Posted by R. John Howe on 09-14-2007 05:55 PM:

Bakhtiari Bag

Dear folks -

In the Afshar bag face thread Marty Grove has said in part:
Bakhtiari bag
G'day John and all,

(Ed: image inserted)

Although you havent singled this piece out John, the piece second last in the Salon opening, before the bird, thats a really interesting bag; this attracts me a lot and I really like the links of camels with their riders in the flat woven side, its very moving to me and draws me along.

We havent really seen many bags where one bag is piled and the other flatwoven entire. Or one where the style of flatweave has both kilim and soumac manner. This is quite unusual I think.

I like it anyway -


John again:

Yes, Jerry Thompson likes his camels too.

Bags like this with mixed techniques are not that unusual. Here's one I used in the salon on color.

What is more unusual is this lighter palette used in a dominant way. It may not come through here, but in Jerry's piece even the darker pile areas are in fact quite mildly colored.

I'll put up a few images tomorrow of pieces with different sized areas done in lighter palettes.

I was a little surprised that some did not challenge the "Bakhtiari" attribution, because folks as knowledgeable as Opie often say "Luri/Bakhtiari" about many of these mixed technique cargo bags, suggesting that they might be either.

By the way, lighter dominant palettes can even occur on Qashqa'i weavings, which are usually quite dark. Here below is one Joe Fell showed at a TM rug morning a few years ago.

The back is quite colorful, but the front is surprising and light. This latter usage in a Qashqa'i piece is rarer, I think.


R. John Howe

Posted by R. John Howe on 09-15-2007 07:56 AM:

Dear folks -

Here, as promised, are some more Luri/Bakhtiari mixed technique bags with varying areas of lighter coloring.

The first one below has goodly lighter areas but still some darker ones.

The one below is mostly in lighter shades.

And there are salt bags with this same palette.

But usually both the flatwoven and the pile areas in the mixed technique cargo bags are quite dark.


R. John Howe

Posted by janet tyson on 09-15-2007 05:18 PM:

camel bags

The examples posted of camel bags are real eye-openers for me: I am not familiar with that type at all -- at least, not in their intact form, as I may have seen fragments (or pictures of fragments) on the net.
Something that I particularly like is what seems to me to be an intrusion of a smaller area of geometric design into a broader area. It probably comes from looking at modern and contemporary paintings, so many of which have been influenced by the randomness of collage. Anyway, I realize that my seeing is anachronistic.
In closing, what is an idea of the age of these pieces?

Posted by Janet Tyson on 09-15-2007 06:22 PM:


Having officially logged in, I just wanted to clarify that the Luri/Bakhtiari bag particularly gets me going. But I am also wowed by the salt bag: the back of that bag is so fantastic, I can't imagine how beautiful the front must be. Also, is it in the TM collection or a private collection?

Posted by Patrick Weiler on 09-15-2007 08:04 PM:

Hidden Away


Now you have gotten me to go way up into the attic storage facility, climbing a narrow, creaking stairway, with rats and spider-webs guarding the ancient weavings stored up there. Along with the treasure chests of silver and gold, crystal goblets, diamonds, emeralds and 19th century Impressionist paintings........I think.....It is protected by retinal scan, palm-print and vault timers that only allow me to enter at a pre-determined hour every other day, or I would have posted these pictures yesterday.

As John pointed out, this format is common to Bakhtiari and Luri weavers, with flat-woven faces and a pile section at the bottoms of the bags where excessive wear may have persuaded the weavers to strengthen them. There are also Kurdish weavings with these pile sections and some have been mistaken for Bakhtiari.
In the SW Iran area a saddle-type of pile section is used, and in the Varamin area farther north, a rectangular strip is more common.
At the bottom of this picture you can see there are a couple of cotton loops used to tie it to a pack animal. This size is large enough for a camel.
Here is a full bag:

It is nearly 3-1/2 feet wide and opened up like this it is 4 feet long. The back design is much simpler than the very intricate examples usually seen. I believe that the main border is an extremely simplified version of a "Kufic" border design. I saw a photo showing this type of bag carried upside-down on the back of a camel. This would allow the "badge" of sumak on the backs to be seen, perhaps identyfying the tribe or weaving family when on migration.

The design of the pile section is four boteh's with a diamond in the center, with a white-ground version in each corner. The whites in the sumak are cotton.

You can see the "spaced" weft wrapping that is common to Luri and Bakhtiari sumak, where the underlying red ground can be seen:

This smaller khorjin is just under 2; wide and 3' long when opened like this one. It has a straight pile strip along the bottoms of the bags and this may be an indicator of a Varamin provenance.

The sumak on the bag faces is a bit worn, and the back has had patches of leather sewn onto it to cover holes and stabilize the piece.

A closer look shows a "box flower" border and somewhat unusual closure tab designs.

I almost posted this piece on the Jaf Kurd thread a few weeks back, perhaps as an analog to their diamond-design bags. The little horned "animal heads" design surrounding the inner field is quite indicative of Bakhtiari weaving and distinguishes this piece from the Kurd type, although the similarities are striking.

Patrick Weiler

Posted by R. John Howe on 09-15-2007 09:44 PM:

Ms. Tyson -

All of these pieces that I put up in my last post above come from a book by James Opie, entitled "Tribal Rugs", 1992. You could buy it from one of the rug book dealers in our Turkotek links.

You asked about age and the standing joke is that nearly everything we collect seems estimated to have been woven between 1875 and about 1920 (some exceptions earlier or later). At the TM today Michael Seidman (with a wide smile) credited someone here on Turkotek as having said that the apparent reason why the age of collected rugs and textiles is so frequently estimated to be "late 19th century" is that apparently some catastrophic events occurred in rug producing countries at the beginning of the 20th century that prevented weaving for nearly 50 years.

Of course, what going on is here is that we don't know how to estimate age very well yet and most known scientific tests that we think we currently have don't function well in the period of most interest (1800 to the present).

Opie estimates the salt bag to be "early twentieth century."
He estimates the first of the two larger bags as "late nineteenth century."
He estimates the second larger bag with the most extensive areas of lighter coloration as 1920s.

One last word about the salt bag. You're looking at the front of this salt bag. Although a strip of pile is visible at the bottom it is likely quite narrow and the back of this salt bag is likely flatwoven perhaps with a different design than the front, but I doubt that it is entirely in pile.

I have a Bakhtiari/Luri salt bag that also has a very narrow strip of pile on the bottom. Here, below is its front.

The narrow pile area is dark and just below the bottom of the white-ground border on this front (some of the back is visible as well in this image).

Here is this same piece from the back.

The back is different from the front but it is not pile. Both the back and front are nearly all flatwoven. That is what I think is the case with the Opie example too, despite the lure of the little bit of pile visible at the bottom.


R. John Howe

Posted by Janet Tyson on 09-15-2007 10:19 PM:

Dear R. John Howe and dear Patrick Weiler,
I am going to have wonderful dreams tonight of camel bags and other weavings that incorporate pile and flat weaving in dazzling patterns and combinations of color and shape.

Posted by Chuck Wagner on 09-16-2007 10:28 AM:

Hi all,

Here's another example of the "light palette" Bakhtiari-Lor production, not unlike the salt bag that John posted. It's some manner of utility bag, roughly 12 x 24 inches (you've seen this one before):

In detail, very colorful:

Here's one I don't think I've shown you before - another Bakhtiari-Lor bag from the Veramin region - it's dated 1311 (on the back side) which in the Persian calendar is roughly 1932. Lots of nice color in this one - I have more closeups if anyone is sufficiently interested. I guess one could argue that this is a dragon & phoenix motif, except there aren't any phoenixs, just dragons:

The back has quite a few critters. And, no, there is no bleeding of the orange - it's just a function of reducing the image::

Here's what the pile panel looks like flattened out:

And a closeup of the pile knots:

Chuck Wagner

Chuck Wagner

Posted by R. John Howe on 09-16-2007 02:23 PM:

Chuck -

Yes, that last image gives a very good sense of how narrow the pile strip can be on some Bakhtiari/Luri bags.


R. John Howe

Posted by Patrick Weiler on 09-17-2007 02:11 AM:

Dark Field and Caucasian Crab Border?

Chuck, I think you should send your pieces over to me for safe-keeping.
Since we are posting pictures of Luri/Bakhtiari weavings, especially with flat-woven faces and a bit of pile at the bottom, here is another interesting piece. I have a special underground bunker (Richard seems to have guessed this, and he will need to be punished) which holds numerous weavings of "darker" appearance.
I posted this one at the end of 2006 showing the "Christmas Tree" in the middle of the bag face.
It has a "medium size" rectangular strip of pile at the bottom (the pile is in the middle of this picture, since the bag has been "opened").
It is 18" wide and 33" long and the pile strip is just over 3" tall.
This one was purchased on e-bay from the owner of the other half. You may notice that the design on this bag face is not uniform, but changes/transforms/degenerates from a regular stepped diamond in the bottom two rows into truncated stepped diamonds in the third row and then into smaller diamonds at the top. The "top" of this piece is is actually the bottom of the weaving, since the pile is oriented in the upward direction. The weaver was "making her way" through the design from the bottom up and finally determined the proper size of the stepped diamonds halfway up this face of the bag.
I was told that the other half of this piece has a completely uniform design throughout the bag face.

The back (bottom) of the weaving is a weft-faced plain weave. Here you can see the floating wefts from the sumak design of the front. You can also see that the pile section has suffered from wear at both sides, all the more reason for using pile at this susceptible area. Notice also the closure loops at the bottom. They are of white cotton and brown wool. It would be interesting to see if the similar loops in the "Afshar" Gul-Farangi piece are similarly constructed.

The pile section has 6x7 kpsi for about 42 knots per square inch. You can see that the pile section shows three different weft colors, dark brown at the top, then red, then white wool - almost as though a practice run for the "back" of the piece which contains stripes of weft colors including red, orange, yellow, green, blue, black and brown.

The whites in the sumak are cotton.

Patrick Weiler

Posted by richard tomlinson on 09-17-2007 05:51 AM:

hi pat and all

here's a (not so good) image of the other half.

i don't own it but retained this image from ebay.

i think the weaver got it right second time round, or perhaps a different weaver?

richard tomlinson

Posted by Richard Larkin on 09-17-2007 07:29 AM:

Hi folks,

I like Patrick's better. Should I seek help?

Rich Larkin

Posted by Marty Grove on 09-17-2007 09:48 AM:

New for me

G'day John, Patrick, Chuck and all,

Thank you for revealing to me another genre of rugs/bags. They are really quite wonderful in their pattern and colour, and so very different to those of the usual or more 'ordinary' type which I have enjoyed.

There also does seem to be an interesting ethnographical aside, as has been suggested, with some carrying possible tribal/clan/family identifications - this in itself adds something to the pieces which I find fascinating.

Much appreciated,

Posted by Patrick Weiler on 09-17-2007 06:45 PM:


Richard T,

Thanks for finding that e-bay photo of the pair to my (I think Lurs of Varamin area) piece. Your photo certainly shows a more uniform design, although with enough whimsy to make it interesting. I do not think there is any question that they came from the same khorjin - unless the pile on that second piece is oriented towards the sumak section, too, in which case there was more than one of these bags!
Richard L, you do need help - if you really want to dispense with your rug habit. (Not because you like my bag face better than its neater counterpart, though) It almost seems to be a natural progression for folks to like the formal rugs first and then the colorful rugs and then the tribal pieces and then on to the quirky tribal pieces. I mentioned to James Opie once about his penchant for quirky tribal pieces and he agreed. But your next step, Rich, is probably a swing back around to very fine, old city rugs of small size. Mr. Opie was seen several years ago at ACOR toting around a very nice, little city rug (A Kashan, I think) which he was quite pleased to have acquired.


You mentioned this in the first post:

"I was a little surprised that some did not challenge the "Bakhtiari" attribution, because folks as knowledgeable as Opie often say "Luri/Bakhtiari" about many of these mixed technique cargo bags, suggesting that they might be either."

Opie notes, in his first book, that Wertime and De Franchis say it is difficult to distinguish between Lori and Bakhtiari pieces like this because they are so similar. He mentions the double-headed geese (also seen in a couple of the pieces you posted earlier) as an indicator of a Bakhtiari origin, per discussions with Isphahan merchants.

The first Opie book, Tribal Rugs of Southern Persia, does not show any pieces like these in the Luri section, only in the Bakhtiari section. His second book, though shows numerous pieces in the Luri section labeled Luri/Bakhtiari and one in the Bakhtiari section labeled "Bakhtiyari (or Luri)".

When inspecting my bag, Opie said that it (the first piece in my initial post) was Bakhtiari, too, and not Luri in his estimation. But no double-headed geese in it at all!
This was after his second book was published. The similarities are such that differentiating may be hopeless.

Patrick Weiler

Posted by Chuck Wagner on 09-17-2007 09:53 PM:

Hi Pat,

I quite like the extra work on the closure tabs of your first khorjin; that's not something you see very often. In Veramin pieces, one often sees little rosettes, but not usually larger work like yours.

And on the piece just above, it's nice to see a more complex design on the pile strip; many are a little simpler, like mine. It's also interesting to observe the symmetry and quality of the border work in the early stage of the bagface, and then watch it all go to heck as the weaving progressed. It fits with the progressively playful treatment of the field designs. Secondhand high while weaving, perhaps.

No Baluchiesque cracks about the blue ceramic beads, huh ? You're slipping...


Chuck Wagner