Home > Rug, Kelim, Soumak, Textile Post Archive >More on the "Karapinar" Myth Part VI
Sat, Jan 2nd, 2016 11:06:03 AM
Topic: More on the "Karapinar" Myth Part VI

Oakely’s article basically begins with a mea culpa where she readily admits misreading what Dr. May Beattie wrote in the article that, according to Oakley, started it all.

Long ago RK read Beattie’s article and had no trouble understanding what she was trying to, and did, say.

That message can be boiled down to less than one sentence – there are no historic rugs from Karapinar.

Period, end of discussion.

The only discussion, according to us and now Oakely, is why rugDUMB persists in using this moniker to provenance rugs obviously made elsewhere?

This is, as we have already said, the only point Oakley and RK see eye to eye, the rest of her article is nothing more than, again according to us, an attempt to sound knowledgeable about Anatolian rugs.

We say attempt because, as we have demonstrated, the dating Oakley applies to almost every one of her illustrations is wrong, most by at least a century and some by centuries.

But before we leave Oakley to marinate in the mythic juice she has squeezed from the alleged fruits of ancient Karapinar looms, let’s tackle and knock down a few of her assertions, particularly the specious “groupings” into which she lumps the published weavings.

First off and central to RK’s position is our reply to this question, which appears on the first page:

After all, if the rug designs of other regions moved from place to place, what is so odd about the so-called Karapinar designs, or parts of them, being used in several weaving centers, with Karapinar possibly even among the most distant from the original source?

According to us Oakley could not have gotten it more wrong, as in our view the Casper-Foy-Brunk rug was made for the Sinan designed Mosque Selim built in Karapinar and it then became a model for others to copy.

And it, not some unknown distant source, as Oakley so euphemistically put it, was the source for the Karapinar design.

So Karapinar in our eyes was ground zero for this design-type, one we have now traced back even further than the Casper-Foy-Brunk carpet to this amazingly early Anatolian Village rug survivor.

For Oakley to date it 17th/18th century is laughable and frankly if she doesn’t wish to amend the many other equally as lost in the sauce datings she should at least post a retraction in that rag hali for this one.

To us this all makes sense – the Sultan hires Sinan, the greatest architect of his period, to design the buildings for the Karapinar kulliye and the Casper-Foy-Brunk rug, whether or not Sinan himself designed it, ends up there for centuries for all to see --- and copy.

We admit this is a grand hypothesis but far more likely and reasonable than Oakley’s amorphous “distant source”.

We also cannot avoid comment on this less than brilliant “observation” penned by Oakley.

Since most of the ‘Karapinar’ carpets of known provenance came from the Aladdin mosque and tomb complex in Konya…one might have thought that the related carpets could have been made in or near Konya…Perhaps it was just that nobody dares to raid such a prominent site

First off since the “related” carpets are actually not very related save for several quite general aspects of iconography no one with any experience could harbor such a thought.

Same for the next idea, which was most probably the reason these carpets ended up in Konya -- not that they were made there. Even a rug journey-woman of Oakley’s ilk should be able to figure that one out.

She then goes into a brief but verbose trip through Ottoman history, which proves little other than she can cut and paste info dug up by others.

None of this two page plus romp does anything to add to the subject but then neither do the “groups” Oakley struggles to construct.

Her group one begins with this blanket statement that is, as we have demonstrated, at the least debatable and at the most wet as a rain drenched sleeping bag.

Since the earliest example is almost certainly the Casper carpet, this must be in group 1.

Oakley then lumps the fragmented ‘Berheimer’ rug with it because, as she wrote, it is “next in date”, though she does qualify that statement with “certain details suggest a considerable time lag”.

Regardless, we could not disagree more as we have suggested several of the illustrated rugs are earlier, and while the Bernheimer rug does have a highly urbanized version of the iconography that does not in any means make it earlier than either of these two below.

Nor do those two rugs, the Casper-Foy-Brunk and the Bernheimer, have anything in common with them, or each other for that matter, other than certain general design aspects and being made of wool.

And while we’re at it here is another rug, the Cantoni, we believe earlier than the Bernheimer.

And so is the two medallion rug, from the Ala Din Mosque, illustrated on the magazine’s cover.

Regrettably, many so-called experts, like Oakley and her former employer michael franses, fall for the slickness Turkish urban weavings exhibit when compared to the more brutish, less refined and ‘elegant’ treatment real Anatolian Village rugs, like the two above, demonstrate.

So right out of the box Oakley’s group one is suspect and highly questionable, with the rest of her groups following by going right down that old slippery slope.

Before we leave group one behind for other Saragasso Sea horizons Captain Oakley sets her sails for we must mention this amazingly unsupportable surmise.

…the Casper carpet, with the more pronounced use of mock dovetailing, was copied from an actual kelim.”

Now RK really likes kelim and would often side with anyone who believes slit-tapestry and not pile weaving was the earlier technique but to try and float an idea like this one is only foolhardy.

Sure, sure Oakley rambles on about her discovery of “toothed comb-like outlines” in the Casper-Foy-Brunk rug but it’s a long way from there to any Tipperary that a kelim was its direct ‘source’.

Oakley’s group two is no better, starting off with this weaving, which is in our view unrelated to anything in anyone’s so-called Karapinar group

And then based on “a sweeping meander of pointed blue leaves that alternate with layered flowers" Oakley gets out her shoe-horn and tries to jimmy in these two.

This is nothing but naďve wishful thinking and although we were going to critique each of Oakley’s groups writing about this bit of nonsense has honestly left such a bad taste in our mouth we’re ready for some dramamine.

There is little doubt Oakley’s Saragasso Sea fishing trip trying to group these rugs is absolutely nonsense and along with our condolences we offer a relevant portion from our long ago published RugKazbah.com Karapinar Myth and Facts for comparison.

You can read that below the --------- after our last few words about Oakley’s article, as well as in its entirety here:


In closing let us quote part of Oakley’s final words:

Our study of so-called Karapinar carpets reveals a fusion of influences, including Seljuk, Karaminid, Timurid, Mamluk, and Ottoman, with a touch of tribal Turkmen, that mirrors the tangled ethnic and political history of Central Anatolia.

To such a say-nothing finale RK can only add: What group of rugs doesn’t?

And please, ms Oakley, can you tell us what the freak “tribal Turkmen” is?


Let’s now compare six “Karapinars” that illustrate how the progressive changes, i.e. degeneration, of this the design occurred. This exercise emphasizes the brilliant conception the weavers of the Brunk example were able to achieve. It also demonstrates the difficulty succeeding generations of weavers had in capturing the inspiration responsible for its creation, as well as the introduction of alien motifs and symbols these later weavers utilized and relied on to express what they could not duplicate.

On the first line of photos, a side-by-side comparison of Brunk/Casper rug and the Rijksmuseum’s example cant help but demonstrate the mastery the unsung weavers of the Brunk piece were able to actualize. And while the Cantoni is no slouch, its lack of the complex treatment both within the medallion and surrounding it make it appear somewhat two-dimensional. This perception is also fostered by the limited but intense color palette its creators employed and this factor - color - more than any other supports the reality that these two rugs have nothing whatsoever to do with each other besides for the similarities of design they share. Plus the Brunk carpet’s monumental scale implies it was made in a highly sophisticated urban atelier environment rather than the probably far more humble village setting that gave birth to the Cantoni.

I have seen both rugs in the flesh and while I was not able to compile detailed structural analyses, I can positively state these two rugs have no technical aspects in common other than sharing a woolen foundation and knotted pile.

The next line of photos shows what this writer feels is the next incarnation of the “Karapinar” design form:

On the left, the best of these, the example from the Jacoby book, appears. Here the aforementioned attempt to re-create the complex system of pattern surrounding the Brunk medallions separates it from the other three. But this is not the only feature to support the assessment it is better than the others, as the highly inventive design of the main border combined with its far superior coloration and number of colors place it head and shoulders above the others to its right. I should mention here that if this weaving and the Cantoni were exhibited side-by-side there would surely be some rug fanciers who would prefer it for those two very reasons. But in fact this cannot really be considered correct. Although it has more colors and that intriguing border – both of which give it a more “exciting” “look” – the brutish power of the Cantoni - that is derived from its amazing use of proportion and perspective, accentuated by the deeply saturated colors and their simple but highly effective utilization – combine to disprove any such thought.

The visual punch the Cantoni delivers was no accident and the weaver who made it knew it was impossible to reproduce the complex articulation of the Brunk/Casper rug so instead of tying to copy or duplicate it, an original and extremely potent interpretation was produced.

Is the Cantoni as good as the Brunk piece? No, it isn’t but in its own right and for the reasons just expressed, and others that I have not bother to mention, it must be recognized as a highly important Turkish rug and an influential feat of knotted pile weaving.

To its right another weaver of the so-called “Karapinar”-design, which by the way was recently sold at auction in Germany for almost 100,000 dollars, produced what this writer can only describe as a two-dimensional copy of the medallion and corner-piece arrangement we are calling “Karapinar”. As weak and ineffective as it is, it is still nonetheless better and more skillful in all respects than the weaver of the Franses Textile Gallery rug was able to muster. There we see only a blatant copy of the features that distinguish the “Karapinar” design group, as expressed by the rugs to its left and those pictured above it.

Perhaps its most redeeming aspect is the main border but when that is compared with the Cantoni’s – undoubtedly its source – it’s jumble of designs that at first appear interesting are, on further inspection, actually only a confused attempt to capture what the long dead weaver of the Cantoni was able to create.

Again, the Textile Galleries piece is not terrible but when compared to the two others of its period, it falls far short and even more so when viewed in light of the two pictured above it.

The next line of photos demonstrate what can be considered the next manifestations of the “Karapinar” design group:

Frankly the example on the left is superior to the Franses rug but, because it is less “classical” in its depiction of the “Karapinar”- design, I have placed it here below the Franses piece only for this reason and none other. I would prefer to own this long four-medallion rug to Franses's any day because here this weaver was inspired, not just copying. And while this rug is no real champion compared to those that are – like the Cantoni and Brunk/Casper - it is onje when it is considered alongside the example to its right, the Textile Gallery's and the all the others of its period.

The medallions are not complex but they are honest. They embody and capture the proportions of the Brunk rug and the lifting of the large “tulips” featured in the medallion of the Cantoni and their placement on the medallion’s dark ground successfully produces a medallion with both grace and power. This might seem simple but it is both a difficult and rarely successfully executed combination, as the Franses rug and others not pictured here well proves.

The gold-orange field color contrasts extremely well with the dark ground medallions and the sparse field decoration is both tasteful and in perfect balance with and to those medallions. The four baby-blue corner-pieces, interesting minor border and wide trifoliate major border all blend perfectly together to produce a magnificent achievement of later central Turkish village weaving. I like it.

I don’t like the rug to its right. Why?

Simply put, this weaving is a flaccid imitation of the “Karapinar” design. It is miserably inferior to every other example we have examined so far in this discussion. The medallions look impressive but that is due only to their having white grounds, a trick later weavers often resort to in their effort to “catch” the eye of the viewer. The sloppily conceived and executed blue pattern that surrounds them is even more insipid and meaningless and oh those contrived half-medallions that poke their way into the field from the side-borders, ugh!

But all these pale in comparison to the border. What was this weaver thinking, or rather what was the weaver not thinking. Words cannot do justice to the lack of inspiration, genuine knowledge and familiarity with the “Karapinar”-design, or weaving expertise that produced this rug. It is a poster-boy for the worst of Turkish pile weaving. Let me stop there, ‘nuff said about this waster of wool.

I can’t honestly say I would prefer to own the example illustrated by itself on the last line of photos rather than the one just discussed, but almost.

Here we have the final recognizable incarnation of the “Karapinar”-design and as weavings of this period interest me not, I don’t feel like enumerating the obvious deficiencies it displays.

Author: Max
email: max-reno@outlook.com
Sat, Jan 2nd, 2016 11:06:03 AM

RK Replies:

Greetings Max and thank you for the first reader post of the new year, 2016.

While RK respects those who exhibit passion concerning rug studies we often feel those like yourself who are ranting opinions like they were facts both miss the point of such arguments and discourage and turn off readers to their message.

That said, we will add some comments in bold type to yours.


I hope you all stop oneday(sic) this glorification of this rowdyish crowd of barbarian names like seljuk or mamluk ottoman and ilkhanat!

For your information a careful reading of this segment of our "Karapinar: Myths or Facts" presentation includes only one mention of those words, and it is in a quote from Ms Oakley, not something we have written.

Our study of so-called Karapinar carpets reveals a fusion of influences, including Seljuk, Karaminid, Timurid, Mamluk, and Ottoman, with a touch of tribal Turkmen, that mirrors the tangled ethnic and political history of Central Anatolia.

To such a say-nothing finale RK can only add: What group of rugs doesn’t?

So please do not accuse us. And by the way, RK is not in the group of those who try to claim rugs were made in certain areas or by certain peoples.

Yes, we do use these words but far more as operational definitions than positive provenances.

We are far more interested, and our research is centered upon, trying to figure out which examples are the archetypes and which their copies.

For us it is far more salient to be able to construct historical continuums based on iconography than shoot arrows in the dark to provenance weavings to this group or that area.

This rugs are made in south of tuz gölü, when you can pronounce this, and this area is from 1562 kurdish settlement!

Well, Max, considering the earliest (archetypes) of "these rugs" you refer to are clearly older than middle 16th century your argument is moot. You might have a point for later 'copies' but surely not for the originals.

In turkey are only 7% turks of turkish origin, and WE hope you unterstand a respect this somedays.

Here's another sticking point: What does "of Turkish origin" mean? Are you referring to pre-Turkmen peoples in Anatolia"

Undoubtedly there were sophisticated, indigenous, civilized, people in Anatolia prior to the first Turkmen migration(invasion). This is proven by the substantial archaeological remains of their existence going back to the early Neolithic period (9,000BC and before).

Moreover Kurds are the only nation with a diversitiy in there carpets. Have you know that ushakis are alevis for example? Then question yourself why in Ushak only and not out of ushak are alevis?

I find you all look only at and on the carpets, but this is not enough! the aestetic properties and philosophie is another way to discuss.

I think to forget first of all the "seljuk rugs" and name these armeno-kurdish like Kirchheim. and then to beginn to think about the anatolian rugs, where are they really comming from?

As Shakespeare said " A rose by any other name is still a rose" is our reply to your statement.

Why not just call them Anatolian, and forget about trying to prove ethnocentricity, somehting that is at best debatable and at the worst nothing but prejudiced opinion?

You can paint Oakley, the author of the article, with that brush but you cannot us.

As we just said the carpet itself, and not its provenance, is our concern. Please get that straight.

you accept this a priori as turkish,- I dont think this.

Only the pray rugs.

Any why pray tell "only the pray(er) rugs? Are not many Kurds Moslems?

I dont try to face the turkish ugly nationalism on this way, no! Turkey is the land of fear, you know this reality?

but you can have more courage, you are not kurd or armenian.

Once again arguing the impossible to ever know -- who made any pre-19th century rug, or where they lived, or what their religious beliefs were or weren't -- is but an exercise in futility. Claiming parentage always has underlying motives and for that reason, and others, we are not interested in going down that road.

The rabbit hole of politics is deep and why drag artistic achievements down there, when doing so only sullies their value and beauty?

yours sincerely

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