” and finally left in frustration. Well, we were finally shown the rugs (turn of the 20th century with synthetic colors) in half-a-dozen slides at the end of the lecture. The Fez factory was established in 1833 to produce the red felt hats that had been designated as acceptable military wear, but ended up making rugs for the Turkish army, too.

I vaguely recall a couple of slow-moving sessions where, on the occasions when I awoke, I saw a dozen or more folks who were sleeping quietly around me in the darkened room. And it wasn’t just jet lag that caused it. Some presenters were not native English speakers and their presentations consisted of slides of written material not in English that they would then read in English in a droning monotone. They were so stupefying and soporific that they could be recorded and played back at bedtime as a sleep-aid.

Several of the presentations were in Turkish or other languages and one could get a headset in the lobby, but the program unfortunately did not say what language the speakers would use so one would know to pick up a headset. When the speaker began talking in a different language, the moderator delayed the presentation so the audience could hurry out and get in line for a headset. Some of the translators (in a sound-proof booths at the rear of the rooms) were quite good, but sometimes they got off-track – often when “rug terms” were used that can’t quite be translated very well.

The session on the LACMA double-niche Anatolian carpet, a rug whose age and authenticity have been questioned, showed that it had been repaired extensively and at least three different times. Carbon dating appears to indicate an age ranging from 1460 to 1650, more or less in the range given when it was purchased by the museum. It was tested also with ultraviolet reflectance, fluorescence photography, ultraviolet and visible spectrometry and x-radiography. Further tests are being done on wool from the repaired areas to see when the repairs were done.

Ali Tuna presented his and Stefano Ionescu’s findings on Transylvanian rugs, discovering some structural markers enabling a better differentiation of types. More research will allow groups of these rugs to be separated from the rest and to help in determining the places of manufacture. A curious feature, “stitched wefts”, along the sides may indicate an Oushak area weaving.

I also attended the session by Susan Bayraktaroglu of the General Directorate of Foundations. Here she is at the Vakif museum in Ankara, in the blue suit with pink shirt:

I will show some more of the Vakif rugs below, in a section on the pre-conference tours. Her ICOC seminar was on the rugs and kilims in the Vakif Museum of Tokat. The museum staff in Tokat opened their museum especially for us during our pre conference tour. Susan is a rug and kilim expert and art historian. Her definition of “Turkish” is considerably broader than most rug collectors.  Due in great part to her diligence in visiting nearly all the mosques in Turkey, many ancient weavings have been brought to Foundation museums and she is helping to establish a dozen new Foundation museums in Turkey. She is also in charge of searching the world for pieces taken illegally out of Turkey and repatriating them. One attendee was heard to whisper “I hope she doesn’t come to my house!”

Tom Cole had a poster presentation showing the relationship between Seljuk carpets and Baluch designs. He notes that some Seljuk carpets have a more Turkmen appearance, but others may have influenced modern Baluch weavings, perhaps in an uninterrupted lineage of descent. Here is the photo on the front of the ICOC program. This piece is on display at the TIEM in Istanbul. It has two similar panels and the animals certainly look a lot like those in more recent Baluch pieces.

In addition to the “usual suspects” from the rug world in attendance, I also met a young woman who is a relative novice. Her husband runs a rug business in the US and she attended in order to learn more about rugs. And a novelist from America, writing a book with rugs as the theme, was here on the suggestion of friends to research the world of oriental rugs. I suspect that the real rug world is a lot more intriguing than she ever could have imagined.

The Off-Site Exhibitions
We visited the Dolmabahce Palace, as part of the conference, to view the many rugs made for the Sultan’s new home, built 1842-1853 by Sultan Abdulmecid, or Abd al-Majid after whom the Mejidieh style was named. From Oriental Carpets, A Complete Guide, by Eiland and Eiland (5): “Mejedieh” Gordes is a term used by Western dealers to describe a late nineteenth century type with sparse, relatively naturalistic floral elements…allegedly woven in conscious imitation of the European styles favored by Sultan Abdul-Mejid (1839-1861) and the earliest pieces may well date from his reign.” Here is a Mejedieh style rug from the Ankara Vakif museum:

Most of the rugs at the palace were late 19th, early 20th century with synthetic dyes, many made in the Hereke factories. Jeff Krauss shows several of these rugs on his web site, too.

Here is a picture of “the worlds largest silk carpet” in front of the Palace, placed there as part of the conference tour. It is 102 square meters, made by Cinar Hali.

We then went on to the Turkish and Islamic Art Museum (TIEM) where an exhibit of ikats was stunning:

And here are John Howe, Dennis Marquand and their wives:

You can see some of the TIEM carpets on Jeff’s website.

On Saturday, an evening trip was scheduled to the Vakiflar Carpet museum, Kilim museum and the Topkapi Saray. Some of the most spectacular carpets I have ever seen were on display. Any future ICOC will be hard pressed to provide as many wonderful rugs as Istanbul. Perhaps Iran some day? I did not have my camera for this visit, but John Howe did, and he can probably show some of these rugs.

Typical for this ICOC, the Vakiflar “reception” had a very few daring waiters dashing out into the large crowd with platters of hors d’oeuvres. They were literally attacked by the crowd like raucous crows on carrion. Other evening exhibitions were similarly lacking in food, even though most of the participants had been at the sessions all day and not had any time for dinner. This night was different, though. There actually was a buffet. With typical Turkish logistics, though, it was not announced beforehand – so we all assumed that dinner would be another light snack – if you could fight your way through the crowds around the waiters. It was not until after viewing the carpets and kilims at the Vakiflar museums that we walked to the Topkapi Saray.  After we walked quite a ways onto the Topkapi grounds, we encountered a long line. It was completely dark by then and there were no outside lights. People were using their cell phone displays in order to see what was on the buffet table. It was quite a twist on the old candlelight dinner theme.

The last evening there was a Bosphorus Cruise. The entrance to the Bosphorus, being an extremely vital shipping channel, is constantly on guard by numerous Turkish navy ships. We made our way through the navy:

Here is Jeff Krauss inside where it was warm:

The back of the boat:

There are many very old buildings around Istanbul, even though the real estate is very expensive. Perhaps a combination of restrictive zoning and old family holdings contribute to this unusual juxtaposition of very old and new. Here is a picture of the waterfront with the flag, an old building and new paint:

Here is one of the old fortresses that guarded the Bosphorus many years ago:

And another disintegrating domicile:

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