Thursday 28 May 2015

Lineage VI : Afshan

Google tells us that "Afshan" is a Persian word,meaning to sprinkle or to smooth out.Exactly what the Russian scholar Kerimov had in mind when he thus named an important group of carpets is not clear.Perhaps it is a traditional expression in the Caucasus.However, the origins of the design are to be found in Safavid Iran.The large medallion carpets from NW Persia can be taken as a starting point.A pronounced split-leaf palmette terminates the endless coiling vines in Chris Alexander`s piece.



This is one of a number of carpets to feature scrolling vines with split-leaf in the field;other examples employ the split-leaf within the medallion.


423-Beauvais Carpets

An outstanding carpet now in the Gulbenkian Museum (via the MAK in Vienna)  is said to have once belonged to Charles V.


Discussing the Schwarzenberg carpet in his notes to F.R Martin(202),C.G Ellis describes it as a 17th century Kurdistan or Khorasan carpet,with jufti knotting.It was a daring move to integrate arabesque split-leaf palmettes within the Emperor`s Carpet layout.The field is thus extremely full,heightened by an even more energetic frame.A second carpet,once with the Textile Gallery,repeats the Afshan design in the border.



A small fragment in the Keir Collections is perhaps part of the above.


Dismissed as a later piece by the Berlin carpet authorities,the Sarre/Bode example is still a textbook rug with Split and Angular palmettes.But the vine-scrolls are thick and awkward,the border stiff and overly symmetric.


Writing in Hali 104,Murray Eiland traced the Afshan design back to a carpet now existing only in fragments scattered through various collections,but  this interesting variation is surely not as old as the preceeding Khorasan carpets,whence the impetus came.


A large portion of this carpet is in the Keir Collection,a smaller piece in the TM,a third in an Austrian Collection.


Another strange carpet with Indian and Persian features was recently auctioned at Sothebys New York where it brought $112,500.Are those traces of jufti knotting in the blue ground of the border?


Two carpets which could be(and have been)mistaken for Caucasian products,are almost certainly East Persian.Probably 18th century,i.e thus making them the contemporaries of their Caucasian descendents.


A carpet lately identified as Khorasan work also has a twin,once in the Istanbul market,and illustrated by Erdmann.A very fine and delicate Afshan pattern surrounded by a border of large palmette cabbages.


The main body of 18th century Caucasian carpets with the Afshan design consist of a group of large,robustly made artefacts on red or blue grounds.


The design of stiff palmettes,split-leaves and medallions could be extended to any size.A meander border was often favoured.


Many were found in mosques,but others wandered abroad to such exotic places as Hackwood Park.


The Trefoil border is default,a borrowing from the Polonaise silk rugs of a century before. The Christies item had a green ground.



Full of lotuses,one manufacture boasted a large-medallion border design.


To our modern eyes,open and relaxed layouts are the most appealing,but this was not always so.


A fragment was at Freemans in 2012.


The Karagashli Göl was sometimes employed as a simple repeat.Most of these pieces were found in Turkish Mosques,but one did surface at Christies in 1985.


Two carpets at the AAA in 1914 testify to an ongoing degeneration,which appears whimsical to Western eyes.


An example with rare (Turkish)border was sold at Sothebys on 22 September 1993(102)


Another Sothebys item(18 October 1995,227)tried out a late RGF border on a narrow field.


An example in the Dixon Collection has a rare arabesque border and large medallion with arms akimbo,recalling the great Tabriz Medallion Carpets.


An exciting example with rare border is in a Californian Collection.

447-See Hali 104

Yet another variation eliminates the Karagashli Göl Medallions in favour of an elegant and sleek allover design.

448-David Sorgato

A companion carpet is known,unfortunately fragmented and dispersed.


A number of other pieces are also red ground.One at the Kevorkian Sale in the sixties exhibited the simplified  Bacri border.


Otherwise Trefoil borders were de rigeur.


A reconfigured carpet in Philadelphia seems to wail:"The end is nigh"

452-McIlhenny Collection

A tendency to excessive refinement is apparent in 19th century productions.For the large blueground Kelleh carpets the Kufi border from Holbein and Lotto fame was consciously adopted.

453-Anatolian Red Ground Floral carpet:Lotto or Lotus?



The design was copied further south with a border of nesting birds-perhaps a return of the Golden Pheasants?


Attempts were still made to revive the old heiratic style.


Simpler versions were also available.


And even runner sizes could be accommodated,as revealed by a pair which surfaced at Sothebys in 2007.


In time numerous border variations were applied.


As with the Harshang design(361 & 362)long narrow format carpets were woven with designs hollowed out from the main carpets.They seem to originate from unfathomable cross-border areas  -"Karabag or Karadag".



A group with trellis designs(the poor man`s Spiral-Vines)prominently displays the Karagashli Göl,and the split-leaf palmettes have morphed into birds.


The old trefoil border was very much en vogue but other possibilites were tried and tested.


Such carpets were invariably on white/yellow or brown grounds.Noble versions with Kuba blue/black borders(again an Anatolian borrowing)have also survived.


A rare group on brown/black fields has a yellow ground border which was once red and has faded,-signs of early redwood dye use.


A group has been dubbed"proto-Karagashli" for obvious reasons.A piece illustrated by Kendrick-Tattershall appears missing from the V&A.The Bausback carpet is a reprise of the 18th century all-over medallion design.


An elegant carpet on Persian Surmey blue was exhibited at the Pacific Collections show;but the Christies 2010 item,despite Lenkoran flair,seems new-ish,perhaps reworked somewhere?


Many very nice carpets were created from the Afshan pattern.Two styles dominate:a floral,and an angular.Rare and sought after are the red ground carpets with"Lotus Pond" design,first made popular by Ulrich Schurmann.


The crab-leaf border added movement and was especially useful for long rugs.


A leaf and meander border was adapted from the large Kuba Kelleh.


The pinwheel border was a guaranteed energiser.


The "Seyshour" carpet-makers tried their hand at anything,usually with success.


Soon all over the Caucasus weavers were producing this design,one of the great "hits" of the 19th century.


Simpler models were also produced,not lacking in charm.


A more angular style,perhaps from the area which produced the Chi-Chi carpets,also became available in the second half of the 19th century.



The Caucasian rugmakers could(and did)make a prayer rug out of any design.


Although the honour for the best prayer rug with Afshan design must go to a piece published by Ralph Kaffel.

479-Kaffel,Prayer Rugs 44

All these designs passed through Kurdish territory on their way back and forth between Persia and the Caucasus.Amongst the most interesting productions of the Lake Urmia district are the"Sauj-Bulag",which combined elements of the Harshang and the Afshan designs.Such "Afshan-Harshang" rugs are very scarce.A carpet in the Burns Collection has a simple clear layout with Harshang,medallions and Split-Blossoms.


A devil-may-care attitude to symmetry,exemplary materials and a Caucasian use of colour is typical of the group,named "proto-Kurdish" by Albert Levi.


Some weavers wove more conventional designs,closer to the Caucasian originals.


A carpet from James Burns has attained iconic status;seen here next to a piece from Dennis Dodds.


And a splendid example was sold at Neumeister,Munich on 19 May 2010(45) for $56,750.


485-7th Century BC,Assyria

The Pazyryk carpet with its Assyrian quatrefoils and lotus buds stands at the dawn of carpet studies like a gate through which all must pass.But the Emperor´s Carpets cast a longer shadow.The aim of this survey has been to demonstrate the omnipresence of the Lotus Palmette in carpet history.

A further investigation of the subject would include the Cairene carpets and their extensive use of palmettes;Turkish carpets and the Lotto pattern as an especially Lotus-inspired design with split-leaf Palmettes;Chinese carpets and their realistic depiction;,and of course the Turkmen carpet and its Göl forms derived from the Lotus.It would not be amiss to include textiles,from both the East and West.