Saturday 4 August 2012

A Group of Caucasian Carpets with Book-Cover Design

Since its publication in 1976,the Markarian Prayer rug with Medallion and Pendant design has assumed an iconic status.

Suitably dated 1857,the remaining examples of this group with a prayer design represent a downwood spiral.

2-Nagels 291-164


The Nagel`s carpet seems replete with synthetic dyes,and the Dehati example may even be a modern carpet,as it is so exactly like the Markarian.However the copyist seems to have run out of energy at the field-top,having been unable to imitate the inscription.

A characteristic of these carpets is the frequent use of Boteh motifs,and three examples have a typical  Kazak S-Meander border.



6-Private Collection

The "pinwheel"arms above or below the central medallion are a transfer from the non-prayer examples.

7-Sotheby`s 1985


The ultimate degeneration can be seen in pieces lacking the Pendants.

9-Hali 3-3-20

Non-Prayer Examples.

At least 11 examples are known,of which the two most prominent were the Herrmann and Battilossi examples.

10-SOT 7-30
Herrmann was unable to decipher the inscription,but it seems to be an improbable 1222,i.e 1807.Perhaps 1907 would be nearer the mark.The lined-up Botehs are typical.


Less remote are two further examples,ex-Tony Hazeldine,and a piece currently available on Rugrabbit.


13-Chris Hunt

Photo Gallery

As with the prayer rugs,weaker pieces lose their pendants and become simplified medallion carpets.An example from the Ulmke Collection is typical.

Photo Gallery

There are many Caucasian versions of the medallion-pendant theme,but leaving aside the obvious Persianate models,here are some more of interest:

The animal medallion group has its pendants buried amidst a field of Memling Guls,and in fact if the large medallion is removed,one is left with a standard allover Memling design.

16-RB 31-128
Mention should be made of the Caruso-Rudnick,still bearing vestiges of the Lotus Palmette.

17-Hali 79-72
A small group made famous by McMullan:

18-Hali 44-11-Herbert Ostler
Two models with 8-pointed star medallions are interesting in comparison to the Markarian prayer rug.

19-Sothebys 7.4.1992-51
The pincer arms are identical to those on the Markarian.An older piece clearly demonstrates that the medallion appendages are in fact split-palmettes from the classical Safavid repertoire.

20-Christies 13.6.1983-69(later Herrmann)

Peter Bausback`s mighty Lori Pambak from 1983 cannot be overlooked:

21-Bausback 1983-47
It`s predecessors have survived the accidents of time:

22-Rugs as Art 4.2.1973-120

23-Yetkin 101

And finally,a piece which is either 18th century or an extraordinary atavism:

24-Sotheby`s 11.6.2008-66

The origins of the medallion pendant design are obscure.No one can say when it first emerged,although its origins in book jacket design seem to derive from border illustrations in early Korans. Crystalised models appear in Korans of the Baghdad school,which also influenced contemporary Mamluke artisans.Tooled-leather covers are robust,surviving when pergament or paper have perished.Their shape and convenient size made them ideal blueprints for carpet design. Once thought to be a Safavid invention,they are now known to be much older,appearing on carpets in 15th century miniatures.The design was presumably tried out much earlier,in textiles.If Raby`s  15th century dating for the earliest LMU`s(Large-Medallion-Ushaks)is correct,which is not outlandish considering the veritable age of the Ottoman dynasty,then Medallion-Pendant carpets were certainly produced contemporaneously under the Turkmen rulers of East Anatolia and West Iran.The whole developement could not have by-passed Persia,and is another ground for proposing the 15th century origins of some NW Persian carpets.

A medallion may be depicted with two attached pendants,or with the pendant separated and presented in tandem(i. the Turkmen carpet)

What we see now are fragments of the exploded Timurid Galaxy.

The intimate connection between the art  of the carpet and the art of the book.

25-Herat 1438

26-Bernheimer sale 82



29-Baghdad 1286

30-Cairo 14th century

31-Jalayrid 14th Century

32-Shirvan 15th century

33-Timurid,15th century

34-Bukhara or Herat,16th Century

35-from Oljaitu`s Koran

Wednesday 1 August 2012

An Endangered Species:Dragons

There can be no worst expression in our society than the epithet"late".-"Arrived late","late to pay","my late grandmother",etc.Connotations of slowness,weariness and tardiness are implicit.With carpets,the inference is usually that of creative exhaustion,but some examples seem to have gathered themselves at the end of a long reign for one last explosive burst.

Christie`s sold such an item on April the 24th,2012,in London.


The Hali APG (H.172-117)rightly draws attention to the Grote-Hasenbalg piece


whilst forgetting the Burrell Collection.


Two examples mentioned by Serare Yetkin,one of which was published in the Istanbul ICOC Catalogue


and a carpet once in the possession of Anglo-Persian London,which has been published at least ten times(why?)


The group is characterised by a meander border,and dragons which have been reduced to squiggly snakes.One last example,in which the dragons valiantly attempt a return to form,was in the possession of Udo Langauer


More fotos

A group of dragon carpets whose Gestalt has been based on Sumakh carpets,although hardly contemporary with the above mentioned,can be included here

7-RB 38-126

The Hali APG for the above piece is misleading,as half the pieces mentioned do not really withstand a critical assignment to the Sumakh-inspired group(Hali 70-140)

It was presumably modelled on such a Sumakh

8-Lefevre 26.11.1976

Rippon Boswell is clearly the place to sell such things,having had 3 in the last 21 years

9-RB 11 May 1991-143A

Described in Hali 58 as a Kurdish carpet,the Zadah Dragon rug comes close to the original in style and panache

10-RB 14 May 1994

The Jerrehian carpet could certainly give Christies 2012 example a run for the money

11-Sotheby`s 8.10 1999-46
A last member of this group,clearly well into the 19th century,was published by Sch├╝rmann in 1976


Finally,if the greatest of all Dragon Sumakhs is the one most closely approximating its progenitor,then the award certainly goes to the carpet sold at Christies on 12th October 1989,-

13-see Hali 48-89
More fotos

Few examples of these types have survived.More will surely appear,sooner or later(oops!)

2012-Year of the Dragon

Tuesday 31 July 2012

A Balkan Tale

An excellent exhibition of fotos portraying Ottoman life and architecture in the Balkans,available here:-


See especially the video section.

Sunday 29 July 2012

divan rugs

The auction report(Hali 172-113) for a Turkish rug sold at Christies on 24.42012 makes interesting reading.

The piece was first sold at Brunk`s on 12.9.2012.

1-Brunks 2009

It appeared then at Christie`s in a spruced-up version.

2-Christies 2012

Described by Brunk`s as"reduced in the center throughout the length of the rug"this is in all probability a divan carpet made in two halves.A similar item,once in the author`s possession,demonstrates this,having had an original finish on the right-hand side.

3-Private collection
The Enjilas border is typical for this group.

4-Private Collection

5-Christie`s April 1989-1

6-Skinner`s 1990-later Rippon Boswell 1991

Two examples from the Kelez area,again as prayer rugs:

7-Weber Auction 1990


Sometimes the Enjilas border was simplified,removing the meander element:-


10-Lars Bonnevier-Rugrabbit

Why so many prayer rugs were made in two halves is a mystery.Perhaps larger looms were not available,or the weavers more often wove  kilims.Here a well-known "piece"from Franz Sailer after a simple montage:



More fotos

The Brunks/Christies example is at the end of a long continuum.Many of the "Transylvanian "carpets were probably woven in the Menderes valley area.Two types of Column rugs spring to mind,one with thick columns:-

13-Nagels,Auction 23-1101
More fotos

The other,more common,with Lotus Volute columns:-

14-Bausback 1978-71

More fotos

The group stands directly before(or side-by-side)the classical Konya prayer rugs with columns-which May Beattie infelicitously described as "coupled-columns"

15-Hali 36-104,Kinnebanian

One member of the Thin Column group seems to be losing its Spandrels:-

16-Sotheby`s 7.10.09-271

Thus paving the way for the absolute Siebenb├╝rger reduction act,prayer rugs without mihrabs or spandrels:-

17-Batari-Vegh Layer
More fotos

Saturday 28 July 2012

mystery rug

Myers Collection
Published in 1930 by Koechlin and Migeon(Oriental Art,plate LXXXII)this small silk fragment with animal design was described as"the oldest specimen of carpet known with the exception of the small piece with Cufic inscriptions from the excavations at Fostat"Collection G.H Myers,Washington.Size 27.5 x 13.75 ins(70 x 35 cms)
The carpet is now in the Cleveland Museum of Art,described as from "Rayy,Persia"

Gift of Milton Girod-Nr.1988.243

Postscript 4 April 2023:

The carpet was returned by Myers to the seller Paul Mallon,after the admonitions of Maurice Dimand,who considered it a fake.Mallon`s stepson Milton Girod-Mallon donated it to the Cleveland Museum of Art,where it still slumbers,considered for a long time to be a 15th century Persian rug.

After careful dye analysis in 2018 the rug was proven to be a later example containing dyes which were first invented in the late 19th century.

Photos of the rug`s back on the Cleveland website reveal it to possess a structure not unlike Tibetan carpets,positing an origin somewhere in Central-Asia (Uzbek Julkhyr carpets also employ such a technique)It probably has a Persian knot.

If it is a fake the question is:of what?