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Salon du Tapis d'Orient

The Salon du Tapis d'Orient is a moderated discussion group in the manner of the 19th century salon devoted to oriental rugs and textiles and all aspects of their appreciation. Please include your full name and e-mail address in your posting.

A rare West-Anatolian rug and its ala çuval background

by Daniel Deschuyteneer

During ICOC-9 a very interesting and rare rug was displayed at the Dealer Fair. Only a few examples are known, many of them fragments and half carpet.




Warps: white wool Z2S level

Wefts: singles of medium brown wool, 2 to 5 shots, wefts inlaids.

Sides: wide flat attached selvedges at both sides, 9 single warps (similar to the ground warps) interlaced by separate singles of blue wool selvage wefts extending very widely in the pile area, sometimes over more than 50 warps, forming very wide wedge shape filler.

Ends: balanced plain weave ends in two colors, red and blue.


Knots: symmetrical, offset knotting present in all the diagonal, uneven packing, coarsely woven.

I didn't noted the knot count.


We may point out the wide use of offset knotting in all the diagonals and the very curious selvage construction.

The brown ground wefts don't interlace the outer ground warps where they are replaced by the selvage wefts. I have never seen "wedge shaped" fillers extending so widely in the pile area, sometimes over 50 warps, and it reminds me "wedge weave" used in tapestry weave.

First related example:

This rug is clearly related to a fragmented rug in the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art in Istanbul, illustrated and variously dated as:

1/ plate 121 in Kurt Erdmann's, "Seven hundred Years of Oriental carpets", dated 16th to 18th century

2/ Brüggemann and Böhmer's "Rugs of the Paesants and Nomads from Anatolia" - Erdmann dated to 18th century

3/ Aslanapa's, "Thousand Years of Turkish Carpets" - page 191- dated early 19th century

4/ It has been discussed by Dr Harald Böhmer in Oriental Rug Studies - Volume 4

Harald Böhmer ( OCTS - Volume IV - page 57):

Böhmer made astute observations and clearly demonstrates the design transfer from Anatolian storage sacks (ala çuval), woven by Karakeçili Turkish Yörük ( Western central Anatolia) to pile rugs and the reason for offset knotting in this type of rugs.

Close-up of A.B. rug

Bergama Cuvallari - plate 11/d - close up of a decorated band in front of a storage sac

He not only described similarities in design (chuval guls closely related to Tekke chemche guls) but also in some structural details, such as offset knotting. Examples include offset knotting in the pile carpet and offset wrapping, (in fact reciprocal brocading in the sack -Marla Mallett - "Woven Structure" - p.93).

Böhmer says : " I think the reason for using offset knotting in the carpet is that the weaver used a technical characteristic of the flatweave".

Now look carefully at the selvages of A.B. rug. Very wide blue wedge shaped extra interlacing of selvage wefts extends very far into the pile area and the outer warps aren't interlaced by the brown ground wefts.Technically, when extra interlacing of ground or selvage wefts extend into the pile area it is to reinforce the edges of the rug. As there aren't any reasons to make such reinforcing on this kind of rugs, I think that this very curious construction is also a technical detail confirming the transfer from flatweaves.

Last, another feature that can be seen in this rug and the other related examples confirming their flatweave background is the shape of the S motifs in the minor borders. Their blocky design provides a superb example of warp patterned weave, each block imitating warps float. Marla Mallett called this kind of design " technique generated design". It follows the dominant flow of design influence : from restrictive (warp face) to less restrictive techniques (pile rug). (Marla Mallett - Tracking the archetype - article published in Oriental Rug Review, Volume 14, number 2.)

In discussing the curious selvage construction with Marla Mallett during the preparation of this Salon she said, " It's not too much of a stretch to see the A.B. rug feature as a sign that the weaver had a tapestry-weaving background. The problem: this is not much like anything in Karakecili kilims! It's much more improvisational. I guess we have no way of knowing if the odd weave at this A.B rug selvage is typical of others of the group, though... It could be just an idiosyncratic example. I think we should be cautious about using the term "wedge weave" too loosely, as that most accurately applies to alternating sections of slanting wefts...Of repetitive diagonals built entirely of slanting wefts...rather than to vertically stacked triangular-shaped sections of varying composition…. There is a photo of a Moroccan example on page 77 of my book."

Lefevre's rug

I agree with Marla Mallett's comments but I am disturbed by Lefevre's (1977) observations in a similar rug illustrated in "Turkish Carpets from the 16th to the 19th century" (Plate 1, dated from the first half of the 19th century).


Structure of Lefevre's rug :

Warps: white wool Z2S level

Wefts: singles of dark brown wool, 3 to 6 shots.

Knots: symmetrical, offset knotting present, uneven packing, count V 23(6) X H 22(5'5) = 510(33)

Sides: missing, but selvage attachment wefts of dark blue wool remain and interdigitate with main wefts in outer 5 cm of both sides of carpet.

Ends: missing

Except that this rug, measuring 2m64 x 2m26 (8'8" x 7'5"), has a squarish shape, the allover design, the borders, the colors and the structure are similar.

Lefevre noticed the wide use of offset knotting and the "interdigitated wefts" at both sides of the carpet. I imagine that what's Lefevre depicts as "interdigitated wefts" must look like the selvage construction noticed in A.B rug, and that this construction may not be an idiosyncratic feature.

Lefevre related his rug to the previously cited example from the Istanbul Museum, and also to a fragmented "prototype Holbein" dated to the 15th century, found in the Esrefoglu Mosque of Beysehir, now in Mevlana Museum Konya (Inv.860/861/1033) and illustrated in :

"Seven Hundred Years of Oriental Carpets - plate 44"

"One Thousand Years of Turkish carpets - plate 45 and 46"

"Le Tapis Chrétien Oriental - page 170".

Aslanapa noticed that fragments found in Fostat include examples with octagons, hexagons and lozenges arranged in staggered rows. Among these various pieces he pointed out a last half of 15th century fragment now in the Swedish Ross Museum, Gothenburg, which displays a border identical with that in the cited Beysehir carpet.

Brüggemann and Böhmer also discuss this border as well as a related border in the Magri carpet in "Rugs of the Peasants and Nomads of ANATOLIA", pages 60-77.

Marla Mallett convincingly explained how these design where in fact technique-generated (Marla Mallett - Tracking the archetype, Oriental Rug Review - Volume 14, number 2 - page 12).

I would like to come back now to Böhmer's OCTS article.

Supporting his thesis that the motifs were transferred from the flatwoven sack to the pile carpet, Böhmer presented another example from a possible transfer of motifs from ala çuvals to pile carpet. He compared the "black eye" motif used in Hassanlar Yörüks ala çuval (Southwest Anatolia) to identical medallions from a pile carpet photographed years ago in the Turkish bazaar.

Black-eye motif - plate 17 Bergama Cuvallari Crivelli rug, N° 14940, Budapest Iparmüvészeti Muzeum,

It's interesting to notice that an identical "black eye" motif appears in a 15th century so-called Crivelli rug (N°14940, Budapest Iparmüvészeti Muzeum, illustrated as plate 351 page 244, in Volkmar Ganzhorn's book, " Le Tapis Chrétien Oriental", and as plate 42 in Aslanapa's book).

I haven't seen any publications citing this very early reference, which makes me wonder if it isn't a first observation. Two halves of the same "black eye" motifs can be seen in "Woven Structure" plate 12/17 page 112 , at each side of a double-woven strap on an Anatolian ala çuval.

The cited Crivelli rug has also borders identical with some 15th and 16th centuries or later Holbein carpets and actual medallions seen in ala çuval. Half of these medallions were perhaps the precursor of the well known leaf and wineglass borders. Wendel Swan delivered a paper at the Philadelphia ICOC on the topic


Bergama Cuvallari - plate 31 - d - Half of these medallions were perhaps the precursor of the well known leaf and wineglass borders

It's impossible to cite here all the clear relations which can be seen between actual ala çuval storage sacks and early Turkish carpets (Fostat fragments, Crivelli, Holbein, …) or later ones from Western and Central Anatolia, as well as in North west Persian rugs and some from other areas.

I think these designs, most of them being filler or borders elements, have a very old ancestry and evolved for centuries with very few transformations, the reasons being the restrictions of weavings.

Topics or questions raised by this Salon:

1/ A rare West-Anatolian rug with a flatweave background.

2/ Transfer of design from flatweaves

3/ Ala çuval : source of early Turkmen design

4/ The leaf and wineglass border

5/ Offset knotting, often associated with "Kurdish" weaving, may appear in "Turkic" rugs .

Recommended readings:

1/ Bergama Cuvallari - Doris Pinkwart and Elisabeth Steiner

2/ Tracking the archetype  - Oriental Rug Review - Volume 14, number 2 - Marla Mallett

3/ Turkish Carpets from the 16thh to the 19th century - Lefevre

4/ Oriental Rug Studies - Hali -  Volume 4 - page 57 - Harald Böhmer

5/ Seven hundred Years of Oriental carpets - Kurt Erdmann

6/ Rugs of the Paesants and Nomads from Anatolia - Brüggemann and Böhmer

7/ Thousand Years of Turkish Carpets - Aslanapa

8/ Le Tapis Chrétien Oriental - Volkmar Gantzhorn

9/ Woven Structure - Marla Mallett