Home > Rug, Kelim, Soumak, Textile Post Archive >RK examines Anatolian Kelim
Part XI
Sun, May 8th, 2011 05:04:04 PM
Topic: RK examines Anatolian Kelim
Part XI

The two Archaic period examples illustrated in the two previous parts of RK’s examination of Anatolian kelim are, in our opinion, the two most significant Anatolian kelim extant.

This is a pretty bold statement RK realizes will rankle more than a few collectors, dealers and museum people who might believe differently.

But it is fact and, perhaps, after reading and studying what is below some of those folks will concur with our statement.

In Part IX, we demonstrated how the icon on this kelim is directly related and derived from a distinct and highly specific group of prehistoric female effigy/idols.

That group of archaeological recovered effigy can be traced back to the late palaeolithic period(circa 30,000 – 10,000BC) and a number examples have been found in cave sites located throughout northern Europe.

Below is a small selection:

Paleolithic female effigy; from left to right: from Kostienki I (eastern Europe), from Willendorf (central Europe), from Dolni Vestonice (eastern Europe), from Balzi Rossi (Italy).

Why these idol were made and then secreted in these caves is unknown, though many theories have been forward since the first ones were discovered more than 100 years ago.

Regardless of why they were created, these facts are apparent – they are beautifully and sensitively modeled; they are carved from rock; and, they are undoubtedly female.

A related fact is all of them portray women with extremely large breasts and equally as exaggerated buttocks and thighs.

However their other physical features are not unusually large and, therefore, after studying many of these idols, both in books and museums, RK formulated a descriptive tag -- the indented-shape -- to describe them, as well as far many more that date from the neolithic(10,000-4,000) thru the bronze age(4,000-1,500) and into historic times(circa 500BC).

This indented-shape was the clue which led RK to realize the seven icon on this kelim are woven representation of these prehistoric idol.

Plate 1; “Image Idol Symbol:Ancient Anatolian Kelim”; vol.2, 1989

Great, readers might say, but how did the indented-shape get on the kelim?

The answer to this important question can be, somewhat, positively answered by this picture:

Interior view of the Yeşil Türbe which is the resting place of Mehmed I, the fifth Ottoman sultan and ruler of Anatolia from 1413 to 1421

The türbe, known as a masoleum in English, was built by Mehmed I to be used after his death.

It is part of a complex of buildings, including a large Mosque, known as the ‘Green Mosque’, begun by Mehmed I’s grandfather Murad I and finished by Mehmed I during his reign.

The Türbe and Mosque are decorated with tile work many believe to be the most accomplished and beautiful of any Ottoman tile decorated building. (RK would have to disagree, our choice would be the Mosque of Rustem Pasha in Istanbul.)

When RK was in Turkey in 1980, we visited Bursa and the Green Mosque and the Yeşil Türbe, which is situated above the Mosque perched on a hill.

Upon entering the Yeşil Türbe and seeing the royal catafalque, sarcophagus in English, RK was amazed to see our indented-shape on the tiles lining Mehmed I’s resting place.

Why this icon was chosen is unknown but suffice it to say it is highly significant for this discussion.

It proves the indented-shape icon was a living one and for it to be placed on the catafalque of one of the most important early Ottoman sultan’s grave markers is something that cannot be thought of as just chance or coincidence.

RK has not mentioned this yet, but, we have since 1981 harbored strong suspicion some of the Archaic period kelim, especially those with white fields, were death kelim used to display the body before internment.

Here is a tantalizing quote from Belkis Balpinar’s text in the 1982 Vakiflar kelim book:

Donors of Funeral Kilims: The custom of donating a funeral kilim to the mosque is only rarely observed, but it does occur in different areas of Anatolia.

It is suggested that it is connected with a certain weaving group which splintered and moved in several directions.

The usual tradition is that a kilim is used in place of a coffin.

The body is wrapped and tied (often with tablet woven bands) and is carried to the graveside most commonly on a ladder. (In thopse regions there is also a saying that a person “climbs the ladder” when he dies.)

This funeral kilim is eihter(sic) donated to the mosque or returned to the family cupboards to be used again in a family burial.

These kilim are mostly long and one-piece (430 x 160 cm – 450 x 180 cm)(Plate 32) In summary, carpet or flat-woven rug donations to mosques were given for religious reasons: to gain God’s grace, to achieve personal guarantees for the future life, or to honor a dead person.”

As many readers will remember, RK worked with closely with Balpinar for a number of years and don’t think RK didn’t try to have her flesh out and expand what she wrote about kelim and their place in funeral observance.

Nothing new was ever discovered, and to this day RK still harbors our belief the white field archaic group Anatolian kelim we own were ancient death kelim made by the group Balpinar’s text hints at before they “splintered”.

While we’re on this subject we’d like to mention: RK published, in 1990, a small catalog of slit-tapestry and other flat-woven textiles we discovered in Egypt in the reserve collection of the Islamic Museum in Cairo.

RK went to Egypt to expressly research the missing period, 1500BC – 1200 AD, in our kelim research, and in honor of our suspicion those white field kelim of ours are death kelim, and related to the fragments we found in Egypt and published, we titled that catalog Cult Kelim.

That catalog is online at the Weaving Art museum website for those readers who have not had the opportunity to see it.

This is not the time or place to discuss this further but the existence of the indented-shape on Mehmed I’s catafalque fills in a large hole in the indented-shape continuum and lends great credence to RK’s discovery this same prehistoric icon was the source for the one woven on our archaic period Anatolian kelim.

Here are the other key archaeological objects that form our indented-shape continuum, which cements our discovery.

They listed from the newest to the oldest, a continuum that ends with the palaeolithic idol we have shown above:

Baked clay statuettes showing the indented-shape; 17.5 cm; recovered from graves in Cirna, Romania; Girla Mar Culture; circa 1,500 BC

Clay diety in the indented-shape; Middle Minoan Period; circa 1,900BC

Schemetic white marble female figurine in the indented-style; 12cm; recovered in Greece; circa 2,800BC

White marble abstract figurine showing an early form of the violin-shape, ie indented-shape; recovered at Beysultan, Anatolia; circa 3,000 BC

Large ritual vase with indented-shape as well as several other important icons; Hacilar I; Anatolia; circa 5,850BC.
This is an extremely important artifact for our discussion and we will, in a later part, discuss its iconography at greater length.

Burnished red-ware ceramic figurine with the indented-shape; recovered from level I, Hacilar; Anatolia; circa 5,850 BC

Small female figurine with important ‘hand’ icon; carved in black stone;7.8cm; recovered at Catal Huyuk, level VI; circa 6,000BC

Fully developed indented-shape terracotta ceramic figurine; 3.5 cm; recovered at Glandice, southern Yugoslavia; circa 6,500BC

Carved ivory schematic figurines; recovered at Mezine; Ukraine, Russia; circa 18,000BC

These archaeological objects, and others we could reference, supply concrete evidence for the continuum we have documented; one that places the effigy icon woven on our kelim firmly in its place in history.

More so it clearly defines its meaning – a female effigy or idol.

This the most complete sequence of objects yet assembled to define any icon, amulet or emblem found on an Anatolian kelim.

RK has been trying since the early 1980’s to find others but, to this day, we have not been able to sketch out such a series for any of the other icon we have recognized.

We will discuss relevant findings we have amassed with some of the other archetype kelim on our short list.

Now let’s leave this issue to list the other Anatolian kelim we place on its continuum.

Here, once again, is the archetype
Plate 1; “Image Idol Symbol:Ancient Anatolian Kelim”; vol.2, 1989

This kelim, like almost every other archetype, has very few copies and these replica are inferior in all respect.

The major icon, which we feel we have convincingly proven to be a female effigy, is reproduced on only 6 other kelim we know.

The continuum to which they all belong is not much of a line-up, as all the copies are Traditional period, none can be dated as Classic period, which makes this group unusual.

That said, there is one kelim datable to the late Classic period but it cannot really be considered part of the continuum, as it is, at best, only tangentially related.

Classic period; Anatolian Kilim: The Caroline and McCoy Jones Collection; plate 52

Here is a detail; notice the similarity the upper border, and the end panel maintain with the archetype.

RK knows and can demonstrate over and over the reality each of the archetype Anatolian kelim define a set of icon, amulet and emblem and those features are more often than not reproduced in the later examples of each type.

Again this is prescription at work, as the reproduction is far from exact but it is undoubtedly not by coincidence or chance.

When dealing with what RK calls pastiche, or combination types, this is also the case -- a double set design pool reproduced, though being a mixture of two or more archetype, such a larger set of features does not remain as cohesive.

Also, the earlier the copies are the more likely the set, or double set, will be more faithfully reproduced.

Plate 52 from the deYoung Museum collection provides an opportunity for us to prove this concept and the upper border and end panel designs are not the only part of the archetype’s set that was transferred.

Notice the large hooks on the deYoung kelim are part of the archetype’s set as well.

But, of course, their representation has become regular, codified and standardized, whereas on the archetype they are far more in keeping with the animated alive presence that kelim presents.

Notice, also, there are no ‘butterfly’ on the archetype, but they do appear on the one we have often illustrated with it:

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

It in fascinating to note how the deYoung kelim has also codified these ‘butterfly’ by placing them on a pole, four together on the left and three on the right, placed between the far left and far right large figures and two between them.

While not strictly a pastiche type because the two archetypes Plate 52 copies are so very similar, the fact both versions of effigy and the upper border as well as end panels are so different, plus the 'butterfly' are only on one would, if we were pushed, impel us to say, yes, Plate 52 is a pastiche

On the archetype the ‘butterfly’ are a solitary unit, and in the very few instance where they are paired they are almost, but not really, co-joined.

This suggests the pole and should be interpreted as prescription at work; using but not actually repeating verbatim what appears on an earlier example.

RK believes the seven-effigy kelim displays a far more archaic ‘picture’ than the other above

We also readily admit Plate 52 is an early kelim and prototype for many, many later pieces with similarly exaggerated hooks.

We will discuss this emblem in a succeeding part of this examination.

To close this Part here are pictures of the 6 kelim in this small rare group.

Because none is dated earlier than the Traditional period and they are, basically, a homogenous group there is not much of a continuum we can construct or discuss for them.

To begin, this is perhaps the earliest and best of them, but frankly this is splitting-hairs as they all date to the Traditional period and, though they are somewhat interesting in their own right, when compared to the archetype, or even the Plate 52 from the deYoung Museum, they are then easily seen as quite degenerate.

Traditional period; Vakiflar kelim book; Plate 32

Traditional period; 100 Kelim; Plate 75

Traditional period; Goddess from Anatolia; Plate XXI,no.6.

Traditional period; deYoung kelim catalog; Plate 76

Traditional period; De Young Kelim catalog; Plate 75
Plate 75; 100 Kelim; Plate 74

End Part XI

Author: matthias wohlgemuth
email: wohlgemuth@arces.ch
Sat, Jan 9th, 2010 12:03:45 PM

Greetings Matthias and thanks for your email:

Being Swiss we should have figured you would be attentive to details; just look at all those great watches and clocks, and all those little wheels in their exact places, that Swiss men have produced. RK knew about the eskenazi piece from his Kilim anatolici publication of 1984.

We had our webman prepare pics of it but decided against illustrating it, and a couple of others we have pics of, as it would be, we thought, over-kill because they, like it, are later renditions of the archetype.

Here are the pics, though, of the eskenazi example, which is tavola 13:

Traditional period

It's an OK example, quite similar to the Vakiflar example which we prefer, but neither is really much better than the other.

And, naturally, we knew of the piece in the frauenknecht pamphlet you cited, as we are sure you read about our having conceived the idea for the exhibition, the pamphlet memoralized, and picked out the better pieces in 1980 for it.

We surely did not pick out this one, as we found it, and still do, a degenerate and quite ghastly version.

Late Traditional period

It is interesting to read what frauenknecht wrote about it, especially since he knew, had seen, and examined the archetype in our livingroom prior to that trip to Istanbul.

"Although there are certain parallels between this piece and Petsopoulos, pl.142, The(sic) colour palette as well as the structure is different. The border shows similarities to plate 5 in Frauenknecht Anatolische Gebetskelims. It is difficult to date this kelim. Many features indicate considerable age. Although damaged in places, a piece with real presence."

RK never found frauenknecht to be much of a student, and the fact he recognized us as a 'teacher' might add some weight to our comment.

It is rather unbelievable being even the mediocre student he was, what could have possibly led him to state this kelim has '"real presence", when it is surely the runt of the type and a kelim that has nothing going for it other than belonging to a distinguished group?

We know enough about frauenknecht, and his business practises, to realize his comments were most probably heavily tinged with the desire to find a buyer and, like all snake-oil salesmen, he probably talked himself into thinking it might really have "real presence".

In closing as we wrote when RK took frauenknecht along with us to Turkey in 1980, and we realized we were probably not going to find an Archaic period kelim to buy, we picked out a number of pieces, then allowed him to have them, and that how they then ended up in that black pamphlet.

For the record, those picks were abbs (numbers):
4, an early example of the type with great color and single icon, late Classic period;
5, another early example of the type with great color, late Classic period;
6, a rare type with unusal coloration, early Traditional period;
11, early Traditional period;
12, early Traditional period;
13, crisp drawing, deep rich colors though late ones, early Traditional period;
14, an interesting early fragment of a later type, late Classic/early Traditional period;
17, late Classic/early Traditional period; and
19, saph group spin-off, Early Traditional period.

So, Matthias, if you want to scan the others you mention, as we do not have those books, we will post them with some short comments.


a hello and the minor addition for statistics that other ones are reproduced in: ex. cat. Eskenazi 1984 (3 eff.), exh. cat. Yayla 1993 (11 eff.), Vok Collection Anatolia (red, 4 eff.), lenkoran.co.uk (red, 4 eff., $ 20'000) - and, if i remember well, there has to be one in Fauenknecht's early (black) kilim booklet, too... greetings

Home   Buy/Sell at the Kazbah   Terms Of Service