DC IHBS Hosts Philadelphia Rug Society, Part 1, Caucasians

On May 18, 2008 the DC area rug club, the IHBS, hosted the Philadelphia Rug Society in a “show and tell” program of selected pieces.

Some considerable planning and preparation had been made and some of it was visibly going on as we arrived.

The Textile Museum made the Myers Room and one other available and a free lunch was served (just in case you thought the latter is an empty set)

Austin Doyle, the IHBS president, welcomed the Philadelpia Rug Society members.

Austin was the presenter for the first group of pieces, the Caucasians.  He began with the textile below.

Caucasian 1

This is a verneh (Caucasian flatwoven structure) with camels.  Verneh with a camel caravan are called Shadda and attributed to Karabagh, more specifically to Lombaran in the Barda district, to the East of Nagorny Karabagh.

Usually woven in two widths and sewn together along one edge.  Two colors, red and blue are used for warps.  The same colors are also used for the ground wefts.  Where both are the same, one finds a solid blue or red ground.  Borders have red warps and blue wefts, which give a different color tonality.  The camel figures are woven in extra-weft wrapping (sumac).  The white is undyed cotton.

Someone from the audience noted that there are both dromedary camels (one hump) and Bacterian camels (two humps) in this piece.

Caucasian 1a

The second Caucasian rug was the one below.

Caucasian 2

This is a Alpan Kuba fragment, with a bold design and beautiful colors.  It is missing approximately half of its length as well as its main border and outer guard stripe.

The designs consist of a single vertical row of repeating eight-pointed medallions, surrounded by elongated hexagons with claw-like projections.

The name refers to the town of Alpan, situated to the northeast of Kuba. Raoul Tschebull maintains that the geometric Alpan design can be traced, via 17th-18th century Azerbaijan silk embroideries back to the pattern of unglazed tiles found throughout the Islamic world.

The next Caucasian rug was the Seichour piece below from the extreme northern part of the Kuba khanate.

Caucasian 3

Caucasian 3 has the characteristic blue selvege and colors of Seichour rugs.  It has an unusual bird border and a fine weave, of approximately 130 kpsi.  Its Kasim Ushag design (usually seen in Karabagh rugs) derived from 17th century Caucasian embroideries.  This rug is a very close match with the Seichour rug in Raoul Tschebull article, Hali 62, page 84.  Field clearly derived from early Caucasian workshop carpets while the medallion is reminiscent of early Caucasian embroideries such as the one on page 106 of this same issue.

The next rug was also attributed to Seichour.

Caucasian 4

It has a small pattern light-red trellis field with corroded brown.  Its striking border has an abrashed blue-green ground, decorated with attractive, large-scale blossoms, curved leaves and blue selveges.

Its field is similar to that in a third-quarter 19th century Kuba rug in Hali 47, page 87.  Its field design and color are also similar to a Zeikhur prayer rug, dated 1861, in Tschebull’s article in Hali 62, page 86.

The next rug was a Marasali with an unusual pictorial field design.

Caucasian 5

The field of this rug includes fantastic animals and human figures, including Rustam, killing the white Div (demon).

Caucasian 5a

Rustam was the mightiest of Persian heroes and was imortalized by the 10th century poet Ferdowsi in the Shahnameh, or Epic of Kings.

Caucasian 5b

The rug has flame botehs and major and minor borders all characteristic of Marasali.

Caucasian 5c

The boteh design derived from Kashmir and then Kerman shawl designs and was used relatively early in Marasali rugs.

The next rug shown was likely one of the stars of the day.

Caucasian 6

It is a large Kuba prayer format piece.  Austin said that it is similar to several rugs in “Caucasian Prayer Rugs” by Ralph Kaffel, that are dated there from early to the mid-19th century.

Kuba rugs are noted for their naturalistic flowers, as seen in this piece.

Caucasian 6a

The tall, peaked mirhab is usually a sign of age.

Caucasian 6b

Its wonderful blue and black main border has a design that initially looks like a stylized Kufic script, but may, instead, be composed of countered botehs with one additional device and little red accent dots.  Blue selveges, and warps plaited together a the ends are both characteristics of Kuba.  Cross hatch minor borders can be seen in either Shirvan or Kuba rugs.

The next rug was the white-ground Shirvan prayer format piece below.

Caucasian 7

Austin indicated that this rug could possibly be from Daghestan (land of the mountains) north of Shirvan.  It has a spacious, serrated, lattice field, with many types of flowers.

Caucasian 7a

The piece has an inner medachyl guard border and a dragon S main border.  It also has a serrated mirhab with a continuation of the minor border design.

Caucasian 7b

Its flattened type mirhab can be seen in early pieces (it is dated 1864).  This rug has a possible anthromorphic touch with devices that are read by some as “smiling faces” in the floral design spandrels.  Its flatwoven ends finish with braiding.

Caucasian 7c

The next piece was the Karabagh khorjin face below.

Caucasian 7

This piece has an unusual central floral medallion and an apparent use of cochineal.  The field has the rudiments of a Herati design, with curving leaves resembling fish.  The Herati design is characteristic of Persia, and is unusual in the Caucasus, but can be seen in Karabagh.

Austin next moved to an unusual Shirvan rug.

Caucasian 8

The red-ground field, in this piece, contains four rows of flowers, with seven flowers in each row.  These floral figures have an anthromorphic appearance,

Caucasian 8a

and were termed a “Kelleli motif” by the Russian scholar Liatif Kerimov who thought that these looked like figures in Caucasian folks dances “Jally.”  Usually, these Kelleli figures are restricted to single bands in the upper and lower sections of the rug’s field.  The rows of figures decrease subtly in size going up the field, giving a sense of depth.  The rug belongs to a small group of squarish Shirvan rugs, often pictorial.

It has a white dragon border.

Caucasian 8b

Its knot count is approximately 100 kpsi.

The next Caucasian rug was the small Bijov below.

Caucasian 9

The design of this rug is a descendent of a very old one composed of repeated palmettes flanked by curved leaves.  It centers on three different connected and ascending palmette (or shield) forms on the vertical axis of the field, each flanked by “curled-leaf” motifs.

Caucasian 9a

Below each palmette are leaf-like elements which project at 45 degrees.  These rugs can be compared to some of the 19th century dragon soumaks, and presumably derive from 17th and 18th century dragon rugs from the Karabagh area.

Caucasian 9b

Bijov rugs are usually some of the largest of those from the eastern Caucasus, so this one is unusual.  While Bidjov rugs are often coarsely woven, this one is finer.  Its fineness has the effect of permitting the design to retain its effectiveness despite the small format.

Caucasian Rug 10 was the Seichour long rug below.

Caucasian 10

This opulently designed rug features three fully drawn, dramatic St. Andrews cross devices.  The diagonal cross designs display richly ariculated floral elements on a white field.  The colors are lovely.

Caucasian 10a

The rug scholar, Murray Eiland, says that these rugs were actually made in Tabasaran, a tribal area in southern Daghestan, north of Kuba.  Wright and Wertime claim this design was created in the 19th century for commercial purposes.

Caucasian 10b

This rug so impressed Dennis Dodds that he came to the front to make sure we noticed it merits.

Caucasian 10c

The next “Caucasian” piece was the one below.

“Caucasian” 11

The reason for the quotation marks is that it is not certain that this is a Caucasian weaving.  It may have been woven in Karabagh, but it may also be from eastern Anatolian.

Regardless, it is an interesting mafrash panel.  There is reddish red wrapping and a red flatweave with blue and white brocade.  There are highlights in white cotton.

The jade green and the shade of blue that occurs on the yellow band are consistent with Kurdish work from eastern Anatolia.

“Caucasian” 11a

The arrowheads and diamond figures in the field are consistent with either Karabagh or eastern Anatolia.

“Caucasian” 11b

I am treating the last Caucasian piece shown out of sequence because I momentarily “lost” it in the 315 photos I took during this event.  It is the south Caucasian long rug below.  Both warps and wefts are wool.

Caucasian 12

This graphically attractive rug features diagonal use of cruciform devices on a navy field.  These devices and this usage are similar to those seen in Shahsavan flatweaves.

Caucasian 12a

This rug has an archaic main border with trefoil minor borders.

Caucasian 12 b and c

The color palette in this piece is wide and beautiful.  It includes: greens, gold, medium blue, natural camel hair, tomato rust, salmon, deep blue, walnut, brass brown and ivory.

This is the end of the Caucasian part of this program.   We plan to add additional sections as they become available.

My thanks to  Austin and to the owners of the pieces shown for permission to share them with you.


R. John Howe

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