Wednesday 20 February 2013

An Exclusive Club

Due to the frequency with which some items are re-published,a distorted view of their actual rarity may arise.One such case is the East Turkestan carpet chosen by Hans König to illustrate a group of woolen carpets with textile design(Hali 175,page 50)

 1-Tabibnia-Intrecci Cinesi page 100

This carpet has been published at least eleven times,although only five examples of the group are known.(Writing in Hali 138,page 57,König refers to six pieces,but without listing them)

2-Tabibnia,Hali 174-50

3- Tabibnia,Hali 138-52,also Hali 102

Three of the five are so similar that in comparing the Tabibnia rug(Hali 174,page 50)to the piece published in König`s  2005 monograph on Gansu carpets,the editors mixed up the pictures-Issue 174`s piece was auctioned three times,having been previously in the possession of Barbara Sedlin and Maurizio Battilossi(1).The carpet in Hali 138-53(2) is another Tabibnia carpet once belonging to Jay Nazmiyal,and exhibited by him in Hali 102.

4- Christies 19 November 1985-Lot 18

The above is the first published example.

Another piece in the possession of Maurizio Battilossi was also the largest:a gigantic 523 x 358 metres,which understandably failed to sell against an estimate of $150-200,00 at Sothebys in 1994

5- Battilossi,Hali 74

An atypical piece was once owned by E.Herrmann and later went to the Textile Gallery

6- Hali 40,Herrmann 

The design itself is derived from 15th century Ming Lampas weaves,of a type published in Hali 103,page 152.


The similarities are so obvious that a further excursion into possible Safavid influence need not detain us here.

A silken mat bearing this design was first published in the Tiffany`s Studio catalogue of 1906 

8-Tiffany 1906-page 91

It is so close to a second example from the Wher collection that one must presume that they were once a pair.

9-Hali Annual 4 1997-page 99

A later silk example was also in the hands of Adil Besim

10- Besim 3-77

Of the five known woolen carpets technical information is available for four.They all have a 4-ply warp,and three shoots of weft,on either ivory or blue-dyed cotton.Only the Herrmann rug has a weft of two shoots,a looser general weave,some use of Turkish knotting and white cotton in the field.But do these mildly aberrant features justify opening up a new folder?

A number of silk rugs with the Octagon-Squares design are known.The most prominent is a piece from an Austrian Collection

11-Gewebt & Geknüpft 1-3-58

Note the way in which a different section of the design has been used in the silk example.

A “Kashgar” silk carpet with Khotan borders  is a simpler development

12-Sothebys 1 October 2002-Lot 302

A Chinese silk-metal carpet,as ever,bears the design

13-Christies 22 June 2005-Lot 214

The Chinese carpet mentioned in Hali 43-96 is a latecomer

14-Ineichen 6 June 1988-Lot 37

An early Chinese rug once with the Textile Gallery bears an elegant version of the design,closer in style to the textile blueprint

15-The Textile Gallery

The Octagon-Squares design is a pleasing one,none more so than in silk,from whence it presumably came.Various weaving sheds probably had a go at it,although three of the five woolen examples are surely from the same hands,i.e from the makers of-”Yarkand”The practice of ascribing carpets to definite areas on the grounds of technical  characteristics is questionable,as it may be that similar types of carpet,of differing structures, were made in the same area.The terms “Yarkand,Khotan,Kashgar” seem to have become synonyms for a stylistic expression,rather than geographical locations.History is rarely so accomodating.Rug circles are slowly recovering from the malaise of disinformation supplied by carpet dealers in the early 20th century,whose chief motivation was to disguise their acquisition points,whilst appearing knowledgeable.In business this is accepted practice;less so for historians.The unverifiable origin of carpets necessitates a reliance on taxonomy and structure. 

Octagon Squares Collation.

1) Christies 1988-Sothebys 1994-Sothebys 2002- Battilossi-Tabibnia

Warp Z4S White;Weft Z2-4 white,3 shoots;309 x 174 m.

Auction Results:Christies East 6.December 1988,Lot 56-$46,200; Sothebys 15 December 1994,Lot 128-$46,000; Sothebys NY 3 December 2002,Lot 102-$59,750.

2)Sothebys-Nazmiyal-Tabibnia:175 x 315  Sothebys 12.12.1997-51:Warp:Cotton Z5-6S,ivory;Weft:cotton Z3-4S,three shoots ivory;3.17 x 1.75 m. Auction Price:-$54,050

3)Christies 1985:no data available. 3.07 x 180 cms.

4)Sothebys 1994 + Battilossi Hali 74:Warp Cotton Z4S,ivory;Weft Z2 4 shoots;523 x 358;auction price:offered at Sothebys NY 15 December 1994 for estimate $150-200,000-unsold.

5)E.Herrmann,SOT 8-115:Warp:cotton light blue Z4S;Weft:cotton light blue Z2,2 shoots;152 x 357 cm;occasional use of Turkish knot;cotton in the pile;auction result:Sothebys NY 31 May 1986 Lot 69-$24,200;published in Hali 40,page 1;Hali 138,page 57,Textile Gallery.

6)Silk mat,published in Tiffanys catalogue 1906,page 91,circa 3 x 3 feet.

7)Silk mat,published Hali Annual 4 1997(Wher Collection),sold at Rippon Boswell 15 May 1999 for 12000 DM.Size 81 x 84 cms.

8)Silk Mat,Adil Besim,warp undyed cotton,not displaced;weft blue cotton, 2 shoots;size 86 x 83 cms.

9)Silk carpet,published in Gewebt & Geknüpft,I-III,page 58;and Volume IV,Nr.25;Warp Z4S cotton,ivory;Weft blue cotton, 2 shoots,Size 283 x 210 cms.The author confuses the two Tabibnia rugs here in his listing,Nr.3-

Hali APGs: Hali,31-87; 43-96; 79-148; 97-41; 128-129.

16-Tibetan silk-James Blackmon

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