Belouch Main Carpet
Greetings Chuck, and All
Thanks for composing this salon. I'm a rather opportunistic collector ( I buy when I have the opportunity to find something I can afford), and I found this Belouch main carpet in the possession of one of the usual suspects
Size: 6' 3" x 11' 8"
Warps: white wool, 7 per in.
Wefts: dk brn, 8 per in.
Knot: wool, asymm. open left, 56 Kpsi.
Side: three chord overcast w goat hair
Ends: 8" flat weave chevron w slit weave
This thing is really difficult to photograph. It is so big, and my lighting inadequate for personal viewing, let alone photography. My initial impression was that it isn't terribly old, but there have been numerous small repairs made, and the khaki and green are corroded. The handle is limp like a kelim, and for myself anyway, the pattern, with it's larg scale floral medallions, reminds of a kelim pattern. The borders, with their cartouche like treatment, reminds of turkmen main carpets, and this kochak figure which is so prominent in the borders on either end, is the same as that found at the base of the "tree" in a Belouch prayer rug I own.
Here is a photo showing the kelim end;
notice how the colors respond to light;
I invite comments, questions, and suggestions regarding this carpet.
David R E Hunt
I like that Baluch main. It goes well with the Turkmen pieces in your home...
I think it exhibits a particular Baluch aesthetic. For want of a better term, I'll label it the "erratic" accent. Some Baluch weaving groups seem to utilize a rather restrained palette and add interest through various accents, which are usually in the form of an irregularly placed brighter colour. Sometimes this is singular and subtle, and in other circumstances, it is more widely displayed. The irregular placement of the lighter salmon colour on your rug serves that purpose. I have sometimes wondered whether that sort of approach is a feature of particular Baluch weaving groups, or whether it is found in some weavings of all groups.
Where did that Baluch go?
Your wall Baluch reminds me of one of my earliest purchases. It was a Baluch main carpet about the same size as yours and I also put it on a wall - oriented in the same direction as yours due to the length. It was more of a red and blue than the salmon and brown of yours. It had long, shaggy warp threads hanging down which gave it a wild, dangerous look. The warps were probably a foot long.
I traded it "up" for a Luri rug which I still have. I do not think I have any photos of that old Baluch. Digital cameras were still decades away.
Perhaps I shall search my archives to see if I did take a photo.
Let's see, through the double fireproof doors, two different keys, a combination lock and the password.....thumbprint and retina recognition locks...then down the stairs and the third door on the right....start up the generator, remove the cobwebs, light up the kerosene lamp and have a look around....
The chevron ends of yours have just as much impact as the long warp threads of my old piece.
Now that I recall that rug, I do not remember the field pattern - except that it was not a typical design. Maybe it was one of those rugs that I should NOT have traded in. The other rug I traded in that I should not have was a 19th century, two-piece Aydin kilim over ten feet long. Too long for any place in my house at the time and with some newer synthetic repairs that had bled. It was a keeper, but I just did not know enough way back then in the 3rd quarter of the 20th century.
That's some rug. I love it. The weaver's decision to fill the hooked diamonds with flattened diamonds, thus yielding that tapering plain-colored space, was a good one. It gives the field some pizzaz.
I hate to admit this, being a card carrying, dyed in the w**l Baluchophile, but I have a love/hate relationship with that khaki color. I have always wondered about it, a common find in Baluch rugs. Not only is it ubiquitous among them, but it is used in odd ways. It often pops into the rug as a substituted color for dark brown/black, and even indigo. (See, for example, the background of the borders in your piece.) It seems in many cases that the initial color ran out, and the khaki yarn was the standby all purpose filler. In some rugs, I find it successful, possibly because I am Baluch brainwashed. In many rugs in which the color substitution was implemented, it is distracting because it makes following the pattern difficult due to the abrupt change in color value.
Getting back to your rug, I don't think the shift hurts it much. I do tend to note that color (at least, when it is used as described above) as an age marker, putting an uncertain limit on how old the rug can be. Even so, I would not preclude the 19th century for rugs showing the phenomenon. For example, SKINNER sold a Baluch with the feature that they placed early to mid 19th C. I saw that rug in the wool, and I couldn't say the estimate was nonsense. In case you care to look at their old catalog link, it was Lot 158 in sale No. 2362 (May 12, 2007).
Anyway, David, "mabrook," as the Arabs say. It's a powerful find.
P. S., Patrick. Thanks for that scintillating trip through the bunker security. I'm sure you're aware, BTW, that the first words Sherlock Holmes spoke to Dr. Watson were, "I see you've been in Afghanistan." Fits perfectly. A darned shame that Watson couldn't have put in a little more detail about the Jezail, for example, were they weaving anything?
I have seen that brown-to-khaki color shift in Baluchi carpets that were definitely 19th c. (the Dokhtori Qazi of mine on the other thread has that), and I believe this one is at least c. 1900, if not earlier. I think this is a really nice example, and I love both the bold simplicity of the kilim ends and the shifting designs in those diamonds in the field. I hope this in fact signals a trend...more fabulous Baluchi main carpets flooding the market...what is to be done!? ''
You're right, your DiQ does exhibit the shift, to a level similar to David's as regards visual impact. Some I've encountered that seem to have reasonably decent age are virtually taken over by the shift. I sometimes find it a tad mezmerizing, almost a "so bad, it's good" effect. The dreaded "curse of the Baluchi."
Hi David and all,
In my experience, sometimes the "shift" is not necessarily due to a deliberate change in colour per se, but rather to the switch between corrosive and non-corrosive dyes. I have a couple of Baluch rugs that have a transition between corroded and non-corroded pile, even though the colours look similar from the underside. On some rugs I have also wondered if the corroded pile had been repiled, but perhaps not all the way along the rug.
David, could you let us know whether the shift from black-brown to "beige" is partly a function of pile corrosion that left the base structure of the rug exposed?
I like that piece, especially the side border treatment - a little like the variability we see in the borders of some Tekke main carpets. Some Turkoman-like elements in the end borders as well.
I'm also interested in that design element toward the left side of your last image - two designs, one dark & one light, running vertically. That appears in a flatweave area of a Seistani saddlebag I have. Rapid service from Our Moderator now allows me to show you:
Is this a recent buy or has this been in the inventory for a while ?
Are carpets like this comparatively rare? The size alone I mean - I haven't
seen that many in all my years of collecting -
This looks like a tribal piece too, rather than a city piece? An investment in time and materials for sure!
Underexposed vs. Overexposed
This is a recent purchase, just a couple of weeks ago. I suspect that motive you speak of is found in timurid arts.
Does Timurid = Timuri?
Regards that corroded border, the wool changes color, to a khaki similar to the adjacent ground. Maybe spring vs. fall shearing? They just used what they had, traditional.
These first two photos were taken with the same camera settings as the previous.
Pile completely corroded.
Khakai abrash ground.
The following photos were taken with flash, and while a bit overexposed, I think they may get pretty close to what the colors would look like in full sun.
Interestingly, the word " Khaki" is Persian.
I wonder whether you have the 1978 book ("Oriental Rugs," Harper & Row) by Luciano Coen and Louise Duncan? It is a fairly typical survey type book. I happened to be thumbing through it and came across a big Baluch (6' 8" x 11') (on page 46) not too different from Dave's. It has a field design more common for Baluch "main carpets," but the pallette is similar. If I had a scanner, I'd post it. As a veteran collector, maybe you (like me) accumulated a million books along the way.
In order to advance your knowledge of carpet studies, here are some related words:
The word khaki, I believe, means "dirt" or dirt colored. So called by the natives to describe the English Army uniforms.
Yucky, on the other hand, is sort of greenish.
Pukey, well, never mind.
I don't get your point about spring and fall shearing. How does shearing relate to a color shift, or corrosion?
Yes, I realize the green in the third photo, that of the corner of the rug, is enough to make you queasy, but it is just to convey some of the detail of the elements. The best sense of color is found in the last detail photo, before that final shot on the wall.
The colors seem kind of strong, but they bear a striking resemblance to a similar, published baluch rug with the same border, if memory serves, and was said to have some age.This rug does seem to have considerable wear. Unfortunately, I have yet to take it outside to check the colors in full sun, and it is just too dark in this room to tell.
I wait to see what everyone thinks.
Have seen this shift in color and texture before, even an entire half of a rug. It seems that one of the shearings yields a better quality of wool, and I suspect that the differing structural characteristics exhibited by the two respective shears, could result in varying dye, mordant, etc., absorbtion rates. Alternatively, the wool from the inferior shrearing might be inherently weaker, and more prone to breakage, than the better wool.
Richard, I don't think I have that book. But then again...
I'll poke around the piles and if I don't have it I'll see if I can locate it.
Of course, that isn't the only one, but it is really is big for a Baluch.
in my rug rummaging days I have seen a fair number (perhaps 12-15) of carpets of that type. They are usually referred to as Herat prison carpets, 3 or more meters long, usually show Timuri design elements, long kelin ends, but oftern, as in this case, a rather brownish (as opposed to blueish) palette. I would date the ones I saw, including this one, to ca. 1900. Whether they were really produced in prison, or in commercial workshops I don't know, of course, but the all seem to be woven using a Timuri main carpet to copy fom. There is a source in rug literature about the Herat prison carpets, but I can't recall where.
BTW, I like that carpet and its use in your home. I'm just staring at a newly whitewashed wall in my study, 2,4 x 3 m; I think I must get out my Timuri mains ...
This is just an uneducated guess!!
Prison "Baluch" carpets
It might be interesting to note that circa 1900 prisons in NW India (Agra and Lahore) were making carpets with Baluch-type (Timuri) designs. These rugs generally used quite a bit of cotton and had a different palette, and in my experience, a very heavy and stiff handle. What strikes me is that there was obviously a commercial demand for these large rugs/carpets with the Baluch-type designs. Generally, we think of Baluch rugs as having been more "tribal" and less desirable in the marketplace, but perhaps that reflects more the western taste and market.
Today, these rugs tend to command a higher price than real Baluch rugs, though I don't find them nearly as interesting or attractive. Below is a picture of one I ran across several years ago in Delhi. It might still be for sale, so please don't comment on value, etc.
It's an interesting notion: progressive Afghani prison authorities. Carpets from the Herat calaboose, kilims from the Maimana slammer - go figure. I always thought those places would be pretty - well - medieval.
I've only seen one or two Baluch (or Baluch-like) pile carpets this size, just kilims- so I'm impressed.
Dave - any chance we can see a closeup of that red-white-and brown detail along the edges ? I can't tell from the images whether that is pile or some sort of overcast embroidery.
Thanks for the identification. I think I have read that passage somewhere myself, regarding the prison carpets. This yellow color is unusual, as it seems to have an admixture of the gold throught it's entirity,as a mottled effect. My initial impression was that the yellow might be synthetic, but it has the same unusual cast as the rest of the colors, and I believe they may all be natural. It's too dark under normal indoor lighting, and, well, you saw how my flash photos came out.
This rug is just too dark for the room, I would need a kleig light or thirty halogen track light spots to generate enough photons to make these colors bloom. It's the only vacant space large enough to hang this thing. Usually, I have my turkmen palas in this space. Maybe I should replace it with a dragon soumac? In spring, when the sun comes back out, i'll take it outside in full sun and see what it looks like.
Chuck, the section you refer to is worked in pile. No weft substitution or brocading in this thing at all, which seems kind of odd, now that you mention it. This weaving strikes as being utilitarian, but of what utility I can't say. I really do have to get my hands on a copy of Black and Lovless (or whom so ever).
Hi Frank, Chuck, and All Above,
Interesting. I found a bag face, from the McCoy Jones collection at the de Young Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, with what appear to be many of the same colors (especially the mottled red/orange, and green), borders, and a kindered field design.
Find the image by going to the de Young website, search the image base for baluch, and go to image #14. It's one of those large khjorn like bag faces, 25" x 27 1/2". Notice the colors of the flat weave portions. Hopefully my link will work,
de Young Baluch Image # 14
Find below the image of the McCoy Jones bag face from the de Young Museun.
Compare to this image of the "Prison" carpet.
The colors, the large scale meandering border, these floral medallions (also the geometric "instrumentation' within), and the kelim ends, all kindered. Notice how the simple, dotted guard stripes of the bag are interpreted as a dice border in the carpet.
This bag face and carpet are related as a pillow sham and coverlet of a bed set. There seems to be little doubt that these two weavings were made by the same group of weavers.
One of the most striking aspects of this rug is it's enormous size. It is the size of a Turkmrn Palas in my collection. It is literally the size of a room, and as a place for seating could easily accomodate several people.
Richard had said something to the effect that this carpet is larger than most Baluch main carpets, but I suspect the opposite is true. Is it possible that this Timuri rug is the main carpet, and that the majority of smaller "main carpets" (and more beautiful, at least to western tastes) rugs are trade carpets?
True, some of the colors of this Timuri main seem a bit lurid to us in the west, but I suspect these colors represent a traditional pallette. The wool is so reflective, and the carpet so big (and dark), that it is impossible to get a good photo under my circumstances. I think that some of these colors will really blossom and "breathe" in strong sunlight. The colors might be a bit much (and too dark to be used in a home), but I suspect this rug is striking when seen outdoors, where it was intended to be seen.
If memory serves, the term "Prison" carpet proceedes not from their place of manufacture, but from the dark and gloomy aspect of their colors, and especially the prevailing olive and brown khaki. Think prison blanket.
In conclusion, I think this a genuine Timuri main carpet, circa 1900.
David R E Hunt
I'm not quite following your reasoning here. Is it that the carpet is larger than most, could have thus seated many people, so is more likely to have been a "main carpet?" In fact, I'm not sure that largish Baluchi carpets served the presumable "main" function attributed to Turkoman examples. But assuming arguendo that they did, what is it about this one that seems especially likely to have been an example?
Perhaps it is that it seems to be paired with another functional item, viz., the McCoy Jones khorjin from the DeYoung.
Actually, I found a Timuri "main" carpet (what ever it is, it's what they call them) of about the same dimensions as mine, on (dealer's name deleted) rug site. But it's for sale, so the usual prohibitions apply.