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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.

Two Northwest Persian Rugs.

by Daniel Deschuyteneer

The first is an unusual (Kurdish ?) northwest Persian kelleh that I had the chance to handle before it was sold at Christie's (London in October 1999).

It's an unusual kelleh measuring 373cm X 183cm (12ft x 6ft), attributed to circa 1860 in the catalog. Since it contains small amounts of synthetic dyes, I think it probably dates to around the turn of the century. Christie's labeled this rug "Northwest Persian". It is signed and was probably commissioned.

The basic "anchor" design with medallion, and spandrels in a crude and stiff Herati pattern is well known and appears in many rugs from the garus (Bidjar) area as well as in the adjacent southern Kermanshah and northern Karadagh area. What's unusual here is the "zigzag striped" field design. Christie's auction catalog description is as follows:
"The field design of this unusual carpet is taken from the flatwoven summer carpets (jajim) which were very popular in Persia in the middle of the 19th century. They are often seen used as the floor coverings in the portraits of important people of the time, such as a portrait of Prince Ardashir Mirza by Abull Hasan Ghaffari naqqash bashi, dated 1852-A.D. sold in these Rooms 11 October 1988, lot 24 and now in the Hashem Khosrovani Qajar Collection ( Royal Persian Paintings, Exhibition catalogue, New York, 1998, N°79 p. 250)."

William Eagleton in "Kurdish Rugs" (pages 45-46) says:
"The Gerous region in the late 19th century was organized on a feudal rather than tribal basis, thus accommodating a mixture of ethnic types and encouraging an ambitious approach to weaving. Kurdish tribes who were once nomads or semi-nomads produced relatively small utilitarian rugs, kilims and bags, while the feudal system created a market for larger and more ostentatious weavings."

This rug may be an example of this type of weaving but it's structure is not typical of Bidjar products, which usually have a firm and heavy fabric with alternated warps fully depressed. This fabric is produced by the introduction of a very thick taut weft in addition to one or two thin sinuous one, between each row of knots.

The handle of this northwest Persian rug is somewhat stiff, and its structure is reminiscent of some "Village Bidjar" rugs or "Kurdish Bidjar", but also from so called "Kurdish Karabagh or Karadagh" rugs sharing the same palette of colors and the same design except for the unusual "zigzag stripes" in the field.

Knots: wool, 2 singles, symmetrical, around 49 psi
Wefts: two shots, Z3S, each 2 white cotton strands and one brown wool strand, one sinuous and one straight, alternate warps show a medium depression.

The use of Z3S warps is among the weaving characteristics of Karabagh rugs but is also sometimes found in northwest Persian rug where the use of Z2S warps is the rule. The use of cotton for the wefts is more a northwest Persian characteristic. A medium depression of alternated warps can be seen in the two areas.

Warps: tan, wool, two strands, Z2S.
Reinforced selvages: two warp units,(2-2-ply tan wool warps), interlaced with the ground wefts and reinforced with extra selvage interlacing of thick red wool singles.
Ends : small skirt of balance plain weave ends with a blue and red weft twining – warps ends: oblique interlacing
Colors: see the direct scan.
Eagleton, in "Kurdish Rugs" illustrates some similar rugs:

Plate 5, a Bidjar with the anchor design. All Bidjar rugs I have seen using the anchor design have only one big central medallion with two "anchor" pendants; Plates 31-33-34 labeled Kurdish or Armenian Karabagh.

Half of pictures 33 and 34 are reproduced here. They are very similar to the rug presented in this Salon except for the "zigzag stripes". Commenting on these two rugs, Eagleton raises the problem of their attribution.

Plate 33 (263"x106"; 684 cm x269 cm) - all wool foundation – depressed warps –
"This large carpet was the center of a 4 piece set ……We originally believed we had Karabaghs and it is still a possible provenance. However we have seen a number of Kurdish runners that seem to be of the same type. This rug is floppy in spite of its ribbed back."

Plate 34
"Its companion Kellegi (184"x68") (460 x170 cm) dated 1308 (1890) is curiously flat backed……Carpets of this type are usually attributed to Shusha, the old Karabagh capital. Hermann Haacks' "Oriental Rugs" shows a related rug attributed to Karabagh. A similar runner from the Joslyn Art museum on page 28 is attributed to Persian Kurdistan."

Questions and topics raised :
1/ Can anyone who has seen and/or handled a similar rug with this striped design add some more information?
2/ Even if similarities with "Karabagh" rugs presented by Eagleton are striking, I think that the rug presented here is a northwest Persian Kurdish rug which was woven in a workshop from one of the villages surrounding Bidjar. What's your opinion? Why?


A "mysterious" northwest Persian (?) Kurdish bagface

I bought this very nice bag face with its bold design, contrasting colors and silky wool at the antique fair during the last ICOC.

Structure of this "mysterious" bagface:
Dimension: H 74 cm V 63 cm (29" x 25")
Knots: pile high, 2 ply silky wool, symmetrical knots, H26 V44 = 1144/dm2 (72/in2)Editor's note: This figure was erroneously originally given as 144/in2, and corrected 2/4/00.
Warps: level, very fine 2 ply ivory wool, Z2S
Wefts: 2 ply light brown wool (Z2S), 2 shot
Overcast selvage: 3 units (1,1,1), 2 ply white wool, interlaced by the ground wefts and overcast by 4 dark brown or reddish brown single yarns wrapping the 3 warp units.
Top end: two colors weft float weave (white & blue - small triangular motif two ply wool) flanked with two color (blue-green and pink - two ply wool), two span twinning. The twist of the wefts between warps can be clearly seen at the top and right sides of the two pictures.

Marla Mallet shows a similar weft float border in Woven Structure - plate 14.22 from a
Jaf Kurd knotted pile bag face. In the photo I have seen of a complete similar bag face, this border flanks bands of triangular motifs in reciprocal brocading at the top, end, and
middle of the red-brown colored plain weave back stripped with blue bands.
Bottom end: missing
Colors: natural, very saturated and brilliant (see the direct scan). Browns
are slightly oxidized and greens a mixture of blue and yellow.

I have seen few similar examples. These include one photo from a restorer of a similar piece with a striped plain weave back, another one in a dealer shop some years ago, one actually on display on a dealer's web site and one in last Hali (issue 108 – page 44- left in the picture below). All of them have the same so-called Memling gul central device on a square white ground with at top and bottom one crab like device, surrounded by multiple borders (panels) in contrasting colors containing small polychrome flower heads and diamonds. Two of them have the same checkerboard top panel in the same colors.

Mike (Raoul) Tschebull, who has done field research in east Azarbayjan thought, after having handled my Milan bag face, that it could have been woven by Sanjabi or Jaff Kurds and posted me the following very interesting picture of a Jaf(?) bag face belonging to a friend. The design is different, but it has the same pink and green (checkerboard) top panel (bottom in the right hand picture) as in my Milan bag face and other related one.

Mike's attribution is second hand, because he has never been there, but he has a so-called Jaf pile bagface similar to mine in wool type and structure.

Mike adds that a hallmark of Kurdish khorjin may be that they can be quite large - ca. 3'X3'. – but that Kurdish weaving can be quite variable. Most pieces don't have offset knotting and designs and coloration can mimic weavings of other tribal groups.

Sanjabi and Jaf Kurds are Shia, formerly nomadic tribes, who are now settled in the most southern and western part of Kurdistan; some are west of Kermanshah in Iran, most are in Iraqi Kurdistan, south of Sulaimaniya.

Is my Milan khorjin a Sanjabi or a Jaf Kurd bagface or something else?

I have been unable to find any distinctive information about the weaving characteristics of Sanjabi rugs.

The red, green, blue, brown and white color palette of the well known Jaf
Kurd pile faced bags with their diagonal rows of hooked diamonds is darker
than in my bag face, in which white and pink shades are more widely used.

There is an outstanding article, "Diamonds in the pile" by Mark Hopkins, published in Oriental Rug Review Vol. 9/5.

Before reading his article, I looked at the pictures (as most of us do). I noticed that the box border of figure 2 was somewhat similar to the border of my Milan bagface and it reminded me of similar borders seen in Sauj Bullaq rugs and discussed last millennium during my second Salon.

In his article Mark Hopkins gives the basic technical parameters of Jaf bagfaces:

"Jaf bagfaces normally range in size between 2x2 and 4x3 feet.
Their foundations are almost always wool. Warps are normally two-plied or
three-plied ivory wool, though occasionally brown and ivory plies will be
twisted together to create a candy stripe look.

"Their wefts are usually two-plied yarn. Colors will range from ivory
through all shades of natural brown, and will include dyed colors in various
red, blue, and red-brown shades. Undyed goat hair is also sometimes used.
Some pieces will use several different weft colors in a sort of "grab-bag"
way. Edges are almost always multiple warp cords overcast with a single
color of yarn.

"Knots are always symmetrical (Turkish).

"The structure is flat, without any depression. Usually there are two weft
shots between the knot rows, although there are also bags with occasional
weftings of four or more shots.

"Beyond these routine observations, however, there is a very interesting
technique that sets these Kurdish pieces apart from pile weavings of most
other provenances. In order to achieve the smooth diagonal sequences of
their diamond designs, the knots in their fields are invariably tied on
alternating warps instead of being stacked in vertical rows as in other
weavings." (offset knotting)

Eagleton, in his book (page 77) says also: "The centre fields of the Jaf
pile faced bags with their rows of hooked diamonds have changed little over
the years. The practice of slanting the knots one warp a time (offset
knotting), instead of the normal two, persists. Many double Jaf bags are
bound on the sides with an exceptionally thick and hard overcast of black
and white goat hair in a barber pole wrap....other characteristics of Iraqi weavings are : All wool construction, flat backs, symmetrical knots with square nodes, two or more wefts between rows of knots. They are, with very few exceptions, of two strands like the warps".

Except for the type of selvages, William Eagleton and Mark Hopkins agree about the basic technical parameters of Jaf bagfaces.

I looked back to my bagface. Eureka! Yes, it has two ply wool warps. Yes, it has two shot of two ply dark brown wool wefts. Yes, the selvages are overcast. Yes, it has square knots and a flat back. Yes, it has a similar border as a Jaf bagface illustrated by Hopkins. Never mind if its color palette is clearer. Yes, it's a J…

I was just running too quickly. My bagface hasn't any offset knots in the diagonal, so following the basic technical parameters of Eagleton and Hopkins, it wouldn’t be a Jaf bagface and it must be a Sanjabi.

A dealer friend had a Jaf bagface in his shop and I went there to get a look at its back and to make some scans to illustrate this Salon.

Here is the picture of a "typical" so called Jaf Kurd bagface with its rows of hooked diamonds. Dimensions; H 56 cm V 91 cm; selvage not original and ends missing.

Knots: short clipped 2 ply wool, symmetric, H 50/dm V 50/dm 2500/dm² (20/pi x 20/pi 400psi)
Warps: fine 2 ply tan wool
Wefts: dark brown 2 ply wool, one taut and one sinuous. Alternated warps very depressed.

Oh no ., the handle is stiff and alternated warps are heavily depressed, and not level as in Mark Hopkins and Eagleton descriptions. And where are the offset knots? Not a single one !!!

This "Jaf" bagface, instead of helping me, raises more questions than it solves and Eagleton is right when saying : "The easiest way to classify bags with fields of hooked diamonds is to call them all Jaf; but the variety of colors, and dyes, and in some cases border designs, suggests that other tribes have made bags that resemble those of the Jaf. The Iranian Sanjabi may be among them."

This Jaf bag face, with its short pile, stiff handle, alternated warps heavily depressed and other color palette was perhaps woven in northwest Persia (Garrus area) instead of Iraq. I wanted an answer and asked the question to Mike. He answered, "....as you describe its structure, MIGHT be from somewhere else other than Iraq-Iran border area. While it's true that most of these so-called Jaf bags and rugs are very loosely knotted, I have seen some tightly woven, with depressed warps."

Last, Parviz Tanavoli, in Bread and Salt illustrates (plate 59), salt bags woven by Sanjabi Kurds with the same diamond pattern and the same palette of colors as the so called Jaf khorjins.

Now it's your turn. What do the Jaf bagfaces you have seen look like?

Did you handle similar "mysterious" Kurdish bagface as mine; what did they look like?

I am searching for related references and would also like to learn more about the Sanjabi and Jaff Kurds.