Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 06-20-2004 03:51 AM:

Of rugs and borders

Dear all,

I find the panel layout of this rug most intriguing - at least for a Caucasian rug.

Even what should be the main border is "paneled".

Isnít it, by any chance, one of those Caucasian reinterpretations of French tapestries?
Last year someone presented on Show and Tell one of those rendered French theme: a Kuba Zeikhur bearing a central cartouche with fountain and griffins - and colors very similar to this one.

Then there is the "S" border. This kind of border is usually found on Caucasian soumaks, or on knotted rugs with the same design of the soumaks (as it happens, I have one of the latter).
Here is a detail of a Daghestan soumak from plate 16 of Wright & Wertime "Caucasian Carpets and Covers"

What do we know about this border? I mean, supposed origin and use, both in time and space.

I saw on Hali #86, page 149 a West Anatolia rug with "Phoenix in octagons" (which, by the way, recalls the octagons in Caucasian sumaks), 15th or 16th century. The "S" border is exactly the same.

To be precise, on page 98 of the same Hali there is a Northwest Persian bag face (plate 13) with almost the same borderÖ



Posted by Richard Farber on 06-20-2004 04:46 AM:

dear tukotekees and filiberto,

i believe the usual nomenclature is "compartmented".


richard farber

Posted by Steve Price on 06-20-2004 06:18 AM:

Hi Filiberto

I've read that the "S" form derives from a symbolic representation of a dragon. Maybe there's something to that, but I don't know of any evidence for it.


Steve Price

Posted by R. John Howe on 06-20-2004 06:29 AM:

Richard, Filiberto -

Rug terminology is often varied and the source of controversy.

"Paneled" is most frequently in my experience used to describe the field of a particular species of Bakhtiari design.

"Compartmented" is also often used to describe field designs, there are for example some compartmented Turkmen bag face designs and some Beshiri main carpet ones that often draw this description. And most Turkmen engsis of the "hatchli" design variety have "compartments" in their fields.

The "S" borders that Filiberto refers to above are hard to see on my monitor, but I think the enclosures surrounding the "S's" would most usually be described as "cartouches."

I am not certainly how closely one can legislate about these terms, excepting that I don't think I've seen "cartouche" used to describe a field design.


R. John Howe

Posted by R. John Howe on 06-20-2004 07:04 AM:

Filiberto -

I can't give you a citation at the moment but in some categories of weaving such "s" seem to be treated as an indicator suggesting that a "tribal" attribution would be appropriate.

Some Turkmen, the Salors and the Saryks in particular used such "s's" often without the cartouches. Thompson treats usages that have "compartments" or "hexagons" as indicating that the weaver did not know how to make "a continuous 's' border." He gives line drawing examples on page 75, Plate 8, in his Turkmen catalog done with Mackie.

O'Bannon's translation of Moskova does not seem to provide any Turkmen instances of "S" borders, excepting possibily three from the "middle Amu Dyra." There are some clear instances of "Arab" s-borders given.

Pinner talks briefly about a somewhat different type of meander "S" border in one article in Turkmen Studies I (page 127) but ends saying that this design does not belong to rugs and textiles alone but is rather an instance of a "universal ornament."


R. John Howe

Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 06-20-2004 08:34 AM:


Iím trying to be a bit originalÖ

Steve, John,

Iím not speaking of the almost universal S and/or chained S border.
Iím inquiring on this EXACT type of "S" border: with the "s" inscribed inside cartouches of different colors alternated with multicolored diamonds.
The diamonds (generally square but in the horizontal border of the Anatolian rugs they are also hexagonal) are surrounded by sort of brackets. The field is generally white but in Ralphís example is yellow.
OK, here is my rug. Perhaps you remember it, I posted it some time ago. Now itís restored:

If the age of the Anatolian rug is accurate, this kind of border maintained a remarkable continuity of style for at lest three centuries.



Posted by Richard Farber on 06-20-2004 11:54 AM:

dear turkotekees

i believe that a cartouche is compartment that contained an inscription !

i will look for a piece with such a compartmentment and send it to filiberto to add to this note



Posted by R. John Howe on 06-20-2004 02:59 PM:

Richard et al -

It does appear that the term "cartouche" is often used to refer to a piece with an enclosed area containing an inscription but it seems not to be reserved exclusively for this reference.

Here is Peter Stone's entry for "cartouche" in his Lexicon.

"An enclosed area in the field or border of a rug, often containing an inscription, though other design elements may be so enclosed. The outline of the cartouche is usually a rectangle with rounded, cut or scalloped corners."

I'm not sure that Peter would claim to be the last word on such things but he does show signs of being both serious and careful.


R. John Howe

Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 06-21-2004 02:29 AM:

Dear all,

It seems that Iíll have to change the title of this thread to "Of rugs, borders and SEMANTICS"!
I added the picture that Richard sent, thanks Richard.


Posted by R. John Howe on 06-21-2004 06:36 AM:

Hi Filiberto -

Yes, and it demonstrates that even our cautious tendency statements can often be in error, since Richard's image provides immediately an example of a cartouche used as a field element rather than as part of a border design.


R. John Howe

Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 06-21-2004 08:11 AM:

Hi John,

Well, Stone wrote "An enclosed area in the field or border of a rug" didnít he?

Now, BACK to the borderÖ Just realized I forgot to mention that each of the small diamonds has a cross inside.

"S" and crossesÖ Gantzhorn would have shouted "ARMENIAN"!


Posted by Patrick Weiler on 06-21-2004 11:44 PM:


Steve mentioned the possibility that the "S" border could be representative of a dragon. I recall a Hali magazine with an article by an Afghan-based westerner mentioning the use of a scorpion motif. It was used to ward off scorpions, which are quite a bit more common than dragons in that area. (Harry Potter's England, and Romania, may be more dragon friendly)
The use of goats wool as a selvage material was also thought to deter the pesky scorpions.
If we can find some Romanian dragon designs we may be on to something.

Patrick Weiler

Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 06-22-2004 05:28 AM:

Hi Pat,

Gantzhorn says that the S is the first letter for God in Armenian, though the Armenians also associate the S with a dragonÖ
But I donít want to go into the matter of meanings!

Iím only trying to collect information about this distinctive (and, allow me, rather rare, besides Caucasian sumaks) kind of border. Yesterday I found another example (Opieís "Tribal Rugs" detail of plate 8.7):

Actually two examples, because the upper one seems to be a variation.
The detail is from a Bakhtiyari kilim, 19th century.
If we want to be Gantzhorn-ians we should notice that there are Armenian villages inside the Bakhtiyari area.


Posted by Ralph_Kaffel on 06-22-2004 04:24 PM:

Dear Filiberto,
Our rug is one of four analogous rugs that I know of. Ours, and two analogies have similar borders of "S"s enclosed within hexagons. The first of the attachments was offered by Christie's London une 14, 1984, lot # 41.

While the outer border features free-floating "S"s, the inner border features Ss enclosed by hexagons.

The second attachment is plate 8 in Battilossi's Catalog #4.

It features an outer border of S's within hexagons.

The third of the analogies, while related, features an entirely different border system, so will not send an image. It was lot #168 in Rippon Boswell's first sale of November 11, 1976.



Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 06-23-2004 06:38 AM:

Thanks for posting the two images, Ralph.

Interesting variations. Not very successful in the Christie's one, in my opinion.


Posted by Patrick Weiler on 06-28-2004 06:49 PM:

Ubiquit"s" border


These photos show another version of the S border. This one has no smaller diamond-with-cross device between the S motifs, but does have two of the small triangles between the cartouches:

This is probably a 14th century Armenian Balouch bagface, quite likely the prototype for the design.

These photos do not have much contrast, due to being taken in the blazing sun, but you may notice that there appear to be pairs of light blue S cartouches along each side border, with a single dark cartouche between them. One of the two blue cartouches is actually a green made from a blue overdyed with a yellow that has faded somewhat. The lower S cartouches are the green ones. They appear a bit darker than the light blue ones.
It may be that the cartouch itself was used to highlight the S motif, because in versions without the cartouche, the S is not as noticeable. I have an old Hamadan with just S shapes in the border and no cartouche or diamonds. It does not have quite the "punch" that this device has when enclosed in a contrasting color.
The field, too, has a version of an S enclosed in a cartouche. Perhaps the original "tile" design field was adapted to a more simple border device?

Patrick Prototype Weiler

Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 06-29-2004 06:41 AM:

Thank you Patrick.

I guess the Balouchis copied it from the Turkoman because I found three examples of it (i.e. without diamonds) in Jourdanís "Turkoman": two Saryk torbas (plate 29 and 31) and an Ersari camel trapping (plate 274).
Another one on a Tekke (but copied from Salor) asmalyk is inside the catalog of an exhibition in Genoa of Central Asian Carpets.
So, it seems that is a Turkoman variation of the border and it was used only on small piecesÖ
I still wonder about who invented it first.