Home > Rug, Kelim, Soumak, Textile Post Archive >RK Examines Anatolian Kelim
Part XVIII
Author:jc
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Tue, Jan 19th, 2010 10:07:50 PM
Topic: RK Examines Anatolian Kelim
Part XVIII


early Traditional period; Anatolian Kilims deYoung Fine Arts Museum; Plate 30

This kelim is a virtual smorgasbord of emblem and an apt example for beginning our conclusion to RK’s Anatolian kelim examination.

Before discussing it in detail we would like to publicly answer a question we received by email the other day.

What is the difference between icon, emblem and motif since their use in your kelim examination seems to be interchangeable.”

A careful reading of what we have written might not lead to the conclusion we have used these three words “interchangeably” but we will admit to having not explicitly defined them, although we did believe we have defined icon well enough to differentiate from the other two.

In our panoply, icon were generated only in the Archaic period; these icon then became, through various transference processes, emblem; and then motif.

We see icon as potent, mystical, powerful – special and highly regarded patterns of significance whose use was reserved, guarded and protected.

Icon are spiritual, they are not domestic – they are of the Gods, from the Gods; they belong to Gods.

Knowing who those Gods were is not important as the societies, and the weavers who produced the Anatolian kelim that are the subjects of this examination, were pre-literate; they have left no clue who they worshiped, when or why, so it is a moot concern.

For RK this issue is way beyond this examination or, for the matter, way beyond anyone in the 21st century’s possible understanding or knowledge.

Rest assured the makers of Anatolian kelim had Gods -- it would be against everything known about human history, and pre-history, to pre-suppose they were God-less.

Simply put icon were a first phase, and emblem a second.

When each archetype, and its icon set, is compared to the later editions it is obvious there were changes in the character and portrayal of the icon set.

This might be interpreted as the icon set moving from the spiritual world to one of the everyday, the mundane domestic world of existence.

The emblem, then, was an approachable symbol; one that, unlike the icon, could be used everyday by everybody.

The emblem could be a protective device, an amulet; or it could be a teaching tool of enculturation; we can postulate other roles but the idea here is of a symbol for something else – something that was formerly holy, unapproachable, and reserved for special occasion and use.

The motif, in this trilogy, was the third phase – something that has become somewhat common-place and displaced.

We have no proof of this thesis but the progression of these kelim from Archaic to Classic to Traditional period demonstrates enough change to imply validity.

The Traditional period kelim illustrated above might be considered a type of sampler of some of the most important emblem.

It is a unique kelim and one we could write extensively about.

We are sure many readers can recognize these emblem, and if you can’t might we suggest reviewing what we have written.

We have not illustrated it here to go over what we have already written, rather we want to discuss that important icon we have mentioned a number of times.

detail; Plate 30

This important icon, actually is one part of dualistic reciprocal – one we read as male and female.

important icon, male


important icon, female

When drawing, or weaving, a pair of either one the other appears between them.

This might be called an Anatolian ying-yang, but not really.

This interpretation and definition of the important icon is RK’s, we have never heard anyone else, prior to our publishing it in Image Idol Symbol in 1989, discuss it or forward such an idea.

It’s not brilliant; it is obvious. Both icon are composed of two triangle -- the male has a projection between the triangle, and the female an indentation.

This conforms with the anatomic difference of men and women and, of course, the sexual – the man enters and the woman is entered.

In the detail above the yellow ground stripe displays pairs of the important icon; the figure is the female, the ground the male.

This convention is not limited to its appearance in Plate 30, or even the Traditional period as the illustration below demonstrates.

detail showing important icon, female, between a pair of important icon, male; Image Idol Symbol; Plate 2

The longevity of this iconic convention, from the Archaic to the traditional periods and even to today, is no accident or coincidence; not by a long shot.

It proves the potency and incredible import certain cultural elements maintained in Anatolia among certain villages and clan.

The next kelim for discussion is one we have known since the mid-1980’s when it was first shown to us by udo hirsch, in whose collection it remained until, we presume, it was sold to the present owners Marshall and Marilyn Wolf of New York.

early Traditional period

This picture was taken by RK at the kelim exhibition held in concert with the Anatolian Kelim Symposium outside Basel, Switzerland in 1990.

At the request of the symposium’s organizer RK helped organize the event, we arranged for James Mellaart to speak and offered considerable advice on how to make the event a success.

This symposium also marked the ‘official’ publication of the Goddess from Anatolia, and that book and RK’s Image Idol Symbol were showcased at the exhibition, though our book had already been in the public’s hands for almost a year.

exhibition showcase with the Goddess from Anatolia and Image Idol Symbol on display

RK knows this kelim well, having had the opportunity to handle it several times before 1990, as well as during the symposium, and we can confidently state it is as we date it.

Recently, someone wrote on the internet concerning its ‘date’:
“This was the kilim collection of Mr. Wolf and… he had C-14 dated to the 15th century.

This is ludicrous, and it demonstrates how ineffective c14 dating is for oriental rugs, kelim and related weaving.

It also shows the gullibility of many rug collectors and dealers to believe a questionable c14 date rather than a far more secure art historical analysis like the one we will now publish.

This kelim is a pastiche, the large ‘hooked’-medallion a spin-off of several Archaic period archetype, the four hexagonal medallion, and the border, display derivative motif lifted from earlier examples.

The ancillary motif scattered on the white field equally as derivative, and traceable.

Frankly, we have never believed this kelim to be as ‘significant’ and ‘important’ as some pundits believe, and we would welcome the opportunity to critique their art historical analysis but, as yet, none of them have published anything but vapid, vacant superlatives.

Here is the early Classic period kelim, which is main source of the ‘hooked’-medallion.

early Classic period; Image Idol Symbol; Plate 7

RK has spent considerable time studying Plate 7 and could just as easily called it late Archaic period but we don’t like making such fine line definitions.

We believe this kelim, and the type it originates, is derived from Plate 2 Image Idol Symbol and perhaps at some later date we will discuss this but for now we will defer.

We also have another slightly later fragment, below, that was published along with the earlier version above.

Classic period; Image Idol Symbol; Plate 7

That fragment is, we believe, a part of the other half of the one published in the Goddess from Anatolia Plate IX no. 6.

Classic period; Goddess from Anatolia; Plate IX no.6

RK handled and carefully examined Plate IX when it was in the ‘collection’ of udo hirsch and, once again, we are positive it, and the smaller fragment we own, are the copy of the early Classic period fragment, Plate 7 in Image Idol Symbol.

Perhaps someday when we have done forensic testing and developed the necessary database RK will be able to prove our assertions about these two kelim, as well as many others.

Here is the next iteration of the type.


Early traditional period; Anatolian Kilim deYoung Museum; Plate 52

Notice the dolls in the side border, comparing them to those on Plate 7 Image Idol Symbol should make our criteria for dating it to the Traditional period crystal clear.

Also notice the important icon pair to the left of the blue hooked-demi-medallion in the detail; this is part of the icon set of Plate 2 Image Idol Symbol.

important icon pair;(l) Anatolian Kilim deYoung Museum; Plate 52: (r) Image Idol Symbol; Plate 2

The appearance of this icon, plus the late version of the top border reminiscent of Plate 1 Image Idol Symbol, further cements our belief the hooked-medallion is a pastiche developed from, and out of, the archetype Plates 1 & 2.

A step-down on the continuum for this type would be this kelim.


Traditional period; Undiscovered Kilim; Plate 16

The formerly wild and untamed design seen in Plate 7 Image Idol Symbol has now been codified, reduced from a potent emblem/amulet to a motif.

The examples above have traced the hooked-medallion in the Wolf collection kelim; now lets examine where and how the 4 hexagons have entered the scene.

With Plates 1&2 Image Idol Symbol in your mind’s eye realize how this kelim, a pastiche of their icons, came into existence.


early Traditional period; Anatolian Kilims & RadioCarbon Dating; Plate 27

Like the kelim at the beginning this, Part XVIII, here we have another virtual smorgasbord of Archaic period iconography.

Here are a few clues to help you decipher its sources – rhomb from Plates 1&2 Image idol Symbol; the skeletal stalk between the half-medallions from Plate 2 Image Idol Symbol; the large kotchak, or double hook, atop each half medallion from Plate 4 Image Idol Symbol; and the two identical side border from Plate 4 Image Idol Symbol.

This kelim is the prototype for the large arms atop each of the half-medallion, as well as the general form each exhibits.

early Classic period; Image Idol Symbol; Plate 8

While this kelim is, in itself, a pastiche of Plate 1&2, it is nonetheless a prototype, and the source of Plate 27 and the group to which it belongs.

Here is a later rendition of Plate 27.

early traditional period; Anatolian Kilims & RadioCrabon Dating; Plate 26

The most outstanding element it possesses are the wonderful rhomb in the center of each medallion, but the rest of this kelim leaves much to be desired compared with Plate 8 its prototype.

With a pair of scissor and print-outs of these kelim we believe any reader can now demonstrate how the hooked-medallions and hexagons on the wolf kelim came into being.

Notice the exact same motif between the medallions and those on the Wolf example – again this is prescription at work.

RK could spend more time dissecting the motif on the Wolf kelim to prove our position but we trust we have done enough.

This analysis is one of many we can prove, remember Anatolian kelim weaving was prescribed, the weaver bound by many convention, the most significant cultural debt and duty.

Each weaver was a cog in the wheel imbued with responsibility to faithfully reproduce what she had been taught.

Of course the weavers we are talking about were not producing domestic goods, whether for dowry or any other worldly purpose.

These weavers were doing God’s work in creating these spiritual kelim.

The heavily, should we say heavenly, icon laden slit-tapestry they produced were societal creation, not individual.

This is a central concept that must be understood, missing it or denying it can only lead to misinterpretation and confusion.

End of Part XVIII

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