Tuesday 11 June 2013

The Dervish Swastika Design

Discredited in our time,the Swastika has a long and convoluted history.Its use on carpets is limited,with the exception of Far East Asian rugs.Neither Classical Persian nor Indian carpets feature it prominently,but as a border apparition it occurs on a group of Turkish rugs,amongst which are two examples from the Christopher Alexander collection

1-A Foreshadowing of 21st Century Art-page 249

2-A Foreshadowing of 21st Century Art -page 203

Alexander interprets the design via motifs drawn from the Alhambra and the Rustem Pasha Mosque in Istanbul.The tilework analogy had already been noted by Ferenc Batari in his contribution to OCTS II("White Ground Anatolian Carpets"page 197)

3-OCTS II-page 199

An illustration from Walter Denny is equally relevant

4-Denny,Iznik,page 86

Here four swirling leaves have been formed into a swastika.The tile construction-method creates a "substrate" design between the single pieces,a four pointed star.A similar layout occurs on a Caucasian silk embroidery once published by Ulrich Schürmann

5-Schürmann 140

The Rustem Pasha was built between 1561 and 1563.Large floral swastikas appear on a Safavid silk kilim at Ardabil from a slightly later period

6-Canby,Abbas,page 184

Interestingly,the larger cartouches are interspersed with roundels bearing abbreviated Swastika forms,as on the borders of the Alexander group.A further example appeared at Christies on 17 October 2002,selling for $120,165(see Hali 126-132)


This,with the Alexander fragment 203,and two other pieces,forms a core group

8-Bonhams 4 April 2006-Lot 58

The above sold for $20,700(see Hali 147-101).A thing of beauty despite its martyred condition.The quatrefoil medallion is closest to that of the Small Medallion Ushaks.The pendants have been replaced by the trees from the field of the other examples.It is possible that the original pendants are in fact Sanjaks,or Ottoman banners,which were often thus shaped


A fourth piece was sold at Nagels on 27 March 2012(Lot 14)for $123,825.See Hali 172-115


The first published example was in the broschure to the French exhibition in 1982,the Boulogne-Billancourt


This later re-surfaced at Rippon-Boswell`s in May 2007(Lot 103)where it sold for $24,410

12-RB-now Italy

These salient fragments stand between the earlier SMU models and the Alexander Group.This is the only known SMU example with the Dervish border.Another SMU("Small Medallion Ushak")also with Tabibnia,features the Sanjak-style lamp

13-Hali 126

and the extra aureole around the symbolic animal-skin field.

Apparently unconnected,another carpet was discovered further East at Divrigi

14-Balpinar/Hirsch plate 28

This is a much more assured piece of work,and may well be a successful prototype.The border colour is held in two-tone,as in the fragment once illustrated by Peter Bausback

15-Bausback 1983-page 39

A medallion carpet in the Holbein style was sold at Christies,London on 5 April 2011(Lot 50) for $69,750,and should be lined up next to Alexander`s 249

16-Christies 2011

Two further fragments are of interest.The first is a field section from a medium-sized rug in Budapest

17-Batari Plate 23

A last example appeared at Sothebys in 1983,and was later published by M. Dall`Oglio in OCTS II,page 193(1986)

18-Sothebys April 1983

Heavily re-configured,with added medallions,it was nevertheless notable for its white Selendi ground


and when it surfaced again in Sothebys sale of 28 April 2004,made a well deserved $42,480.

Interpretations of the Swastika re-appeared sporadically in Turkey,but never in this form again


21-The Sarre Carpet-Hali 82-73

22-Vakflar 64

23-Budapest-Batari 172

A group of Anatolian kilims interpreted the swastika in a style later copied by the Pinwheel Kazaks

24-Rippon Boswell 24.11.2012-Lot 221

The use of the Swastika motif recurred in the Caucasus region. A silk embroidery from the shrine of Imam Ali at Najaf closely mirrors the Rustem Pasha tilework

25-Aga-Oglu plate 28

An example in the V&A has an allover "Bird"design,which,as Batari observed,derives from the Dervish design


27-Biertan-Ionescu 55

However the London embroidery features a centralised Dervish design between the birds,similar to two embroideries sold at Sotheby`s

28-Sotheby`s 25.7.1990-1

29-Sotheby`s 17.9.1992-39

Both pieces relate directly to a carpet sold at Rippon-Boswell`s,Wiesbaden,on 17 May 2003(Lot 94) for $52,025


Another example is known,once in the Orient Stars collection,and later with David Sorgato

31-OS 17-see also Hali 150-31

The silk embroideries from the Caucasus/N.W Persian area played a crucial role in the development of carpet designs,serving as Wagirehs before the general introduction of paper.New ideas could be tried out in a fast and efficient way.Some are truly miniaturised carpets,and the Swastika is a regular Leitmotiv

32-Lefevre May 1977,Lot 52

33-Sothebys 16 December 1998-Lot 24

The TM`s medallion-leaf design is based on a well-known 18th century group

34-Textile Museum

35-Spuhler,Carpets from Islamic Lands,page 135

Two further examples have no knotted equivalents,although one should never be too hasty


37-Christies 6 April 2006-124(formerly Herrmann 1993)


An embroidery in Lyons is related to a group of Caucasian carpets in the Karapinar style

39-Tokatlian 40

The following three carpets employ the silhouette effect and large blocks of colour,albeit with black outlining

40-Ketterer 16 October 1987-119
41-Christies April 2007-18

42-Rugs as Art,Auction,23 April 1972-63

The centralised medallion with Harshang shows a hooked formation later to be seen in 19th century Pinwheel and Star Kazaks.The oblique lozenge forms can be seen on a rug in Istanbul

43-ICOC Istanbul 2-117

and end their days on the so-called Karagashli rugs

44-RB 13 November 1993-Lot 48

Also in the Karapinar style are two further pieces

45-Sothebys London 28 April 1993-Lot 60

The above had been purchased at an English country sale for under 1000 pounds,and sold at Sothebys for $41,530.A second example,said to have been a personal favourite of Ulrich Schürmann`s,went unsold at RB`s Orient Stars sale in 1999,but sold at the same auction house in 2010 for $21,015.It had previously been published by Eberhart Herrmann in ATT 1(1989)

46-Herrmann,ATT 1-22

Two  examples with more conventional layout are in the L.A Meyer Museum in Jerusalem,and the al-Sabah Collection Kuwait

47-Hasson 38

48-Spuhler,Carpets from Islamic Lands 31

The above was looted from the Kuwait City Museum during the Iraqi invasion,and has not been recovered.The S border on the Jerusalem piece occurs on large-scale "Sunburst"Caucasian carpets,such as an item illustrated by F.R Martin which was later with Cittone

49-Martin XXIX

A more radically altered form of the Dervish design occurs on the borders of some "Sunburst"carpets

50-San Gregorio Sale 640-thence Tabibnia

mutating to a standard border and field design on numerous Yomud weavings

51-Elmby IV-19

52-Phillips-Hali 4-4-37(later Pacific Collections 117)

Two Caucasian silk covers present a further development of the Dervish design


54-Lefevre 25 November 1983

When the two ears are straightened the design becomes that of the D-Type Star Kazak border

55-The Ballard

The addition of some Turkmen "C" motifs creates a new entity which veils the original.

In an article in Hali 3/3(Gedanken zum Swastika Kasak)Hans Otto Gsell accurately identified the connection of the Pinwheel Kazaks to the Bird Ushaks,which are as we have seen schematised versions of the Dervish border.Without doubt the Pinwheel Kazaks are the most overtly Swastika design rugs.They were manufactured in the most ungainly way possible.Ulrich Schürmann`s example is a classic,with the added bonus of bad condition

56-Caucasian Rugs 4

Curiously,there appear to be no known Pinwheel or Star Kazak Soumak carpets.One variant of the Star Kazak was produced as Soumak and in pile

57-Christies 16 October 2003-13(ex Paulette Godard)

A knotted version appeared at Nagels in 1994

58-Nagels 6 May 1994-1071

Carpets with this design are much rarer than the Star Kazaks,probably due to the extraordinary sums paid for the latter,which represent the apotheosis of the Dervish-Swastika design

59-Eberhart Herrmann,Hali 3-1-20