Home > Rug, Kelim, Soumak, Textile Post Archive >RK Examines Anatolian Kelim
Part XIII
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Sun, Jan 10th, 2010 08:42:53 PM
Topic: RK Examines Anatolian Kelim
Part XIII


Archaic Period; Image Idol Symbol: Ancient Anatolian Kelim; Plate 4

This archetype is one RK has great affection for, it’s an eminently admirable and likeable weaving regardless of the fact it is a fragment.

In one of the previous parts we briefly touched on the idea Archaic period kelim with white ground colors were used to display the body before internment.

This is not the time or place for us to speculate on how and why we carry this notion but we would like to mention one small part of the dossier of supposition we have complied.

Over the years we have seen a number, not too many really, of ‘similar kelim; by similar, we mean ones with animals as part of the set of icon this archetype defines.

Most examples do not have the animals, a fact we feel is quite significant and not just a factor of degeneration.

We believe the animals are a vestige of a far earlier, Seljuk and central Asian custom/tradition, and although what we will now write is pure speculation it is, as we said, something we believe.

Certain central Asian groups were undoubtedly closely related to other groups living to the north and east in southern Siberia.

Anyone who has carefully read our Turkmen Trappings: From Tent to Town Weaving Art Museum exhibition might remember our discussing certain important cultural parallel these groups share.

Among the southern Siberians important clan leaders were buried with a great amount of wealth and material accoutrement, presumably to make their life in the ever-after as comfortable as it was on earth.

These potentates often took their horses with them when leaving this life, and the remains of many burial kurgan demonstrate this custom.

We grant this is a rather thin limb to hang-out on, but we have always felt the animals on this kelim are horses and they are there for the reason we just explained.

Regardless of their meaning -- and RK usually does not go in for ‘guessing’ what icons, amulet and emblems mean so please forgive our opening that can of worms -- the careful and deliberate articulation the weaver was able to use to depict them on our kelim is pretty remarkable.

We know of no other example of the type that even comes close to representing them in such an alive and animated manner.

The one kelim of the type we feel comes the closest is this unpublished example:

Early Classic period

RK made this picture in 1980 when we visited the Esrefoglu Mosque at Beyshehir on our extended car trip out to eastern Turkey.

After some diligent effort we located the hojar, the keeper or custodian, of the Mosque and after some palaver, our ‘guide’ translating for us, the hojar took us into the Mosque, into some private rooms and into an adjacent building that was full of rug and kelim fragments.

That’s how we took this and several other pictures of weavings that had presumably formerly graced the floors of the Mosque.

Now RK is sure many of you know of the four ‘Seljuk’ carpets discovered here by Riefstahl in 1931 and believed to have been produced for the Mosque’s inauguration in 1298.

Another group of thirteen ‘Seljuk’ carpets and fragments were discovered in Konya in the Alaeddin Mosque and published in 1907 by Sarre, and among them is this fragment:

It is very similar to another far larger piece found there, and we believe RK is the only person to publicly date this fragment earlier than that other, believing it is the model.

Again this is not the time for place for that discussion but it is pertinent to compare the double-headed ‘animals’ in the border with those on our kelim.

We readily admit the connection between these two iconic animal representations is far more ‘spiritual’ than actual, and that’s all we are trying to imply – their spiritual connection.

We equally understand even that is a tenuous one, but bear with us as we try to flesh out this point.

RK discovered the kelim from the Esrefoglu Mosque in Beysehir when the hojar took us into an adjacent building, which was a turbe -- an octagonal stone building with a conical roof.

Recent photo of the turbe next to the Esrefoglu Mosque. In 1980 it had not been cleaned up and looked completely different.

Was this kelim part of the original decoration? Was this turbe the resting place of the mosque’s builder and name-sake, Esrefoglu Suleyman Bey?

These are tantalizing questions RK has wondered about since our visit, and still have not been able to prove one way or the other.

One interesting part of the equation pointing to a yes answer is the existence in the mosque, at least when we were there, of a number of wooden pieces originally made for the mosque, like the mimbar, the pulpit, the decorations in the Sultan’s loft gallery and others dated to the 13th century.

By the way, if the kelim from Beysehir was made for Esrefoglu Suleyman Bey, who died in the early 14th century, it implies either the archetype is older or we are wrong in believing the archetype is the earlier of the two.

Let’s leave supposition and these questions behind and compare the kelim from Beysehir with the archetype.

The first and most salient point for us is the ‘ears’ on the fully developed animal on our piece and those on the Beysehir example, minus of course the rest of the animals body.

It would logically follow, but not necessarily we admit, having the animal fully articulated is an earlier style than just having the head shown.

Also, in the center of the animal heads on the archetype there is an undecorated stepped-outline pseudo-‘cross’ motif.

While the Beysehir kelim has an important icon in the same place.

This same icon, which we will discuss in a forthcoming part of this examination, appears on our piece as well, in the center of this more intricate one:

Its migration from the field, inside the border area on the archetype, to the animal’s face can be read two ways, but RK’s opinion would have more significant near the border at the beginning main iconography than as an ancillary filler repeated in the face of each animal.

This is a significant aspect but nothing to base the opinion we forward: The Beysehir kelim is a subsequent, post Archaic period copy.

Here are some other aspects RK feels support and document our position.

Notice the three vulture, or ‘double-comb’, icon between the blue hooked arms that bracket the animals on our piece.

Compare them to the two smaller, less animated ones on the Beysehir kelim.

The vulture is an important icon, and one this Archaic period kelim clearly establishes.

Archaic period; Anatolian Kelim Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; Plate 58

This kelim, and its single icon, will be discussed in a succeeding part of our examination but for now we believe there should be little doubt this, and the ones on the two kelim in this part, are the same.

Notice also the red and yellow barber-pole border, on either side of the blue arms, is repeated on the Beysehir example but it, too, shows a loss of fluidity and elegance.

Notice the flaming rhomb the archetype has under those blue arms compared to the rather insipid and weak version on the Beysehir kelim.

Detail showing a later version of the flaming rhomb icon

In addition to the rhomb icon, which will also be discussed at a later time, a later motif containing the icon we pointed out in the animal faces is randomly scattered about in the space under the arm.

Watering-down an archetype’s brilliant iconographic execution, as seen in the Beysehir kelim, is a feature of Classic and later period prescription, and the addition of foreign icon another.

So too, as we mentioned, is the displacement of an icon’s position, here from just inside the border on the archetype to the faces of the Beysehir animal heads and the motif above the rhomb.

Go study the 11 archetype kelim we listed in an early part of this examination and you will not see important icon scattered about randomly, or reused as ‘filler’ motif.

The sides borders on the Beysehir kelim are hard to discern but they can be seen well enough to demonstrate they are, again, not animated or original but rather copies of others seen on earlier archetypes.

The top and bottom borders have abstract effigy, or ‘dolls’ as RK likes to call this version of the icon, like those seen on Plate 1 from our book Image Idol Symbol: Ancient Anatolian Kelim.

Detail top border Beysehir kelim

Detail bottom border Beyshehir kelim

The kelim from Beysehir is an excellent early Classic period example and RK’s pull no punch comparison is not to put it down.

Rather, we feel obligated to explain why we have such a short list of archetype examples; subtle and nuanced differences between an early Classic and an archetype being a main reason.

We will now illustrate one other kelim from this rare group with animals, and then illustrate a number of related examples, which lack animals or even, as the Beysehir piece has, their heads.



Early Traditional period; The Goddess from Anatolia; volume 1; Plate XII, no.7

There are a host of factors that place this kelim far down on the continuum – the lack of the flaming rhomb; the double headed animal and their upside down, rightside up depiction; the late motif used in the side borders; the displaced icon under the barber-pole arms, which hardly reproduce the original in the archetype; the gross top border which is too heavy and far too indelicate, as are the animals themselves and scattered icon used as filler motif.

There are a few others of this group but none are much better than this one; a few could be dated earlier, to the late Classic period, but that’s why we are not illustrating and commenting on them, just more of the same.

There are two related group RK wishes to mention before we close out this examination of the Plate 4 archetype.

The best and earliest of the first is what we call a pastiche or combination type.

early Traditional period; Radiocarbon Dating & Anatolian Kelim; Plate 33

Frankly we don’t like this kelim, another somewhat later example we will illustrate, or any others of its type.

We will readily admit it, and some of the others, are to untrained eyes ‘exciting’ and ‘intriguing’.

However, to carefully trained and educated eyes this kelim has no iconography, only meaningless motif.

That said, there is one icon -- the ‘birth symbol’ formed by the reciprocal space between the 5 hexagon.

However because it is a reciprocal, and not a primary design as it is used in an one of the earlier 11 archetype kelim, it fits perfectly within our early Traditional period dating.

The use of archetypal icon, as reciprocal, is a hallmark of the late Classic and Traditional periods, and demonstrates a somewhat rare form of prescription.

RK also finds this kelim’s overall design jumpy and erratic; for instance, compare the flaming rhomb of the archetype with the hooked concentric hexagon in each ‘medallion.

Notice the red and yellow barber-pole arms are repeated here but the arms are used to surround each of the ‘medallion’ and not, as they do in the archetype, form a continuous cycle across the kelim field.

The barber-pole itself is merely a reflection of the far more fluid and cohesive one the archetype established.

The upper and lower borders, while well done compared to a multitude of later rendition where they also appear, are nowhere near those found on earlier Classic period example.

The same can be said for the hooked-figures placed in organized rows on the field above and below the ‘medallions’.

And the big ‘U’ or ‘tulip’ motif emanating from the center of each ‘medallion’ is, in our estimation, a gross and unnecessary addition, nothing but a later invention.

A similar but later example of the type is this one:

Traditional period; The Goddess from Anatolia; Plate XI, no.7

Like the kelim above, the same prescribed errors are apparent and we need not enumerate them.

The scale in the other is larger and more expansive, which leads us to date it somewhat earlier. This also lends it a more attractive ‘look’ but in the final analysis both are what they are – later copies of an archetype.

The second related type is also a pastiche or combination of several archetype.

This example is not the earliest of the group but it is the most genuine, and the one RK likes the best.


Traditional period; 100 Kelim; Plate 82

Unlike the archetype, where every element works ensemble like a fine piece of machinery, this kelim is funky and wonky.

But better funky, wonky and genuine than a forced attempt to reproduce the proscribed quality an archetype displays and failing.

The big, exaggerated rhomb have some of the character of the flaming rhomb in the archetype; as far as we are concerned they are this kelim strongest virtue.

The blue ground arms, while lacking the red and yellow barber-pole secondary stripes, work well to connect and unify this ‘picture’, and make it a whole not just a number of parts put together thoughtlessly.

The wonky “S” inner side border is a quite genuine prescribed attempt to reproduce this icon with original intent, and the reciprocal red and white top border a charming later rendition of Plate 1 Image Idol Symbol.

Few post Classic period pieces, as well as ones from that period, can be viewed as genuine attempts to recreate an archetype, again this is its greatest accomplishment.

Compare it to this one:


Traditional period; The Goddess from Anatolia; Plate IX, no.7

Although it is technically far more expert than the one above it, and appears to be earlier, those aspects are forgotten when originality and spiritual connection are put into the mix.

This kelim, unlike the other, is a rote expression, one that reproduces a prescribed form with little to no feeling or sensitivity.

RK finds it boring and dull.

Same for the next three illustrations, which we list in a chronological order, oldest first.



late Classic period; Flatweaves/Flachgewebe, Vakiflar Museum; Plate 33



Traditional period; Flatweaves/Flachgewebe, Vakiflar Museum; Plate 34



late Traditional period; ; Flatweaves/Flachgewebe, Vakiflar Museum; Plate 35

The first, Plate 33, has an austere and somewhat monumental quality to it, which we can appreciate.

However when compared to an archetype, like Plate 2 Image Idol Symbol, that austerity and monumentalism cannot be seen in any light other than an attempt to recreate what only the archetype successfully created.

Seeing one last kelim, though illustrating it adds nothing to our discussion, might be instructive for many readers.



Traditional period; private collection

This kelim, as readers can readily tell, is related to the archetype Part XIII discusses.

It was published on the internet by michael bischoff, who is, in our opinion, nothing but a self-styled kelim yapper.

After ranting and raving about his unfounded abilities to discern great kelim from others, mind you without ever giving any real criteria, bischoff then produced this picture and claimed it was the greatest Anatolian kelim ever made.

Again, bischoff made this statement without ever providing one iota of real proof or documentation, and while he, like anyone, is entitled to his ‘opinion’, not being able to support that ‘opinion’ when questioned is not very honest or becoming.

Regardless, this kelim might be cute and perhaps likeable by unsophisticated eyes.

But when analyzed using the type of framework RK establishes in this examination it can be demonstrated just exactly where an example like this fits on a continuum of its type, and it surely doesn’t fit at the top.

The most easily recognizable feature that places it in the group we are discussing is the blue ground arms or gable surrounded by a red and white barber-pole minor stripe.

Let’s forgive the substitution of white for the archetypical red and yellow barber-pole, but forgiving the heavy-handed treatment this feature receives is not as easily done.

Also the archetype’s magnificent flaming rhomb are reduced to a new but meaningless invention; one RK finds trite and silly.

The side border's motif is not anything archetypical, nor Classic; it is at best traditional and somewhat trite as well considering it is repeated where the flaming rhomb should be.

The black ground color is dramatic but again not archetypical or classic; rather another example of ‘invention’, RK is used to seeing in Traditional period kelim.

Remember Archaic period kelim are proscribed with convention, not made up with invention; Classic period examples prescribed based on those convention.

In Traditional period kelim is where ‘invention’, and that loss of prescription often ran rampant, as weavers were set free from the confine of strong proscribed/prescribed cultural and social traditions.

Therer is no doubt this was the case and like all historical change it did not happen in a linear fashion thoughout all of Anatolia -- some areas this happened sooner and in others later.

Please remember our continuum and periods are not attached to calendar dating; rather they are units divorced from time, useful only as relative measure, not as absolutes.

Also remember adjectives like ‘wonderful’, ‘the best’, ‘the greatest’, the ‘most important’, the ‘earliest’, are just words -- and truly meaningless words when not backed-up, supported and documented by facts, or at least logical argument referencing fact.

So as an aside, let RK make it clear: A clown like bischoff has lots of company in rugDUMB, and one of the main reasons RK is expending this extensive effort to examine Anatolian kelim is to differentiate our positions, our ideas, our research and work from morons, idiots and big-mouthed yappers like michael bischoff, et.al.

End of Part XIII

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