Home > Rug, Kelim, Soumak, Textile Post Archive >RK Examines Anatolian Kelim
Part XV
Author:jc
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Fri, Jan 15th, 2010 10:35:19 AM
Topic: RK Examines Anatolian Kelim
Part XV


Plate 57; Anatolian Kilims; Fine Art Museums of San Francisco; 1990

Which is the archetype?

It might look like a toss-up between the kelim above and this one:

Classic period; 100 Kilims; Plate 42

When Petsopolous’s second kelim book came out and RK saw it for the first time we had to think long and hard about which one of these kelim was the archetype.

We had, til then, not seen two such close candidate for archaic period dating, and it took quite some time, and thought, to decide the deYoung example was the archetype and the Petsopolous kelim the somewhat later copy.

The icon represents, RK believes, an early wild species of wheat, known as einkorn or emmer.

Evidence from DNA finger-printing suggests einkorn was domesticated near Karacadag in southeast Turkey, an area in which a number of PPNB(pre-pottery Neolithic B) farming villages have been found.

This correlation between the archetype kelim, with a unitary icon that appears to be quite visually similar to einkorn, and an area in Anatolia that in the Neolithic was an early place for its domestication lends credence to RK’s suggestion.

The archetype, unlike the other example of the type, has what we see as an earlier style, the unitary icon floating on a field of wide bands of color – emphasizing it and not the way it is depicted.

This is a nuance we feel is another hallmark of the Archaic period weaving – simple but elegant iconography with no frills or clever design ‘tricks’.

Notice each of the remaining two larger central emblem are different from the four smaller one surrounding it in the Petsopolous example – they have a narrow white horizontal line, or bar, extending toward the selvedge.

This small addition is the lynch-pin signifying to us it is the copy and the deYoung kelim the original, as this ‘trick’ is an unnecessary addition. Think about it…

There are others, particularly the way the icon is represented inside itself, as well as the showing icon in a two-one-two formula in each of the large bands.

Also, the individual tones of color in the deYoung kelim and their combination have that special subtle grace and balance all archaic period weaving display.

The Petsopolous keilm is a great one, the best in the book; its colors and their balance and combination admirable and wonderful but it just doesn’t reach the level of sublimity the other achieves, and does so with out yelling about it, or forcing the issue.

This is another hidden but perceptible hallmark of archetype kelim; and one easily seen in person by eyes trained to see.

Archaic period kelim at first appear to be understatement but when further explored and examined become tour de force.

RK has handled and seen the deYoung kelim many times, both before it was bought by Caroline and MCCoy Jones and after it entered the Museum.

In fact in March of 2009 we visited the deYoung and having previously arranged to see several of their archetypes, including this one, we saw it once again.

It is a great, completely under-rated piece of the collection, one RK has always, since we first saw it in the mid-1980’s, held in immense respect and appreciation.

The catalog description is worth quoting here to demonstrate how misunderstood this masterpiece archetype was by Muse:

These elemental forms, as well as those effortlessly created in the negative space, reflect the quality of the original imagery most clearly. I find this kilim’s simplicity and great purity of color exalting. This is one of the few great examples of its deswign type to have survived.

Had such superlatives not been hackneyed in almost every text description one might get the idea Muse thought it to be something quite special.

However, this is not the case and for him to so backhandedly state it is “one of the few great examples of its design type to have survived” it absurd on the surface and borders on insult for someone like RK who knows Muse and this kelim for so many decade.

It is the greatest of its design type, bar none.

The 100 kilim example is an outstanding one, as well, but when compared to the deYoung’s it isn’t even in the same ball-park, not by a long shot.

Another respectably old and superior example of this, not so rare, type is illustrated in rageth’s book.

early Traditional period; Radiocarbon Dating & Anatolian Kilims; Plate 39

It is, however, nowhere near the other two in any respect.

Perhaps the most obvious clue is the codification of the icon; the former free floating icon has now been turned into a dead, static, motif-- each one neatly placed in a box.

First an icon, then an amulet/emblem, then a motif – this is a process well demonstrated in kelim and many other near eastern weaving.

The title of our book Image Idol Symbol could have also been Icon, Amulet Motif – we trust readers get it now?

This might be difficult for many readers to appreciate, the codification process, but RK is positive after some serious reflection our point will become reality.

We could easily flesh out more proof why the two others are copies but we are not interested in spoon-feeding our ideas; go do some work comparing these three kelim and in that process you will begin understand the mechanics a trilogy like this demonstrates.

A last word: Notice Plate 39’s inclusion of the very late rendition of the interlocking “S” border – a sure sign this is not a Classic period weaving but rather an excellent early Traditional one.

The stage is now set for the introduction of the next iteration of the archetype as these two examples illustrate.

Traditional period; Anatolian Kilims Fine Art Museums San Francisco; Plate 56


Traditional period; Flatweaves/Flachgewebe, The Vakiflar Museum; Plate 75

No longer is the icon anything but a motif, even its stature as amulet/emblem has been lost; the cohesive prescription apparent in the two post Archaic period kelim above has become only a vague memory, almost an after-thought in our estimation.

Again we could easily flesh this statement to the max but would prefer leaving it for our more astute and interested readers to accomplish on their own.

The numbers are here, go do the math.

The next five we illustrate are the last of the mohican, the end of the line for the continuum the deYoung archetype set in motion.


late Traditional period; 100 Kilims; Plate 49


late Traditional period; 100 Kilims; Plate 48

late, late Traditional period; 100 Kilims; Plate 14


late, late, late Traditional period; 100 Kilims; Plate 13


later than late Traditional period; 100 Kilims; Plate 5

Once again the four main periods RK divides all kelim into are: Archaic, Classic, Traditional and Industrial.

The Industrial have chemical dyes and because none of the kelim above have synthetics we, rather tongue in cheek, added more late’s to each on to signify their lower position on our continuum.

Additionally, there are two related group of the type we feel it necessary to mention.

Here is the first.

Traditional period; 100 Kilims; Plate 55

This Traditional period kelim still has prescription; however, as is often the case in later works, prescription drawn from several different archetype group that resulted in a pastiche or combination kelim.

The main motif is a spin-off from birth-symbol bracket, which is part of the birth-symbol archetype set we discussed.

In the border this prescribed emblem, the figure/ground birth-symbol bracket from the icon set, is far more accurately rendered.

This kelim has some spirit, far more than the two related ones below.

late Traditional period; Flatweaves/Flachgewebe, The Vakiflar Museum; Plate 21


late Traditional period; Flatweaves/Flachgewebe, The Vakiflar Museum; Plate 78

Again for interested readers we have illustrated these pieces in the descending order our chronology would show.

We will leave it to you to do the math and in doing so we are sure you will add to your knowledge and ‘kelim’eye’.

The last kelim is one of a type that is somewhat well represented in kelim collections.

This is neither the earliest, the most beautiful, or the most interesting; we chose it because it encompasses many of the features the others far more succinctly demonstrate.

early Traditional period; 100 Kilims; Plate 21

Some, like this one, have what we call a ‘split’ motif, other do not have this aberration.

Frankly, we prefer it to the solid version, as it adds some depth to a highly degenerated version of the icon we have discussed in this part.

It’s a long way down from the archetype to the multitude of later, and even far later, example of this type in the published literature; and we trust now the iconic wheat kernal on the archetype kelim of the group from the deYoung museum collection, we have identified and discussed, can be properly viewed along with that archetype and the large continuum of other examples it heads and established.

End of Part XV

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