Two Baluch Prayer Rugs
Hi to all,
I have two camel ground, tree-of-life Baluch prayer rugs. The first one is presented below.
It has great colors, smooth shiny wool, some wear of possible use (knees?). Its handle is not very soft and its knot density is typical to Baluch rugs ( v 9, h 7 / inch). The knot structure is ASL. It has multiple borders usually associated with later Baluch rugs but its clear and balanced field design (only four branches on each side of the tree) points to an earlier date. It was one of our first Baluch rugs and we enjoyed it much. The rug was even considered to be good enough to make into Frank Diehr’s Baluch selection (Treasured Baluch Pieces from Private Collections, 1996, plate 84). Conventional Baluch dating places the rug in the later quarters of 19th century.
The second Baluch, although having the same basic design elements of tree-of-life camel ground prayer rug, is a quite different rug. As you can see it is not in great condition, with the upper right part missing.
The rug includes a much clearer telationship to Turkoman weavings:
1. half a Dyrnak gul at the bottom,
2. a complete complex gul at the top,
3. multiple borders with Ersari (Beshir) elements and color tonality
It also includes an interesting “sloping shoulders” barber pole border that encircles the entire main field. The handle of the rug is softer, color tonality is quite light for a Baluch. The knot structure is also ASL, with finer density (12 v, 8 h /inch). The estimated age based on Michael Craycraft’s statement – end of the 18th century/beginning of 19th century (based on its strong Turkoman influence and lighter colors), makes it one of the older surviving Baluch rugs.
Visually, the biggest difference between the two rugs lies in the very open, spacey design of the second rug versus the relatively crowded design of the first one.
Your first piece would be a prize in many collections. Your second piece is a knockout!
A very unusual feature of that second rug is the lack of symmetry in designs between the left and right sides in regard to the filler motifs. Even the mihrab diamonds are less crowded on the right than the left.
Perhaps both wives wove it at the same time, one on the left (democrat?) and one on the right (republican?)
Notice the ashiks in the upper left and right borders. They are the same as in a small Uzbek chanteh shown on the first page, halfway down, of salon 84:
Was this rug woven by committee?
Do We Have A Match?
Igo and All- Like both of your rugs, especially the second. But am curious,
is this surely a Balouch? Compare it to an image of a Beshier prayer rug as
below. Also, you might enjoy taking a look at my Balouch prayer rug, as seen
here on Turkotek - Dave
Your first piece would be a prize in many collections. Your second piece is a knockout!
The mihrab is similar to those on the so-called Dokhtor-i-Gazi prayer rugs, a peculiar subgroup of the Belouch group.
Steve, Pat, Filiberto,David,
1. Happy to hear that you like the rugs
2. Pat: I agree with a lack of symmetry in fillers but it does not affect the overall symmetry of the rug. You are right about the same ashik used on your referenced chanteh, although I had difficulty recognizing it at first because of its reciprocal design.
3. David: Was this woven by a Baluch? I used the Baluch name here in a wider, design type sense. I don’t think we know for sure who wove these rugs. Brian McDonald shows a rug (Plate 163, “Tribal Rugs”) which I believe belongs to the same group and writes: “ The structure, colours and border designs indicate to me that this tribe inhabited the border-lands between north-eastern Persia, north-western Afghanistan and Central Asia. The archetypal “gol” within the prayer niche at the top of the tree is peculiar to this group, and indicates a possible link with their Turkmen neighbours. It is quite possible that, with this type, we are looking at the oldest and perhaps even a prototype, of the camel hair “Baluch” prayer rugs”.
Side by side comparison of your Baluch and my first rug shows similarities in all design elements of the rugs (hand panels, borders, some of the filler elements, and more). It looks as if the weavers of these two rugs have drawn the design elements from the same design pool, giving them different individual interpretations. The colors and the palette are different, mine are darker and with no white in the field. Your rug also looks finer, with more detailed drawings. I am not sure how to compare the age of these two rugs. Another example of the same type is shown on plate # 28 in Michael Craycraft’s Prayer Rugs book.
4. Filiberto, Steve: The sloping mihrab indeed resembles the Dokhtor-i-Ghazi sub-group, but the rest of the design elements are quite different.
Similar to "the so-called Dokhtor-i-Gazi prayer rugs"?
Yes and not. Let’s see and compare.
The two rugs from the left in the following image belong to the V&A Museum.
The first one is a so called Dokhtor-I-Ghazi.
The second one looks like a transition from the classical Baluch prayer rug and the Dokhtor-I-Ghazi. In its own is quite unique, I guess. The mirhab is very similar to the latter.
The third is, of course, Igo’s rug. The mirhab is not terribly similar, in my opinion.
It could be very well the ancestor of the camel hair "Baluch" prayer rugs.
I don't think the Dokhtor-i-Gazi in your post is a typical classic form. The field design is the one they use, but the mihrab arrangement looks much more recent to me.
Here's what I had in mind when I said I saw some similarities between it and Igo's fragment.
The similarities that struck me are:
1. The "mihrab-within-a-mihrab", albeit of very dissimilar proportions.
2. The treatment of the spandrels.
3. The main border.
Can’t distinguish well the main border in your picture, but I agree with your points 1 and 2.
Dear Igo and All-
I rembered this piece from Thomas Cole's website. Quite similar, and can recall a couple with this same or similar colors yet different designs/drawing.
Mr Cole states that
"The weave pattern is very much like that of a fine Ersari weaving as is the handle of this very rare prayer rug, suggesting the Turkmenistan provenance"
Also, the proportions of the mihrab do remind some of some Beshir prayer rugs (Doktor-I-Ghazi too), the above not the best representative example of this relationship,yet my most similar rug image has come up lost for now(I'll keep looking).
Now this rams horn at the apex, could it be a vestigal/interpretive example of this?
This other example of said Beshir prayer may seem somehow familiar,especially the shrubs.
There are a multitude of tree of life interpretations, many of which, it is my impression, are somehow rather closely related, as evidenced by
as compared to my rug,which for conveinence,
as well as the above mentioned plate #28 from Balouch Prayer Rugs.
How does your rug figure into these relationships?
My guess would be that these two groupings of rugs, those of supersaturation which include plate #28 and your rug,and these drab pieces,represent the works of different peoples/materials. Or do they?
As to age, this from Murry Eiland and Pacific Collections:
"Wilber's earliest(Balouch) listing is a bagface dated 1904", and
"there are a few features of color and design that suggests greater age for certain(Balouch) rugs.Pieces that seem earlier often show a greater range of color and perhaps generally lighter tones. In earlier pieces there is more likely to be a light blue as well as a dark blue, and the reds may veer more toward rust shades than deep reddish browns."
"But does it really make much difference? Probably not,as the rugs began to show western influence even later than in most parts of the weaving areas."
Find here a link to the de Young Museum and some Baluch prayer rugs from the McCoy Jones CollectionMcCoy Jones- Dave
Very interesting, especially the photo of Thomas Cole's rug.
Keep on looking.
Took Me A While...
Igo and All- I have found the above mentioned image of an Ersari prayer rug
with a mihrab of similar proportions to your old fragment, and a second carpet
of similar proportions on Turkotek.
I have some notes about Igo Licht's prayer rug. It belongs to a very rare
type of Beluch, of which less that a half dozen examples have been
In what may have been the earliest publication of any type of Beluch prayer rug in color, Werner Grote-Hasenbalg illustrated his example in "Der Orienttepich" (1922) Volume II, plate 48, which he estimated to be aged 40-50 years. That would equate to 1872 -1882, which I think was on the cautious side. While Hasenbalg attributed his rug to "Beluchistan", he wrote that the natural camel hair was from a Persian dromedary, and the dark brown color from the wool of a two-humped Asiatic camel!
A second, very similar example was published twice by Bausback, (catalog 1976, pps.216/7, and catalog 1978, pps.404/5), attributed to East Persia/Meshed, and dated to first half 19th century.
The third example was cited by David R.E. Hunt,( Hali 97, p.89).
Two other related examples, Bausback 1979, p.117/Bausback Beluch 1980, p.9 and Brian McDonald "Tribal Rugs", pl.163, lack the secondary sinuous tracery prayer arches of the other three. It should be noted that when Igo's rug was published by Hans Elmby in his Turkmen Catalog #4 (1998) plate 59, it was attributed to Ersari/Beshir, before 1850. Elmby wrote, in part, "The similarity to Belouch work is astonishing, however the structure is different just as the reverse does not resemble Belouch".
Brian MacDonald's rug
Here is the image of Brian MacDonald's rug (plate 163) that was mentioned in
Thank you all for your additional images and references.
That’s what makes threads like this the salt of Turkotek, IMHO.
So… Initially Igo’s rug wasn’t identified as a Baluch!
All- Find below a couple of examples of Ersari prayer
perhaps one or two of you might get together and do a salon [or mini salon] on the balcuh and related prayer rugs . . . .
i for one would be most interested
thanks in advance
Mark Hopkins wrote a wonderful article about Belouch group prayer rugs in HALI a few years ago, and Michael Craycraft has a nice little book devoted to the subject. So the starting material for a good Salon is in place. Any volunteers?