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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 Rug Lover's Mini-trip into Northwest Persia

by Daniel Deschuyteneer

Part 1: The Boteh Symphony

The first rug I present during this Salon is an unusual small square rug with powerful tribal character, measuring 110 cm x 97 cm (3' 8" x 3'3") . I may be distracted by the symphony to which I am listening while writing this, but I feel as though the small boteh of various shapes, colors and inner drawings on this rug are playing music. The weaver of this nice rug surely wove her orchestra with her musicians into it.

Let us listen to a small instant of the music. Even if we don't speak Kurdish we can hear it.

A symphony of colors, a music played by all the orchestra with the flute player boteh forward in the first row, followed by thicker trumpeter and bass players in the background,

Yes, Northwest Persian Kurdish weavers knew how to play a symphony without any instruments.

Let us come back to earth now. Except for a soumak (weft wrapped) horse blanket illustrated in Jenny Housego's Tribal Rugs (plate 38, page 62) showing a somewhat related design woven by Kurds of Bijar, I don't know of any related pieces.

Technical data:
Dimensions: 110 x 097 cm
Warps: coarsely twisted wool warps 2 ply, Z2S , natural ivory , medium brown and barber pole, all the warps are level.
Wefts : 2 single wool, natural ivory, some pinkish wefts, various thickness and inconsistency in the tension, 2 shots , some reinforcement along the edges
Pile: wool two single, 3-4 mm, soft
Back: granular
Knots: symmetric V34/10cm H 30/10cm 1020/dm² (14" x 12" , 168/psi)
Condition: good, upper and lower guard borders missing
Reinforced flat selvages: Left: 2 units (2,1) ivory wool Z2S interlaced by the ground wefts; Right: 3 units (1,1,1), barber pole wool
The selvages are overcast with 2 single wool yarns of various colors. At irregular interval the overcast yarns encircle the first ground warp.
Colors: natural, no corrosion, dark brown to light brown, dark blue to light blue, pink, saffron yellow, madder red, ivory, green is a mixture of blue and yellow, lot of abrash.
Handle : very floppy

Questions and topics raised:

Where does this rug come from?
Do you know of related examples?
What do you feel about its tribal character and aesthetic?

Part 2: The Mysterious "Two Panel" Bag

This is a very unusual "two panel" piece and, except for a similar single panel piece offered on Ebay some weeks ago, I don't recall seeing any other related pieces.

Technical analysis:
Coarsely woven around 750 symmetrical knots/dm² - long pile -
Very floppy and heavy for its size
Flat back - ivory wool warps Z2S -
Light orange 2 ply wool wefts - two shot.
Round overcast selvages
Sizes of the two panels: 104 cm x 74,5 cm; 41" x 30"
Size of the boteh panel including the white ground border: 104 cm x 45 cm; 41" x 17"
Size of the striped panel: 104 x 30 cm; 41" x 12"

I couldn't resist discussing this piece with some collectors and friends when preparing this Salon. Their answers to these questions vary greatly.

Where was it woven, and by whom? (Various places of origin were proposed: Kurdish south Bidjar area, Kurdish south Teheran Varamin area, Kurdish from Fars, Bakhtiary-Lors, Afshar.)
What was its function?
Knowing the function of a weaving helps to determine its origin. Here also various hypothesis have been proposed:
A pile bottom mafrash panel
A pile bridge panel between two khorjin halves, as seen in some Kurdish pieces.
A pile bottom panel at the bottom outside of the bag - half exposed, half turned under - to act as a cushion against a donkey.
A Bidjar vagireh. This piece may have originally been larger and with more patterns. Some Bijar vagirehs are quite large, often with interesting designs.

Which hypothesis would you refute, and why?
Do you have other ideas?
Did Kurds weave mafrash? If so, did Khorassan Kurds do so?
Do you know of any related pieces?

After some research I propose some design guidelines:
The striped pattern used as a main border, and the floral boteh were used all over Persia and aren't of great help in attribution.
The floral boteh panel may be a stylized form of the herati pattern or a stylized and reduced form of a grid with leaf forms enclosing boteh.

The pattern of the main border surrounding the striped panel is an unusual northwest Persian pattern. I have seen a pile mafrash panel, probably from north Persia, with exactly the same minor border and the next rug discussed in this Salon also has this minor border.
The pattern of the main border of the larger panel containing the floral boteh is related to the "tulip" borders used in southwest Persian Khamseh and Afshar rugs. It is interesting to notice that in these Afshar rugs the design is very often a grid of stylized cypress or leaf forms enclosing palmettes or boteh. The coarse weave is evidence against a southwest Persian Afshar attribution.

Part 3: The "Herati Pattern" Rug

This rug is an early 20th century, late commercial workshop rug, woven in northwest Persia. And even if it isn't a tribal piece it is surely of interest to collectors, isn't it?

I present this rug here because it constitutes a link between the blue ground Kurdish rugs with the "mina khani" or the "herati pattern discussed during my previous Salon and the "bag panel(?)" presented here above, the two pieces having the same unusual minor borders.

The pattern of this rug is a bold herati pattern on a blue ground field framed by one very wide main border containing herati palmettes alternating with shrubs and flowers. The flowers are of the daisy type seen in the mina khani pattern.

This rug is somewhat square and measures 286 cm x 214 cm (9'6" x 7'2"). Colors are all natural and very saturated: pinkish madder red in various shades, sand yellow, light olive green, all shades of blue from very dark indigo to very light blue, white, various brown shades from camel brown to dark slightly oxidized brown.

Symmetrical knots-H22/10cm x V30 /10 cm = 660/dm²; (5.5"x 7.5"= 36psi)
Warps thick machine spun cotton yarns
Wefts thick handspun cotton yarns. One shoot.
Edges: thick round edges perhaps not original.

The colors, square shape, size, wool, structure and back look like some Heriz rugs except that there is only one weft between each row of knots. I haven't yet seen Heriz rugs with only one weft shoot between rows of knots but a restorer friend told me that this isn't unusual.
I have seen Kurdish rugs with a mina khani pattern instead of the herati pattern with exactly the same large "herati palmette and narcissus flowers" main border and similar colors.

Where does this rug come from?
Do you know other related examples?
Are workshop pieces collectible?