Wednesday 30 January 2013

Ersari or Baluch ?

Fred Hazin recently published an interesting prayer rug on rugrabbit.


Mr.Hazin adroitly circumvented the direct localisation of this piece by describing it as a”Central Asian prayer rug with Baluch design”Technically,his carpet has all the attributes of a classic Baluch Prayer rug,with camel ground,goat`s hair selvedge and Persian knot open left.And yet?

The Hazin rug appeared at Nagels Auction in 2000,described as Ersari-Beshir.It also spent some time with the Swiss dealer Reto Christoffel

2-Nagels 16.May 2000-Lot 159

A piece of this type was published for the first time by Werner Grote-Hasenbalg,who described it as “Turkmen(Baluchistan)”which is certainly enjoying the best of both worlds

3-Grote-Hasenbalg III-96

Another Nagel`s rug from 1978 was catalogued as Baluch,with the white areas in the upper field highlighted in cotton,an “extreme rarity”in Baluch rugs(although not in Turkmen)

4-Nagels 6 May 1978-39a

Discussing a rug in his own possession,Brian MacDonald confused the Grote- Hasenbalg rug with the piece published in 1980(and in 1979)by Peter Bausback in his Baluch monograph

5-MacDonald,Hali 49,page 5

6-Bausback,Baluch Catalogue 1980,page 9

MacDonald`s letter to Hali(Hali 49,page 5)was actually sparked off by the sale of another group member at Werner Weber`s auction in 1989(May 22,lot 49,described as Ersari,see Hali  47.p.90),an atypical work  not woven on camel ground

7-Weber Auction 22 May 1989-Lot 49

Eberhart Herrmann entered the fray in 1987 with a sonorous example which he attributed to the Ersari.He remarked that the copying of Turkmen designs by the Baluch was a well-known phenomena;however the reverse case had not yet been investigated

8-SOT 9-88  Retail price: DM 7850

Not to be outdone,Peter Bausback published a further example in his 1987/88 catalogue.He cites the Grote-Hasenbalg piece,but categorises his own as Baluch,with an improbably early date of 1800.He notes”the many similarities to Beshir Prayer Rugs”

9-Bausback 87-88-page 173

Mangisch Auctions in Zürich sold another atypical rug in their 1990 auction.They came down clearly on the side of the Ersari,also commenting upon the singular copying of the Baluch by the Turkmen

10-Mangisch Auctions Zürich 9 November 1990-Lot 492

Priced at 21 English pounds,a piece of this type was published in Jekyll`s second catalogue of 1929,which later re-appeared in forlorn condition,in the fourth Catalogue of the late Hans Elmby.

11-Jekyll II-46

12-Elmby IV-59

Elmby(1998) had no trouble attributing it to the Ersari,remarking on the astonishing similarity to Baluch work,but also noting differences in structure(the lack of soumak twining in the flatwoven elem) and reverse side.He described the ground colour as being of “camel wool”

13-Fred Hazin

A last example was published by Taher Sabahi,from the collection of Siawosch Azadi

14-L `Arte del Tappeto,page 499

Two further examples are known,presumably early 20th century,which imitate the “architectural style” of certain Baluch prayer rugs with Mosque designs.One of these was attributed by the Hamburg Turkmen Koryphae M.Tehrani to the Ersari


A second,similar item was on offer from the Dutch ebay dealer groen7groen,with conclusively Ersari borders and "Turbe" design


It seems to come out at around 50-50 for Ersari or Baluch.The modern authorities(Herrmann,Elmby,Azadi,Tehrani)all side with the Ersari.It is true that Ersari-Beshir carpets with camel grounds are extremely uncommon.Perhaps a rug once in the possession of Theo Häberli can help us further

17-Elmby IV-23

It will not be the first time that the Masters have imitated their servants.


As often,more pieces have surfaced,sent in by Igo Licht

An example published by Peter Bausback in 1976,and again in 1978


Another example from Tom Cole

19-Tom Cole

A piece from Mr.Licht `s own collection

20-Igo Licht

And finally a foto of Brian MacDonald`s piece in colour,and a better picture of the Hans Elmby rug,which was once in the Licht Collection

21-MacDonald-Tribal Rugs 163


There was also a discussion on Turkotek:-



Quite by chance the Turkotek discussion started two days before this post- Thanks to Igo Licht for his contribution.

Tuesday 22 January 2013

Two Types of Mafrash

An unusual Turkmen trapping recently appeared on rugrabbit.

1-Mete Mutlu

Writing in Hali 167,page 160,the APG editor had the following to say concerning a similar mafrash sold at Nagels,Stuttgart on 7 September 2010:

“This well-known pattern is a puzzle,one that no one yet has bothered to discuss”


The design seems to derive or at least stylistically mirror that of certain Tentbands.The central panels are bisected by slender columns crowned with rams-horns.Between the columns a quincunx formed of double boxes and rectangles fill out the field.The 5-sided Dice form is not immediately apparent and on closer inspection the entire design seems to swim before one`s eyes.White diagonal or triangular lines connect the white rectangles.Some of the pieces have lost the rams-horns.The borders are invariably a simple zig-zag,or an equally simple chamtos motif.

They have been described as Yomut,Igdyr,Chodor,and Eagle- Göl.They appear all to  be woven in mafrash or kap size,although some may be torbas.According to Peter Andrews the Persian word Mafrash is not in use by the nomads of Turkmenistan,but was first employed by Dudin and later,Moshkova.

The majority have been categorized as Yomut,but in his first catalogue the late Hans Elmby published two examples which he described as Tekke and Yomut

3-Elmby 1-5-Tekke

4-Elmby 1-5a-Yomut

The tech analysis for the two is similar,but the Tekke example is nearly twice as finely knotted,and omits the typical rams-horns(as does an obviously Yomut item sold at Sothebys in 2002)

5-Sothebys  27 February 2002-Lot 25

Most of the pieces in this group,with the exception of an “Igdyr”item from the Amstey Collection,appear to be Persian-knotted open right.The consensus is that they are Persian-Knotted Yomut work.The Nagel catalogue entry of 2012 opines “Eagle-Group”which was accepted uncritically by Hali,and which tastes of sales hype.There are no known Eagle Göl pieces with this design,and indeed the Rautenstengel/Azadi book focusses on Main Carpets-discussion of trappings is limited to well-defined areas in which the “box-and-triangle”design does not occur.It may be that some authors were thrown by the combination of Persian Knot-right and fine weave,which on paper sounds like Tekke.However,the possibility of a Tekke origin for some of these pieces cannot be ruled out.

6-David Sorgato

7- Șeref Özen

As Hans Elmby once said:”Yomut,you know,it does not exist !

More examples click HERE

Another group often associated with the foregoing (”Small is Beautiful”Hali 4/1)is a Tekke Group with the “Aiyly”design,once conjectured by Jon Thompson to have been the original Tekke version of the Salor Turreted Göl

8-Thompson Sale Sothebys 16 December 1993-Lot 6

According to Tsareva(after Moshkova),the word “Aiyly”means”all in a row”-presumably a weaver`s nickname.Moshkowa credited the Igdyr of the Amu-Darya(in the so-called Porsy Settlement)with its household use.

Like the “box-and-triangles”Group,the designs seem to derive from tentbands,although the originals have long since vanished.The most common type features white panels upon which arrowed striations project from a central spine.On many examples,such as the Thompson fragment,the space-between is filled with small coloured whirligig rhomboids,or chamtos,phasing over into a second group,in which these panels become more dominant


The Hoffmeister carpet was originally labelled Yomut on its first publication(Hali 28,page 91,Adraskand)but Tekke(with question-mark)in the Hoffmeister/Tsareva Catalogue.

An example sold at Sothebys was said to contain silk and cotton

10-Sothebys October 1985-lot 743(Islamic Sales)

The last known outliers are two items once offered by Adil Besim  

11-Adil Besim-Hali 5-3-33

and E.Herrmann

12-Herrmann ATT 4-95c

These types of small trapping have frequently been misattributed,but it seems they were both produced at various times and places by the Tekke and Yomut.Especially the white panel Tekke Group seems imbued with symbolism,although its exact meaning is unclear.But then again,”a carpet will never completely divulge its secret”(E.Herrmann)

13-Ronnie Newman-Hali 83-11

14-Hoffmeister Collection-71

More Fotos click HERE

Friday 11 January 2013

A carpet fragment in Berlin

Felix Elwert`s current photo posting on rugrabbit features many of the carpets on show at the Islamic Art Museum in Berlin. Link Amongst the justly famous examples it is gratifying to see the authorities exhibiting lesser known fragments.

1-Photo:Felix Elwert

One such is a spiral vine carpet which was part of the cache of some twenty pieces destroyed by fire after a British bombing raid in 1945.Despite their academic prowess,neither Erdmann nor Kühnel were able to fold the carpets properly for transport to the Grasleben saltmine,so the rolled pieces were deposited at the old Berlin Mint,where they took a direct hit.

The carpet in question was published by Erdmann in “700 Years”(page 130,fig 159) 


The photo from Felix Elwert is thus the first colour reproduction.

There is  no other piece quite like this,its giant scrolls are amongst the most dominant ever committed to carpet,and the skewed Fleur-de-Lis border is a variation on the Chelsea carpet/Lees William Animal-Medallion carpet border.A similar border can be seen on a fragment once in the Kelekian Collection


The scrolls enter and exit from a strange floral grinning skull.The corners are filled with quartered medallions,so perhaps this was originally a medallion carpet.Erdmann saw an influence from the Polonaise Group,but the piece is surely much older.Large Spiralranken do occur on many Safavid carpets,such as the NW Persian Medallion Group

4-Sothebys 14 September 2001-Lot 2

the magnificent Lees Williams Carpet

the great borders of the Anhalt

6-After Sarre

and indeed on the occasional Polonaise

7-The Drey Collection Polonaise,Munich 1910,Nr 58

A reconfigured fragment in the Poldi Pezzoli Museum is said to be from Khorasan


but in the majority of examples-with the exception of the Polonaise-the Scrolls curtail with a split arabesque,whereas in the Berlin piece the knotty boughs end in cloud-grapes,as in the border.Acquired as a fragment,if the cut end was the centre,then the carpet measured some 8 metres in length(by 3 wide)

The carpet was not mentioned by Volkmar Enderlein in his review of the Berlin Exhibition “Casualties of War”(Hali 68,page 127)This was held to coincide with the 1993 ICOC,and featured a number of rescued fragments in reconfigured status alongside enlarged photos of the originals. 

For years Berlin`s carpets were divided between East and West,and a complete catalogue raisonné(such as Angela Völker`s on the Vienna carpet collection)has never been attempted.There are surely many more treasures in store.

browsing the Museum`s website revealed an insignificant Press Release from 13 July 2012 to the extent that the Keir Collection has now returned to England.After so much hype(the creation in the Pergamon Museum of a special Exhibition area,two major shows with a fifteen year loan promise,and a full catalogue)one can but wonder why.

Thursday 10 January 2013

Animal Carpets in Doha

The Islamic Art Symposium takes place every two years ,organized by Sheila Blair and Jonathan Bloom.In 2011 Hali`s founder,Michael Franses,held a lecture on Early Animal Carpets.

At least seven vaguely related pieces are known.They are said to have been found in Tibet,something of a Novum,as it is uncommon for carpet dealers to reveal their sources.

1-Ex-Kirchheim,Now Doha

2-The MET-New York

3-Kirchheim Collection

4-Kirchheim Collection

5-Bruschettini Collection ,Genova

6-Christies 5 April 2011-101