Home > Rug, Kelim, Soumak, Textile Post Archive >RK examines Anatolian Kelim
Part VIII.A
Author:jc
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Mon, Oct 8th, 2012 04:02:22 PM
Topic: RK examines Anatolian Kelim
Part VIII.A

Before moving on to demonstrate the relationships the other archetype Anatolian kelim maintain to/with their specific groups, as we have done for the east Berlin saf, RK felt it pertinent to add some additional proof to support our position about these saf.

The thin-mirhab and pseudo-saf types just did not pop out of nowhere, they developed from the archetype and this is clear to RK.

Detail; late Classic period thin mirhab type saf; Anatolian Kilim: The Caroline and McCoy Jones Collection, plate 9

Let’s now demonstrate how this occurred starting with the thin-mirhab type.

early Classic period; Anatolian Kilim: The Caroline and McCoy Jones Collection; Plate 1

This saf is the prototype for the thin-mirhab type, or cluster, as we would prefer to refer to a sub-group like this one.

It is also the prototype for Plate 16 in the Vakiflar kelim book:

late Classic period saf; Cover and Plate 16 Vakiflar Museum: Flatweaves/ Flachgewebe

RK believes it instructive to quote the description of Plate 1 that appears in the catalog:

One hundred eleven kilims follow this one, of which many are supremely great. Yet I am tempted to assert that this is perhaps the most wonderful of all known kilims, if only ot indicate how highly I value it.

I think of it as an archetype. Its composition of multiple arches is an ancient and uniquely Anatolian concept and I know of no other kilim where the rendition of the multiple-niche composition is so clearly and purely stated.(1) The discipline of its austere palette is exceptional; The harmonic sequences and relationships of just two colors, red and blue, epitomize Anatolian weavers’ inimitable brilliance in the use of color. The series of six archlike(sic) forms are unidirectional and their likeness appear again and again on Anatolian kilims, both on some of the great examples in this collection and, in their thousands, on kilims still being woven today.

This kilim gives us the context for all that follows and, despite thousands of years that separate it from its source, it still resonates with the power of long held beliefs.(2) Thus I view it as both a beginning and an end. I have placed it first in the catalogue, but I just as easily could have put it last. I have structured my observations to reflect this view, and I recommend that anyone working through the plates sequentially return to this kilim.

This is a village weaving by a woman who has long since disappeared and whose name is forever lost. Yet here, as her memorial, is a vision of eternity.

(1). This kilim is remarkably similar to a multiple niche depiction on a wall p[ainting from Catal Huyuk, ca. 5900 B.C., James Mellaart, Catal Huyuk (New York: McGraw-Hill; London: Thames and Hudson, 1967, fig. 8.
(2). In James Mellaart, Udo Hirsch and Belkis Balpinar, The Goddess from Anatolia, vol. 2 (Milan: Eskenazi, 1989), James Mellaart argues the arch form is the guardian of the goddess, the shrine of the diety. It is also according to him the cave, the primordial womb, the representation of all wisdom and power.

Regrettably, this description, and the rest of those in the catalog, are surely not the representation of all wisdom and power.

Far from it, as hyperbole, absurd allusion, and undocumented assertion, made here and elsewhere in the text descriptions in that catalog, belie even a modicum of wisdom.

This part of the catalog, the plate descriptions, is credited to Garry Muse, the dealer who found all the 111 pieces in the Jones’s collection and, through the ‘help’ of cathrine cootner, managed to sell the group en masse to McCoy and Caroline Jones.

RK knows well the nitty-gritty of the back-story to this maneuver, and we could write extensively about it.

However, this is not the time or place; that time and place will come when RK decides to publish the memoirs of our career in oriental rug studies and collecting.

But RK does need to make a few comments, the first is though Muse is credited with authoring his part, actually it was written by Ian Bennett, who was paid to hold Muse’s hand and to take Muses’s ‘thoughts’ about the kelim in the collection and, not only put them on paper, but frame them in some intelligent manner.

Considering Bennett was far from an expert in Anatolian kelims, and Muses’s expertise is something RK knows to be far less than the myth surrounding him, the text they produced, like the description to Plate 1, is sadly deficient in any respect other than useless patter and hype.

Let’s just examine a few of the comments Muse and Bennett offer up in that description:

1.“ One hundred eleven kilims follow this one, of which many are supremely great.

Frankly this sounds like steve jobs talking about Apple’s latest and greatest new computer, the only adjective missing is insanely.

Ian Bennett, who possesses a highly educated and brilliant mind, was perhaps, along with Charles Grant Ellis, the greatest, and most prolific, writer on old oriental rugs working during the period 1975-1990.

However, Bennett never wrote or studied Anatolian kelim, and this is painfully clear from the bumbling text he helped to produce.

Bennet was chosen to ‘assist’ when Muse, who according to RK has a rather dim and inarticulate understanding of Anatolian kelim, wanted to write the text descriptions.

It was hoped he could produce something of value but that hope was not realized, as anyone who does understand the subject can readily see.

Just a quick aside for the record about Muse.

RK met him circa 1974 and, at that time, Muse was going to Turkey and bringing back to the USA mediocre, late airport-art woven tourist-quality tschatchka.

On our first meeting, which was in San Franscico, Muse took RK back to his apartment in Noe Valley to see his ‘stuff’ and quite frankly we were amazed at the lack of even one interesting weaving; surely there was nothing for us to purchase.

We told him we were interested in really old and important rugs and offered to ‘tutor’ him so he could, on his subsequent trips to Turkey, find the type of rugs we collected and sell them to us.

It’s a long, complex story what then happened, but suffice it to say Muse eventually got the hang of things and found some of the best and most important Anatolian rugs and kelim.

RK got a few, but the Jones’s, Heinrich Kirchheim and Christopher Alexander got many more.

Truly, the behind the scene story of Muses’s career is a fascinating one that clearly is at great odds with the myth that has been created about, and around, him.

By the way, and in closing our brief mention of Mr Garry Muse, none of that myth is, or was, spun by Muse himself; rather it was been created by a small group of people who needed to place him on a pedestal so they could use that pedestal to further their own agenda, for their own gains.

2. “Yet I am tempted to assert that this is perhaps the most wonderful of all known kilims, if only ot indicate how highly I value it.

The fact Muse values it highly is unassailable, that’s his opinion.

But to state it is the most “wonderful of all kilim”, and then not offer any documentation, reason or rational strikes RK as nothing but dealer hype that does not belong in a Museum catalog.

3. “ I think of it as an archetype.

Again this is Muse’s opinion and the reason why he doesn’t support it with fact or even some fanciful allusion can be attributed to his inability to truly make any original statement, his inability to understand the oeuvre of Anatolian Kelim and Bennett’s lack of expertise and knowledge of that oeuvre as well.

Fact is the east Berlin saf is the archetype for this group, as readers will soon see if that fact is not already clear from a careful reading of Part VIII.

4. “ Its composition of multiple arches is an ancient and uniquely Anatolian concept and I know of no other kilim where the rendition of the multiple-niche composition is so clearly and purely stated.

This is blatantly incorrect as multiple-niche saf exist in almost every other type of oriental rug, including very ancient Persian and east Turkestan examples.

And the fact Muse does not reference the east Berlin saf, even if he foolishly believes the one he formerly owned and is discussing to be better, is an error of huge proportions, and another demonstration of how little he understands the subject of early Anatolian kelim.

5. “The discipline of its austere palette is exceptional; The harmonic sequences and relationships of just two colors, red and blue, epitomize Anatolian weavers’ inimitable brilliance in the use of color.

While this statement is arguably true, it falls incredibly short of being anything but more hyperbole and RK is surprised Bennett allowed this fabulously incomplete and naïve comment to stand.

Actually there are two distinct tones of red and two different blues, and it is the interplay of their harmony that creates the “harmonic sequence” and brilliance of which they speak.

By the way, RK has spent countless hours with Muse over the past 35 years and a phrase like “harmonic sequence” we can assuredly say never fell out of his mouth or dripped off his lips – this is pure Bennett.

But too bad it falls many long yards short of any goal post, a goal post that could have been reached had even a short discussion of the interplay of the two tonality of red been explored.

6. “ The series of six archlike(sic) forms are unidirectional and their likeness appear again and again on Anatolian kilims, both on some of the great examples in this collection and, in their thousands, on kilims still being woven today.

This is not hypebole it is completely incorrect, untrue and ridiculous.

There are not, nor were there ever, thousands of saf, not even hundreds and while in Muse’s dreams he might have seen them we defy him or anyone else to produce even 150 Anatolian saf kelim of any age, old or brand new.

RK doesn’t believe we need to continue, as we have already destroyed, in the first plate’s description, credence Muses’s text is anything but silly nonsense and patter.

And don’t think we cannot do it for any other of the 87 plate descriptions he and Bennett authored, as they are equally flawed and as easily criticized.

One last comment and then we will leave Messrs Bennett and Muse alone: The fact Bennett’s name appears absolutely nowhere is a dastardly deception, and although RK is sure he signed an agreement to ‘ghost write’ Muse’s comments, it still is highly improper and unfortunate. Perhaps had Bennett’s name been there he would have worked harder to produce something of value.

Looking at Plate 1 in the deYoung Kelim catalog provides a glimpse how the thin-mirhab cluster developed.

Detail, Plate 1

Here the niche-mirhab are tall and proportionally much narrower than those gracing the east Berlin example, or ours.

Both of these kelim have squat and wide proportions, not to mention a slightly different, more aesthetic treatment of the border element and other minor ones, making them quite different visually than the deYoung Museum’s piece.

The feathering of the border element is absent in their saf, though it does appear atop each of the two side-bars of each niche-mirhab.

RK sees this as a displacement that doesn’t belong there or make any sense.

Those side-bars, which are far thicker and substantial on the other two saf, than they are on the deYoung’s, hold up, in a conceptual sense, the peaked top or roof of each niche.

There is little doubt the niche-mirhab on all saf like these have their root and source in (arch)itecture; and who would secure a heavy peaked roof, like those on these saf kelim, on supporting columns that are thin, narrow and appear too weak to hold its weight?

Of course we are speaking conceptually here but such concepts were not lost on rug and kelim weavers, especially those of ancient Anatolian archetypical examples.

The feathering on the other two saf imparts a considerable amount of movement and motion, adding to the animation RK mentioned in Part VIII.

This quality, which RK believes is significant not only on a visual plane, is not present in the deYoung Museum’s saf; it is suggested, but not realized.

This is primarily due to the lack of the feathering in the upper and lower borders, as well as on the bases of the niche-mirhab.

RK has no doubt the deYoung Museum saf is an old one, but it is not as old as either of the other two and, therefore, we date it somewhat later and place it further along on the saf continuum.

In its own right, it is a prototype for other examples, like the saf from the Vakiflar illustrated in Part VIII:

Notice the dark area below each of the 6 niche-mirhab on the deYoung Museum saf, the absence of this on the east Berlin and our saf, and the even more exaggerated presence of this feature on the saf shown above.

These are all subtle clues to support our belief the deYoung saf is not Archaic period but produced in the early Classic period.

It might be “wonderful” as Muse/Bennett called it; readers might “like” it more than the east Berlin or our example but, in the final analysis, the caveat we pointed out can not be discounted or ignored.

They are facts that are able to be documented, while words like ‘wonderful’, ‘supremely great’ or phrases like “This kelim gives us the context for all (other)…”, and “I think of it as an archetype” are nothing but hot-air, particularly when no proof other than the belief of the speaker accompanies them.

RK recognizes the deYoung saf is, more than probably, the prototype for the thin-mirhab cluster, as well as the main model for the Vakiflar seven-niche-mirhab saf; but, once again, it can not be placed in the Archaic period as it, like the Vakiflar saf that modeled it, was itself modeled after the east Berlin example.

The next issue we need to further explore is how the pseudo or double-ended niche saf cluster developed.

In part VIII we published a detail of this kelim, one of our 11 archetype:

It, as we hope you will remember, is in the collection of the Vakiflar Museum, Turkey, and we dubbed it the ‘compass’ kelim.

Here is the detail once more:

Now compare it with this fragment that is 99.9% sure from a kelim with double-ended niche-mirhab:

early Classic period; Anatolian Kilim: The Caroline and McCoy Jones Collection; Plate 2

And then compare both to this detail:

Detail; Classic period; Anatolian Kilim: The Caroline and McCoy Jones Collection; Plate 6

The most salient connection between the archetype ‘compass’ kelim and the double-ended niche-mirhab cluster is the bi-directional, north/south, aspect their niche-mirhab display.

And although this is a quite tentative base to build such relationship, the ‘compass’ kelim is the only Archaic period example with a multi-directional aspect.

Adding to this probative connection is the fact each of the ‘compass’, the three four-point medallions, are suspended in a block suggested and defined by the inclusion of four blue triangles above and below each 'compass'.

This block, though very different than anything seen in any pseudo-saf nonetheless conjures up a form we see as a possible source for the block/placement treatment of these double-ended niche-mirhab sets.

Another possible connection are the different north/south extensions emanating from the middle of the of each double-ended niche.

Plate 2 in the deYoung Museum has a very thick one flanked by 4 shorter saw-teeth; and plate 16, also in their collection, has two arrow-like ones in the same position, that are also repeated in the middle of each of the two white ground side-bars containing the “S” design.

This feature is also present on the other pseudo--saf we illustrated in part VIII; but there it only appears as an arrow-like extension on the center and right mirhab-set, while on the left on it is analogous to that on Plate 2.

Also notice in that example, which we dated somewhat later, there are two rhombs, each with similar north/south arrow-like extensions.

RK feels on very firm ground to classify these kelim, and others of this cluster, as pseudo,-saf, as well as considering plate 2 from the deYoung Museum as the prototype, dating it into the early Classic period.

The ‘compass’ kelim, until another better candidate appears, will stay as our archetype for this cluster. That said, we highly doubt one will appear.

RK also has a Classic period pseudo-saf in our collection, and it is illustrated in our book as plate 9:

Classic period; Detail; Plate 9; “Image Idol Symbol:Ancient Anatolian Kelim”; vol.2, 1989

Were RK a classification freak we could name this type the thin-mirhab pseudo,-saf cluster but we usually resist such unimportant taxonomical differentiation.

We will, however, point out some further aspects of this kelim that relate to our discussion of the pseudo-saf type.

The first is the presence of the “S” icon and second its placement flanking each of the thin-mirhab.

This is exactly the same position the “S” icon has on the early Classic period prototype for this group.

Plate 6, deYoung Museum Collection

This is no coincidence but an excellent example of prescription, which is further supported by the repetition of the inner side border of multi-colored motif on a white ground the deYoung Museum plate 6 displays.

The reason we call this prescription and not proscription should be obvious but let’s spell it out so there is no confusion.

Remember proscription denotes exact reproduction with no change.

Prescription implies careful repetition but not exact reproduction.

So here we see the same “S” icon; but it is rendered quite differently, though, those differences are subtle enough to prevent any mistaking these are the same icon.

Here is the archetype kelim with the “S” icon:

Detail; Anatolian Kilim: The Caroline and McCoy Jones Collection; Plate 27

The exact reproduction of this icon on Plate 6 is one of the main reasons RK places that kelim in the early Classic group; while the changes that are evident in the next Classic group pieces, Plate 18 in the Vakiflar kelim book and ours, demonstrate good reason why they are placed further, though not very far, down on the continuum for this group.

Often early Classic period examples quite closely follow the archetype but they do not exactly reproduce it, as we have shown here.

While after that period, the Classic and late Classic kelim display far great variance from the Archaic period original.

Following this progression of the “S” icon, as it morphs in the pseudo saf cluster might not convince readers our theory of proscription/prescription, or our continuum, have validity.

RK realizes this, and that is why we will, in the succeeding parts of this examination, present a number of other equally as convincing examples, in fact we intend to do this for each of the 9 remaining archetypes; since we have now documented our positions with 2 of the 11 – the east Berlin saf, and the ‘compass’ kelim.

We could add other examples to what we have already shown but we have done enough and we are satisfied for here and now.

One last effort with another kelim before we close this part of our examination.

Quite recently we spied this kelim for sale on the internet, coincidently it was soon after we began our Anatolian kelim examination.

We are sure readers familiar with old Anatolian might be impressed and believe, because of its unique design, it is an important early example.

RK has never seen another, but in our estimation it is what we would call an early Traditional period piece.

Why do we have this opinion?

First let us just say Archaic and Classic period kelim are never unique; and while a couple, like the deYoung Museum’s “S” kelim or the one of ours we showed along with the Altdorfer early 16th century painting, have hardly any other later copies their icon, amulet and emblems are not one-offs, they are instantly recognizable in the other kelim of their specific group and are part of a continuum.

Other Archaic period pieces, like the east Berlin saf have more later copies, these kelim also sharing recognizable icon, amulet and emblem no matter how separated by time from the original they might be.

Proscription and prescription were the two process at work here and because those icon, amulet and emblem maintained such great importance and significance throughout the long historical time from the Archaic to the Traditional period, these processes guaranteed their faithful reproduction.

But, history does not move in a straight line and in different places, and at different times, this system broke down.

Those breakdowns are memorialized in Anatolian weaving traditions, be they pile carpet or kelim.

It is very fortunate, over the past 30 years, so many great early examples of those weaving have now been published, exhibited and are available for study.

Today, looking back to 1979, RK realizes only our instinct allowed us to recognize the Anatolian kelim we saw and purchased were what we believed – archetypes.

Now, we can prove that instinctual belief and this exercise demonstrates that proof.

With that in mind we would like to offer the following, which, we know, is not nearly as convincing as the other parts of our examination already are, and succeeding ones will be.

For all explorers, and RK is an explorer, must be able to use their instinct to direct and sustain their journey into the unknown.

RK might just as well have said this at the onset of this examination but we felt it boastful, and we only write it here knowing we have already shown we are not just opining, we are proving.

The sole ornament on the kelim above is a unique one but it is only an invention made by a weaver, or maybe others whose work has yet to be discovered, set free from the confines of the important governing proscription/prescription paradigm

For us this is not an icon, or an amulet or an emblem; it is an ornament and as such it has no meaning, no place in history and no interest for any one looking to understand historic Anatolian kelim.

The central question, the actual meaning of this ornament or the far larger issue of the meaning of any one RK has called icon, amulet or emblem, is one we can not answer, nor are we going to try,

Other authors, like hirsch, Balpinar, cootner, Muse, frauenknecht, rageth, eskenazi, et.al. have alluded to a “lost language”, one begun way back in the Neolithic period – a language of goddesses and animals like the leopard, a language of kelim lost in space and time.

These allusions might play well to children or those who are gullible believers, but not to RK for the simple reason not one of these authors has offered to define even one word/element of that “lost language”, let alone a sentence, paragraph or story.

Yes, sure, we were the first to recognize the connection between pre-history and Anatolian kelim.

But recognizing a connection, and then building your work and research around it, are two very different positions, particularly when not one substantial, concrete proof of that connection has been offered up by any of those authors.

Not one, go read their work, RK has, and you will have to agree.

Unlike them, RK did not fall for this ‘possibility’, nor mind you do we believe it is hokum – but our work is/was/will always be based on fact and not opining, especially where/when those fact prove such opinions are not to be trusted.

We will, in the Part IX. reproduce our description for the first two archetypes kelim we purchased, Plates 1 & 2, from the book we authored in 1987-1988, and published in 1989Image Idol Symbol: Ancient Anatolian Kelim.

We are still extremely proud of it, as the description for Plate 1 provides the only proven connection between an Anatolian kelim and a group of prehistoric archaeological objects.

And that, race fans, is something way beyond chattering on about ‘lost language’ or seeing goddesses in motif and ornament invented long after the roots and sources of the Anatolian kelim had dried up into dust and blown away.

But we have once again digressed but not too far from where we want to be, and that’s to place that ‘unique’ ornament in a framework of explanation.

As we just wrote, we cannot explain what it means, but we can offer some documentation how it was invented, just like we demonstrated how the pseudo saf, or the thin-mirhab clusters developed.

However, those cluster are part of the history of the Anatolian kelim and the proofs we offered substantiate this.

Whereas the brief treatment we will give to the ‘unique’ ornament on this kelim demonstrate it is not part of that history, but invented from it.

This is another nuance readers may have trouble grasping but it is one worth pondering until it is understood.

So what is this ornament?

You could say it is a tulip lifted from the Ottoman court, where tulips can be seen in many types of art, not only weaving.

Is it a primitive “elibelinde”, a word all other kelim authors, except RK, have bandied about with abandon?

For those readers who are not familiar with this word it means a representation of the goddess with her hands on her hips; a particular pose the great mother of all humanity is supposed to have been accustomed.

This is the same female deity the book The Goddess from Anatolia spends pages and pages discussing without ever proving any substantial or concrete connection between the female effigy, as elibelinde, and the multitude of post-classic Anatolian kelim where this elibelinde appears.

Cover of the Goddess from Anatolia with elibelinde ornament

RK trust readers can see the ‘similarity’ the white motif in the bottom part of the kelim ornament shares with the one on the cover of the book.

So is this ornament an elibelinde in a tulip?

Well, this is a fanciful explanation RK is sure many if not all of those authors mentioned above might opine.

RK might even agree, but so what?

Then of course those same authors, at least the more archaeologically aware, might then ‘read’ the two bracket motif on the east/west axis -- the elibelinde in the tulip are on the north/south axis -- as the animals the goddess has been frequently associated with based on this famous, and intriguing, clay statue found at Catal Huyuk:

“Large clay figure of a goddess supported by two felines, giving birth to a child. An early example of the concept of the goddess as the “Mistress of Animals” it was found in a grain bin of shrine A.II.I, where it may have been placed to promote fertility of the crops by sympathetic magic” circa 6,000BC

Dear readers, stating the kelim ornament, like that on the cover of The Goddess from Anatoliabook, is an elibelinde(goddess) with two animals besides her is nothing but imaginative opinion.

However, the clay effigy above isn’t opinion, as it looks exactly like a big fat seated lady with two felines(the one on the right is missing) flanking her on either side.

That’s the difference between fact, a real statue that was excavated at Catal Huyuk, and opinion, the elibelinde ornament represents the same goddess and animals.

Here’s another fly in the ointment, there only one female effigy from the Anatolian neolithic with hands on hips RK has ever seen or heard of:

Female effigy; Hacilar, level VI, circa 5,700 BC

There are many other female effigy, in different pose, but only this one with what has become a legend in kelim studies; the elibelinde, a legend RK has always found quite questionable.

Another interesting fact is the absence of any ‘elibelinde’ ornament, or even one with any similarity, on any Archaic period Anatolian kelim.

Of course some, or perhaps all of the authors we mentioned above, would disagree; but RK defies them, or anyone else, to produce an Anatolian kelim with an elibelinde ornament RK will not be able to prove is a Classic or later period example.

Now back to what RK believes the ornament we pictured at the beginning of this closing Part VIIIA tangent is all about.

Since RK doesn’t venture into the fantastic, we have never tried to suggest what any icon, amulet or emblem, motif, let alone what we call ornament or design, means unless we have concrete documentary proof.

early Classic period saf; Anatolian Kilims & Radiocarbon Dating, plate 9

The following is our attempt to do that for the ornament in question:

Detail from the side border: early Classic period saf; Anatolian Kilims & Radiocarbon Dating, plate 9

This reciprocal arrow-head emblem is what we feel was used to develop, by mirror imaging, the main part of the ornament (the ‘tulip’)

Creating a mirror-image, or doubling, of a design was a feature of post-Classic period Anatolian pile rug and kelim, often appearing, in an easily identifiable form, in weaving from the Traditional period.

The two bracket-like devices on the east/west axis are another motif associated with Traditional period design.

So the ornament, according to our viewpoint, has been lifted from the border of a late Classic period kelim, mirror imaged, and then accreted with the brackets.

This is supposition, opinion if you like; but it is based on fact, mirror imaging exists and can be proven to be a technique found in later Anatolian kelim, and strong logic, the brackets are frequently found as add-ons to older less complex motif, or newly minted ones like the one above.

RK doesn’t like ending on such a weak note but the rest of Part VIIIA is convincing enough to over-ride our attempt to tackle such a difficult question.

End Part VIIIA

Author: George M
email: rugguy50@hotmail.com
Mon, Oct 8th, 2012 04:02:22 PM

Thanks George M.

Your compliments are appreciated.

--------------------------------

Jack, Just a quick note to thank you for posting so much information for all of us to see, evaluate and learn.

Your comments on current happenings are also a treat.

Best regards,
George M

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