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-   -   Shirvan Prayer Rug With Uncommon Motif (http://www.turkotek.com/VB37/showthread.php?t=4493)

Chuck Wagner January 3rd, 2018 05:06 PM

Shirvan Prayer Rug With Uncommon Motif
Hi All and Happy New Year,

Over the past year I've cautiously acquired a couple pieces that stray from my rug knowledge comfort zone, including the piece below. I don't own many antique Caucasian pieces, so I was happy to be able to add this to the collection.

Hopefully, I'll still be glad after your comments. :groucho:

The knee-jerk tendency is to refer to anything with the look and feel of this rug as a Marasali rug. I will leave it to the Kafkaz experts to counsel on details that may shift the attribution.

One uncommon motif - and the primary motivation for purchase - is the swastika border element. It struck me as most unusual.

I haven't found many references to pieces from Shirvan with this motif and I'm curious if anyone has some info to share on that topic.

A secondary motivator was the observation of a change in the amount of detail in the design as the weaving progressed, with generally simple guls and swastikas at the bottom, shifting to more complex design elements higher up in the rug. A patchwork comparison is the last image in the series below.

I think the colors are "good"; no evidence of bleeding dyes and no DayGlo orange or pink on this rug. There is very sparing use of green on this piece; the fourth image shows a bit of it.

It has a date inscribed, which I will allow others to comment on. I would read it as 1233, whic would be mid 19th century. I'm aware of the fact that many are skeptical of dates on these rugs; still there it is.

Structurally, classic Shirvan I think; symmetrical knots, 8H x 9V, wool on wool.

Here are the images; fire away.

Chuck Wagner







Filiberto Boncompagni2 January 3rd, 2018 08:23 PM

Hi Chuck,

I am pretty sure I have seen the swastika border on at lest one prayer rug in one of my books, probably on Kaffel’ “Caucasian Prayer Rugs”. Tomorrow, when I go home, I’ll check.
Unless Joel precedes me as usual.

Egbert Vennema January 4th, 2018 12:26 AM

Virtual Show and Tell
Hi to all, see also ; Ian Bennett's Oriental Rugs Volume I, plate 443 Swastika border, and. http://www.azerbaijanrugs.com/guide/...rbend_rug4.htm best,Egbert.

Filiberto Boncompagni January 4th, 2018 09:55 AM

Thank you Egbert, but I was referring to this one with exactly the same minor border with swastikas:


It's from Kaffel’s book.
I left the image big so the text is readable, because this one has also a woven date.
I think the comment about the date and the main border with Kufic elements can apply to Chuck’s rug as well.

It’s a nice prayer rug, Chuck.



Rich Larkin January 5th, 2018 07:08 PM

Hi Chuck,

It looks good, you did well. There are 500 bad ones for every nice one. Of course, we expected no less.

That business of progressive articulation of the design elements as one gets higher into the weaving is interesting. It is the sort of thing one encounters in other venues, but not so much in the Caucasus from my experience. Also, you got a lively set of borders as these pieces go. The adjustment from the horizontal to the vertical for the brackets was well-considered by the weaver.

This is a small point, and nomenclature for Caucasian rugs in general is an iffy situation, but I wouldn't expect people to hang the label, Marasali, on this type. I associate that term with the blue field prayer rugs that feature especially colorful boteh, sometimes described as "flaming." Perhaps my outlook on this is too narrow, and others may associate your type (which I call "white field Caucasian prayer rug") with the Marasali label.



Steve Price January 5th, 2018 09:46 PM

Hi Rich

I believe there's a village called Marasal that's the home of Marasali Shirvan rugs. The best known of these is a blue ground prayer rug with a field of flame-like botehs that has been published several times and, at 250 knots/square inch, is the most finely woven Caucasian rug in captivity. I'm drawing a blank on the name of the collector who owns (or owned) it. The Marasali attribution is often associated with extremely finely woven Shirvan rugs, often with mihrabs and nearly always of the size associated with prayer rugs.

Here's one that I own, that's appeared on Turkotek in the past.


The knot density is about 220 kpsi, and the wefts are silk. The size, borders, palette and field layout are typical of rugs attributed to Marasali. It is inscribed with a date that corresponds to AD 1863.

Steve Price

Rich Larkin January 5th, 2018 09:58 PM

Hi Steve,

I am aware of a few of the blue-ground Marasalis (so-called). In fact, I have a modest example of my own. The one you are thinking of may be the item owned (formerly...don't know about current status) by Jerome and Mary Jane Straka. I had the pleasure of seeing that one at the Textile Museum about thirty-five or forty years ago. Above my pay grade. :cry:


Steve Price January 6th, 2018 01:43 AM

Hi Rich

Yes, the Straka Marasali was the one I had in mind. I couldn't find the card with Straka's name in my internal Rolodex. One of the mixed blessings of age - I no longer have to drink to forget.

Steve Price

Rich Larkin January 8th, 2018 02:08 PM

Hi Chuck,

Regarding the apparent year date on your rug, what do you make of the fact that the number is actually "233," rather than 1233? We know that dates and other inscriptions on rugs have to be taken with an open mind anyway, but I wonder whether there is an alternative theory for this one?

(Certainly not that the rug was part of a limited edition, and this was #233. :devil: )

Going in a different direction, does anyone think 1850, more or less, is plausible for this rug?


Ken Shum January 8th, 2018 02:32 PM


Yes, that looks like 233 to me and not 1233.

The main border has a Konagkhend design to it.


Filiberto Boncompagni January 8th, 2018 03:31 PM

Hi Rich,

Your question about the plausibility of the 1233 date made me looking for older discussions on the subject…
Funny, twelve years ago I posted the same scan form Kaffel’s book. If my memory was better it could have spared me to do a new scan. :rolleyes:
Here it is (the discussion, I mean):

At the time I speculated on the possibility that the date was in the Persian Solar Hijri calendar (the idea being that the Caucasus was under Iranian influence).
To convert it to AD suffice to add 622. Hence, in Cuck’s Rug 1233 + 622 = 1855.
Is that plausible? May be…
Note: - Looking better on Wikipedia, I see that the Hijri was adopted in Persia in 1925. For eight centuries before that there was another version of the Solar calendar called Jalali but for our purposes it doesn’t matter: there is always a 622 to add.

Than there is the matter of the missing “1”. That was discussed in the past as well but I can’t find it. Anyway, I think I remember of other cases in which the date was without the first digit.



Rich Larkin January 8th, 2018 11:48 PM

Hi Filiberto,

I remember those threads. For my own part, I try to avoid the quicksand of whether a Hegira rug date is expressed in the solar or lunar calendar, mostly because my rugs get older when I use the lunar version. :wizard: Anyway, see additional comments below.

Regarding the weaver lopping off the initial "1," I don't doubt that it happened. I always wonder why it happened. Was there a conventional usage by which people in those societies expressed a date ignoring a millenium? Maybe!

As to a rule of thumb, mine is that I keep in mind a Hegira date in 1300 using the lunar calendar lands in about 1882 by the western calendar. That is a handy reference date for most dates on rugs, at least the ones the likes of me and probably most Turkotekkers get to handle. It is easy to add to or subtract from that date. I assume, as you suggest, that Chuck's conclusion of mid-nineteenth century is based on a solar calendar. Using a lunar calendar for 1233 would put the rug before 1820.


Chuck Wagner January 9th, 2018 06:40 AM

Rich, et al.,

I know we've discussed the absence of a leading "1" in inscribed dates before, but I can't find a link to the thread either. I thought I had another one somewhere in the Rug Bunker (East), but I haven't found it yet. Maybe I just dreamed that part...

I don't know enough about this genre of rugs to assess whether the date is reasonable or not. Kaffel's comment has been echoed in other conversations, and on other websites, but one has to wonder if all the similar opinions aren't actually derived from the same single comment by Kaffel.

Based on the condition I would be skeptical of an early 19th century date without a good analog to point at.

Like Filiberto said: mid 19th ? Maybe. I'm comfortable with it.

But it's not a certainty.

It's my sense that the more colorful than usual (for these rugs) palette is consistent with earlier-rather-than-later guesstimate, but that is more of a hunch and may not hold up under close examination.

I remember seeing Steve's rug posted before but had forgot how incredibly fine it is, causing me to speculate that it was woven for a very special occasion or person.

Regardless, I think I am now satisfied that acquiring this piece was not a blunder and for that I'm thankful.

I recall that you have a Shirvan prayer rug with some very nicely rendered florals on it; maybe a courtesy post to refresh the neurons ?


Rich Larkin January 9th, 2018 02:11 PM

Hi Chuck,

Here is the Marasali prayer rug.


Not ultra-fine, but it is pretty, and in very good condition. Some knot collars are visible, but there is real pile throughout.

On the topic of baffling inscriptions, here is a detail from the rug.


What the heck is that all about? I have seen that diamond with the triangle atop used for "8" in other dated rugs that are purporting to be nineteenth century. The dates in those were reflecting a western calendar with western script numerals, apparently the work of christian weavers. If anyone can make anything out of the rest, I would love to know about it. The weaver was most careful to place that nice little box up in the corner, and I would not want to hurt her feelings, but the content has to be seen as an anti-climax. :sherlock:


Ken Shum January 9th, 2018 02:41 PM


Here is my probably turn of the century Marasali. Obviously less skillfully woven than the one Rich has.


Filiberto Boncompagni2 January 9th, 2018 04:29 PM

Rich, that one is beauuuuutiful!


Chuck Wagner January 9th, 2018 05:57 PM

Hi Rich, et al.,

I did find the other rug with a 3 figure date (in the box). A barely legible inscription was included as a bonus.

Can anyone say with confidence that this is a date ?:


I think this one is from Iran, but in truth the attribution on this piece is still a mystery to me.


Rich Larkin January 9th, 2018 08:13 PM

Hi Ken,

Obviously less skillfully woven than the one Rich has.
Hmmm. I dunno. That is a nice one in many respects. For one thing, it is a nicely executed take on the classic Marasali PR border. I will say there is a color or two in it that I would want to inspect very closely, and alas (much to the chaghrin of my friend, Joel), I am congenitally (must be!) unable to accept certain colors the aforementioned Joel tells me are quite attractive. But an interesting Marasali, anyway.


Rich, that one is beauuuuutiful!
Well, thanks! I believe that comes under the adage, "Praise from Caesar is praise indeed."

It is like our kids: We aren't sure whether they are really pretty and handsome, or that we just think that way. So, your feedback is very encouraging.

It happens this rug sat a good many years ago in the kitchen of a very nice elderly gentlemen who was a neighbor to a family member we used to visit often. I admired it many times, and one day, he offered to sell it to me for a very reasonable price, proving that if you hang around long enough, something might happen!


Can we see more of the rug? Obviously, the blue-green material is writing; do you have an idea how it reads? I wonder whether any of those dots and dashes in white are supposed to be part of it. Makes a big difference!

Also, if the little cartouche is supposed to be a date, it is a challenging one. Those gizmos in there look like amoeba under a microscope to me! Like the case of my pale green cartouche, she certainly took some care to set that business off. Maybe if you are fundamentally illiterate, weaving what amounts to scribbling feels just as good as the Gettysburg Address when you are done.:fez:


Ken Shum January 9th, 2018 08:39 PM

I'm aware that some persian weavers were aware of viewing perspective and took that into consideration when doing their craft. (I am not versed enough to know what the technique is called). Perhaps this technique was applied here in the "Bird" border, the elongated mihrab and the botehs? I'm probably grasping at straws though. :dancer:

I know which colors you are referring to. It being a Shirvan I wouldn't be surprised if those were synthetic.


Originally Posted by Rich Larkin (Post 23724)
Hi Ken,

Hmmm. I dunno. That is a nice one in many respects. For one thing, it is a nicely executed take on the classic Marasali PR border. I will say there is a color or two in it that I would want to inspect very closely, and alas (much to the chaghrin of my friend, Joel), I am congenitally (must be!) unable to accept certain colors the aforementioned Joel tells me are quite attractive. But an interesting Marasali, anyway.

Joel Greifinger January 10th, 2018 12:11 AM


I am congenitally (must be!) unable to accept certain colors the aforementioned Joel tells me are quite attractive.
Evidently, that uncouth knave has been improperly socialized into the norms and values of polite ruggie society. :rant:

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