Posted by R. John Howe on 02-14-2006 11:27 AM:

"Out of Scale" Field Designs as an Indicator

Dear folks -

One of the pieces that attracts me the most in this exhibition is the Bidjov with the out of scale field design.

Jerry makes the point in his gallery label that it is the over-sized character of the devices in the field of this relatively small rug that gives this design it's "dynamic power."

When I first saw this piece in the exhibition its out of scale drawing reminded me of another old piece in Schurmann.

Schurmann estimates that this piece is an 18th century Kazak. Jerry thinks his Bidjov may be 18th century too.

One factor rug analyses are almost always fallacious (we're often mistaken when relying on three or four) but the fact that these smallish rugs, estimated to be quite old, have field designs (unencumbered with many "filler" devices) the scale of which is much larger than one would expect in rugs of their size, makes me wonder whether in Caucasian rugs at least there might be some modest correlation between, smallish size, large scale field designs and age.

That thesis is too simplistic since we can pretty readily come up with other instances of small size and large scale design that seem younger.

For example, some time back as we were examining pieces from a TM rug morning, in which Joe Fell included this delicious Bidjar piece.

Here is a close look.

Fell estimated his Bidjar as 19th century.

This latter rug may also exemplify another reason why smaller piece sometimes have out-sized field designs. There is a species of sampler called a "strike-off" which is a small version of a planned larger rug with all the designs and dye colors used as is intended in the subsequent full-scale piece. It was suggested (and also debated) when we discussed this Joe Fell Bidjar that it might be a "strike-off" type sampler. Regardless, this possibility shows how difficult it is to relate with accuracy any given variable or two in oriental rugs with any other.

Nevertheless, I found the out of scale field design of the Bijov making me wonder whether it might not be a very old Caucasian rug before I read the gallery label.


R. John Howe

Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 02-15-2006 04:20 AM:

Hi John,

The Bidjov rugs are another instance of design derivation from Dragon and Palmettes rugs from the 17th and 18th centuries. Those were huge rugs, with an accordingly big scale of design.

Jerry’s rug could be simply an example of a “verbatim” (i.e. without scale reducing) use of an old design in a small format, somehow in the logic of the Bidjar you presented, although I’m not suggesting that Jerry’s is a sampler.

There is another small Bidjov in Bennett’s “Caucasian”:

The caption says: "This piece is badly worn and has lost its bottom border however, the design is well-spaced. Probably second half of the 19th century. 135x89cm"

For once I would disagree with Mr. Bennett, suggesting at least a first half of 19th.


Posted by Tim Adam on 02-15-2006 07:50 AM:

And an ancestor of Bennett’s “Caucasian” could be

an 18th century palmette blossom (or shield) rug.


Posted by R. John Howe on 02-15-2006 09:07 AM:

Tim -

I think that may be right, but I suspect that's a fragment from a large rug. You're talking now about the likely source of the

The thing that drew my attention (and Jerry's) is that something like the scale of the devices on the old long rugs is retained in these much smaller ones.


R. John Howe

Posted by Tim Adam on 02-15-2006 08:45 PM:

Hi John,

That's right. I was talking about the likely source of the design. Below is another example, which I think demonstrates the relationship to the Caucasian palmette blossom rugs quite clearly.

Coming back to the scale question: To me the Bidjov that started this thread is special not because of the scale, but because of the '3-dimensionality effect.' Notice that the three main designs in the center are getting bigger (vertically or horizontically) as you look up. This creates much dynamic in this rug, something that is completely absent from the above long rug.