Keshishian Holiday Party, 2008

Dear folks –

On December 15, 2008, Harold and Melissa Keshishian held a holiday party at their home in Washington, D.C.


They were busy hosting, and I had to catch them separately.

There were rug collectors, some possible dealers and Keshishian relatives and friends.

Harold, it is almost redundant to say, is an inveterate collector, and not just of rugs and textiles.  He is interested in Armenian and Ottoman items bacause of his family background, but things from almost any area of collecting interest can be encountered.

A few examples of what was about this afternoon.

First, coming in the front door one nearly faces a large wooden carving likely from southern Alaska.


On a nearby wall is part of an Ottoman item of dress, perhaps a sleeve of some sort.  From an Albanian messenger uniform, 1875.


In the entry hallway there is a small glass case with miniature items of various sorts.  I don’t have a photo of it, but one such was a small, exquisite ivory dog with a cane in its mouth.

Harold’s study is always arrayed with interesting textiles.  Here he talks to a dealer friend, F. J. Hakimian, an internationally known rug entrepreneur, about a rare, colorful,  Shah Rahrah woolen, brocade, striped Kerman shawl.  Early 18th century.


Several textiles were displayed on a central office table.  One of these was the Lakai embroidery in the image below.


A second piece on this table was this Ottoman item with metal.


This is, actually, a potentially, memorable photo.  Harold is bending over his textile, and left to right seated are Bruce Baganz, the president of The Textile Museum Board, Russ Pickering, and Michael Seidman, a Washington collector and TM board member.  To my mind it is the sort of photo to which Hali should aspire in its end-of-issue gallery.

Here are some additional shots of this interesting textile.


This is an Ottoman velour, with metal embroidery.  It is court quality, 18th century.

Harold saw similarities between the piece above and another, handkerchief-sized textile that had been brought in.


And when we got to the “show and tell” part of the evening, asked that they be shown side-by-side.


Also on this study table was Harold’s famous sumak mafrash panel.  This piece, repeatedly published, is one of the oldest and finest sumak weavings known.


Under this sumak panel was this richly colored and decorated textile.


This, too, seemed a textile deserving of multiple images.  This is a rare Kerman shawl, fragmented and reconstituted from several pieces.  18th century.


Some of the textiles at this party were worn and their wearers permitted me to take some images of them.




After a little eating and drinking, we were ready for the show and tell.

The first piece was this small kilim.


A closer detail of this piece.


I don’t think it was given an attribution.

A second piece was this southwest Persian bag face.


A little closer look at its distinctive central medallion.


The next piece shown was a longer Caucasian pile rug.


The field features large, colorful, spaciously arranged and internally instrumented botehs.


The minor borders on this rug contain unusual “checkmark” devices.  The main border has rosettes similar to the ones often seen on Talish rugs.


I don’t have access to the owner ‘s attribution, as I write, but the literature seems to suggest that this piece could have been woven in Karabagh, Baku or Genje .  Plate 167 in Bennett has a similar Talish-like border and is attributed to Genje.

The next show and tell piece was also a Caucasian, this unusual Shirvan.


It features a double-niche field design.


Its attractive, not frequently seen, main border was once heavily populated with a corrosive dark brown that has now mostly gone away.


Notice that the larger scale of this main border permitted it, originally, to frame the field without competing with the dense field designs.

The next piece  was the  inscribed, Persian, pictorial rug below.


A little closer look.


Someone in the room said that this is a depiction of a particular event and scene from Shahnameh.  Perhaps of Rustam lamenting for Suhrab.

The next rug was this small Kazak.


Predominantly red, white and blue, this piece has a nice green ground in one of its medallions.


It also has rectanguler devices at its ends that made its owner wonder whether it might not be a variety of “Karachof.”


This piece also exhibits a wider array of color than an initial impression suggests, including the green, already mentioned, but also a mild yellow and a purple.

There were two longish kilims in the room.  The first of these was the Anatolian slit weave below.


A closer detail of this piece.


I am unsure, as I write, about the attribution assigned to this piece.  In his shorter book on kilims, Petsopoulos provides a Sivas example, in his Plate 95, that seems similar, but which lacks the banded, compartmented treatment here.

Another kilim shown was this one.


A closer detail.  Again, I’m not sure what was said in the room, but this piece resembles a group of “banded” kilims that Petsopoulos assigns to Malatya.


The next piece was a “transitional” period Navajo blanket of high quality.


While graphically impactful, the stark simplicity of the design of this piece does not reveal its real qualities.  For that a closer look is needed.




Here, it becomes apparent that the “blue” ground is in fact a subtle blue-brown stripe and that there are two reds.

The owner modeled it for us.


Another piece that Harold had out was this Caucasian silk  with a thatched-type embroidery.


It is covered with regularly-shaped blossom forms, but at its center are five crosses.  It is a rare piece, estimated to be 19th century, and has an Ottoman tax collector’s stamp on its back liner.


One very experienced and knowledgeable person said to me, looking at the piece, that he saw these devices as geometric forms, but not necessarily as Christian crosses.  My sense is that Harold does read them in this way, and that they suggest to him that this piece was created by Armenians.  Harold notes that Schurmann saw these devices as Christian crosses and says the size suggests that it would have been used as alter covering on which to place communion cups, etc.

The back of this piece, mentioned above, has an interesting, fancy, large-scaled, printed design of its own.  I asked Harold to hold it up for me to take.


The next piece was the handkerchief-size textile below.  You have seen it above, but I want to treat it on its own here.


The embroidery in this piece is exquisite.  I think the owner said that she bought it either in one of the Greek isles ,or on Cyprus.

Harold  spoke to the next piece, saying that it was rare, but not yet of a type that commands much collector interest.  It is a small, Macedonian, table cloth reconstituted, in the fashion of Greek Island textiles, from a plethora of costume textiles.  Such Macedonian textiles have the handle of “armor plate.”


Here is a closer look at one corner of it.


A next textile was this silk piece, thought by its owner to be from the Far East.


A closer detail.


Harold said that he had a similar piece in the house and had it brought out  for comparison.


Harold said that his piece, and he suspected this one, was/were woven in Southeast Asia, perhaps Indonesia.

A last piece was acknowledged to be outside the sort of thing we textile collectors usually include in our collecting universe.  The owner was the former U.S. ambassador to Armenia.  He said he had collected this piece from the artist who created it in Yerevan, Armenia.


This item is a long piece of oilcloth decorated with a complex design.   It is a more recent art form  practiced by contemporary artists in this area.  Here is a closer detail.


The owner was not sure of its intended use and wondered whether it could have been meant to be a floor-covering.

I don’t think anyone in the room answered with assurance, but oil cloth (which is cotton canvas impregnated with oil to make it water resistant) was used as floor coverings in less affluent homes in both Great Britain and the U.S., beginning in the early 18th century.  There is lots of reference to “painted” and “printed” canvas for floorcoverings in the literature of early American furnishings.  So it is possible that this item could have been intended as floor covering.

The show and tell ended, and folks turned to dessert and coffee and to a last drink, before thanking Harold and Melissa for a fine evening.


I hope you have enjoyed this virtual look at this nice holiday party, with rugs and textiles added.

R. John Howe

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