Treasure chests sometimes wash up on the shores of the Internet.Two carpet groups,which appeared in the last few years,were amongst the driftwood.
Many people could mistake this for a Tekke or Arabatchi ensi.True,the insikush look wilted,and there are no bovrek fingers clutching the central spine.There are no camel trains or opulent curled leaf borders.But the panelled inner borders have been taken from the Arabatchi,used on their ensis as well as on a small proportion of chovals.However,the border has been further simplified,when compared to the original.In this group it is usually an hour-glass form with diamond appendages.Sometimes the soynak border encompasses the entire field,as in this example.This is never the case with Tekke or Arabatchi ensis,where the elem play a crucial role.Here the elems are always of the standard Tekke-type.
A subgroup utilises a shield design,which is basically a mirrored ensi or keyhole form.
The chroma is mostly pastel,although some have stronger colours.They employ the simplest of natural dyes,and an attempt has often been made to mimic the madder exhaust pinks which feature on arabatchi ensis.Green and yellow are unknown.Along with a rough Baluch-type weave,this imparts them a dessicated look.
None appear older than 1900,with a taq around 1940.Their first appearance seems to have been at Mangisch`s Auction on 16 September 1989(lot 1127,labelled Kirghiz),although there may be others lurking in older publications.
Is it is possible that we are looking at the remnants of a long-lost tribe?Alas...no.It`s more likely that a group of dealers commisioned them to replenish stocks of diminishing Turkmen ensis,which were in demand as export items.They are all quite varied and skillfully made,which would indicate a routine work environment where small rugs could be run up in a short time,with the simplest of materials and labour.They have a scurrilous quality,like pulling the leg of the Turkmen,for whom the Baluchis often worked as shepherds,and who treated them like dogs.
Roughly contemporary,and also from N.E Persia,is a group of bagfaces with an 8 pointed star,or Khatam,as central Logo.Persian dealers call them "Mumluke"
They have also been described as Afshar,Nishapour,Qashgai,Teleghan...the consensus seems to fall to the Afshar,but those groups living in Khorasan.The earliest appearance is in Engelhardt,1976,pl.560.Again,more examples may come to light in older publications.
The quaint misnomer"Mumluke"is not entirely inaccurate as the design appears on at least two very early Mamluke carpets(both in the V & A).These are the Mounsey carpet,where it features centrally,and the famous "anatolian " style fragment,employed as a corner piece.The khatam,or"seal of the prophet,Seal of Solomon,etc"is an ancient design found frequently in Mamluke marquetry,and even earlier on Nasrid textiles.One carpet maker thought so highly of it that he created a legend around this one design-the so-called "chessboard" rugs were born.
The pieces are uniformly well made with glossy wool,tight weave,and excellent,varied colouration.A faded red has been observed,probably dyed with Bakkam.Knotted middle pieces with an allover pattern are common,as well as Turkish rosettes placed in all four corners.The Khatam is often placed in a larger medallion outlined in white,giving them a typical "Baluchi" look.
It`s unlikely that they are a group of mis-placed Mamlukes.Like the Ensi Group,they are probably more the products of commerce than of custom.Design- poaching has been a constant in carpet production through the ages.In this sense dealers and pickers are more like archaeologists,digging up the remains of what their predecessors once instigated.
The two carpet types described here can hardly be found in the carpet literature.Without the Internet they would not have surfaced as a group,being too insignificant for the major auction houses.It is noteworthy that unknown types of carpet are still emerging.Let us hope this trend continues.