Posted by Steve Price on 01-19-2004 11:17 AM:

Gerome's Images of "Prayer Rugs"

Hi all

As some of you are aware, the term "prayer rug" has several meanings. This, not surprisingly, causes confusion.

One definition of the term is any rug with an arch form at one end. Another is any rug that has been used as the requisite clean place to pray in Moslem prayer.

The paintings by Gerome shown in the Salon clearly illustrate both categories. One rug that lacks a mihrab is being used for prayer in Prayer on the Housetops, as are a few others in Prayer in the House of an Arnaut Chief. A prayer rug with an arched form is clearly seen in Public Prayer in the Mosque of Amr.

Filiberto asks for opinions about whether the rugs in the paintings he shows were faithful reproductions of what the painters saw or if significant artistic license was used in them. I think the likelihood is very high that all of the rugs shown in the paintings presented in the Salon are accurate records of the scenes the painters witnessed.


Steve Price

Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 01-19-2004 11:42 AM:

Hi Steve,

There’s the rub…
Some paintings are probably, as you say, "accurate records of the scenes the painters witnessed". Others are not. Others have only some percentage of truth.

At least one of the pictures I showed is surely a phony.

Which one?



Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 01-19-2004 11:58 AM:

By the way, I forgot to add this picture to Gerome’s page:

Title: "Markos Botsaris", dated 1874. By Gerome, of course.

What do you think of this one?
Examine it carefully! A look to an encyclopaedia should be useful too.



Posted by R. John Howe on 01-20-2004 07:51 AM:

Filiberto -

You ask about the rug immediately above. I am responding without consulting an encylopedia (the only one I own is a 1948 Britannica and it's buried in my storage room downstairs) and I'm not sure that I will be very good at the tasks posed in this salon.

My sense is that the rug pictured immediately could have been inspired by a Talish design. These often have open fields and rosette borders similar the one portrayed. I am not sure why the painter seems to have picked what looks to me like gray for the field. Blue, or red, or green would be the choices if he wanted to portray a Talish piece accurately.


R. John Howe

Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 01-20-2004 08:25 AM:

Hi John,

The rug is in the shade and the field is rather dark, but it looks - correctly - blue on my monitor.
Did you notice anything else?


Posted by Marvin Amstey on 01-20-2004 04:23 PM:

The rug has an extra border at the top (bottom) with a reddish-brown fringe: not like any Talish that I know.

Posted by Wendel Swan on 01-20-2004 05:42 PM:

Dear all,

Perhaps the Markos Botsaris portrait is the “fake” that Filiberto mentioned. The artist Jean-Leon Gerome was born in 1824, the year after Markos Botsaris, a Greek patriot, died, so we are left to ponder just how much of the setting Gerome saw personally and painted in situ.

A better title might have been Markos Botsaris as Pasha.

Some paintings have preserved strikingly accurate details of some rugs, but we must hesitate in supposing that art, which is an artist’s vision or interpretation, is reality. Even the famous photographs of Native Americans by Edward Curtis are criticized by some as misleading. Why should we expect paintings to be necessarily accurate?

The rug may be Talish inspired, but the details are as lacking as the symmetry of the two arms on the chair. The right arm has considerably more slant than the left arm.

Frankly, I first thought that the hat on Botsaris was taken from Santa Claus. Do we have any reason to believe that it is some sort of joke?


Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 01-21-2004 04:05 AM:

Bravo Wendel!

That’s one of the two answers I was waiting for.
The man portrayed in the painting cannot be Botsaris: he was dead the year before Gérôme’s birth.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise, though. Gérôme produced many historical paintings portraying characters such as Cleopatra, Cesar, Louis XIV and Moliere (not necessarily together in the same picture).
This is much probably a studio portrait but I’m not 100% sure as for the Harem Pool (which is the one I’m convinced is a fake).

Wendel, I agree that the rug is Talish inspired, but you still failed to give the main reason that makes this rug an impossible Talish. Or an improbable rug, for that matter.

The same for you, Marvin: the extra border and the reddish-brown fringe are strange, but not strange enough.
Look carefully…

The first one who gives me the right answer will win a free ten years Turkotek membership.
Better, let’s make it for eleven years!

Wendel, I disagree about the hat: it cannot be Santa’s hat because it lacks the white tassel.

The subject of photography itself deserves a thread. I’ll present it soon.


Posted by Chuck Wagner on 01-21-2004 09:21 AM:


Desperately hoping you're all kidding, I'll note:

It's a turban with a fez on top.


(Neat topic Filiberto. more pictures please...)

Chuck Wagner

Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 01-21-2004 10:31 AM:

Hi Chuck,

I will post more pictures, don’t worry, but I prefer to wait a while for more feedback on the ones already posted.
For the moment, look at this detail:

It looks more like a turban on a Phrygian cap.



Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 01-21-2004 10:50 AM:

With a fez underneath.

Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 01-22-2004 03:56 AM:

Still no clues?

Let’s try with a little visual help.
Here’s again the Botsaris painting followed by a classical Talish rug.
I tried to add a perspective to the second picture.
Please, compare the two rugs.



Posted by Horst Nitz on 01-23-2004 04:03 PM:

Dear all,

those are gorgeous pictures!

I am not sure whether that chap with his remarkable assortment of scimitars in his belt is sleeping or in a state say of free floating attention. He is overdoing it quite a bit with his three things, overcompensation is the modern phrase I imagine, I suspect him being a eunuch for that reason. Anyway, he most likely would have made sure that Mr Gérôme had wetted his brush for the last time in his life if the picture in the hamam was not a fake.

Very inspiring portrait of that other beauty. Now I know what we´ll be having for supper tomorrow: Circassian Chicken.

Best wishes,

Horst Nitz

Posted by Patrick Weiler on 01-24-2004 10:46 AM:

no medachyl


The Talish rug in the painting has no medachyl,recriprocal inner border lining the field. Either this or a zig-zag is virtually universal on Talish rugs of this type.
There are also quite a few rosettes in the upper border. Normally there would be four or, at most, five. The field itself is quite a bit wider than typical Talish rugs, too.
In conclusion, one must suspect that this is the only known example of the extremely rare Gerome-Variant-Talish.
(or, it underwent extreme re-vitalization at the hands of an unscrupulous re-weaver in Turkey)

Patrick Weiler

Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 01-24-2004 01:02 PM:

Hi Pat,


You won an eleven-years Turkotek membership.

There are also quite a few rosettes in the upper border. Normally there would be four or, at most, five. The field itself is quite a bit wider than typical Talish rugs, too.

Right, but let’s be a bit more specific.

Talish rugs are always narrow, with a width to length ratio that falls in the 1:1.9 - 1:2.5 bracket. (see Bennett, page 153)
If you count the rosettes in the border you will see that the side with the fringe (which should be the side of "width" ) has 11 elements. The other side, (which should be the "length" side) has 10 elements. OK, only 9 are visible but you can see that the corner is there and there is room only for one more rosette.
So we have a Talish that is actually wider than longer. Which is pretty odd, even for a normal rug (excluding trappings like asmaliks and so on).
The lack of medachyl border is a good point too, but perhaps one could accept the existence of a Talish without it…

P.S. - (Did I mention that included in your membership there is an obligation to publish at least three Salons a year?)

Posted by Steve Price on 01-24-2004 03:10 PM:

Hi People

There is also the possibility that it wasn't a Talish to begin with. The field isn't visible, and may have had some decoration on it. The border design is common on Talish rugs, but isn't exclusive to them.


Steve Price

Posted by R. John Howe on 01-24-2004 07:16 PM:

Dear folks -

It may well not be even Talish inspired but the presence of designs in the field wouldn't disqualify it. There are Talish pieces that have field designs. I may own a fragment of one. Wright and Wertime show an "anchor piece" photographed in 1889 and designated "Talish," that has botehs in the field.

Some claim that true Talish pieces have extra reinforcing wefts, often in blue, visible on their backs. Of course, Wright and Wertime ultimately seem to give up the designation entirely, saying that the rugs called "Talish" "are best described as of indeterminate origin..".


R. John Howe

Posted by Patrick Weiler on 01-24-2004 10:49 PM:



Does the 11 year sentence run concurrently with my ongoing several years of Turkotraz sentence, or is it consecutive?

Your Pen Pal,
Patrick Weiler

Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 01-25-2004 02:05 AM:

Hi Steve,

No matter how do we call it, it’s a rug 11 units wide and 10 units long…

One has to ask where is Gérôme photographic skill here - the skill he shows in the "Circassian Lady" painting, where the rendering of the Akstafa prayer rug seems quite faithful.
Perhaps the Talish was painted from a not very detailed sketch or, if the rug was used in his studio, he didn’t have the patience to draw the medachyl border and he took a license widening the rug…

Do the carpets in the others Gérôme’s paintings shown here look plausible? I didn’t notice anything wrong in them. What do you think?

Patrick, about your membership, I think it is consecutive… you are entitled to appeal, though.


Posted by Steve Price on 01-25-2004 05:08 AM:

Hi Filiberto

I find nothing implausible about the rug, but if we consider Gerome to be a painter who paid attention to accuracy (which appears to be the case, for the most part), then the rug probably isn't a Talish, but perhaps a Karabagh with the border design typical of Talish rugs.


Steve Price

Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 01-25-2004 12:30 PM:

Hi Steve,

As you like…
Still, IF the distance between elements is constant all over the border, this is a Karabagh more wide than long. And that is the implausibility.