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- Mini-Salon 8: Holiday Party at the Keshishian's. by R. John Howe (http://www.turkotek.com/VB22/forumdisplay.php?forumid=60)
-- "Very unusual Shirvan" (http://www.turkotek.com/VB22/showthread.php?threadid=1409)

Posted by Horst Nitz on 12-29-2005 07:14 AM:

"Very unusual Shirvan"

As far as the rugs are concerned this looks an interesting party - but where are the ladies?

The motive on the "very unusual Shirvan rug" is the so called 'kelleli' - it appears on Shirvan rugs from the Marasali area and on Turkoman rugs according to Eder D (1990) Kaukasische Teppiche.

For L. Kerimov (Azadi U, Kerimov L, Zollinger W (2001) Azerbaidjanisch-Kaukasische Teppiche) these human figures are engaged in the Caucasian folk-dance 'jally'.

This rug is particularly unusual in that the 'kelleli' makes up the whole of the field; usually it is resricted to motive-bands in the upper and lower section of the field.



Posted by R. John Howe on 12-31-2005 10:43 PM:

Hi Horst -

There were, in fact, quite a few ladies at this event and a number of them are collectors.

As I said somewhere else, one of the things one notices about rug collecting is that there is so much focus on the items that one often almost doesn't notice the people. (Not entirely true of events where collectors in fact go in part to see one another.)

I would be interested to see instances of these field devices used in Turkmen rugs. Do you know of any actual examples.

I was also hoping Austin Doyle whose piece this is would chime in indicating what he knows about this design. I think he said something about what he thinks is its likely source.


R. John Howe

Posted by Horst Nitz on 01-02-2006 04:07 PM:

John, a Happy New Year to you.

Unfortunately I can't recall where and when I have seen the 'kelleli'-motiv on a Turkoman rug myself, most likely at Lefevre's in London around twenty years ago or in some book. I have not looked at many Turkoman rugs recently. Doris Eder on page 47 of the 1990 German edition of her books says "Interessant ist ... der Vergleich mit dem turkmenischen Kelleli-Motiv, wie es bei den Tekke zuweilen auf Taschen erscheint."

I have a Turkish Kagizman Kelim on which the motiv makes a few random appearances, not as a squadron as on the rug you presented us. I'll keep my eyes open.



Posted by R. John Howe on 01-04-2006 06:41 AM:

Dear folks -

I have written to Austin Doyle, who owns the Shirvan that begins this thread, asking him for some additional comment on it. He has responded, with some additional images, giving me permission to quote him.

Here are some additional images Austin sent of his Shirvan piece.

And here is his quoted comment:

"Dear John:

"I got this rug from Davut Mizrahi, who acquired it from an Italian
estate. Davut relates the rug to a group of squarish rugs of the first half of the 19th century, often pictorial, from the Marasali area.

"This rug has a fine weave, good wool, and no significant repairs. The rows of floral elements in the field have a definite anthropomorphic feeling, and the comments of Mr. (ed. Nitz) are of great interest.

"The inner border is interesting, and Daniel Walker (ed. TM Director) related it to very old Turkish border designs.

"The rows of figures decrease in size going up the rug. I wondered whether this might not be intentional, as in very old Turkoman bagfaces, to give a sense of depth, with the upper rows of guls appearing to recede into the field.

"The closest analogue that I could find to this rug was a yellow-ground Shirvan rug sold at Rippon Boswell in 1998 (ed: see image below).

"As described by Horst (ed. Nitz), this rug has a row of similar figures at one end of the field.

"I would appreciate it if you could help me place (ed. these images) on the Turkotek site."

Thanks, Austin.


R. John Howe

Posted by Horst Nitz on 01-06-2006 03:19 PM:

Hello John, Austin,

I am tempted, but also very busy at the moment and hesitate to enter into a deeper discussion of this rug. How about this if you allow: I am preparing myself to host a salon in the second half of February, hopefully, which would provide ample opportunity for a discussion of this rug in context with others.



Posted by R. John Howe on 01-08-2006 07:43 AM:

Hi Horst -

We will gladly wait patiently.

Hard as it is to conceive of, sometimes, there are parts of life outside rugs and Turkotek.


R. John Howe

Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 01-12-2006 09:40 AM:

Dear all,

While we are waiting for Horst’s Salon, it doesn’t hurt to proceed with further investigations about Mr. Doyle’s rug (any relation with the other Doyle?)

John Howe signaled me that a somehow similar rug was on sale on the web.
Here it is:

The seller labeled it as a multiple saphs Shirvan, late 19th century.
This one rang a bell.
Of course, Wright & Wertime “Caucasian Carpets and Covers” plate 30, page 82.

Shirvan pile rug, Shemakha district, Maraza village, “Gabistan” pattern, Zakgorstorg lithograph, 1928.
The above image is not a scan from the book but a resized version from Richard Wright’s website, more precisely from the article on M. D. ISAEV which presents 21 more interesting lithographs:

Also Bennett’s “Caucasian” has more examples of this Shirvan multiple saphs genre, which appears to be pretty “Kustar-ized”. This is plate 269 – with caption:

But this other one of plate 271 could be an earlier, no “Kustar” example:

As for the unusual inner border of Mr. Doyle’s rug, there is another example on a Shirvan rug from Bennett and Bassoul’s “Tapis du Caucase – Rugs of the Caucasus”, Plate # 55.
Unfortunately I forgot to scan it.

Best regards,


Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 01-13-2006 11:02 AM:

Gabistan Mystery Revealed

Dear all,

So, here we have a rug with a “kelleli” motif

the so called 'kelleli' - it appears on Shirvan rugs from the Marasali area and on Turkoman rugs according to Eder D (1990) Kaukasische Teppiche. For L. Kerimov (Azadi U, Kerimov L, Zollinger W (2001) Azerbaidjanisch-Kaukasische Teppiche) these human figures are engaged in the Caucasian folk-dance 'jally'.

As shown above this motif appears on rugs of Maraza village with a “multiple saphs” design. The whole design is called “Cabistan”.

According to Wright and Wertime’s book Gabistan (literally, a place with an old cemetery) is a name for a section of eastern Shemakha District and its variant spelling, Kapristan, contributed (quite understably) to confusion of nomenclature in the Western rug literature.

Hmmm… Cemetery. Well, some of the saphs are indeed similar to the tombstones of this old postcard illustrating a “Cimitière ancien de Muselman” of “Bacou”.

What about the “representation” of the Caucasian folk dance “jalli”, then?

The solution is in the spelling.
Googling for “Gabistan or Kabistan or Kabristan” I found a lot of material under GOBUSTAN. This is one of the links:


(from the above web page) Gobustan is a monticulate (sic) semi-desert area dissected by numerous gullies and ravines and Gobustan, in translation, means "ravine land". Caves and rock outcroppings surround the region. Settled since the Stone Age the area is one of the major and most ancient museums of rock engravings (petrogliphs) in the world…It was here in Gobustan, in the area of this fantastic destruction of mountains Beyukdash, Kichikdadh, Jingirdag, Shongardag and Shikhgaya, in the 'sea of rocks', the witnesses to the past of Azerbaijan people of the Stone Age and subsequent periods are concentrated: these are rock carvings, settlements, tombstones etc. Ancient people used to cover the stone blocks near the caves and the walls of the caves with images of human beings and animals and various signs which had been carved with stone implements and, sometimes, with metal tools. These prehistoric art monuments reflect culture, economy, world outlook, customs and traditions of ancient Azerbaijan people….

Yes, tombstones… Interesting, isn’t it? But the icing on the cake is this passage: There are also drawings on some rocks, representing collective labour processes, reaping, sacrifice, hunting scenes, battle scenes. There is a picture of a group dance for instance, which is done in a circle with arms on each other's shoulders - forerunner of the yalla danced in Azerbaijan to this day. Linguistically "yalla" is cognate to "yal" which means "food".
This is the best picture I found of the drawing.

In the Middle Ages (8th-Ilth century AD and somewhat later), in view of ever decreasing economical importance of hunting, more frequent transfers of the pictures onto ceramic and metal articles, and negative attitude of the Moslem religion to representation of human beings and animals, the drawings on the rocks of Gobustan became even more outlined; they were drawn in straight lines only and resemble distorted geometrical figures.

This doesn’t mean necessarily that the Cabistan design comes from the petroglyphs of Gobustan… it could be simply a modern Artist’s (I mean, a designer of rugs cartoons) synthesis after a visit to the region. But we cannot rule out an influence from the petroglyphs either. What do you think?

To tell the truth, after years of reading on Caucasian rugs nomenclature, I reached the conclusion that most of the labels are bazaar inventions with few correspondences with geographical reality and I remember having read somewhere that “Cabistan” was indeed one of those groundless bazaar tales. Now it seems that behind the tale there are some solid facts.



Posted by Vincent Keers on 01-13-2006 07:52 PM:

Dear Filiberto,

I think you did a great job.
A rug salesman couldn't have done it better

What I think? Only a tiny remark. I would love to hear the music but I'm not sure about the Stone Age Rock engravings dancing. Are they? Did they sing? Played instruments?

Stone Age Rock? Isn't this what we hear everyday. Wow, that's another link.
Rock around the clock and wave around the cave. Ah, so what we see is the first human wave. If it is a wave there must have been something to wave for.......

Thank you again,

best regards,

Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 01-14-2006 05:26 AM:

Thank you Vincent,

About the music, the Gobustan site mentions the use of a “so called "gaval dash" (tambourine stone), which emits a booming sound when it is struck, was probably used for accompaniment to the yalla dance.”.
So, it was a real Rock music.

But I’m not finished with my research, yet.

This is another rug with multiple saphs design. It’s for sale, so better refraining from comments on it.

The seller attributes it as Kuba Avar, third quarter of 19th century. Cotton wefts and camel warps.
The seller indicates also the possibility that the saphs could be tombstones, on which I agree.

This rug is more similar to my last scan from Bennett’s, but it lacks the “kelleli” - or “yalla dance” – motif. It has the same unusual inner border of Mr. Doyle’s, though. The outer border is also almost identical.



Posted by James Blanchard on 01-14-2006 06:05 AM:

Rock music....

Hi all,

The "tambourine stone" mentioned in Filiberto's post reminds me of the c. 16th century Vittal "Musical" Temple in ruins of Hampi (Bellary District, Karnataka, India). There are dozens of stone pillars that have been carved such that their dimensions and the tension on them create different musical notes. One set creates a perfect "eastern" musical scale. It is said that during nights of revelry the pillars were played by musicians with wooden and ivory sticks while temple dancers performed. The music could be heard from kilometres away.


Posted by R. John Howe on 01-14-2006 07:26 AM:

Dear folks -

The energy and imagination being displayed in this thread lures me to ask whether it is possible that the pieces with four panels somewhat like those on many doors might be atavistic decendents of Caucasian "engsis?"



R. John Howe

Posted by Ashok_Patel on 01-16-2006 08:21 AM:

The rug Mr. R. John found looks like an Ashaga Fyndygan Baku. Wright and Wertime say Maraza but in the time frame that their information comes from Maraza was the Administrative center for a broad area including Ashaga Fyndygan. I am surprised my other post was not printed. If I said it was Mongol you print but if I give a specific place attribution you print not.

Posted by Steve Price on 01-16-2006 08:43 AM:

Hi Ashok

Several of your posts were blocked by me and Filiberto because they included smartass remarks, some overt, some a little more subtle, about other people. We'll post anything civil, especially if it's informative. If you want to post remarks about others, I'll be happy to e-mail you a URL that will accept and encourage them.

Steve Price

Posted by R._John_Howe on 01-16-2006 11:12 AM:

Dear folks -

Since we are already speculating a bit here, let me add one more probably unlikely similarity I have encountered in the last day or two.

In exploring a question about Persepolis, I had occasion to look again at Tanavoli's book on Persian pictorial rugs and to those that seem to have reference to Persepolis in particular.

Austin said early that the devices in the fields these Caucasian rugs seem to have an anthropmorphic flavor. The rugs with Persepolis references often have rows (usually at the bottom) of human figures with their arms raised as if holding a horizontal piece above them.

Although most rugs with Persepolis references seem to had been made in SW Persia (Tanavoli shows one that he says is Hammadan) it would not take much abstraction for these figures with upraised arms to begin to resemble the seeming anthropmorphic forms in these Caucasian rugs.

There were Caucasians who were transplanted to SW Persia but I'm not sure that the reverse occurred. Anyway, this similarity is my probably groundless speculation of the day.


R. John Howe

Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 01-17-2006 03:48 AM:

Hi John,

Do you mean something like this? (following are two scan from Opie’s “Tribal Rugs” page 189 and 188):

If so, the images are self-explaining, no Caucasian connection.

But it’s better to put this thread at rest; otherwise we are in danger of compromising Horst’s upcoming Salon.


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