Wednesday, April 30, 2008

May at the Textile Museum

May at the Textile Museum (From the TM Calender)
Rug & Textile Appreciation Morning: "Nomadic and Workshop Weavings from Fars Province in Iran" by Tom Cook Saturday, May 3rd 10:30 am. The audience is invited to bring clean, well-vacuumed examples related to the title of the program. Seating is limited, so please arrive early. FREE; no reservations required. Cook is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Textile Museum and is widely respected for his RTAM presentations.

Also May 31 "Have You Got the Blues? Blue Dyes in Textiles" Jeffrey Krauss and R. John Howe. (Jeff is well known for his collection of Japanese textiles especially
Kasuri and R. John for his eclectic taste in Oriental rugs spanning from Turkey to Central Asia.)

Ursula McCracken memorial - 2:00 to 4:00pm, May 10th at the Textile Museum

Related topics: Oriental Rug Cleaning Austin

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Turkotek and Ethnicity

A Non-verbal Linguistic Approach to Ethnicity

On Turkotek Richard Larkin raised an interesting question when he wrote: "For example, the competing claims of "Turkomans" and "Anatolians" are asserted, as though each of those groups were monolithic blocks that we fully understand, like chocolate and vanilla. But really, what do we mean in this context by "Turkomans?" What Turkomans, and when?"

What a great question. I use a different system then most people but being alone does not bother me and my system works. Language defines ethnicity. So if we want to know what group wove a type of rugs we go to the milk language of the weaver. Without getting overly complicated Kurdish weavers weave Kurdish rugs. (apologies to Michael Wendorf) and Tekke weavers wove Tekke rugs. When we want to define Turkish rugs we look to the people to narrow down the possible weaving groups. That is why I put together People of (Asian) Turkey by Language. we have 22 ethnic groups in 6 major language groups and two ethnic groups ethnically cleansed in the Massacres and deportations.

3 Afro-Asiatic languages making up less than 1% of the population.

9 Altaic languages making up 88% of the population. 88%.

2 Indo-European languages making up less than 1% of the population.

3 North Caucasian languages making up less than 1% of the population.

2 Kartvelian languages making up less than 1% of the population.

3 Kurdish languages making up 10% of the population.

Formerly about 10% of the population of Asian Turkey was Armenian and about 4% were Greek.

All appreciable quantities of Turkish rugs from Asian Turkey have to be attributed to one of these groups. There were no other significant groups.

I have proposed that Turkish be recodified as a derivative language of Turkmen. Specifically that Turkish descends from what I proposed to be called Ohguz Seljuk and that it be grouped with similar languages such as Turkmen and Northern and Southern Azeri. By the way I have also proposed that Northern and Southern Azerbaijani be renamed Northern and Southern Azeri. Supposedly this is going to be published this year but I am not holding my breath Still I hope to see it out soon. I am basing my conclusions on what I call Non-verbal linguistics. Only now are we seeing that language is more than sounds with meaning. I propose that structure and pattern contain a non-verbal element of language. For instance for us to know that a Kurdish rug is Kurdish by looking at the structure and pattern then the weaver has woven in a way that indicates the language of the weaver. Therefor the weaving is a form of non-verbal language. More later, it is a work night.

Comments on Steve Price on Turkotek

I am getting a kick out of the discussion in Hajji Baba 75th Anniversary. by Patrick Weiler > Central Asian fragment. They picked up on a story I told below on how Harold Keshishian acquired the fragment in question and Ulrich Schurmann acquired another section of the same carpet. Well they got going and they almost had me believing the pieces were from two different carpets. Then Steve Price began comparing elems from opposing ends of the same carpet and I realized what he was getting at. In one case in particular I would not have thought that the two ends were from different rugs. I know some people feel it is a sign of their own erudition to knock Turkotek but at times it is a crackling good read and Steve Price is a big part of it.
I had a chance to drive
Harold up to Johns Hopkins in Baltimore Sunday morning and we discussed the fragment that he bought from Asadorian's. Harold insisted that his piece and Schurmann's were from the same carpet. I asked Harold about the two other fragments from the same carpet. Since there was no attractive way to attach the two to the fragment in the show Harold ended up attaching the two together and he gave the joined piece to McCoy Jones. I wonder if they are published?
I also see that Jim Allen noticed that I was talking about him and added the Azerbaijan carpet, South Caucasus/Northwest Persia Circa 1800 Sotheby's lot 22 into his thread on his yellow ground carpet. Jim has a different way of thinking and processing data than most people. Rather than a linear process Jim's process of discovery tends to take an iterative approach. Early in the process he will float an idea and then he writes it up, then later he revises it. His work gets stronger and stronger as the idea matures. It is good to see Jim on Turkotek since it gives him a forum to work out his ideas.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

"Worm Dangling from the mouth of a bird"

"Worm Dangling from the mouth of a bird"
The New York Hajji Baba are having a 75th anniversary exhibition called "Timbuktu To Tibet," at the New York Historical Society. The gang at Turkotek is having a salon on the show and Dr. James Blanchard the rug collector from Bangalore India posted praise of a piece catalogued as "Turkmen Fragment, Central Asia, 18th or 19th Century (Harold Keshishian)". It quickly generated 8 replies and when I mentioned it to Harold he told me the rest of the story. In the late 70s Harold was visiting one of the younger Asadourian brothers (Hagop or Krikor’s son) shop at 276 5th Ave in New York City. In a 4 foot high pile of fragments Harold found this and two other fragments of a very old very worn Turkmen Main Carpet. Try as he might Harold could not find the other half of his elim. So when he left who should Harold run in to but the great German Rug Scholar and friend Dr. Ulrich Schurmann. Harold", Schurmann said, "What is that in your hand". After seeing Harold's find Schurmann returned to the shop and did not leave until he located the other half of the elim which is published in Werner Loges, Turkmen Tribal Rugs, plate 48, 1980.

At a later date Schurmann was visiting with Harold at his Washington DC place when they had a chance to look at this piece again. Starting early in the morning with a stack of rugs and a fifth of vodka Schurmann began his studies. A few hours into the process Dr. Ulrich Schurmann declared with all possible Teutonic authoritative certainty that these designs were of "worm dangling from the mouth of a bird". Harold has admitted to me that he has never been able to make out either the birds or the worms and he has no intention of imbibing enough vodka to make it possible.

This piece is one piece and the borders as they were in the carpet. It is about half of an elim of a Drynak Gul carpet that was about 8 foot across.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

People of (Asian) Turkey by Language

Rugs are a product of people. So if we wish to understand who wove the rug we need to understand the people. I have pulled together a list of what people live in the Asian portion of Turkey. People of (Asian) Turkey by Language. I will make it a point to annotate the list with when these groups entered Turkey and what happened to other groups that lived there but are no longer present. For instance there are Northern Caucasian people who arrived in the late 18th and 19th century and there are Armenians who died or were driven out in the late 19th and early 20th century. I only focused on the Asian part of Turkey since it is the primary weaving area.

Tea and Carpets; Drawing Oriental Carpet Designs Is An Artform Of Its Own

New on Tea and Carpets; Drawing Oriental Carpet Designs Is An Artform Of Its Own. Nice article, often in the west we pay no attention to the role of the designer. I was struck with the emphasis in Iran on the design and the complexity of the design. The more unique a design is and the less repeat the more valuable the rug is.

Turkish Rugs: How do we date Early Karapinar Carpets?

Karapinar Tulip Rug from the Philadelphia Museum of Art

How do we date Early Karapinar Carpets?
Not long ago Wendel Swan sent me a picture of the
Textile Museum Karapinar tulip long rug. It is a magnificent rug and a very early example of the type but the Textile Museum has it listed as 19th century. How then can the Textile Museum date this rug so late? I think I have it figured out. I don't agree but now I think I understand the rational.

Mae Beattie identified a group of unusual Kilims that she dated to the 17th century. I believe that
Court Kilim from the Ulu Mosque in Divrigi is an example of that group. So if Charlie Ellis accepted Mae Beattie's attribution of 17th century and I am sure he would because I think he helped her with it, then you can understand how he dated the Karapinar Tulip Rug from the Philadelphia Museum of Art to the 18th to 19th century. So if Karapinar Tulip Rug from the Philadelphia Museum of Art is 18th to 19th century then you can understand how Ellis who had a great deal of input on such thing at the Textile Museum would date the Textile Museum Karapinar tulip long rug to the 19th century.

The problem is that a number of rugs are plausibly date dated much earlier such as to Turkish Rugs: Karapinar Long Rug C. 1600 and Turkish Rugs: Karapinar Long Rug from the Vakiflar Museum Circa 1600 - 1700. My thought is that the Ottoman took Egypt in 1517 so why not date the Court Kilim from the Ulu Mosque in Divrigi to circa 1500. After all it is made in the Egyptian manner. So if we date that one to 1500 then we can quiet plausibly date Turkish Rugs: Karapinar Long Rug C. 1600, Turkish Rugs: Karapinar Long Rug from the Vakiflar Museum Circa 1600 - 1700, Textile Museum Karapinar tulip long rug, Turkish Rugs: Karapinar Long Rug Fragment from the Wolf Collection, and Karapinar Yellow Ground Tulip Rug from Berdj Achdjian to circa 1600 and into the 17th century. So where do we put the Karapinar Tulip Rug from the Philadelphia Museum of Art? How about mid 16th century?

Monday, April 21, 2008

Ursula McCracken memorial - 2:00 to 4:00pm, May 10th at The Textile Museum


Published: April 2, 2008

McCRACKEN--Ursula Naylor Eland, 66, died at home in Baltimore, March 17. A Wellesley College graduate (BA 1963, cum laude, Wellesley Scholar), held two MAs from Johns Hopkins University. A career in arts and education: Albright Knox Gallery; Walters Art Museum and College of Notre Dame in Baltimore. For 18 years she was Director of the Textile Museum in Washington DC where she brought the Museum up to current standards in every area from collections management to financial management while diversifying the exhibitions and educational programs, and building local, national and international audiences and membership. She increased the endowment seven-fold to over $17 million. Survived by her husband, Edward; siblings: Timothy Eland of New York City, Jane Donahue of Wellesley, MA and Faith Shepard of New Canaan, CT. Family and friends will hold a gathering of remembrance from 2:00 to 4:00pm, May 10th at The Textile Museum in Washington. Ursula requested contributions to the American Pain Foundation, Suite 710, 201 N. Charles St. Baltimore, MD 21201 or the Textile Society of America, P.O. Box 193, Middletown, DE 19709.

Swan and Walker at the Textile Museum

Swan and Walker at the Textile Museum
I made it to the Textile Museum RTAM to hear Wendel Swan and Daniel Walker. Wendel was brilliant. I was really impressed by the creative approach Wendel took to a Karapinar carpet fragment. Dan Walker did a nice job of talking about his collection of classical era fragments. The audience seemed notably surprised when Dan showed a copy of the "Goddess in Anatolia" and used it to relate to some of his fragments. Dan handled it well and made some good points. Walker talked a bit about small silk Kashan rugs and related them to a piece in his collection. His concept of a later silk Kashan rug with Jufti knotting was adventurous but he carried it off well. Both Wendel and I asked questions pointing to a Khorasan attribution for the fragments but Walker stood his ground. Dan and I tend to disagree on many of the attributions of classical carpets but it was easy to see the strong academic qualities that made Dan Walker so attractive to the TM when they drafted him. I think he is best thing to happen to the Textile Museum in years. Obviously the TM is lucky to have such a brilliant and dedicated director. Some of the pieces in the show were Harold Keshishian's but I will talk about them later.

Five Very Special Fragments at the TM

Five Very Special Fragments
After the RTAM at the Textile Museum Harold Keshishian and I ducked out quickly and I drove Harold to another engagement in Upper Northwest. As we drove Harold told me about the five pieces that he had in the program. These rugs were very special for a very unusual reason. All of them were presents to Harold from major dealers and collectors. It used to be a custom for top collectors and dealers to give gifts of important rugs and fragments to up and coming collectors and dealers. Fragments were especially prized by all the big collectors, guys like Joe McMullan, Hagop Kevorkian, Ralph Yohe, and Russ Pickering prized them. In fact the two big Indo-Persian fragments on the right were presents from Ralph Yohe, The square Indo-Persian fragment above and too the right of the other two was a gift of Magda Shapiro a top London dealer. (I was especially interested in this one since it had that orange that Ellis used as a marker for Herat.) The two smaller Mughal fragments were a present from Harry Bolsen who ran J.H. Dildarian, Inc. for 80 year old a mainstay of the Madison Avenue rug trade.
Harold is like family to me and I learn so much when we get together. The five fragments are great pieces but they mean a lot more when I know the story behind them.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

L.A. Rug Expert Brian Morehouse weighes in on 18th Century Anatolian Turkmen

L.A. Rug Expert Brian Morehouse weighes in on 18th Century Anatolian Turkmen

The level of discourse on Turkotek certainly has gone up a notch or two since Jim Allen started his 18th Century Anatolian Turkmen thread. Now L.A. Rug Expert Brian Morehouse has jumped into the discussion with both feet. Brian has come out with a variation of the old, Turkish Rugs are Armenian rugs, argument.

Brian Morehouse wrote: "I cannot for the life of me see why anyone given current scholarship would still adhere to the Turkmen genesis for Anatolian Rugs. Do people really believe that Anatolian weaving traditions languished for thousands of years until the arrival of the Turkmen…..nonsense? Or that the Kurds or Armenians were not privy to the technology of pile weaving....nonsense! Clearly over a thousand years had passed from the time of the Greco-Romans and almost that long under Byzantine rule."

I was reading Kurt Erdmann's "700 years of Oriental Carpets" this afternoon and Erdmann made the point that there were Turkmen, Armenians, and Greeks. In fact he quoted Marco Polo in support of this. So as I read this Brian Morehouse's argument flashed through my mind and I realized that if we eliminate the Turkmen then all we have left are Greeks, Kurds, and Armenians. So were the Greeks weaving Brian's thousands of years of rug? If Greeks wove rugs why don't Greeks weave rugs. Are we to believe that Greeks wove for thousands of years and then fled the Turks and forgot. Nope, not likely in my book. So that leaves the Armenians and the Kurds. Now the Kurds are Eastern Anatolian. If Brian wants to attribute western and central Anatolian rugs to the Kurds then he is going to have to deal with the Turkotek Kurdish rug YO Michael Wendorf and his Kurdish heartland mandate.

So following the Morehouse argument that leaves the Armenians. I always suspected that some Central Anatolian rugs were Armenians but All of them? Keep tuned to Jim Allen's 18th Century Anatolian Turkmen thread for the latest in Internet rug scholarship.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Highest Prices Paid for Oriental Rugs

Rug Rag has a fun piece on the Highest Prices Paid for Oriental Rugs One of the rugs is a Chelaberd Kazak sold by Freeman's Auctioneers in PA at a hammer price of $341,625. A nice rug but not the type to typically bring over $10,000 a square foot. What then made this rug special?
It was from the estate of Robert Montgomery Scott.
It had belonged to his mother Helen Hope Montgomery Scott who was the famous society beauty who inspired two major motion pictures. In one she was played by (The Philadelphia Story) Katherine Hepburn and in the other (High Society ) by Grace Kelly. And now you know the rest of the story as Paul Harvey says.

Tschebull Antique Carpets Going Out of Business

Tschebull Antique Carpets to Close
Raul "Mike" Tschebull's Tschebull Antique Carpets Collection, Darien, Connecticut will close and inventory will be sold at auction. More to come...

Turkmen Bags a Salor juval and some Ersari bags

While I was looking at Ersari rugs i spotted Salor Juval 9 Gul C 1800 RB Lot 167. My old buddy Jim Allen wrote Perspective in Classical Turkoman Weaving. It is well worth reading hen you look at this Juval. Jim is a frequent contributor on a rug discussion site and it can be rather humorous at times because Jim is way over their heads when he gets going.

I discussed an Ersari Torba with Mark Keshishian former President of ORRA and he suggested a Yomud influence to Diamond Guls with latchhooks. That made me think and I immediately saw the triparate device in the outer border. This triparate device is most commonly seen in Yomud weaving and I recognize it most commonly from Yomud Ensis. Ersari Torba Yomud Influenced 20th C Sotheby's Lot 695. I also added these to the notes; Ersari bag-face Border Design C 1900 Sotheby's Lot 41, Ersari Juval, W Turkestan, circa 1880 Sotheby's Lot 36, Ersari Juval, W Turkestan, 2nd half 19th Sotheby's Lot 47, and Ersari Juval Serrated Rosettes Afghanistan Circa 1880 Sotheby's Lot 845

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Saturday, April 12, 2008

RTAMs at the Textile Museum and Howe's blog

Just today I was speaking with Cynthia Kosciuczyk who is the manager of 4th Avenue Rug Gallery in San Diego. Cynthia was telling me what a fan she is of the Textile Museum . I had to ask her if she reads John Howe's blog and she was not aware of it. John is a humble guy who puts in countless hours of selfless work to help a wider audience to get more out of the Textile Museum programs. It is well worth visiting John's site. Take a look at John's 18th and 19th Century Anatolian Carpets: Keshishian and Seidman. It is a useful and artistic article. John added a small note, "Harold has said to me, recently, that the extent and excellence of Michael Seidman’s preparation for this session is not adequately recognized in what we have said above and this comment is an effort to correct that." What is the value of a Seidman and Keshishian presentation? No record, no transcripts, no video, virtually no record at all without John. I have documented a few and John is off to a good start documenting more and that is good. Still for the handful available on-line there are more than 30 years of RTAMS lost and gone for ever. 30 years of guys like Keshishian, Seidman, Wendel Swan, John Wertime, Steve Price, Zimmerman, Charlie Ellis, Ulrich Schurmann, and so many other. Still the Textile Museum is a wonderful place and Bruce Baganz and the rest of the board are great guys doing so much with very little. Maybe a good first step if you really value the Textile Museum is to Join, Renew, or just Write them a Check.

Here are some odds and ends from my site:
Long time Trustee John Sommer on Kyrgyz felt at the TM

HK's "Rug Morning" The Introduction

HK's "Rug Morning" The Persian Collection

HK's "Rug Morning" Explosion of Red

HK's "Rug Morning" The Mediterranean Collection

HK's "Rug Morning" Parting Shots

Friday, April 11, 2008

Color and Authenicity in Oriental Rugs

Harold Keshishian always used to tell me that the three most important things about a rug is color, color, and color. No doubt color is king but with ethnographic textiles context is important as well. I am reminded of this by the mafrash to the left and it brought to mind another piece. Wertime has an unusual piece; Rare Shahsavan Band in the John Wertime Collection. It is an intact 22 foot band which in itself a little longer than average for a pack band. The unusual part is the detail combined with pristine condition. The Shahsavan like the Turkmen both use trellised domed tent. Not surprising since the Shahsavan are primarily Northern Azeri which is a branch of the same ethno-linguistic group as the Turkmen of Turkmenistan. Tent bands are typically around 45 feet since the average trellised domed tent or yurt is 45 foot in circumference and 12 foot across. Pack bands are typically 12 to 20 feet so this one is slightly longer than average but not nearly long enough to be a tent band. I was struck by this mafrash from John Wertime as I looked at it again. The color is superb, the structure is less common (weft-float brocade) it dates to the second half 19th century and it is an intact mafrash. All these things make it very special. Karabagh Mafrash Complete Bedding Bag Weft Float Brocade from John Wertime

On the dating of Oriental Rugs:

Circa 1656 Tekke Juval
On the dating of Rugs:

“They can't all have been made in 1875, some must be older.” This bon mot from Harold Keshishian is as true today as the day he said it. For a number of reasons if a rug looks old dealers or auction houses have traditionally dated it to circa 1875. This is mainly because if a rug later is shown to have a chemical dye it is within the range where a chemical dye could have been used. So it is a safe attribution and a huge number of rugs got assigned an attribution of circa 1875. But in that group some are newer and conversely some must be older. We have reached a point where there are a growing number of rugs that considerably predate 1875.

Pioneering work by
Jim Allen working with the Metropolitan Museum of Art as well as that of Dr. Jurg Rageth, c14 (radio carbon dating) became a tool in carpet studies. A growing number of rugs have been dated significantly earlier than 1800 and each discovery makes it possible to date other rugs in the time frame that at one point was thought impossible.

Once Jim Allen's
17th century Tekke Juval was dated Circa 1656 it made it possible for others to suggest a rug was of a certain date in relationship to other rugs. It has become what I call a marker rug. Since as far as I know it is the oldest Tekke weaving to date it allows people to use it as a marker in dating their Tekke weaving. More to come...

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

WSJ - Charles Mussallem backs McCain to the Limit

Bush donors giving for the first time in the 2008 presidential election represent about 9% of Sen. McCain's total receipts in the first two months of the year.

"We wanted to see what shook out of the race," said Charles Mussallem of Jacksonville, Fla., a Bush 2004 donor who gave the $2,300 maximum allowed donation to Sen. McCain in January, as did his brother. "The good money was not bet on him initially."

Mr. Mussallem owns art galleries in Florida and Arizona that sell oriental rugs and decorative objects, and he and his brother know Sen. McCain personally. "We told him if he got out of New Hampshire, we would look at supporting him," Mr. Mussallem said. "He did."

Sen. McCain also lags far behind his Democratic rivals in total funds raised as Democrats eager to take back the White House have been turning out in much higher numbers than Republicans to vote in this year's primary elections.


From the start of his campaign through the end of February, the Arizona senator had raised $63 million for the primary election, and at the end of February had only $4.5 million left in the bank. He also reported large debts that his campaign says were mostly settled in March after he repaid a $4 million bank loan.

By comparison, Sen. Obama had raised $190 million through February for his primary bid, much of it through the Internet. Sen. Clinton had raised nearly $152 million through February for the primary, including her $5 million personal loan to her campaign.

Sen. McCain is beginning to get support from former Republican rivals in addition to former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who dropped out of the race on Jan. 30.

Supporters of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney gave Sen. McCain $620,000 in February and $317,000 in January, before it was clear that Mr. Romney wouldn't win. Backers of ex-Sen. Fred Thompson of Tennessee gave Sen. McCain $354,000 in February and $138,000 in January, the analysis shows. Mr. Thompson left the race on Jan. 22.

Mr. Romney, who has said publicly that he would be interested in becoming Mr. McCain's vice president since dropping out Feb. 7, has had less time to swing his network behind Sen. McCain, though he has said he will do so.

The money Sen. McCain is raising now will mostly be used to finance his campaign through the summer, up until the Republican nominating convention in September. Some questions remain about whether Sen. McCain can legally withdraw from a public financing program for his campaign and continue to spend money over the summer above limits imposed by the public system.

Sen. McCain is in the tricky position of trying to avoid the fate of his former Senate colleague and the 1996 Republican nominee, Bob Dole of Kansas.

Sen. Dole nearly fell "off the public radar screen because he didn't have the resources to maintain a robust campaign" in the summer of 1996, and he lost to Bill Clinton, said Washington lobbyist Dirk Van Dongen, a former Giuliani fund raiser who is now backing Sen. McCain.

Write to Mary Jacoby at