Posted by R. John Howe on 10-30-2006 03:53 PM:

Yuncu Kilims

Dear folks -

I have tried to move around a bit as I selected my sets. These three are Yuncu kilims from northwestern Turkey.

They are quite simple in design and the palette adopted is narrow. The people in this part of Turkey are mostly Turkmen who came in the 10th century and after.

There was a time when no collection of Turkish kilims was considered complete unless it contained a good Yuncu kilim.

The sequence will be as before. First, here are the three pieces side by side.

And here are these same three images sequentially with close-up details of each interspersed.

Yuncu kilim A

Yuncu kilim B

Yuncu kilim C

Please rate each kilim "Not Good," "Better," or "Best."

Then assign a score to each rating.

Last be sure to include your rationales.


R. John Howe

Posted by Vincent Keers on 10-30-2006 05:32 PM:

Hi John,

a/ Good
Think it's upside down. The weaver didn't understand the design. One S is woven in and that spoils it all. Made yesterday. The white warps are peeking through the wefts. I hate that.
b/ Good
Left and right part are well done. The weaver could count and got all the tension under controle. But.....I don't like the colours.
c/ Best
Colours, contrast, drawing, 3D etc......must feel like a good steak... Where can we find it?

Best regards,

Posted by R. John Howe on 10-30-2006 08:34 PM:

Hi Vincent -

Good to see your voice.

Would you be willing to put scores on your ratings?

The scale is:

Best: 7-9
Good: 4-6
Not good: 1-3

Are you saying that you suspect kilim A is fairly young?


R. John Howe

Posted by R. John Howe on 10-31-2006 08:25 AM:

Dear folks -

I need to admit before I start here that I have not studied Anatolian kilims, or even the Yuncu variety deeply. Nevertheless, I have looked at a number of examples of the latter and have developed some opinions about them that may or may not be ground-able (probably not even a word) by experts.

I am reminded of Sack's characterization of what Chippendale side chairs should be. He says they should exhibit "strength and boldness."

I feel similarly about Yuncu kilims. It seems to me that they should be bold and have visible graphic "punch." This means that their colors should be few and their devices should be fewer and meaty. The should project a powerful, primitive character. You can see where this goes, like Sack with regard to Chippendale I feel that any tendency toward delicacy in a Yuncu kilim is not just, for me, aesthetically less attractive, but begins to intrude on what Yuncu kilims are or should be at their essence. The best ones have, for me, a timeless quality reaching back to ancient Central Asian felts, including those found near the Pazyryk rug.

You will now be unsurprised at my ratings of this set.

Yuncu kilim A: Best: 9

Rationale: For me, this piece meets most of the requirements I have described above. It has only three colors and the field devices are large, substantial and simple so that the graphic punch they project is great. Like Vincent, I find some details like the white "S" pointless and distracting.

(Vincent: I don't think that this piece is upside down unless the complete image of it is too. I merely took the detail for the lower left side.)

I also think this piece is the oldest of the three perhaps by 50 years or more. The drawing has stark, archaic quality for me.

Yuncu kilim B: Not good: 3

Rationale: I think the weaver of this piece has moved to a delicacy of drawing that is, for me, foreign to this design. I also don't like the use of a strong yellow in it.

Yuncu kilim C: Better: 6

Rationale: I can see why some might like this piece better than the other two. It has interesting drawing that combines considerable graphic strength with complexity of detail, using a quite wide array of colors. Further, the colors are pleasant and skillfully used. But, for me, it moves away from what I see as the essential characteristics that a Yuncu kilim should project toward something else. If I am wrong about my instincts about what a Yuncu kilim should "be," then I might need to revise my scores of A and C, but it would take considerable convincing.


R. John Howe

Posted by Sue Zimmerman on 10-31-2006 12:24 PM:

#1's variations within and surrounding it's motif shapes provide as much, (I think more), and better "colouring" than #2 and #3 despite less color used. #1 has done far more with far less reliance on materials, in other words, and has a much more organic and natural movement than the other examples which pass the "5 second assessment" better only.
The white outline in the lower left hand side and the small "S" next to it make this weaving. They are absolutely necessary and without them this weaving wouldn't be the 8 it is for me.

#2 is a chatty high energy thing not without merits. Too bad there are more colors than color sense used because it spoils by obscuring the interesting rhythms of shapes, etc., which, for that, can only be taken in with "a bit at a time" viewing. This all too common mistake distracts from the theme of a piece as a whole by bursting it apart into fragments. Not cool. Ever, to me. I give it a 5.

#3's weavers scored some good colored yarns and enjoyed playing around with them learning. I'm glad they had fun, which is enjoyable to witness, but such self indulgence of getting sucked into reveling in the beauty of materials always comes at too high a price as it, once again, does here. The weavers forgot about the business at hand. The overall design, variations of motifs, etc., etc., etc., all sacrificed due to lack of attention. A good example of how the study of aesthetics has much more to it than beauty. I give it a 3 even though I like it a lot better than #2. Sue

Posted by Vincent Keers on 10-31-2006 04:17 PM:

Hi John,

Fairly young? Young!
All the things people make up about what genuine, archaic should look like! Pfjuh.......
Yes I think the image is upside down. The weaver started at the top.

"strength and boldness"? If he means like Rambo, I don't agree.

C is the best.
I don't like scores. If this is a 10 what to do if a better piece pops up or if time changes me......

have fun,

Posted by R. John Howe on 10-31-2006 05:26 PM:

Hi Vincent -

Well, there is some evidence that we can't believe everything (much?) that's written in rug books, but kilim A is a published piece estimated to have been woven in the first half of the 19th century. I do think it could still be done well today, given its simplicity, but the claim is that it is a very old piece.

No I don't mean "bold" like Rambo. What I'm talking about floats in a different dimension. It's graphic impact created by using just two contrasting colors and a more massive drawing of the armature-like designs.

I see why you like C, but, for me, it gets a lot of its excellence by reaching to become something a Yuncu kilim is not.

About the scale: scales are always capable of at least theoretical extension, in both directions. Some have already said that they want a 0. I had a general chemistry professor (admittedly a little strange) who was supposed to be grading on an A (high), B, C, D, and F scale who gave H's and I's saying that some students hadn't even earned an F.


R. John Howe

Posted by Chuck Wagner on 10-31-2006 06:56 PM:

Hi John, Vincent,

I've been travelling and am just now reading the stuff in this salon. So, for my first shot at rating these three kilms, I'll go with

A) Best

Despite the very limited palette, I find this piece nicely balanced. The design is not rigid (nor is the shape... ) and the colors are soft enough to complement each other.

B) Worst (different than good, better, etc. But I really don't like this piece)

I find this piece too cluttered, so much so that I am not inclined to look much further. Still, when I do so I find the red overwhelming because it occupies so much real estate.

C) Good

I like the colors on this piece, but the red border is too thick and closes on itself so fully that it cause the entire design to take on a harshly geometric character; a little too rigid despite the number of independent design elements present. I think the red and green are too close together from a luminosity standpoint, and as a result the effect of the green is lessened. That said I'd probably still buy it.


Chuck Wagner

Posted by Rob van Wieringen on 10-31-2006 08:02 PM:

Hi John,

The preposition of what a Yuncu kilim should be at their essence and then rating them following this principle, seems to me a narrow angle of view.
What happens when a great, but out of the "standard" Yuncu pops up? Would you just dismiss it?
Or, in the case you would understand its uniqueness, you have to reset the standard again. Untill the next one pops up, etc.

I would rate A and B both with a 2.
The colours are not appealing at all, they look very flat. And the blue, in both of them, has a strange purplish hue.
I agree with Vincent that A doesn't look old at all. Even the warp seems to be cotton.
C , with its great colours and lay-out, I give a 8.



Posted by R. John Howe on 10-31-2006 08:28 PM:

Hi Rob -

I offered my sense of what I think a Yuncu kilim needs to be as an explanation of my ratings, not as an edict. And it is, as you say, quite narrow (although wider than this particular design).

And you have seen what I do when I encounter Yuncu kilims that seem to me to be striving to be something else. I rate them down.

I do not reject them, because my interpretation of what the "essence" of such a kilim should be is only that.

It is clear that both you and Vincent do not share my view.

That's one way I am sometimes able to buy a piece that I like. There is often not much competition for it.

In this case, though, I expect that the experienced kilim collectors would tend to go in my direction rather than yours.

That's no reason not to prefer your own choices.


R. John Howe

Posted by Rob van Wieringen on 10-31-2006 09:07 PM:

Hi John,

You are probably right about the choice for Yuncu # A by Kilim collectors by the book.
But I expect that experienced collectors of textiles in general will have a run at #C.

P.S., you mentioned in your reply to Vincent that #A was published. Can you give a source?



Posted by R. John Howe on 11-01-2006 04:55 AM:

Hi Rob -

I have tried to acknowledge the strengths of kilim C and even to say that if my view of what a Yuncu kilim should be is not sustainable I would have to revise my rating of it vis a vis kilim A.

ALL of the pieces I have put up in this salon have been published. I have tended to withhold sources since some with the books in question would have additional information and hence begin to make their assessments on it in part rather than strictly in terms of what can be seen.

Of course, this means that my own ratings are suspect in this regard, but I have tried to be careful to indicate when I am drawing on the additional information I have about them (which may not, in fact, always help me in my ratings). Some raters here have recognized the source of a given image and so also have this additional information should they wish to consult it.

But it does no harm to indicate that Yuncu kilim A is Plate 1 in the first edition (there is now a second expanded one) of Peter Davies' "The Tribal Eye: Antique Kilims of Anatolia," 1993.


R. John Howe

Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 11-01-2006 06:21 AM:

Hi John,

There’s a bit of confusion here about “what should be the canon of a Yuncu kilim” in one’s opinion and which is the grading of these three Yuncu kilims.
I don’t know this kind of kilims so I searched around and I may agree with the canon you propose, “that they should be bold and have visible graphic "punch." This means that their colors should be few and their devices should be fewer and meaty.”

On that logic Kilim A should be the best.

BUT… OK, I’m not a fanatic of perfect design (after all I gave my preference to #3 in the Yastiks thread) but there are some limits and Kilim A exceeds them: not only it’s too crooked but I find the variations in design/boldness of the single elements frankly unnerving. A more balanced composition would have made it a wonderful kilim. It could have been the best. As it is, it’s only a bad weaving, in my opinion.

However, it has some charm and I prefer it to B, too “chatty” as Sue put. The elements are too small and the yellow is distracting.

C is not bad, good proportions, a little “noisy” with the smaller elements and multiple colors.
A (No) Good, 3
B (No) Good, 2
C Better, 4

The whole of this exercise, besides demonstrating that de gustibus non est disputandum shows also a different approach to aesthetics: some people are more analytical, considering the details at once: others are more “gestaltic” - or “holistic”, if you prefer.
I belong to the second category. Sometimes it takes me months, perhaps years, to notice the details of my rugs . But the first impression (almost) never fails me.



Posted by James Blanchard on 11-01-2006 06:24 AM:

Hi John and all,

I am not at all familiar with this type of weaving. By what criteria did you estimate that kilim "A" was substantially older than the other two? Are there accepted criteria for these types of kilims? Admittedly it does look "primitive" in some sense, but to my inexperienced eye it also looks like that effect might be due to some inexpert weaving, rather than the intentional and artistic creation of a skilled weaver. For one thing, it is quite misshapen; too much so for my liking. Moreover, the variability in the dimensions of the drawing and the occasional "oops" (like the 3rd blue "rams horn" from the top on the right) seems not to be a controlled effort to create movement and dynamism, but rather the result of a struggle to render the basic design. In fact, it almost looks like the weaving was started by a less experienced weaver who couldn't get the proportions right, and then completed by someone with more experience (or vice-versa). I find the lower half (in your picture) to be much better than the upper half.

For what it's worth, my ratings:

A: Better (4) - Averaging the upper half and the lower half, see above.
B: Good (2) - It lacks depth, is overcrowded, and I am not keen on the palette.
C: Best (7) - I like the colours and the depth. Imagine if the weaver had used a somewhat darker green for the central ground portion. As a pure novice to this type of weavings, this is the one that would tempt me.


Posted by Sue Zimmerman on 11-01-2006 11:04 AM:

Misshapen = wool warps + probable primitive loom + probable unknowledgeable cleaning somewhere along the line.

Don't these factors, and wefts which have worn away leaving warps exposed, go with the territory of old tribal rugs?

Are #2/B and #3/C really analogous or, as they certainly seem to be to me, elaborated versions who's reliance upon #1/A is unmistakable as evidenced by #1/A's format being most obviously and inextricably embedded in both of the other rugs? Sue

Posted by Wendel Swan on 11-01-2006 11:30 AM:

Hi John and all,

The Yuncu in NW Anatolia have historically produced two-color and polychrome kilims in minimalist style and these three examples illustrate the range.

I am puzzled by some of the ratings. Why is incompetent weaving not merely tolerated, but actually celebrated? Why is a poorly executed weaving (like A) elevated to the “best” of any category?

A is miserable on many levels. It is C-shaped, the sawtooth outline meanders, the elements vary widely in width and one of the hooks is turned around and overall it simply demonstrates a lack of weaving skills. It resembles a dead and leafless tree with gnarled branches that is about to topple.

There are many of these blue and red kilims, some of considerable age and some are quite compelling. But this struggling weaver was seemingly unable to copy even the simplest and most repetitive of designs from her culture. Its only redeeming quality is that the dyes are not offensive.

The age of A is almost immaterial. It doesn’t look very old to me, but it doesn’t matter even if it is 100 or 150 years old. There have always been and will always be weavers who just can’t execute. My guess is that C is much, much older than A and that B falls in between. Age, however, is not an overriding factor in my opinions.

Both B and C represent different styles than A, not a devolution of some ideal format. I’ll admit my own regard for higher weaving skills, yet I generally don’t like rigidity either. Indeed, some of the minimalist kilims are bold in a way that the polychrome group is not. One can admire one style without repudiating the others. My ratings not based upon favoring one style over another, but by comparing these pieces against one another. I don’t know offhand where these pieces have been published (except for Davies, which I don't own) and I haven’t looked, so I’m not influenced by what the publishers have said.

A – not (ala Filiberto) good – 2, saved from a 1 only by the absence of bad color
B – better – 5, but not a particularly compelling example, a bit crowded
C – best – 8 refined, fantastic colors and great transition of colors, wonderful contrasts, outstanding graphical reciprocity


Posted by James Blanchard on 11-01-2006 11:39 AM:

Hi Sue,

You would know better than me if older rugs are usually this misshapen. I've seen some newer ones that are quite "wonky" too. Our post-WW2 Joshagan is much more worn than our 100+ year old Shirvan and Turkoman rugs. More people have walked on it.

Your argument regarding "A" being closer to the origin of this design is more compelling to me. I think I see what I think you mean.

What is your view of the execution of "A"? Are the major irregularities signs of artistic intent, or more compatible with a struggle?

I guess I could come to like the "idea" of A better than the others, but I think I would always prefer looking at C.


Posted by R. John Howe on 11-01-2006 01:04 PM:

James -

About the "criteria" I used to determine that kilim A was woven in the first half of the 19th century.

I have only Peter Davies' indication for sure. I have, now, seen a number of Yuncu kilims of this design and it seems to me that those that are estimated to be older are almost always those with two or three colors and impactful graphics based on a few number of large devices.

Let me use this response to provide a little more on what the books from which they are drawn say about these three kilims.

Kilim B is Plate 92 in Yanni Petsopoulos' longer book "Kilims," 1979. Some see this as the best work so far on kilims. Petsopoulos does not use the term Yuncu for pieces with this basic design. He describes them as from "Balikesir" in the Bergama area.

One indicator he gives about their estimated age is that "...They have the quality of wool and the colours of the eighteen to nineteen century Bergama pile rugs."

And Petsopoulos likes Kilim B better than we do (it is the only one of this type that he provides in color) saying, "...One of the oldest and most powerful of the Balikesir kilims..."

Kilim C is Plate 18 in Petsopoulos' "Kilims: Masterpieces from Turkey," 1991, a briefer but larger format book. Referring to Plate 18 he says this type is "often woven by the Yuncu tribe in the Balikesir region..." He further say that some details of the drawing and of the color usage suggest that it was likely woven "by a Karaketeili tribal group , somewhat further south in the Kutahya region. This is attested to by the thicker weave, and the remarkable wide range of rich colours in the infill motifs..."

Petsoupolous does not give an age estimate for Plate 18, but says that it is older than a similar piece in the Vakiflar Museum.

This additional detail may be of use to those who have either made ratings so far or who are grappling with them.


R. John Howe

Posted by Sue Zimmerman on 11-01-2006 04:47 PM:

Hi James,

I would say the technical irregularities are more of the nature of the struggle.

I would say the irregularities such as reversals of motifs/symbols are intentional and significant and not subject to artistic interference or goofing around with just as Western master painters painting in times of living art cultures would not put a tree's shadow between the tree and the sun for no reason.

When dealing with symbolic motifs and the systems they belong to terms such as "minimalist style" are as inapplicable and silly as saying Basho's poem that goes "Ah the summer grasses...'tis all that's left of ancient warrior's dreams" has too few words. Good Lord.

Anyway, objective observation reveals that in rug B, in rug A's obviously embedded format, specifically in the central blue column, rug A's motifs have now gone "Technicolor". The flanking blue columns, also from rug A's format, have new arrivals, too, lined up from top to bottom or from bottom to top, (whatever, and who cares which way they were photographed from anyway), of two commonly encountered rug motifs which have entered rug A's system now, too, almost as though they were swallowed whole, and each in their places.

I don't know but it looks to me like some of rug A's weaver's clan kept walking and then somewhere along the line/route the weaver's of B rug and C rug eventually parted company again.

The weaver's of rug C ended up with their rug A's embedded format "swallowing whole" another commonly seen rug motif which differs from those the rug B weavers destination seems to have held. They also seem to have met up with some peripheral, perhaps of Oriental origin, embedded commonly used rug motifs that they included in the margins of their updated rugs which aybe were not quite the sort appropriate for their own rugs embedded format to swallow whole.

I'll leave the reading of rug books and the dating and the provenance concerns of rugs to others who are interested in those sort of pursuits I'm just not too interested in.

I like to read rugs. Sue

Posted by Ben Mini on 11-01-2006 06:17 PM:

I agree with Wendel. C is the best drawn, most colerful, oldest "looking" of the bunch. Though the design might be a little bit compressed, it is filled with plenty of "archaic looking" anatolian hooks and doo-dads as well as a ton of clear, saturated, "old" colors. Purple, apricot, a good yellow--mmmm.

I love anatolian kilims. Though I might not be good enough to differentiate a very good kilim form an excellent one, I do think that I can spot a dud.

I think that Kilim A is a dud. I also don't see anything that would indicate it has any serious age. It's boring, the drawing is poorly articulated, and and the colors are just ghastly.

That being siad, the image of the kilim isn't all that great, so I could be misjudging it.

Ben Mini

Posted by Richard Larkin on 11-01-2006 07:48 PM:


I must lead with the confession that I have never much cottoned (no pun intended) to the classic Yuncu kilim. To paraphrase Theo Epstein, that probably says more about me than the weavings, and I know I should go for them, but one cannot deny nature. Even so, I'll try to cooperate with the program.

'A' does almost nothing for me, and I think it probably "handles" differently than it looks on the screen. I hold with those who think it looks new and rather crassly woven. Very possibly, one might see it otherwise upon actual acquaintance. As I view it, however, I'm thinking dhurrie. The out of square shape problem is also a major downer. I'll forgive some rugs that affliction, but not this one. The colors don't look bad, but just the red and blue (disregard the white) are pointedly uninspiring. Funny, I have a mid-nineteenth century American wool double woven coverlet (a fragment, actually) with the same two colors, and I think it looks like a million dollars. Maybe one has to hold this Yuncu. Incidentally, in spite of the above comment, if the rest of the thing were more palatable, I'd like that little white detail in the (upper or lower, take your pick) corner.

'B' tries to move away from the stark Yuncu regimen, but not to a place that makes things any better. If the two color approach is unsatisfying, the additions are not an improvement. This one also has troubling shape issues.

I like 'C' much better than the other two. The implementation of the additional motifs helps the Yuncu positive/negative business a lot, as does the additional colors. With all due respect to Chuck, I really like that red chain border around the outer part of it.


A 2
B 3
C 7

Rich Larkin

Posted by Vincent Keers on 11-02-2006 03:46 AM:

In the end,

Why is kilim A new?
An old kilim shows flattened wefts on places where the wefts aren't torn. This flattening (and polishing) enhances the overall gestalt. The total structure (wefts and warps) gets tighter (if the weaving is o.k. from the beginning). The wefts join in together and hide the warps more then when new.
An old kilim, in this case >150 years is claimed, doesn't show clean, clear warp knots (the white dot). A warp knot is poor quality weaving. Nothing to do with primitive or archaic.
The curly, white warp ends (fringe) is a give away.

I've seen and restored many old kilims and made pictures while in progress. Restoring a kilim is always an adventure and never disappointing.
An adventure because the work that needs to be done is always much more then I can calculate before I start reweaving. In progress 40 hours become 60 hours if not more.
So my eyes need to register every tiny abnormallity in the kilim or rug before I start, because a job half done isn't done.
If the reweaving is done I heaten the structure and hammer it flat, giving it the same structure as the surrounding structure that's been used for 86.78 years.
And you can belief it or not, but 86.78 years is very, very rare in kilim land.

Best regards,

Posted by richard tomlinson on 11-02-2006 04:07 AM:

hi vincent

i take your point re structural changes in old kilims. but what if a kilim is stashed away for 120 years?

this kilim might not have been used for most of its life.

when presented with a rug that shows ageing, we can make comments, but i don't think the reverse is true. (unless of course there is poor workmanship eg white knots)

i have no idea if this kilim in question is old or not - just playing the devil's advocate.

richard tomlinson

Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 11-02-2006 04:07 AM:

Hi Vincent,

An old kilim, in this case >150 years is claimed, doesn't show clean, clear warp knots (the white dot). A warp knot is poor quality weaving.

Interesting. Could you explain? I mean, why they use warp knots? First time I hear about that. I’m going to look to my un-stored Klilims right now.


Posted by Vincent Keers on 11-02-2006 06:46 AM:

Hi Richard,
Stashed away? Where? How? In the Bank?
Why weaving it or buying it.
Oh, I understand: the weaver saw the result when finished and stashed it away in the year 1825. Ever since she took it out every half year to get the moths out.

A warp knot. 2 Warps tied together vertically because the warp wasn't long enough.
I translated it from Dutch "ketting knoop".
Don't know what it is in Italian.

Best regards,

Posted by R. John Howe on 11-02-2006 06:54 AM:

Another "Old" Example

Dear folks -

Someone has suggested to me on the side that perhaps Davies' example of an older Yuncu kilim may not be the best one since some see it as an example of poor weaving (not to overlook Vincent's indication that he doesn't think it is very old either).

This informant was more admiring of the eye of Yanni Petsopoulos, from whose books I took Yuncu kilims B and C.

So I've consulted Petsopoulos to see if he offers us an example of what I have come to see (however possibly mistakenly) as the archetypal sort of Yuncu kilim.

Here is one that he offers.

Petsopoulos says that he sees green as an indicator of age and describes this piece as the oldest of this type of which he knows.

Here is a closer look at a detail of this piece.

And here it is side by side with kilims A and C from my original set.

I want to acknowledge but ignore the condition problems visible in this new example, but in other respects to ask for an evaluation and rating of it.


R. John Howe

Posted by Ben Mini on 11-02-2006 07:24 AM:

I would say that this new example is light years ahead of kilim A. It is colorful, spacious, archaic. and looks to ooze patina. Even with just a photo, I have no doubt that it has age and merit. Very nice indeed.

Kilim A looks extra ugly when compared to this new example.

I would opine that this new example is by far the oldest and best Yuncu presented in this forum, followed by kilim C which I would guess is from the mid 19th century.

Just my two cents...

Posted by R. John Howe on 11-02-2006 08:08 AM:

Hi Ben Mini -

I am especially interested in whether folks see signs of bad drawing in the new example.

And if we go to spaciousness, doesn't kilim A rate higher on that dimension than kilim C?

More, it appears that in kilim C the major "armature-like" devices that are the center of the design in the new piece and in kilim A have been entirely jettisoned and the design has now mostly taken up with the small, delicate "branches" with abortive double-rams horn finishes at their ends (that appear only in a distinctly subordinate role in both the new example and kilim A), interspersed with columns of geometric devices.

For me, kilim C is beautiful, well-drawn and woven, but is clearly moving away from, not exemplifying, its archetypal design roots.


R. John Howe

Posted by Steve Price on 11-02-2006 08:34 AM:

Hi John

Yuncu kilims aren't my cup of tea, and none of the three presented initially do a thing for me. I wouldn't accept any of them as a gift if the conditions included having to put it someplace where I'd see it.

The Petsopoulos choice that you just added is a different animal altogether in terms of appeal for me. Everything about it seems "just right": the colors, their juxtapositions, the scale and density of the major design elements, the column of small motifs, and the stray small motifs in the field.

I'd give it a 10, or very close to it; the others range from 1-2, in no consistent order.

Steve Price

Posted by louis_dubreuil on 11-02-2006 09:06 AM:

style rating

Bonjour John and all the others

I think the polemic about those three kilims is originated in the fact that we have to compare incomarable things. Has I say in the Shasavan jajim thread, a good rating is possible only between items belonging to the same stylistic group. In this case we have two groups : A belongs to the Yunku bicolor design group, B and C belong to the Yunku polychromic group, small design subspecies. One can prefer the first stylistic group, an other can prefer the polychromic group. But we cannot make reasonable comparison between the three items shown here. We can just make rating between B and C.

The best way to get out this problem is to find three other kilims, two of the bicolor group design, and one more of the polychromic group.

And it is true that A is not a very good ex of the bicolor group.

Personaly, between B and C I do prefer B (best, 8). The design is more fluid, colours more subtile than C. I find C to stiff in its composition (better, 5), stiffiness being reinforced by the colour contrast between the ground and the hooked designs.

Amicales salutations

Posted by Sue Zimmerman on 11-02-2006 09:18 AM:

I agree with Ben. This new addition is aesthetically light years ahead of rug A. It is an extremely interesting and, I'm sure, important piece. Please notice that it, too, has a very prominent motif/symbol reversal. These reversals are anything but accidental and I am confident they are key in furthering rug understanding -- but that is for later. For now I'd just like to put out there the notion that there are unasked questions which are more interesting and important than aesthetic considerations.

I agree with John that C is clearly moving away from not exemplifying it's archetypal design root. On the other hand it is not disconnected from the archetypal language and so, in it, the plot thickens. Sue

Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 11-02-2006 09:31 AM:

Hi Sue,

If for “very prominent motif/symbol reversal” you mean the down part of the green “3” on the right, it’s not a reversal. There is a hole there, and the red color you see is of the background on which the kilim is mounted. (I checked on the book…)


Posted by R. John Howe on 11-02-2006 10:21 AM:

Hi Louis -

I think, now, I understand your objection.

You believe that it is only possible to compare weavings that are nearly identical.

I'm not sure what your basis is for such a stringent requirement. Items are compared all the time in the rug world that do not have an identical number of colors. Sometimes comparisons are made between quite disparate types.

The "formalists" in aesthetic theory feel this is readily possible since they believe we are all "hard-wired" to make aesthetic judgments, so what's controlling the assessment is in the observer not the object being evaluated.

Now I don't go that far, but I think that if your requirement were implemented it would be very difficult indeed to make many comparative assessments at all.

Say a little more about your basis for imposing such a demanding requirement. If your position holds, I think we've just finished this salon.

Too bad, I still have three very old pieces for you to compare, but one is circular and the other two are rectangular. They're probably not "comparable."


R. John Howe

Posted by Sue Zimmerman on 11-02-2006 11:10 AM:

Thanks, Filiberto,

Yep, that's what I was looking at. Dang. Nothing is ever that easy, is it? Anyway I just ordered Yanni Petsopoulos' Kilims book. His 100 Kilim Masterpiece book was out of my price range so that's where what I really want to know probably resides. Could you tell from his photo that is now in this thread whether any of the motifs in the center column have the same "innards" as rug C's motifs found along it's edges?

Just to be more clear on my own position I think it's too great a leap to say "archaic looking" means anything, by itself, in regard to when a weaving was actually woven. I have no trouble going out on a limb, however, to say that it seems to me, all here visually available factors considered, the likelihood of clan A's weavers having a far greater percentage of inbred members than clan C's weavers would be a pretty good bet. Sue

Posted by Steve Price on 11-02-2006 11:17 AM:

Hi Sue,

You wrote, ... it seems to me, all here visually available factors considered, the likelihood of clan A's weavers having a far greater percentage of inbred members than clan C's weavers would be a pretty good bet

With my apologies for having become impatient with your riddles, what the hell does that mean?

Steve Price

Posted by James Blanchard on 11-02-2006 11:31 AM:

Hi all,

Seeing the new juxtaposition, does anyone still rank "A" anywhere near a 9?

I agree with the apparent consensus that the new entrant is tops, by a considerable margin.

I still really like "C", and would be inclined to keep it in the upper "best" category, but for different reasons.


Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 11-02-2006 11:34 AM:

Sorry sue, but I’m not sure I understand your question.
The only fact I can confirm is that in - let’s call D - the green elements face both outward, unlike the dark blue ones. And the green element on the right is just the mirrored design of the other but is damaged so isn’t complete…

Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 11-02-2006 11:49 AM:

Sue, this is a somehow enlarged detail from John’s scan:

Are the small elements in the column the ones you are asking for?

Posted by Vincent Keers on 11-02-2006 12:08 PM:

Dear all,

The backing isn't brown only.
In some parts an orange fabric has been used.
This kilim has some serious problems.
But it's a genuine very old kilim.
So please keep your writings down out of respect.
Is this the all original Yuncu like we think we know it? No.


Posted by Sue Zimmerman on 11-02-2006 12:12 PM:

Yes, Filiberto, the small elements which are not visible still. Did I order the right book? Does it have S-t-r-u-c-t-u-r-a-l
a-n-a-l-y-s-i-s in it, I'm almost afraid to ask?

Steve, it looks like A's weavers clan were more isolated. Less choices.

Tell you all what I'm thinking about the "formalists of aesthetic judgments" is that they themselves are all wired into their own circuit which will never blow or trip, despite it's capacity obsolescence, because such low voltage is making the rounds. Sue

Posted by Steve Price on 11-02-2006 12:21 PM:

Hi Sue,

You wrote, Steve, it looks like A's weavers clan were more isolated. Less choices.
Thanks. The whole exercise is lots more constructive if other people can understand you.

Tell you all what I'm thinking about the "formalists of aesthetic judgments" is that they themselves are all wired into their own circuit which will never blow or trip, despite it's capacity obsolescence, because such low voltage is making the rounds.
The first part of this seems to be that you think the "formalist" position is nonsense. I agree. What do the last five words in this sentence mean?


Steve Prrice

Posted by Sue Zimmerman on 11-02-2006 12:53 PM:

Steve, it means that I don't think the sum total of energy produced by the "formalists of aesthetic judgment", which travels along their circuit, could light a potato. Sue

Posted by Wendel Swan on 11-02-2006 01:28 PM:

Hello John and all,

To me it seems very difficult to discuss the “archetypal design roots” of these kilims in order to conclude that one group preceded the other, as there are too many variables and scenarios by which this culture may have begun weaving these patterns.

My assumption is that both the two-color and the polychrome types have been woven for centuries. Further, the “ram’s horn” or hooked elements have decorated weavings and other crafts for millennia. The continuum is so long that it is impossible to identify a paradigm.

The latest Petsopolous kilim does show that the weaver(s) had some difficulties, especially with the ends of the green devices on the sides, a fault that even I can overlook. This is one of those instances in which the colors themselves and their juxtaposition are simply great.


Posted by Richard Larkin on 11-02-2006 01:54 PM:

Boy's Life


I was in the Boy Scouts, though not a particularly accomplished member. There may have been a project, the purpose of which was to "light a potato." I don't clearly remember. I know I never did it. I may be confusing it with the crystal radio set (which I also never got going).

I'll join the flood of people who like the fourth Yuncu kililm into the game. Best of the lot by far, a very spiffy number in spite of the condition problems. It's so sublime where A is so dreary.

I've learned on Turkotek that just because one thinks a piece reeks of age, that doesn't mean beans (except to oneself). But that example certainly reeks of age to me (relatively speaking...I defer to Vincent's hands on experience).

Warp knots. Chinese rugs of the 1920's or 1930's period always have a bunch of white knots sticking up from the pile. When you examine them, you find that the weavers came to the end of the string when rigging the loom, so they tied the end of the warp line of the old onto the start of the new. Over time, the knot, which was relatively large and of cotton, would work to the surface.

Rich Larkin

Posted by louis_dubreuil on 11-02-2006 02:33 PM:

just be logical

Hello John

I think in this case we have just to be logical. In a strict logical way, if we want to give a rational quotation we can just do it if the compared items belong to the same family of objects. I am afraid that in this case we have an alien (A) in the family (B and C), although there are obvious connexions (Yuncu products, correspondances in design and shapes). For me, comparing A with B/C is like to compare grandfather and cousins of his sons, or one parsnip with two carrots (I have chosen this ex because the two species belongs to the same botanic family of plants but are two separated species, as the yuncu kilims). But we can dissert on the respective qualities of each one items. There are good parsnips and there are carrots without any flavour ! If you have to give a note to the three it seems to me impossible, except between the two carrots !
In this salon, we have some threads with items that belongs to the same family (simurg Kaitag embroideries, persian rugs with flowers, yomut rugs...), with no logical problem to rate them.

I'll search some kilims of the A group in my Hali collection and send them to Steve to complete this comparison.

Amicales salutations


Posted by R. John Howe on 11-02-2006 03:21 PM:

Hi Louis -

You advise "logic" but argue by "analogy."

You wrote in part:

"I am afraid that in this case we have an alien (A) in the family (B and C), although there are obvious connexions (Yuncu products, correspondances in design and shapes). For me, comparing A with B/C is like to compare grandfather and cousins of his sons, or one parsnip with two carrots (I have chosen this ex because the two species belongs to the same botanic family of plants but are two separated species, as the yuncu kilims)."

My question:

How did you decide that the word "alien" is appropriately applied to A? You allude to design and shape differences. How did you decide how they should be used (in fact, how did you use them?) to the draw the distinctions to which you refer? There are different designs in these three jajims, but how did you decide that they are significant enough to bar comparison? Similarly with palette? To say they "look" different to you isn't an argument. It starts by assuming its conclusions.


R. John Howe

Posted by Sue Zimmerman on 11-02-2006 04:43 PM:

What weavers wouldn't have problems with so many vertical lines to weave in a kilim? It obviously is not a technique driven design.

Long time periods make identifying paradigms impossible? Tell it to Charles Darwin.

To hell with logic bring in more, more, more aliens!!! Sue

Posted by James Blanchard on 11-02-2006 08:49 PM:

Hi all,

There is a picture of another "blue and red" Yuncu kilim in the Oriental Carpets book by Eiland and Eiland. If someone has a scanner, perhaps they could post it for comparison with A. They are clearly kindred examples, but in several ways quite different. Personally, I like the example in Eiland and Eiland better than "A".


Posted by R. John Howe on 11-02-2006 10:41 PM:

Anonymous Expert Responds

Dear folks -

My anonymous expert on the Yuncu kilims has responded this evening. Here is that opinion as a direct quote:
"First, not one of your three original Yuncu kilims is a prime example of its genre. Second, they represent different lines of development, and it is difficult to compare three mediocre examples of different types. It’s best to judge them independently. Your fourth example is indeed at the top of the heap! It’s the best Yuncu kilim that has ever surfaced. It’s so far beyond the other examples that it’s off the scale.

"Your first example, A, reflects an early archetype—an early design concept. I have no doubt that this is a 150- to 200-year-old piece. It is a bold, dramatic, gutsy ethnographic tribal object—definitely not a piece to “decorate” with. I think it should be judged on the basis of what it is, and not compared with refined, prissy, perfectly articulated weavings. It is an unpretentious, straightforward expression. It makes a strong statement with minimal elements--it epitomizes “Economy of Means,” a cardinal rule of strong, effective designing. On the negative side, it is clearly the work of an inexperienced weaver, so an example of skillful execution, it is not. Furthermore, it seems to have been heavily and unskillfully restored. Without considering questions of rarity or condition, I would put this kilim in the “Best” category, with a rating of about 7. It is a piece for a serious collector who appreciates its strengths and can overlook its shortcomings. It is interesting to consider what the effect of this same, identical design might be, had it been executed by a much more competent weaver. We might find the results quite boring—much as a child’s drawing looses its charm and freshness if “cleaned up” by an adult.

"The second example, B, is hard to judge from photos. I suspect that the colors may be less grating than they seem here; they may be the result of an overly saturated book plate. Special sensitivity is required to handle minimal, repetitive elements effectively, and this artisan didn’t quite make it. Instead the piece has problems of scale and conflicting values: a contradiction between relatively delicate, small elements on one hand, and bold, awkward color usage on the other. Thus the visual statement is one of mixed signals. The three narrow, tight columns of small bright figures seem out of sync with the lacy hooked field pattern. It’s a derivative concept with unresolved design problems, yet this weaver was experimenting with a new idea, so I would put this kilim in the “Good” category, with a rating of 3.

"The third example, C, is a quite different genre from example A and represents a divergent line of development. The similarities are superficial, as it has become a different animal--a different kind of expression. It’s best judged on its own merits. It is not among the best of its class, as overall it is stilted, static, and a bit boring. There is no clear hierarchy of emphasis: I find the relationship of the parts—both the interlocking field columns and the interior end field borders--not handled particularly well. Ironically, it’s only the slight clumsiness of execution that saves this kilim design from monotony. The color relationships, with close red/green/blue values along with strong small accents, are pleasing enough that I’d place it in the upper end of the “better” category, with a rating of about 6.

"With large kilims, scale has such a strong impact, it is very difficult to make reasonable judgments from small photos. It’s much easier with 3 by 5 pile rugs, or small seccade kilims. In a 12 to 15-foot kilim, bold patterning can affect us in quite unpredictable ways; thus the judgments above may not be valid. "
End of anonymous expert quotation.

This opinion sounds quite a bit like Louis with his insistence on comparison only between closely defined types.


R. John Howe

Posted by Rob van Wieringen on 11-03-2006 03:52 AM:

Anonymous Expert.....How can we ever reach that level!
I am going to put that on my bussiness card.

I could go along with him/her however when A had been the one James posted.


Posted by Vincent Keers on 11-03-2006 04:06 AM:

Dear John,

" "Your first example, A, reflects an early archetype—an early design concept. I have no doubt that this is a 150- to 200-year-old piece."
1. She/he has seen a dozen first half 19'th century Yuncu kilims.
2. She/he has handled Yuncu A.
3. She/he has Yuncu A stached under the bed.
I see Yuncu A as the only "decorative" kilim.
But maybe that's my Dutch design root.
Yuncu A is made to reflect what we think primitive kilims should reflect. It was our culture that handled kilims as packing material.

The expert says "reflect".
An expert should say: It is.

It's a pity Experts don't post.

Best regards,

Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 11-03-2006 04:20 AM:

Well, well…
A hell of a debate. If only for this, John’s decision to choose “Yuncu A” was right, in spite of the criticism for A being of a slightly different type! And now we have 5 kilims to choose.

P.S. - Sue, I have bad news... no structural analysis in Petsopoulos' book. But the plates are good enough. The commentary to the plates are by Belkis Balpinar, in any case.

Posted by Ben Mini on 11-03-2006 06:48 AM:

I'm not even close to an authority on this issue, but why should I consider Kilim A to be around 200 years old? Because it has a primitive design? Because it epitomizes "economy of means"? I don't get it.

Simple, poorly drawn, awkward, kilims are woven even today. So, without a better rationale, I'm far from convinced.

As for the claim that kilim A represents an "early design archetype" or "an early design concept", that might be true (I wouldn't know) but it doesn't follow that the kilim is all that old.

Ben Mini

Posted by R. John Howe on 11-03-2006 07:21 AM:

Rob, Vincent -

The "anonymous expert" role is solely something I have created.

The expert is someone whom I see as experienced in the area of a particular comparison. There are different experts for different sets.

None of the experts have set themselves up as expert of the set they are rating. I have done that. They have simply been willing to serve in this way.

Yes, many folks are wary yet of posting under their names in this kind of discussion. But a lot of experienced people do watch what goes on here and sometimes send comments and images from the side. We would, of course, like to have them openly in the conversation but are glad for the order of participation with which they are comfortable. So I personally do not feel bad about anonymous commentators.

But please be clear that in this case the anonymity of the experts is my own suggestion, since I thought (rightly it turns out) that it would be easier to recruit experts of I indicated their ratings and rationales would be posted anonymously.

Vincent, the person serving as the anonymous expert for the Yuncu kilims is a person who has your kind of direct skills and experience with such material. You may disagree with the expert opinion provided (we do that all the time here) but it is not uninformed.


R. John Howe

Posted by Wendel Swan on 11-03-2006 07:45 AM:

Hi John,

Can you provide the sizes of these kilims? Based on the fringes, I suspect that A is much smaller than B or C, so that when the images on Turkotek are the same size, the patterns of B and C would tend to look more crowded than they would look in the flesh. My sense is that A is probably not more than about 5 feet long, B is 10 or longer and C is 9 or 10.

The expert’s opinion is rather clearly based on a preference for less refined weaving, a viewpoint that many share. However, I cannot think of any other field of art or collecting in which childlike work is preferred over that of the mature or experienced artist.

I remain at a loss to understand why more mistakes make an object more desirable and fewer mistakes make it less desirable. The expert clearly recognizes the incompetence of weaver A.


Posted by Steve Price on 11-03-2006 08:00 AM:

Hi Wendel

Some areas of art in which "childlike" (dare I say "primitive"?) is given a premium include African tribal sculpture and the work of many "fine artists" (Pollack, Miro, Klee, etc., etc., etc., for a very long list). In music, we might look at the work of John Cage, which is admired by many (I'm not among them, by the way).

I think the admiration of technical perfection in oriental rugs leads directly to urban workshop production, and away from tribal and rustic weavings.


Steve Price

Posted by R. John Howe on 11-03-2006 08:24 AM:

Hi Wendel -

Here are the sizes of the original set of three.

A 148 x 177 cm

B 183 x 330 cm

C 178 x 270 cm

The top-rated Yuncu fragment is 163 x 214 cm

Size is not given for the Eiland piece.


R. John Howe

Posted by R. John Howe on 11-03-2006 08:50 AM:

Wendel -

I think it is important to notice that this expert did not really make comparative evaluations and actually suggested that the types presented were too dissimilar for that.

The ratings are of each piece considered on its own merits.

So it may not be quite right to say that the expert has a preference for "less refined weaving." This person is often as critical as you are of "bad weaving" but may be differently calibrated with regard to how some instances of visible amateurish effort can affect aesthetic quality.

I think this expert would say that such work is being evaluated as compared to others of its kind, not as compared, for example, to kilim C, which you rate higher, but which, this expert says, is a different, not really comparable, type.


R. John Howe

Posted by James Blanchard on 11-03-2006 08:59 AM:

Hi all,

Steve, I know what you are saying in relation to "primitive" art, but I am not sure that your examples help me to elevate my opinion of this kilim. Artists who deliberately create "simple" or "direct" paintings or other works of art are in an entirely different category from someone who creates such a thing unintentionally. Presumably the accomplished artist adds another dimension that sets the work apart. A crude or "childlike" rendition of the "Mona Lisa" or the "Scream" by a 6-year old or an unpracticed 46-year old is not likely to be admired by many as a work of art (excepting the parents or spouse/partner of said "artist").

When it comes to evaluating tribal art, shouldn't we generally consider the era, socio-cultural context, and the methods and materials available to the creator? So if an artifact is crude BECAUSE of those factors, then it assumes a higher level of importance for the collector. However, if an artifact is crude and lacks artistic merit in comparison to other contemporary examples, which were made in the same circumstances and from the same materials, then it loses some of its relative value. So in the case of these Yuncu kilims we need to assess the merit of kilim "A" based on what was possible at that time and in that setting. The examples from Petsopoulos and Eiland/Eiland suggest that kilim A is not so crudely done BECAUSE it is so old and made in "primitive" conditions. Better work was obviously possible, both structurally and aesthetically. I wonder how other weavers and observers from that time and context would have rated kilim A...


Posted by Steve Price on 11-03-2006 09:08 AM:

Hi James

No disagreements from me on these points, and I didn't intend to suggest that I admired Yuncu "A". My first post to this thread (yesterday) included the following:
Yuncu kilims aren't my cup of tea, and none of the three presented initially do a thing for me. I wouldn't accept any of them as a gift if the conditions included having to put it someplace where I'd see it.
I haven't changed that opinion.

My point in my most recent post was simply that ruggies aren't the only art collectors who place a premium on "primitiveness" in some classes of the things they collect and appreciate.


Steve Price

Posted by R. John Howe on 11-03-2006 09:38 AM:

Wendel -

Just a footnote.

I think it may be important, at least sometimes, to notice that technical excellence is conceptually distinctive from aesthetic effect.

I think we would usually expect technical excellence to produce better aesthetic effects, but that is not necessarily the case.

Now this doesn't impact the evaluation that says that a poor aesthetic effect (evaluated on its own ground) is likely the result of visible poor weaving.

But it does allow for the possibility that less skilled weaving can sometimes produce interesting aesthetic effects.

So I think we can't argue backward from visible poor weaving to the conclusion that the resulting aesthetic effects of that must always be inferior.

What is aesthetically attractive can be more serendipitous than that.


R. John Howe

Posted by louis_dubreuil on 11-03-2006 12:14 PM:

a little yuncu typology

Bonjour à tous

In order to give more light to this discussion I have made a little research in my books and Hali issues about yuncu kilims of the types discussed here. It is also for giving an answer to John about my view of A as an alien in the B/C family.

Among a little number of types of kilims the Yuncu are known for having made, the available documentation shows that there are two main families of designs. The both can be linked to the TREE OF LIFE design. It appears that the oldest members of those two families are both executed with dark blue (indigo) drawings on a rust red ground (madder ?). The two designs have strong totemic appearance.
We can find the same totemic appearance in the central pannel of the turkmen ensis (kuch design) and also in the Sherkalu borders (see Opie, plate 10.8)

The first group, in which we can put the A ex of this discussion can be named HORNED TREE OF LIFE (HTL) because of the clearly drawn rams horns we can find at the end of each branch of the TL. Vegetarians ruggies could also see in those shapes a climbing trained wine.

Here are four ex of this HTL type

The first one is the A ex of this post (HTL1)

The second is the Eiland ex (left below) shown by James (we'll name it HTL2)

The third (above right ) is from a book titled YAYLA (Brüggemann author), plate 1 (HTL3)

The fourth is from Hali #88, (HTL4)

HTL2 and HTL3 are very near and could likely be originated from the same tribe or even family
HTL1 is of the same design group but with some consistant differences. Maybe a neibourgh tribe.
HTL4 shows a consitant stylistic variant : shape of the hooks, no lateral symetry, more freedom in the composition. Likely from an other yuncu group separated from the others from a long time, but maybe same ancestor. I think we can rate easily between those four, or just between the three first.

The other Petsopoulos ex belongs also to this group for the central pole, with some caracteristics shared with group2 (green design and lateral shapes with AHTL design))

The second group, in which we can put B and C of the present discussion, can be named ANIMAL HEAD TREE OF LIFE (AHTL).
The branches of the tree of life are ended by devices that are described by J. OPIE like animal heads. One can also see in those shapes birds heads (see the kuch motifs of the ensis). Here also the tree of live has a strong totemic look.

The first ex is likely one of the older of this group (it is supposed to date before 1800) and can be seen as a great ancestor of the line. From Hali #125, page 106 (AHTL1)

The second ex (below left) is from Petsopoulos' book (plate 21). It shows a more crowded design using the same elements : straight branches, animal head devices, strong frame shapes in the design. It is also blue on red. (AHTL2)

The third (above center) is also from Petsopoulos (plate 22). Very close design but a green band in the middle with tiny devices in yellow and red. It is the begining of a line conducting to more complicated and coloured ex like B and C (AHTL3)

The fourth (above right) is from the MCCOY JONES collection (plate 24 of the book). Magnificent graphic construction with two colours for the main design and also the green central post (AHTL4), very close to the precedent (with a colour inversion between the two frames).

The fifth seems to be a more modern clone of the fourth : same design but more stiff and lacking of vibration (AHTL5). from Hali#127, page 65

The sixth (below left) is a good ex of the evolution of the design towards more complexity. It is from YAYLA (Brüggemann), plate 2. In this case more complexity is still synonymus of richness because of the spacious design and the well balanced colour scheme. (AHTL6)

The C ex (above right) belongs to this group and is clearly related to AHTL6, but more stiff and crowdy, signs of a more recent production (AHTL7)

The B ex is also in the same group but with a poorer palette and a too crowdy design (AHTL8)

I think we can now rate those kilims with a greater facility, using the traditional rating rules for weavings (historic value, composition, colour balance, personal appeal...).


best1 : HTL4 : strenght and freedom of the drawing, 9
best2 : HTL3 : very good reciprocate shapes and precise drawing that is not stiff at all , 7
better : HTL2 : the freedom is not here an advantage, 5
good : HTL1 or A : the stems take a too large place in the composition and their shape is quite ugly, 3


best (extra category) AHTL1 : very very great ancestor, 10
best1 AHTL4 (the MCCOY JONES') : great balance and composition,
best2 AHTL6 : great composition and very good colours, 9

better1 : AHTL2 and AHTL3 : good strenght despite some design irregularities, 6

better2 : C, good colours but a little bit crowdy, 4

good : B, good design, but poor colours and too crowdy, 2

bad : AHTL5 : stiff and with no vibrations, 0

The Petsopoulos ex that belongs to the two groups can be rated 10 in the two groups.

That's all folks



Posted by R. John Howe on 11-03-2006 09:43 PM:

Hi Louis -

You have presented a nice concrete demonstration of how the broader group of Yuncu kilims can be organized based on similarity of design.

The grouping you propose does make it easier to compare kilims within the suggested groups.

My only question would be whether similarity of design as we recognize that is an accurate indicator of how these kilims should in fact be grouped. We know in pile rugs that that would often not be the case.

But nevertheless a useful demonstration. I suspect my anonymous expert is thinking of something similar and would likely approve at least the thrust of your suggestions here.


R. John Howe

Posted by Richard Larkin on 11-03-2006 11:04 PM:

John and Louis:

Bravo to both of you. However, Louis, I think you were a little too hard on AHTL5.

Rich Larkin

Posted by Chuck Wagner on 11-04-2006 08:18 AM:

Hi all,

For completeness, here's a C ex group piece from Jon Thompson's Carpets from the Tents, Cottages, and Workshops of Asia. I find this one to be even more rigid than example C, despite the minor totemics, and the palette significantly more boring.

So, having looked at all the Yuncus presented so far, I still stay with the A ex group, but with example A in 3rd place and the Hali#88 HTL4 example in first place, and my new favorite. But, not because I want my tribal pieces to be constructed like city pieces (Hi Marvin ! ), rather, the execution of the design really appeals to me. The rams-horn roots are obvious in that one, as are the evolving planning skills of the weaver.

The Thompson example:

Chuck Wagner

Chuck Wagner

Posted by R. John Howe on 11-05-2006 07:19 AM:

The Appropriate Breadth of Comparison

Dear folks -

What I want to say here should not be taken to distract at all from Louis' nice demonstration above of the utility of comparing designs that are similar.

What I want to do here is to suggest with an example how differently some folks seem to view the width of the groups within which useful comparisons can be made.

One of the books from which Louis drew his images is Cathryn Cootner's "Anatolian Kilims" in which she examined the kilims in the Caroline Jones collection.

Cootner is a strong personality with definite opinions and it may be that not many of her colleagues follow her leads.

In this volume she says relatively little about estimated age of these kilims (about one piece she says this may be the oldest) and only very general things like "western," "central" and "eastern" Turkey about where they were likely woven. She further announces that she will mostly arrange and discuss the 100 kilims in this collection on the basis of design similarity.

Now I don't want to suggest that Cootner doesn't recognize sub-groups (she does) but one of the broad categories within which she seems to feel that useful comparisons can be made is what she calls the "multiple niche" group. This group begins with Plate 1 and, convenient for our purposes here, she says it ends with Plate 24 which is one of the Yuncu kilims Louis included in his comparisons. This group includes a number of kilims made in two parts and sewn together, the complete piece exhibiting what Cootners calls a "double-niched" design.

Cootner makes explicit comparison between Plate 1, Plate 12 and Plate 24. She insists that Plates 1 and 12 must be viewed with their long side horizontal and I have turned Plate 24 so we can see it in that same orientation.

Here is Plate 1:

Cootner describes this piece as "archetypal" and says although many of the 99 kilims that follow are things of outstanding beauty that in her view this may be the best one.

The next kilim (immediately below) is one she describes as a "bridge" between the more explicitly "niched" kilims like Plate 1 and the Yuncus exemplified in Plate 24 (further below).

She insists that it is most appropriately viewed with its long side on the horizontal. This orientation does emphasize its possible relationship to more explicitly niched kilims like Plate 1.

The piece below (Plate 24) is a Yuncu kilim that Cootner specifically relates to the two above.

She describes Plate 24 as the last of her "multiple-niched" series.

Cootner seems comfortable with much broader groupings.

Now I give this example, not to denigrate the narrower comparisons that Louis has suggested (and that I think my anonymous expert also recommends), but to show that when one is working with design features alone the decisions about the appropriate points at which to declare a distinctive type is to some extent arbitrary.

More, such decisions may not reflect the actual differences that exist among the kilims being examined. There seems not much description of "weave" in books about Anatolian kilims, perhaps because slit weave tapestry is so frequent (although I think kilim weavers would quickly recognize differences not just in wool and palette but even what "Neff and Maggs" call "weave pattern.") My guess is that slit weave tapestry done by difference weavers can often be distinguished, if viewed by an informed eye.

In his larger kilim book Petsopoulos uses a geographic basis for distinguishing kilims generally. He includes the Yuncu variety within his "north-west Anatolian Bergama-Balikesir" grouping.

But he also points out that most of the kilims woven in this area are "brocaded...made in the weft float technique on a warp and weft faced uniform dark ground..." The exception seems to be a group of pieces done in tapestry weave and attributed to Balikesir.

Petsoupolous divides the Bergama-Balikesir" grouping into two halves seemingly on the basis of color.

He suggests a "red-blue" type" and a "polychrome" type, but a closer reading shows that this seeming color distinction is, in fact, reinforced by his indication that the "red-blue" pieces are those in which weft-float brocading is used. He also says that the weave of the "red-blue" group is "one of the finest in west Anatolia."

The "polychrome" group is described as "more loosely woven" in "slit-weave tapestry" resulting in a "much heavier fabric."

Now for me, this division is more defensible, since it employs not just geography and design and color, but is reinforced by some structural distinctions.

Groups suggested on the basis of design alone are more exposed, it seems to me, to the suggestion that they may be arbitrary.


R. John Howe

Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 11-05-2006 08:32 AM:

Hi John,

You wrote:Cootner is a strong personality with definite opinions and it may be that not many of her colleagues follow her leads.
If she claims that Plate 12 and 24 are multiple niche design , yours must be a huge UNDERSTATEMENT!


Posted by louis_dubreuil on 11-05-2006 09:11 AM:

Niche design

Bonjour John

Mrs Cootner in her book has tried to present the Mac Coy Jones collection in a certain classified manner based on more or less objective arguments (age, archetypal design) and on subjective arguments (composition, art of the designers...); but with a curious lack of evidences : no carbon datation for ex, and no precise age expertise. She has made a theory about the so called niche design, which she says could be very old, predating for thousands years the islamisation of anatolia (one can however see in the niche design just a saph, designed for prayer). But there is a main stream of thinking which says that all the kilim designs date from neolithic times. Unfortunatly the leader of this theory has dangerously crossed the line by producing that could be seen as forgeries about drawings from çatal hüyüc excavations : Mr Mellaart is now greatly discredited and with him all the theories about the neolithic origin of kilim designs (see ORR papers about the çatal hüyük polemic, I think Steve can give us the links to those papers, especially those of Marla Mallet). Meanwhile we cannot reject all the work done about the great age of some designs that have persisted till nowdays : evidences exist on real poteries and engravings that cannot be suspected having been invented by Mellaart. The way of grouping used by Mrs Cootner just says "if you can read a niche in the design, this kilim belongs to the (famous-çatal-hüyük-originated) niche group", and it's true that it is easier to see a niche when putting the kilims in the horizontal way ! A great number of kilims have stripped designs that compartiment the field and create virtual spaces that can be viewed as so called niches. But my opinion is this is a quite superficial way of grouping, especially when the so called niches are very distant of the inversed V motif and the weavings made by certainly very different groups. The best ex of what I think is a far-fetched niche design is the famous yüncü kilim of the plate #12. The niches just exist because the design is closed and shows indentations. There is yet an other theory about this design (seen in Hali #115, page 90) that says this design represents a fortified wall with towers showing battlements... And I think there no link at all between ex #12 and #24 . I think that Mrs Cootner has been duped by Mellaart theories. Why she did not look at # 24 ex vertically, just to see in it a good old tree of life with animal heads !

Amitiès à tous


Posted by Sue Zimmerman on 11-05-2006 11:11 AM:

I don't think weft float brocading is the thing. I think it is incidental. I'm hoping, but not too optimistic, that the kilim books I've ordered have something more than clearer little pictures to offer.

The thing is that in "Alien A type" weavings obviously eccentric weft technique was used. They did not use typical slit tapestry technique. They are alien. Louis is right. Period.

Until structural analysis is taken further and more seriously just more and ever darkening dark age silliness can result. Sue

Posted by R. John Howe on 11-05-2006 02:05 PM:

Louis -

I was not championing Ms. Cootner's specific groupings in this book only indicating that different folks group quite differently.

Further, she does not present Plate 24 horizontally. That was my doing to permit comparison of the "niche" characteristic between the three pieces. I don't defend her seeming suggestion that these first 24 pieces are within a group, I only suggested that there are people who see the best places to draw such distinctions differently.

I think Petsopoulos, who is using several indicators simultaneously (although he emphasizes color in his initial statement of distinguishing criteria) is on the best ground here. He suggests other reasons why you might see pieces in the two-three color group to be different from the ones in a group with more colors, those in the first group are not "alien," they are structurally different and likely recognizably finer.

I don't want to be seen to be arguing against the groupings you propose, but rather pointing out that, if you rely on design alone, the groupings seem to be more arbitrary and other reasonable people (Cootner was seen to be coherent enough to head the rug department at the major art museum in SF) might propose equally defensible alternative groupings.

Petsopoulos, however, seems to me to be standing on different and better ground with his groupings in this area.


R. John Howe

Posted by Sue Zimmerman on 11-06-2006 02:08 PM:

How can "Type A" kilims, which are not woven in slit tapestry technique, be grouped with those which are, without resulting in an "apples and oranges" type comparison? They can't. Not sensibly, at least.
How can such a grouping for comparison lead anywhere but to maybe sharpening rational skills in cerebral plausibility gamesmanship which, it sees to me, is so beloved in rug talks, and, it seems to me, leads nowhere much but down the path of ever lessening returns for further efforts made except, perhaps, in contributing to rug collector's "romantic notions" the notion of which comes up now and then and seems something everyone but me understands the definition of? Am I missing something by not collecting I'm not aware of? If I am please clue me in. I just don't get it. Sue

Posted by Vincent Keers on 11-06-2006 03:57 PM:


Type A (the first Yuncu presented by John) is slit.
Every weft line has a slit. A slit is a slit: one weft or 6/7 wefts.
All Yuncu are with the slit technique.

Dear John,

"they are structurally different and likely recognizably finer."
I hope Petsopolous counted the wefts from the bi-color and the multiple coloured Yuncu kilims.

Best regards,

Posted by R. John Howe on 11-06-2006 06:06 PM:

Sue, Vincent -

First, Petsopoulos is not speaking to Yuncu A in our set. It's not in his book. But he seems to be speaking about the general characteristics of what he calls the "red and blue" type as opposed to the "polychrome" type.

And since (like most writers on Anatolian kilims) he does not provide technical analyses of specific pieces, it is possible to misunderstand what he says as one digs it out of the text.

Let me reference the two pages that seem most relevant and quote from them.

First, on page 76, he seems to be discussing 19th century kilims from the Balikesir area. Here, again, is what he says: "...Those are mostly brocaded kilims made in weft-float technique on a warp and weft faced uniform ground...

"Tapestry-woven pieces are less common. They appear to fall within one family which is usually attributed to Balikesir..."

He says in a intervening passage that kilims from this area are usually,but not always,made in one piece. (The polychrome example he offers and that we have been considering as B was made in two pieces.)

"Their warps are usually of white wool and usually terminate in a combination of a braid along the edge of the kilim and a plaited fringe. Some pieces have this arrangement at both ends and others only at the bottom, the top having a loose fringe.

He says that designs are all diagonal or horizontal and "as a result, the slits are so small that they are not noticeable. They are further obscured by the highlighting of those outlines with weft-wrapping and overstitching which is usually done in white cotton and occasionally in red or blue wool."

"Although all Balikesir kilims share common technical features and design compositions unique to them, they can be divided into two types." These are his "red-blue" type and his "polychrome" type.

Then talking about the "red-blue" type he says:

"The patterns are very simple and bold, the only minor infill motifs are executed in weft-float brocading."

Still talking about the "red-blue" group in a caption for a piece he says:

All Balikesir kilims of the red and blue type have a distinctive end finish, consisting of a series of narrow red and blue stripes across the width of the field. This feature does not seem to appear on pieces of the polychrome type."

Then moving again in the text to talk about his "polychrome" group he first says "...this latter type are more loosely woven than those of the former, resulting in a much heavier fabric and their patterns are drawn on a larger scale...They are executed in slit weave tapestry in a variety of colors..."

Now what to make of the distinctions here.

Well my reading is that:

1. At a minimum red-blue group pieces tend to be much finer than do polychrome pieces and the latter likely have a much more "meaty" handle.

2. The red-blue group have a distinctive end finish.

3. He talks early in this general section about some "mostly brocaded kilims made in the weft-float technique" but maybe he is referring more generally to 19th century kilims made in the broader Bergama area and is contrasting that with the passage in which he says that "tapestry weaving is less common and "appear to fall within one family which is generally attributed to Balikesir..." Since as Vicent notes, one can see slit weave tapestry in the pieces in the red-blue group, his techique distinction must not be general. And he does say in one passage above that ""Although all Balikesir kilims share common technical features..." But he explicitly cites the use of "weft-face brocading" being used (ed. in pieces in the red-blue group) for "minor infill motifs," and he at least omits mention of that practice in his description of the "polychrome" group.

I think we should conclude for the moment what while the handle and weave of pieces in the "red-blue" group vs. the "polychrome" group are very different, these differences likely reside in fineness and tightness of weave, rather than in a wide-spead use of brocading to produce the basic fabric of "red-blue" group pieces vs slit weave tapestry for the "polychrome" group. It may be that "weft-face brocade" is used for "minor infill motifs" only in "red-blue" pieces, but even that is inference.

I hope that helps and corrects my previous broader indication.


R. John Howe

Posted by Sue Zimmerman on 11-06-2006 09:12 PM:

In Kilim "A" it is possible, for instance, that 2 or 3 red wefts go around one warp from the left and one blue weft goes around it from the right in the same "line". There is nothing visible, in this thread's picture of it, that that is not the case. It's peculiar shape suggests that it may have been woven in a peculiar way -- on a primitive loom with wool warps.

It is possible that "A" belongs in it's own category. Who can know that without subjecting it to careful, thoughtful, knowledgeable structural analysis? No one. And because of that this case is a case for THE case for better and more serious structural analysis' being of obvious necessity if modern rug studies are to be taken for anything but a joke, by the serious, in the future.

No new technology has to be invented for such structural determinations to be undertaken, after all, so it's just a shameless shame that things have fallen into such a stagnant state. I rest my case until my kilim book orders arrive and I have a chance to see as much as I can on my own. Sue

Posted by louis_dubreuil on 11-10-2006 01:24 PM:

translation help

Bonsoir à tous

I have got some info about technical analysis of the yuncu kilims. Unfortunatly thos infos are wroten in German language and I cannot translate some technical words and I have'nt found anything on the net.

The words are :

Schussreps : I think it is weft faced weave
flottierende Schussfäden : I suppose floating weft threads
umschlingende Konturfäden : maybe wrapped outlining threads (the white lines that outline the dark blue motifs)

konturschüsse : outlining weft (on a slit tepestry kilim) ?

broschierungen : maybe brocading ?

teilweise metallbroschierte Fäden (about the sheep wool wefts) ?

If someone could give the exact meaning in english I could report the technical analysis from the book (Early anatolian kilims from the Prammer collection, by Udo Hirsh)

louis dubreuil

Posted by Louis Dubreuil on 11-24-2006 04:01 AM:

Yüncü door in a french abbey

Bonjour à tous

Last week I go to Burgundy for visiting the family graves. Near Chablis (I suppose there are among the ruggies some french white wine amateurs) there is a stunning cistercian abbey (1185 -1206 building) in Pontigny.
This abbey has a nice portal. The main door has this design :

I find this design (the ironworks are from the origin of the abbey, XII°/XIII° century) near of the horned type of the yüncü.
I am not saying that one is the copy of the other. I just find similarities in the composition with a quite clear reference to a plant or tee design on a red ground.

This type of ironworks used on a door is not just functional (to reinforce the wooden panels). I think the design is also not just an ornementation to embelish the door. The use of a tree design is linked with the old beliefs linked to the tree of life, cosmic tree and other magic trees (ash tree for ex) that were current in europe in prechristian times. It is possible that the use of this type of design on the main door of an important abbey has something to see with a desire of protection of the building, with the affirmation of the power of the abbey director and also simply with the symbolic tree. The universal use of columns in the sacred european architecture is also a hudge reminiscence of the symbolism of the tree as a link between the underground and the heaven.

Its is well admitted that the tree (of life) symbol is a wide spread symbol belonging to the indo european world.

Several authors say, about the yüncü kilims that those pieces were considerated as "sacred" by the yüncüs (Jon Thompson), and that they could have been used for receiving important persons who seated on them (Balpinar in an old issue of Hali).

I suppose it is quite normal for people who don't built hard buildings to put on kilims symbolic designs that can have the same signification than signs we can see on old european abbeys.