After 30 years of intensive collector and dealer activity to find Anatolian kelim, the reality less than a dozen archetype examples are known is a remarkable statistic, particularly since well over 300 seriously old ones are published with probably an additional 25 percent or so in unpublished collections.
The list of where those kelim are published is as follows:
64 plates: Anatolian Kilims and Radiocarbon Dating, 1999
115 plates: Flatweaves/Flachgewebe, 1982
110 plates:Anatolian Kilims, 1990
110 plates: 100 Kilims, 1991
10 plates: Anatolische Kelims/Die Vortrage, 1990
50 plates: Goddess from Anatolia,1989
9 plates: Image Idol Symbol: Ancient Anatolian Kelim, 1989
By 'seriously old' RK means kelim appearing to have been made well before the orientalist ‘craze’ created foreign demand and the ensuing beginning of commercial production that began in the late 1880’s to satisfy that demand.
While the total number is far larger when adding up the numbers, RK has allowed for duplication, as some pieces are published twice or more in these books.
But allowing for this duplication, and let’s say the 25 percent figure of kelim yet unpublished, there are well more than 300 of which our short list of 11 archaic examples shows how rare the earliest kelim really are.
But rarity is, in itself, not actually noteworthy -- what is noteworthy is these 11 examples are the masterpieces of the oeuvre and templates all other Anatolian kelim are copied from.
Now that’s a big statement and RK will, in Part VIII, and it successors, prove this by demonstrating how any old Anatolian, and even many new ones, can be placed in specific design types or groups and also on time-line continuum within each of those group.
First we need to mention the sticky issue of dating pre-commercial period, or what we call old, kelim.
RK, and other aware authors, have resisted placing centuries, ie 19th/18th/17th/16th/15th, while others have, in our opinion, slide down that slippery slope and landing on the butts.
An interesting example of this is demonstrated by comparing the catalog of the deYoung Museum collection, Anatolian Kilims: Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, and their website.
In the catalog there are no dates and on the museum’s website there are. What happened and who decided to call some kelim 17th century that in our opinion are 100 years, or more, later?
RK realizes it is fashionable to hang early dates on weavings and those dates surely do impress some. But do they impress those who know the impossibility of dating any kelim to even a century?
RK will have to answer no, and doing so only raises questions of expertise, as well as motive and agenda.
This is why we suggested in Image Idol Symbol: Ancient Anatolian Kelim four category --Archaic, Classic, Traditional and Industrial – and we still believe in this methodology, rejecting any other type of dating as frivolous and unsupportable.
Just a word or two about carbon-dating(c14): RK recognizes the validity and scientific basis of the procedure for objects, including weaving and textiles, that have been throughout their existence, and that includes post-discovery, protected from contamination – be it atmospheric, through use or cleaning, etc.
Since no kelim has been removed properly to prevent contamination from underground, or from a protected environment, like a tomb/sarcophagus/ turbe/mausoleum/coffin, there is not one that does not need to be ‘decontaminated’ before undergoing the c14 procedure.
That decontamination procedure is not nearly as positive as c14 itself, and since all c14 dates require calibration against a ‘known’ the idea and belief any laboratory can successfully and convincingly date a kelim is hogwash in our opinion.
Further complicating any dating of kelim is the fact no one piece has a date, even a questionable one, woven into it.
Nor are there any early western paintings or near eastern miniatures with unmistakable representation of a kelim.
That said check out this painting: Susanna im Bad(Susanna in the Bath) painted in 1526 by Albrecht Altdorfer(1480-1538).
Susanna im Bad , 1526
There is, what RK believes, a striped Anatolian kelim in the foreground:
Detail of what far more than questionably appears to be an Anatolian kelim
This painting was done near the end of Altdorfer’s long and widely heralded career and it may well be the only 16th century representation of an Anatolian kelim.
RK discovered it in the Staatsgemaldesammlungen Alte Pinakotek, inv.-Nr. 698(State painting collection Old Painting) in Munich in 1984, on one of our many, many visits to Munich.
On first look the weaving appears to have great similarity to a rare and very particular type of Ottoman kelim:
So-called striped Ottoman kelim circa 1700
Being a painter of incredibly realistic and finely delineated detail in his oil painting, Altdorfer was equally famous for his print-making, which also required a hand and eye attuned to fine line representation.
Here’s a detail of this kelim where the similarity appears to be a dead ringer for the one in Altdorfer’s painting.
Detail, striped Ottoman kelim
RK has personally examined and handled a number of Ottoman kelim over the years, including the very one we illustrated.
We did this at the Lefevre Old Brompton Road auction galley, in London, where it was sold to an English collector.
RK saw it in the preview, and also a number of times with the collector, who was for some time someone we had contact.
These striped Ottoman kelim are a rare group, probably later and more finely woven (both in warp and weft) than the typical Ottoman tent ones, which are always larger and more coarsely woven.
Detail, typical Ottoman kelim; Flatweaves/Flachgewebe, 1982; plate 117; Vakiflar Museum,
As you can tell the detail above appears to be coarser than the detail of the striped kelim, and take it from us it is.
We have handled both examples, RK examined the Ottoman kelim, and several others in the Sultan Ahmet in 1980 when we were in Istanbul.
And that’s where and when we made the photo detail.
The only one of the three kelim we did not personally examine is the one Altdorfer painted in 1536.
One more caveat that has convinced RK the kelim in the painting is not an Ottoman court woven example but rather Anatolian village production.
Look at the two blue stripes under the basin where Susanna’s feet are being washed and notice the ‘butterfly’ emblem:
Detail, Susanna im Bad
This emblem is definitely one never used in Ottoman kelim, or in any 16th century pile rug or textile RK has ever seen, while it is one typically seen in all periods of Anatolian kelim.
Here it is on an archic period one:
Detail; Plate 2; “Image Idol Symbol:Ancient Anatolian Kelim”; vol.2, 1989
And here on a late classic period kelim
Unpublished late classic period Anatolian and detail showing ‘butterfly’ emblem
Had the model for the weaving in Susanna im Bad been a striped Ottoman kelim, like the one we illustrated, or even a pile rug, there would have been more detail present and Altdorfer surely had the eye and the skill to both notice and reproduce this, particularly in rendering the pattern in the larger red stripes.
For this reason, and the others we have suggested, it is apparent to RK the weaving Altdorfer painted was:
1. a kelim, not a pile rug or other type of textile
2. not an Ottoman kelim
3. an Anatolian Village kelim
This painting RK discovered many years ago builds another strong and convincing argument for very early Anatolian kelim dates, however, RK still suggests using periods, and not centuries.
By the way the striped layout is a rare style in the archaic period, being far more common in the later periods, and these two already illustrated kelim, one from the deYoung Museum Collection and one from our collection, are the only ones RK places in the archaic period:
Plate 27; Anatolian Kilims; Fine Art Museums of San Francisco; 1990
Plate 3; “Image Idol Symbol:Ancient Anatolian Kelim”; vol.2, 1989
Our last word on dating: It is easy to throw around dates based on opinion, as well as to believe c14 analysis.
Frankly, RK would prefer hearing someone who thinks they know how to hang an early date, like 17th century, on a kelim rather than listen to someone take science, like c14, use it imperfectly, and then take the ‘numbers’ and twist them to support their opinion.
Number are easily manipulated, so are opinions and that’s why RK has eschewed such dating methodologies and developed the continuum dating we have forwarded.
That’s it for this installment.
In the next we will take two very specific type of kelim, where only few exist, and demonstrate our continuum approach to dating and why those two words, which we have not forgotten – proscribed and prescribed, are essential to understand the Anatolian kelim tradition.