Categorizing the weavings commonly known as kelim has proven to be even more difficult than rugs and other types of Near Eastern textile.
For unlike them and prior to the mid-19th century, it appears, from all indications, kelim were not made in large numbers or for export. Nor were they considered important by early carpet and textile dealers and collectors of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
In fact, until just recently, they were perhaps the most undiscovered of any type of Oriental Rug.
Things definitely changed during the late 1970’s and early 80’s, when a number of books and articles were written and published by numerous authors, some knowledgeable other not. Some of these shed new light on slit-tapestry examples, the proper name of the textile technique used to make these intriguing, indigenous weavings.
At icoc Istanbul there were a number of slit-tapestry, ie kelim, on view; most from the Josephine Powell collection.
There were also a few from the Vakiflar, among which this example was the highlight:
RK has been researching and collecting kelim since the late 1960’s and some of our research and collection is published in the Archaeology and Anatolian Slit-Weaving Exhibition on the Weaving Art Museum website(http://weavingartmuseum.org).
In the text accompanying that online exhibition, which was by the way originally published in the large format book we also authored in the late 1980's(Image Idol Symbol : Ancient Anatolian Kelims) we proposed grouping all Anatolian (Turkish) slit-tapestries into four chronological groups.
The oldest of these we named Archaic, the next Classic, the next Traditional and the last Commercial.
We believe there are only very few extant examples(actually not more than a dozen), which can be placed in the Archaic Group, and only one, the Vakiflar “compass” Kelim illustrated above, was included in the icoc exhibitions.
None of the Powell pieces, in our opinion, are early enough to be called Archaic or, for that matter, does any one even come close.
Perhaps, the second best kelim of view at the icoc was another of the Vakiflar pieces, plate 39 from the Vakiflar kelim book:
After a reader suggested we post some of our thoughts about this kelim we will, over the next while, be turning our attentions to it and some related examples.
Stay tuned for more…