Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 02-18-2006 10:52 AM:


Dear all,

It seems the discussion is focalizing only on one rug. Let’s move on something else.
I know almost nothing about Anatolian yastiks, but I like this one.

It seems I’m not alone in liking it, since it fetched an awesome lot of money in a recent auction.
Any thoughts?



Posted by Tim Adam on 02-18-2006 04:52 PM:

Hello all,

This yastic is published in MOREHOUSE: "Yastiks - Cushion Covers and Storage Bags of Anatolia" plate 59, page 49. Could someone who owns this book be kind enough and post Morehouse's discussion of this piece?


Posted by R. John Howe on 02-18-2006 05:21 PM:

Hi Filiberto -

One thing that struck me immediately was that again there is an early estimated date of weaving and yet the drawing is pretty abstracted. This tends to violate our frequent sense of how things should be. An older yastik should be complex, we might say, and in truth some are.

But it is also true that very early yastiks (and other weavings) can be quite simple. In Dan Walker's "Seldom Seen" exhibition, there is a yastik of a velvet and (originally) silver that he selected in part because of the severity of its design.

Here, again, is the link to the "Seldom Seen" images. Go down 10 images to see this yastik which is presented long sides vertically in the exhibition.

We've seen this piece before. It was included in a salon based on a TM rug morning some time back featuring Ottoman material from the TM collection.

This piece is estimated to have been created in the 16th century.

I think this simplicity coupled with age suggests that our frequent assumption that designs move from more articulated versions to those that are abstracted may frequently be true, but also can be false. Weavers may chose quite abstracted designs in any age. And evolution can be toward abstraction, but also toward elaboration.

So one thing to note about this piece is that its seeming conventionalization of design may not be a basis for questioning its estimated age. Such things happen.

I should add that facing it in the wool it appears to be in very good condition. "Full pile" would not in my view be an exaggeration.

The blue-green in it is one of the most unusual colors I can recall seeing in a piece and the overall color use of a quite limited palette is to me very, very effective.


R. John Howe

Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 02-19-2006 06:45 AM:

Some mistakes happened in matching the exhibition labels with the related photos. This is the correct text for the yastik under discussion in this thread:

Pile Cushion Cover, yastik, 18th Century; Central Anatolia, Karapinar
Collection of Ted Mast (ARG 17)

The quatre fleurs design of tulips, roses, hyacinths
and carnations identifies a particular 16th-century development in the creation of an Ottoman style.
Many of these design elements remained well into the
19th century in western and central Anatolia, village weaving traditions.

This exemplary yastik joins other weavings in this exhibition thought to have been made in the region. Certain structural and aesthetic characteristics of these pieces are consistent. Here, four large blue tulips are
seen in the red spandrels; they appear again inside
the aubergine medallion along the vertical axis. Along
the horizontal axis are two red rosebuds attached to a
red central boss.

The rows of detached arches along the top and bottom of this cushion cover are often seen in yastik design. The side borders carry a series of crescents on a pale blue-green ground. The handsome composition is balanced and the skillful drawing stylized yet refined, indicating an accomplished weaver at work and signifying that this yastik was made with a special purpose or owner in mind.


Posted by richard tomlinson on 02-19-2006 08:50 AM:


I am sorry to say this (filiberto) but this yastik is one of the blandest, most uninteresting examples i have seen.

i know nothing of structural aspects, but the design is static, the colors look like modern vegetal dyed pieces - the abrash, especially the blue looks contrived.

if i didnt know better, i'd call it fake.

this piece has no life in my eyes. i have seen some wonderful yastiks - this pales into insignificance.

in summary- AWFUL !!!

am i the only one who sees this piece as lacklustre?

richard tomlinson

Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 02-19-2006 09:06 AM:

Hi Richard,

As they used to say, de gustibus non est disputandum.
Surely the guy who bought it last November at Rippon Boswell must have liked it a bit more than you do.


Posted by Ben Mini on 02-19-2006 09:16 AM:

Richard, did you notice the small area of faded repiling on the top corner? If this is a fake, that's a classy touch. I would also like to talk about the color scheme as seeming, well, not like the color scheme one might expect on a 200 year old Karapinar. Again, we have red, white, and blue, plus a rather brown aubergine (or is that just a bad photo?). I've come to expect luscious purples on 200+ year old Central Anatolian rugs, not brownish aubergines. And where is the apricot, or yellow, or green? I don't mean to come off as overly negative here, but thus far it seems that there is some very, very ambitious dating in this exhibition.

Ben Mini

p.s. how many other 200+year old pile yastiks are there out there? I'm not asking about velvet or flatweave, but pile yastiks. Who has seen one that they are sure is at least 200 years old?

Posted by Bob Kent on 02-19-2006 09:21 AM:

yastik and rest of exhibit

Hi richard! I live in Philly and have been to this fantastic exhibit a few times. A few things I'd note. First, the purple of the yastik is a good bit lighter in person versus this computer image, at least on my monitor, and that might look better in person. Still, the yastik did not do a lot for me versus some other things the show, so the yastik is probably actually great! I am a new collector with limited experience, so of I have no idea about the yastik. But I do wonder how datings to for example the 18th C for a yastik -- certainly, a utilitarian, unsigned, and undated thing in its day, and not the sort of thing with a chain of custody back that far -- might be done. If there isn't a useful physical C-14 sort of test (and I suppose even if there were the wool could be old in a repair, etc), then I guess design and structure, as the legend in the show suggests, might be used to gauge age. Design could be misleading - an old design might reused, like a replica car or house with archaic design. And if structure is a guide, surely the best restorers know as much as collectors about structural things, so in the presence of much higher prices for things deemed really old, things might be restored in convenient ways?

Posted by Tim Adam on 02-19-2006 09:33 AM:

Hi Richard,

No, you are not the only one ( John, are you surprised? ). I had pretty much the same reactions as you did, except for the final conclusion. I don't think it is awful, but I would surely not pay those mega bucks for it.

It is amazing that despite the abundant abrash the yastic feels very 2-dimensional (except for the border). I also think that the shape of the central medallion is rather plump, and not what I would associate with a ca. 1800 piece. There is no elegance, no movement. Together with the perfect condition this is exactly what I'd imagine a fake would look like.


Posted by Lavergne Philippe on 02-19-2006 10:46 AM:

plate 59

Tim wrote:
Hello all,
This yastic is published in MOREHOUSE: "Yastiks - Cushion Covers and Storage Bags of Anatolia" plate 59, page 49. Could someone who owns this book be kind enough and post Morehouse's discussion of this piece?

Bonjour tout le monde : this is the text page 89:

Catalog nos. 58-59 ( in part « Central Anatolia », opposite Eastern)

Though these two examples are very different in spirit, the field design of cat. no. 58 is in many respects a geometrized version of cat. no. 59. A central, vertically oriented oval form encircled by blossoms is placed in a hexagonal medallion (the shape of the medallion is rather clearer in cat. no. 58); the corner spandrels contain tall tulips. In both pieces the design elements are outlined in a contrasting color, a feature which is seen in Karapmar rugs and which suggests an attribution for these yastiks. Likewise the pendant which extends from the top and bottom of the medallion in cat. no. 58 is a form seen in early Karapinar rugs. The strict adherence to symmetrical duplication of unconnected forms seems to be a prevalent feature in this group and is also seen in Caucasian carpets. The general character of cat. no. 58 is in some ways more Caucasian than Turkish, and Iten-Maritz notes that the weavers of Karapmar are descendants of peoples who migrated from the Caucasus in the 9th and 10th centuries. Nowhere is this connection more clearly seen than on a Caucasian soumak khorjin illustrated in HALI that displays design elements seen in cat. no. 58. Neither piece has corner brackets and both have borders comprised of simple, unconnected red forms on a blue ground. The bold crescents in the side borders of cat. no. 59 are very unusual and the design of the lappets on this piece is likewise not a traditional form. (Cat. no. 58: Burns collection. Cat. no. 59: Newman collection.)
References: For the discussion of the links between Karapinar and the Caucasus, see Iten-Maritz, Turkish Carpets, p. 300; for the soumak bag, see HALI 62: p. 96.

58: 3'9"x2'l" WARPS: Lt. brown; Wool; Z2S; Flat. WEFTS: Lt. brown; Wool; Z 2; Semi-straight; 2 between rows (inserts of 3). KNOTS: Symmet; Wool; Z 2; Per sq. inch/56 - 63 (ver. 7, hor. 8-9). ENDS: Not original? EDGES: Not original?

59: 4' x 2'1" WARPS: Ivory; Wool; Z2S; Flat. WEFTS: Dk. ivory; Wool; Z; Semi-straight; 2, 3 between rows (inserts of 4). KNOTS: Symmet.; Wool; Z 2; Per sq. inch/ 70 (ver. 7, hor. 10). ENDS: No plain weave. EDGES: Main wefts interlace several sheds on 2 warps beyond pile area, returning on next row above, sharing those 2 warps with supp. elem. interlacing. Supp. elem. sequen. interlac. of 4 sets of paired warps, every other row of supp. elem. interlaces 2 warps of pile area. Wool; Z2S; Lt. orange-red, red.

Au revoir

Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 02-19-2006 11:27 AM:

This is yastik 58 in Morehouse’s book, courtesy of Philippe:

Merci Philippe,


Posted by Cevat Kanig on 02-19-2006 12:37 PM:

Hi ,

It is a very nice Karapinar Yastik, i love it!, the bordur of the yastik is "C " reminded me Turkoman C gul.

Posted by Lars_Jurell on 02-19-2006 03:18 PM:

Hello all
I got the book "Yastiks" and I have followed your discussion about Number 59 and now also about number 58.
Having a close look at them, as close you can do in the computer,
the condition of the first one seems to be too perfect for beeing about 200 years old. Even with some repaired parts I would expect some marks of age on it. And also number 59 ( but nobody told the age of that yastik ).
And as they both are yastiks, but only fronts, which means fronts of pillows with flatweaves on the backside from the beginning, and number 59 is very old, why is the front in perfect condition but all the backside removed, including some rests of flatweave in both ends?
Photos are photos, but now I might agree with Richard Tomlinson that the colours looks like modern vegetable dyes. I have seen a lot of Turkish yastiks and rugs of high quality and weaved just some years ago with vegetable dyes.
It would be of big interest if someone can show detail photos from theese two yastiks.
Lars Jurell, Sweden

Posted by R. John Howe on 02-19-2006 07:48 PM:

Guys -

We entertain a nearly free environment here for indicating what we think of pieces posted.

But, I would argue, we need to be careful not to make rather superfical, "knee-jerk" evaluations of this piece without much real information about it.

"Throwing stones" immediately after an introduction is in some circles seen as simply ill-mannered.

If this piece is as obviously as uninteresting (some stronger language has been used) as some think, it might be good to note that it has likely fooled quite a few very experienced people over at least several years. (Not that that has not happened before on occasion. But it's an indicator that suggests caution rather than conclusion.)

It's one thing to note as I did that the order of abstraction is not what we usually expect in a piece estimated to have been woven in the 18th century, but some have moved rather quickly to very severe conclusionary judgments (some even seem to suspect chicaney) on the basis of pretty thin image evidence.

We are absolutely free not to like it, but it might be useful also to ask why it is that a number of rather experienced folks seem to evaluate it quite differently.

If they can be so wrong, it would seem possible that so can we.


R. John Howe

Posted by Tim Adam on 02-19-2006 08:57 PM:

Hi John,

I don't think people are making superfical, "knee-jerk" evaluations here. The color scheme, the design, the abrash, and the condition put some doubt on whether this yastic is 18th century as claimed. Those seem to be fair points.

It would certainly help the dicussion if the more experienced folks, who evaluate the yastic differently, would step forward and provide some additional information.



Posted by Michael_Wendorf on 02-19-2006 10:11 PM:

Karapinar Yastik

Dear Readers:

I have known and handled on several occasions the Karapinar yastik that is exhibited in Philadelphia and being discussed here for nearly 15 years. I first saw it displayed in the living room of the long time New Jersey dealer Ronnie Newman where lit against a wall its color completely radiated throughout the room. I have seen it displayed to similar effect elsewhere. This yastik has a presence that few pieces can match.

The limited and saturated colors appear somewhat darker in the image as it appears on my monitor than I recall it in the flesh. In the flesh, the blue green is a lovely old color that frames the field and sets off the design in a magical way for me. i cannot say with assurance how old this yastik is, only that it is old - I base this on handle, color and weave. Many people much more experienced and knowledgeable of old yastiks have handled and concured with this opinion.

I cannot agree personally with the opinions expressed here that have described this yastik as lacking elegance and movement or the design being static. Certainly the format is at first glance a fairly formal central medallion with quarter spandrels with expected symmetry. However, the inward splay of the tulips and the assymmetry of some of the filler motifs give even the field the a playfulness within the structure without shouting. And the border carries, in my opinion, this composition again without shouting but also with subtle disruption of the design symmetry expected of such a medallion design.

I am not a yastik collector, but having some appreciation for the design and weaving traditions from which this yastik comes as well as its color and tactile qualities I have always admired this piece. I think it deserves some contemplation and certainly it deserves more than what John Howe has described, accurately I believe, as knee jerk reactions. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but better that opinion results from something deeper.

Best wishes, michael

Posted by Ben Mini on 02-20-2006 11:59 AM:

I am glad that advocates of this Yastik came into the discussion. That helps to move things one, and helps to clear up some initial doubts. Online discussions are spirited, feisty affairs, and I would hope that none take offense to a general tendency to put things bluntly online.

Michael, I found your post particularly helpful. Still, I think we can have a civil discussion about the date for this yastik.

John, I'm afraid I was put off by your scold to the "ill mannered" hoi polloi. I don't think that will help to draw more people into this discussion, and I don't think that things were nearly as ugly as you implied.

Ben Mini

Posted by Bob Kent on 02-20-2006 12:21 PM:

what about the handle/weave?

Hi mw; First, I think that people's immediate reactions to a rug are interesting, and Thomas Hoving, foremrly director of the Met, argues that they can be telling about art. For the yastik, they were probably affected by the date given? For what its worth, I actually didn't remember the yastik after my first visit, I just liked other stuff, usak and c anatolia prayer. Can you remember what about the weave and handle of the yastik suggested age to you?

Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 02-20-2006 12:43 PM:

Dear all,

References: For the discussion of the links between Karapinar and the Caucasus, see Iten-Maritz, Turkish Carpets, p. 300

I would be VERY grateful if some owner of the book in question could scan the text on page 300 (better if using Optical Character Recognition) and send it to me.


Posted by Michael_Wendorf on 02-20-2006 10:03 PM:


Dear Readers:

I cannot help with the request for Iten-Maritz. But I can perhaps expand a little on my opinions about this yastik.

I think Bob Kent's reference to Hoving and the importance of initial or visceral reactions to art is legitimate. But when Hoving talks about such initial reactions or visceral reactions what does he or we pre-suppose as the knowledge base of the viewer and does it matter? My initial response to this piece in the flesh was to color and drawing - I found it captivating with real presence. It was also 15 years ago - I do not know if the reaction would be the same today.

I think the dating to the 18th century is controversial. However, I also wonder how relevant it really is. The dating of a varient piece such as this is always problematic. Ronnie Newman himself would probably respond to the question of age by stating simply "It is older than all the rest." I would probably say simply, "it is old enough." Since we have no anchor pieces of 18th century date in knotted pile to make a direct comparison against, our opinions will always be speculative to a significant degree. That said, I still do not think this yastik is new or modern. New pieces that I have handled have a drier wool, stiffer handle and distinctive back that is hard to describe but less difficult to feel and as, Richard Tomlinson accurately stated, a contrived abrash. This piece is different, the wool is shinier and glossier than new wool, the handle is floppier, the abrash right. What Mr. Dodds and others who have sought to date the piece no doubt confront is a relationship to 16th century works and a tradition moving forward rom that time. assuming this piece is old and perhaps older than all the rest and part of that design continuum - where then to place it? 18th century? As good a guesstimate as any other.

There is a alternative dilemna/scenario - a very savvy friend one told me and reminded me again recently that varient pieces should always be scrutinzed because it often turns out they are what several people in this thread have suggested - fakes; not necessarily modern fakes but fakes made 100 years ago or even more. Perhaps this is the real issue with this piece and the response of some to it. Here a deconstruction of the design elements and a comparison to the known tradition and historical antecedents does raise some important/troubling issues - the scale of drawing, the crescent design elements in the border and the way they merge into the stylized lappets on the ends, the size and drawing of the spandrels and the inclusion of some odd seemingly out of tradition elements such as the 8 quartered octagonal devices surrounding the central medallion in place of rosette forms as well as the cresent motifs in the side borders. Is it real or is it an old fake - perhaps our appreciation of this yastik and the tradition it either is part of or trys to imitate is deepened by our contemplation of these issues?

I leave it to each of you to decide for yourself with best wishes, michael

Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 02-21-2006 03:36 AM:

Hi Michael,

I am rather skeptical with the possibility of this piece being an old fake (intending as “fake” an art object expressly made to deceive the customer).

As I said, I know nothing about Anatolian yastiks and their iconography and I’m not able to infer the supposed stylistic incongruence that could point out to a fake.
To tell the truth, I’m also skeptical about the use of this kind of criterion on folk art, given the fact that folk art is always a generally faithful but not verbatim repetition of old norms (design and layout, color, and so on) with - sometimes - sudden bursts of creativity departing from the norm.

Then, if this piece is really at least 100 years old as I think you suggest, the question is:
was there a demand for this kind of “rustic” fakes at the time? I would expect an ancient forger to make a copy of a classical carpet, not of a village mat.

We discussed about modern fakes some time ago:

Interestingly, the fake discussed mainly in the first thread is still on the market, offered on a web site as Zakatala.
Somebody I know, believing that the seller was in good faith, tried to alert him.
The dealer acknowledged the problem but, on the pretext that he was busy, promised to remove it later. A year went, and the “Zakatala” mat is still there.


Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 02-21-2006 03:51 AM:


To be fair with the dealer: I just checked his website and realized that the “Zakatala” mat is sold as “Traditional design” and not as an “Antique” like other Zakatala pieces sold on the same site.

Looking at other pieces with the “traditional design” diction it’s evident that “traditional design” means “reproduction” in that particular web site.


Posted by Steve Price on 02-21-2006 05:58 AM:

Hi Filiberto

I think the word "fake", as used in Rugdom, doesn't necessarily mean that a piece was intended to fool a buyer into thinking it was something else. Western and central Asian bazaars had lots of rug shops long before Americans and Europeans came in large numbers looking for souvenirs, so there must have been a substantial local customer base. Believing that some weavers made rugs that varied from tradition in an attempt to attract contemporary buyers doesn't seem unreasonable to me.

In a nutshell, I prefer the word "unauthentic" to "fake", since it carries no ethical baggage or suggestion of an attempt to deceive.

Perhaps reference to other art forms is appropriate. Would you consider Prokofieff's "Classical Symphony" to be a fake? I doubt that anyone would attribute it to a Russian composer if exposed to it without prior knowledge of what it is.


Steve Price

Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 02-21-2006 06:10 AM:

Hi Steve,

That’s why I stated what I mean as fake: an art object expressly made to deceive the customer.
My impression was that "fake" was used exactly with that meaning in this thread.


Posted by Steve Price on 02-21-2006 06:51 AM:

Hi Filiberto

You made your meaning clear, but I'm not sure that this was the only thing Michael had in mind. The issue is whether this yastik is modern or old (and, since Michael has handled it and says that he doesn't think it's modern, I doubt that it is modern).

But "old" doesn't necessarily mean that it was made at the same time and place as more or less similar pieces. It might be a fake (literally) made more than 100 years ago, but it might also have been made for the local marketplace, adopting traditional designs, layouts and colors to the then-modern taste.


Steve Price

Posted by R. John Howe on 02-21-2006 08:03 AM:

Dear folks -

I just want to put up another (entirely unrelated) piece here to demonstrate that the kind of indicators that are being used in what seems to me to be a prematurely, conclusive and negative way, can sometimes point in quite different directions.

The piece below is a Kazak niche format rug from the Kaffel volume.

It has very simple designs and a marked use of an abrashed green. Kaffel indicates that it is estimated to have been made in the "mid-19th century," says that a high price was paid for it too, likely in part because of its "minimalist" design. Kaffel quotes the auction catalog which describes this piece as "rare" and says its "tremendous impact comes from it perfectly balanced design and pure, saturated colors." Kaffel put this piece on his dust jacket.

It seems to me that on a number of the indicators being cited this piece is analogous to the Anatolian yastik under discussion in this thread.

About dating yastiks. Someone asked how many "pile 18th century yastiks" can we point to. I took a look at the Morehouse book. Morehouse, in one of his early sections provides images of three pile yastiks that he says seem reliably dated to the 17th century. But in the next section on dating yastiks he says "...Determining the age of yastiks must be viewed with caution. Lacking any proven scientific method, we are left with experienced judgment..."

This may be one reason why there seem to be NO age estimates included in the technical descriptions of the pieces in this volume. Morehouse does indicate that Plate 101 is dated to approximately 1831, the oldest dated yastik we appear to have.

So the dates being offered are likely the result of "experienced judgment" which can differ and about which there is often question.


R. John Howe

Posted by Steve Price on 02-21-2006 08:39 AM:

Hi John

Some comments about Morehouse's statement, ...Determining the age of yastiks must be viewed with caution. Lacking any proven scientific method, we are left with experienced judgment.

The problem with "experienced judgment" is that unless someone's experience comes from handling yastiks of known age, of which there are very few, the experienced judgment has little basis other than the judgment of his mentors or his own guesses, reinforced by repetition.

Most attributions of age or place are actually based on similar pieces having been given some attribution that is adopted for the piece in question. We see that frequently in all sorts of places. The reliability of the published source is hardly ever questioned.


Steve Price

Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 02-21-2006 09:17 AM:

Hi John,

Good example. That prayer rug (my favorite – I wish it was mine too) could be a highly simplified version of the Fachralo-type. See Kaffel’s plate 10 and 15, both identified as Fachralo:

However the rug is so out of line with the known tradition that it should be a candidate for closed scrutiny under suspicion of being a (old?) fake, as Michael’s friend suggests.

Well, you know what? Even if it were an old “fake” I still consider it as an authentic work of art and I would still prefer it to any old authentic prayer rug.

I agree on the point you make about age and “experienced judgment”. Especially when the “experienced judge” happens to be also the seller.



Posted by Bob Kent on 02-21-2006 10:50 AM:

hard to tell?

of course I have no idea about the yastik, but it is interesting to think of how hard it may be to tell about the age of things... ?? the article in the new yorker ("the rug missionary") several years back noted that 'new old rugs'/fakes/tributes/whatever have been created in turkey, successfully, using old wool, perhaps even 200 year old kilim wool.

Posted by James Blanchard on 02-21-2006 11:11 AM:

Hi all,

It has only been a few years since I started to read more diligently about rugs and peer in on discussions among collectors and dealers about dating rugs. It strikes me that in the absence of any definitive proof or "gold standard" for dating a piece, rug scholars are left with a couple of options:

1) Inductive reasoning: This is essentially "argument from observation", and as far as I can tell in rug scholarship it tends to manifest itself as the ordering design features and/or structure of a group of weavings into some sort of presumed chronology. There might not be any good evidence to refute these chronologies, but one can also not claim that they have proof that they are true. Of course if there were enough samples where dates are known, a deductive process could be undertaken to test and validate these inductively derived dating hypotheses.

2) Consensus of experts: From a scientific perspective this is an even weaker approach than inductive processes since it doesn't necessarily rely on careful study of the evidence and it is prone to the bias of "group think". So if conclusions are made based on expert consensus there should be clear documentation of a coherent line of reasoning from the agreeing scholars, and cogent arguments from dissenters.

Of course part of what I like about rug appreciation is that it is far enough removed from the humdrum of hard data. Can you imagine how uninteresting rug collection, scholarship and commerce would be if each weaving had a small tag that verified the date and attribution?


Posted by Lars_Jurell on 02-21-2006 12:20 PM:

Hello again
In my reply above I did mention yastiks as pillows ( cusion covers ). Normaly woven in one piece: front + back and then sawn together and filled with grass, wool or something else to make a pillow for the back or to sit upon. This is the tradition with yastiks.
When one find a yastik one must have in mind that they normaly are ment for use. But, it can also have been woven as a dowry and keps somewhere without beeing used. But in that way it will be complete front + back anyhow.
A "old and used" yastik will show patina from several years of use. And in shops they can be complete with patina, complete with damage, only a front with patina and often also with some damage or reaparations.
The pattern is only one of several things to look at before deside probably age of the yastik.
It is easy to remove knots and change to other colours or to make repairs, all to make it older and get more money.
If I see an "old" yastik front in mint condition when colours, patina, material etc. are checked, I will be suspicious.
Some textiles can I buy from photo, but not a perfect one!
Lars Jurell

Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 02-21-2006 12:30 PM:

Hi Lars,

Sorry for my ignorance, but I never saw a yastik with the back. Could it be that the norm was to remove it, as they used to do for Jaff bag faces, in order to sell the front as a mat only?


Posted by Cevat Kanig on 02-21-2006 01:27 PM:

Hi Filiberto,

I agree with you, in the late 70's and early 80's in Istanbul we use to cut yastik's back to make it door Mat for European and American market, now we are looking for uncut ones.I wonder how many collector have uncut ones over 100 years old, I was very young that time so we cut them all.

Posted by Steve Price on 02-21-2006 01:56 PM:

Hi Filiberto

The backs of bags are usually pretty uninteresting flatweaves, some solid color and some striped, but not exciting either way. Cutting the backs off bags is a longstanding practice. It's unusual to find any antique tribal bag with its back still on it.

I think the major reason was to save shipping weight. Secondary reasons might be that it's almost impossible to get a bag to lie flat or hang nicely on a wall if the back is still on it.

I do recall an eBay vendor some years ago selling the backs of a pair of Belouch bags as Kurdish bagfaces.


Steve Price

Posted by Lars_Jurell on 02-21-2006 03:56 PM:

Hello again
If you take a look at our Rug Society´s site ( AKREP ) you will find a yastik from W Anatolia with a bit of the back still there.
On top you see circa 7 cm and on bottom there are 7-8 cm put behind because of damage.
But I will remain it because it is a part of origin.

If this link doesn´t work, try,/ then go to English verison, Gallery and then number 26.
Notice also the "patina" and marks from many years use ( not on the link but on the yastik! ).

I have 2 more komplete yastiks with backs but they are from beginning 20th century.
Lars Jurell

Posted by Cevat Kanig on 02-21-2006 04:23 PM:

Hi Folks,

Thanks god a couple lucky of them are still survives.


Posted by Michael_Wendorf on 02-21-2006 06:20 PM:

on the topic of yastiks

Dear Filiberto:

I think you are asking some of the important questions ... I wish I had easier, more definitive answers.

But, yes, I think this is an old piece and 100 years plus seems very likely to me.

Yes, I used "fake" in a broader sense. Perhaps "unauthentic" is better, or the term Richard Tomlinson used in a narrower sense - "contrived" or not genuine. However, all of these terms seem pretty negative and undermine our ability to really see this yastik. I think everyone would be well served to inform themselves of the supposed stylistic incongruencies compared to the known traditions. Then again, it could be as simple as the exhibit notes state: that this yastik was made for a special purpose or made to order - if that is the case then the incongruencies could be, well, inconsequential.

In any event, I think you can see the issue. Best, michael

Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 02-22-2006 01:19 AM:

Hi Michael,

Yes, I see the issue. On the other hand, considering as “contrived” a beautiful piece that deviate from the tradition there is also the risk of grossly underestimate the creativity of the weaver who made it.
That is, speaking about old pieces and not of modern “engineered” fakes like the Zakatala mat I referred to before.
Best regards,


Posted by Wendel Swan on 02-22-2006 06:13 PM:

Dear all,

The Newman/Mast yastik deserves attention and analysis. I first saw it in the early 80’s, before Ronnie Newman bought it, and I’ve seen it at least twice since. It may well be the most well known yastik in existence, having been discussed and published on many occasions.

Here, opinions on its aesthetics differ from “AWFUL !!!” (Richard) to “captivating” (Michael), but there seems to be consistent questions about its age. I’ve had similar doubts before, but I’ve never thought them through until now.

Although I haven’t seen it since 1996, my recollection of its physical characteristics is like Michael’s: great colors, wool and handle. But some of the elements appear to be at the end of a design continuum. And that makes it puzzling.

First, many centuries ago, lappets were separate flaps on the ends of cushions. We see them on the ends of both Central Anatolian yastiks and rugs. In this instance, the lappets are not contained within a conventional separate end border, but are in a circumferential border.

Second, the lappets themselves are simplified, both in outline and interior elements.

Third, the very simple “C” elements in the side borders are extremely rare (possibly unique) for a yastik or any Turkish rug, for that matter.

Fourth, the shape of the ivory ground indicates derivation from a more complex, possibly floral, format. In fact, all of the design elements are simplified.

Simplicity can be appealing. The graphics, colors and scale of the drawing are all well balanced and are all excellent. But it is very non-traditional weaving in a very traditional area. Its simplicity is not reason to give it an 18th Century date, just as I don’t think that the simplicity of the Kaffel Kazak is by itself an argument for greater age.

Here is a comparison between a Karapinar yastik that I own (John showed a picture of it from the Keshishian party) and the Newman/Mast yastik, also thought to be Karapinar (an inclusive term). While I like the purple and the green and gold of my yastik, the drawing is much more static and it doesn’t have that great ivory ground. It also comes from a different design tradition and group. I think mine is at least 100 years old, but I would never pretend to an 18th Century date for it. Yet it exhibits less design devolution (change, evolution, adaptation – you pick the word) than does the Newman/Mast yastik.

My eyes and fingers say love it (or at least they did) but my head sometimes says not love it. Like Michael, I think it’s old, but I can’t say how old. I don’t think it’s a “fake,” primarily because fakes reproduce older objects. This piece is too different to have been a repro.



Posted by Jerry Silverman on 02-22-2006 06:33 PM:

If you could persuade the owner to let you borrow it for a weekend, this yastik would make a tasty item for the "Mystery Rug" session at ACOR you'll be moderating, Wendel.



Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 02-23-2006 02:39 AM:

Thanks Wendel for your clarifying contribution.

In spite of the divergences of opinions on the aesthetic quality of this yastik, there is one point on which everybody - experts and laymen - seems to agree: this is hardly an 18th rug.
More interestingly, the doubt is expressed by two of the more knowledgeable persons here - and they have handled the rug personally.

Even Morehouse didn’t think that the yastik was that old: John wrote that Morehouse prudently refrained from providing age estimates of the pieces in his book BUT he dated one - plate 101- as 1831, the oldest dated yastik we appear to have. Therefore, if I understand correctly, he didn’t think that plate 59 was older than that.

It would be interesting to know what Mr. Dodds thinks about this matter.


Posted by R. John Howe on 02-23-2006 04:33 AM:

Filiberto, Wendel et al -

I don't think that Morehouse is saying that the "dated" yastik is older than the Mast piece that started this thread, I think he is saying that it has a date written on it (although I can't spot it in his small image in the book) and it is the oldest one we have with such a written date. (Morehouse shows actual images of three pieces estimated to have been made in the 17th century.)

I think the examination of this piece is getting more thoughtful, but notice that Wendel seems to assume that the usual progression from more articulated to more abstracted modes holds for this piece. It's clear that such progression happens a lot, but I also, I thought, demonstrated with at least two pieces, one a velvet and silver Turkish yastik, and the other the Kaffel Kazak, that we cannot simply assume this in a particular instance. Sometimes the move is to elabloration of an "earlier" design.

Now I agree that the simplicity of a piece is not a reason to give it an earlier date (and that is not what I argued). Only that our usual assumptions about progression from more elaborate to more simplified designs can be shown sometimes not to be the case.

And I say all that without defending the date given in the gallery label for the Mast piece at all. I have no basis for estimating it's age. I think there are some signs that the age estimates in this exhibition are sometimes optimistic (hardly a new thing in the rug world). Pinner would call all of the estimates being made "conventional." That is, none of them, is based on any objective data tied to actual dates.

Filiberto, I think we know what Mr. Dodds thinks about this matter. He wrote the gallery label. He indicates the older pieces with which he thinks this one can be associated. Again, a conventional argument.


R. John Howe

Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 02-23-2006 04:51 AM:

Hi John,
Well, it appears that I didn’t understand correctly what you wrote about Morehouse, after all.


Posted by Gene Williams on 03-21-2006 05:22 AM:

Yastik with a back


I assume a Yastik is a pillow. This may not contribute much to the topic on this Turkish Yastik but offer the following on my experience with Baluch pillows.

I have 10-12 baluch pillows with flatweave backs intact. 5-6 are actually in use in the house stuffed with cotton, their goat hair bound selvedges intact. there is a small opening maybe 4-5 inches long on the "top" selvage of each pillow in which the cotton is stuffed.

The bottom of a few of these pillows are lined with kepri shells with small holes drilled in them with the goat hair selvedge run through the holes. And, I have several which are not stuffed but which have intact backs but with the ends loose...

Most of these look to be quite old as Baluch go... a couple look very old with patina. Only one has really noticeable wear though; this is a large pillow with a "doctor-i-qazi" design, shells along the bottom and some tufts and dangling cords at the has a pronounced band of wear, maybe 2 inches wide across the entire pillow about 3-4" from the top... The rest don't seem to have much wear at all...maybe people leaning against them don't wear them as much as a foot would.

As for age of these pillows, I can only testify that I bought them around 1975-76 and that they looked old then.

Again when I get home, I'll put pics on so you all can evaluate them.

Posted by R._John_Howe on 03-21-2006 10:46 AM:

Hi Gene -

Yes, a yastik is Turkish term for pillow cover. As indicated above, they are rarely found with backs. I mean even less frequently than many tribal bags are.

Turkish homes often had divan arrangements and the yastiks were placed at the back presumably for comfort.

So far there is only one book devoted to this format. It is by Brian Morehouse, a California collector and student of oriental weavings. His volume appeared in 1996 in conjunction with an exhibition of many if not all of the yastiks in it in Philadelphia at an ICOC conference.

Dennis Dodds, who curated the Anatolian exhibition to which this general post on Turkotek is devoted is also a noteworthy collector of yastiks.

There are similar formats in other settings but some of them seem to have been parts of bags rather than pillow covers. On the other hand, many tribal weavings seem to have had multiple uses.


R. John Howe

Posted by Wendel Swan on 03-29-2006 02:57 PM:

Dear all,

I briefly visited the Anatolian exhibition at the Arthur Ross Gallery in Philadelphia this past weekend, but my time was very limited. I’m not at all sure that my spending an hour or two with the yastik would have yielded any more insight into the issues discussed here.

Anyone who still has the chance should visit the exhibition, but it closes this Sunday, April 2.

The Newman/Mast yastik is pretty much as I remembered it: wonderful colors and wool. Overall, it’s in excellent condition with a very few old and visible repairs. As to the 18th Century date, Dennis Dodds relied on comparisons to other Turkish rugs and, in particular, to one that is also in the exhibition. The rug to which he compares it is rather well known and spectacular itself.

Here is the yastik side by side with the Karapinar rug (7’4” long) that Dennis attributes to the 17th Century. The “kilim style” of the rug is rather similar to the yastik and Dennis reports some consistent structural features as well. (I didn’t see the back of the rug on this visit.)

The back of the yastik looks like this (quite fine):

The Karapinar rug and the yastik have quite similar design styles (a casual aspect) and color palettes, as is evident. There are a few other rugs of the period(s) done in a similar style, but I’m not familiar enough with that group to draw any conclusions.

Dennis has collected and studied Turkish rugs for many years and has a distinguished collection of yastiks. While any of us are free to disagree with his (or anyone else’s) attribution or dating), in this instance his opinions are, I believe, certainly credible.

I never thought the yastik was a fake and this visit confirmed my previous belief. Although I have known Dennis’ Karapinar rug for years, I never thought to associate it with the yastik. I should have.


Posted by Ben Mini on 03-29-2006 05:19 PM:

18th century?

I just can't swallow an 18th c. attribution. For starters, I would like to compare this yastik to all other known 18th c. yastiks. Does anybody know of an 18th c. pile yastik to compare this piece to? That would be a good place to start.

I recently noticed that Bertram Frauenknecht had posted a Yastik described as 18th c. on his website. That yastik seems a far, far better candidate for '18th c. pile yastik' than the piece now in consideration-- the colors, drawing, condition, etc seem to attest to real age. What is it about the Philadelphia yastik that attests to real age? Am I missing something? The drawing looks pretty stiff to me, particularly the medallion and those tulips. The photo of the back does nothing to convince me of an early date. In fact, it does quite the opposite.

I also want to mention that the condition of the Philadelphia yastik is a real issue for me. Yastiks were 'utilitarian' things, right? Rug collectors weren't really interested in yastiks until quite recenly, right? So isn't it a little hard to swallow that an 18th c. yastik would be in stellar condition?

I don't want to offend or pick a fight, but I can't be alone in finding the 18th c. attribution to be a bit fanciful.

Thanks for hearing me out,

Ben Mini

Posted by Steve Price on 03-29-2006 06:18 PM:

Hi Ben

You wrote, I would like to compare this yastik to all other known 18th c. yastiks. Does anybody know of an 18th c. pile yastik to compare this piece to?

There probably isn't a single yastik in captivity that can be documented to have existed in the 18th century. This means that dating can't have much certainty. I don't think this problem is unique to yastiks, by the way.

Condition is a very unreliable criterion of age, especially for something like a yastik. They were used indoors, and were not subject to foot traffic. Hard to know what to expect the condition to be, and your arguments from condition would apply to 19th century (or even mid-20th century) attributions as well as to 18th century attributions.


Steve Price

Posted by R. John Howe on 03-29-2006 06:19 PM:

Hi Mr. Mini -

I don't know if the Philadelphia yastik is 18th century either, but I just took a look at your Frauenknecht example and it is worn, worn but it is also (look at it again) simple, simple.

For me, it doesn't work as a convincing counter example, although there may well be such.


R. John Howe

Posted by Ben Mini on 03-29-2006 06:30 PM:

Mr. Howe,
I don't at all find the Frauenknecht piece to be simple as you claim. Look at the exquisite play between positive and negative space, particularly in the border but also within the medallion and parts of the field. This is the the sort of articulated drawing I would expect on an early piece, and that I find particularly lacking in the Philadelphia yastik.

Ben Mini

Posted by Steve Price on 03-29-2006 06:47 PM:

Hi Ben

Although we try to avoid discussing rugs that are on the market, we make exceptions when one is fairly crucial to an ongoing discussion. I assume that Frauenknecht's piece is for sale, but it would facilitate this discussion to be able to see it. Can you give us a link to it?


Steve Price

Posted by Ben Mini on 03-29-2006 07:21 PM:

Ed. note: The link no longer goes to a page with the yastik fragment. Since it isn't on our server, there's not much we can do about it. Steve Price

Posted by Steve Price on 03-29-2006 09:20 PM:

Hi Ben

Thanks for the link. It certainly isn't new.


Steve Price

Posted by Tim Adam on 03-29-2006 11:42 PM:

Hello all,

I went to see the exhibition today, and largely agree with Wendel. The wool is incredibly soft. The colors are great, except for the purple-brown of the central medallion. This color I find relatively dull, but it may be just me. The abrash of the border is pretty phantastic, with the blue shades going towards the green in the upper part of the yastic. This cannot be seen correctly in the digital image. Otherwise it is actually pretty close to the real thing.

Although there is no patina on the yastic whatsoever, it really looks like as if it has come right off the loom, the brown outlines are corroded, and even the red within the central medallion shows minimal corrosion. So, I am convinced the yastic is old.

What I found most remarkable is that despite the abrash, which is all over this piece, it still looks, at least to me, rather two-dimensional (except for the border).

The other thing I find rather unusual is the rendition of the flowers in the spandrels. Has anyone seen a similar rendition in another piece?