Home > Rug, Kelim, Soumak, Textile Post Archive >Stumbling over the Seljuks
Part 1
Author:john taylor
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Fri, May 18th, 2012 01:06:25 PM
Topic: Stumbling over the Seljuks
Part 1

Recently RK found and read the following analysis john taylor wrote about the Seljuk carpets.

Mr taylor has done an admirable job of reproducing scans of the various Seljuk carpets and recounting some of the stories which surround their discovery and subsequent comments that have appeared in publication by such authors as Von Bode, Sarre and others.

Unfortunately taylor's attempts at adding to them, and and his ideas about the relationships some of these examples might have to other types of carpets, are severely flawed.

Fact is RK would suggest taylor stick to scanning rug photos and recounting stories rather than believing his modicum of rug expertise will allow him to make perceptive comments.

RK intends on demonstrating where taylor has gone wrong and will soon add in bold type our comments.

So for now please enjoy the pics and stories.

Here is the URL for taylor's blog where the original publication exists.

http://rugbam.blogspot.com/

It will probably take us several days to get our comments online and we will change the title of this thread when we have finished.

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The Seljuk carpets were uncovered by F.R Martin at the Alaeddin Mosque,Konya,in the year 1905.Martin worked as a translator for the Swedish Embassy in Constantinople,and subsequently chaperoned Prince Wilhelm of Sweden on a tour of duty to Konya.They were accompanied by the German Konsul Julius-Harry Loytved,and at a certain point during their visit to the Mosque,Martin suddenly noticed the Seljuk fragments lying in a distant corner of the building,at the opposite end to the famous Minbar(which is said to be the oldest dated Seljuk work of art,circa 1155)
For many years it was thought that Loytved had actually been the discoverer,as stated by Aslanapa and Yetkin.Kurt Erdmann skilfully avoided the issue.
Inside the Alaeddin Mosque,1895(F.Sarre)Note the abundance of kilims

It thus became a Swedish discovery,and Loytved was charged with the mechanical reproduction of the carpets by Martin,under the auspices of the Grand Vezir Ferid Pasha.This involved not only taking black and white photos,but also producing watercolours.

Two years passed,and in 1907 Friedrich Sarre published three photos from Loytved in an article he had written on medieval carpets.The publication caused an immediate stir.
First publication by F.Sarre in 1907

Unauthorised, Loytved had sent photos of the carpets to Berlin .They must have reached Bode in 1905.Thus Sarre effectively pre-empted Martin,whose book on carpets appeared subsequently in 1908.Martin`s reaction can be gauged by the footnote to this story in his "History of Oriental carpets before 1800"(note 247).His sarcasm is hardly concealed,aimed at both Loytved(whom he slanders) and Sarre,but is understandable.Sarre,so Martin,had often visted the Mosque without noticing the carpets.

Republishing the three carpets in 1909,Sarre`s tone is apologetic and facetious at the same time:with a bow in the direction of Martin he protests his innocence by declaring his connoisseurship;after all he,Sarre,had recognized the importance and age of the carpets(which he still had not seen in the flesh)and had reached the same conclusions as that leading expert in the field,F.R Martin!

It did not cloud the relations between them,however,as they collaborated two years later on the great Munich exhibition,Meisterwerke Muhammadanischer Kunst.
Some points of the story remain unexplained. We have no proof that Loytved, Martin and the Prince actually visited the Mosque together.Most commentators have deduced this,although such an epochal find was a fantastic occurrence on a Royal visit.

As neither Loytved nor Sarre had noticed the carpets we must presume that they were in fact not visible,i.e buried under other rugs.In which case Martin must have "discovered" them previously,and held the news back,aiming for a sensational discovery in the presence of the Prince.It certainly was a great five years for F.R Martin though:1905,the Seljuk carpets;some time before 1908 the discovery of the Nigde carpet;1908,the publication of his carpet Opus;and 1910 the collaboration with Sarre in Munich.

The "Swedish"discovery became associated with Prince Wilhelm and probably helped Martin publish his carpet book which was financed in part by the Swedish Crown.

Loytved has been blamed for his role in this,but probably an animosity existed between the two men already: Konya was Loytved`s hunting ground.Bode`s letters mention money problems and payments to Loytved from Berlin which had been held back by Martin.

Loytved complained to Gertrude Bell in 1905 that he was virtually unemployed,and an Exequatur seems never to have been issued by the Ottoman Government.By sending the photos to Sarre he was opening the door to a lucrative business proposition.Perhaps Berlin would be interested in acquiring a Seljuk carpet?

The letters from Bode to Loytved in 1905 indicate this-" I would be happy to purchase fine Seljuk works of art in good condition and the strange carpet with the large Calligraphy border(i.e Konya 1),of which Herr Martin and yourself have said that perhaps the one or other could be acquired"-"I would be very grateful to hear about any early carpets with beautiful or unusual designs(Bode,21 September 1905)"or " I am curious to see if you will be able to purchase the Calligraphy border carpet!"(July 1907)

Bode actually sent Loytved 150 Lire for other purchases,with promise of more to come for the carpets.And in 1907 Bode went to Constantinople,ostensibly to straighten things out with the Turkish authorities concerning German exports of antiquities,but presumably to meet Loytved.

This meeting seems not to have taken place however,and on July 16 1907 Sarre writes Loytved an excited letter concerning the three carpets,of which he now has photos(Bode had probably first received Stereotypes in 1905)Sarre:"Where are the carpets?Perhaps in the Alaeddin Mosque?How old are they?How big are they?Are they for sale?How are they knotted?How are the colours?Who took the photographs?"

Sarre`s premature publication probably put an end to their business.Perhaps it was clear at the end of 1907 that the carpets could not be acquired,and the authorities in Constantinople intervened.
Sarre`s letter to Loytved

Finally,we have Bode`s review of Martin`s "History of Oriental carpets before 1800",published in October 1908.He finishes with a defense of Sarre and also of Loytved,of whom he speaks in the warmest of tones.

He accuses Martin of plagiarising his,Bode`s, work on carpets, and rises further to the defense of Friedrich Sarre,whom he also sees as having been plagiarised by Martin.Bode is however careful to separate his criticism of Martin from his recommendation of the book.

He basically ticks Martin off for his bad behaviour.In 1908 Sarre and Loytved were approximately the same age,Martin some 9 years older.Bode was 63 and had the last word.

The carpets have been numbered to describe them.The order and nomenclature suggested by Riefstahl in 1931( with some alterations)will be followed here.

Sarre initially published three Seljuk carpets in 1907.In 1908 Martin published the same three pieces.And in 1914, Bode-Kühnel again published the same three rugs.Interestingly,in the 1922 edition,Bode declares that three carpets had been found.Later editions omit this.It seems clear that these three pieces came first,and the others were chanced upon afterwards(the last fragment from the Alaeddin was actually brought to Istanbul in 1928)

All three examples entered the Evkaf Museum in Istanbul together,on March 31,1930(Aslanapa,1000 years)However,according to Ayşin Yoltar the carpets were transferred to the Evkaf in 1911.It may be that they were first moved to the Konya Museum for temporary safekeeping.

Konya 1
The Cheops Pyramid of carpets,at around 15 square metres this is a very difficult object to overlook.

It has the classic "Seljuk"design schema:a wide monumental border paired with a small and delicate repeating pattern.

Actually quite similar to the boxed motifs on Arabatchi weavings,the field mirrors the border concept of opposed animal heads.
It appears in a revised version on the Schemle pattern of Salor and Saryk trappings.The boxstar minor borders can also be found on Arabatchi,Ersari and Salor weavings.The main border has a"Kufesque" border in Ming blues and greens.At the top and bottom the design units have been separated,like a turreted fortress standing guard.It bears a curious resemblance to the Turkmen Kedjebe design.

Konya 2

The largest of all the carpets,and the second of six with a kufi border.The field design survives into the 19th century on Ersari engsis.
The kufesque border is the most elegant of all,but the system has been reversed: the field dominates,and the border has been reduced to a minor guard.Has the granite look of an archaic Salor main carpet.

Konya 3

Konya 3

This shares the same field design as Beyshehir 11,albeit with a different colour system.The Eli Belinde in the minor borders is a constant of the whole group,as noted by Werner Brüggeman.The star-within-a-star of the field is recalled in the border of Beyshehir 11.Sarre thought he could read letters here,and it is in fact one of two examples with a Kufesque field design.The main border anticipates the field of the Dusseldorf chessboard rug,and even the "crab-flower" borders of 19th century Kazak rugs,which have curiously become more floral with time.

Konya 4

Konya 4 A (above),Konya 4B + C (below)-Two different rugs with the same design-Inventory Nr 692 + 693

There are two rugs with the same design, which is why the overall group counts of some authors vary.

Aslanapa is quite clear about this(1000 years,page 25)In the ICOC Istanbul Catalogue the three pieces are printed together,but not to scale,which is baffling.Aslanapa also confuses 693 with 683(1000 years,plate 9)But the final tally here is:1 carpet in one piece,nr 683(a)size135 x 222 cms,and 1 carpet in 2 pieces,nrs 692 and 693,size 140 x 294 cms.

In the ICOC catalogue they have presumably been all placed together to give a semblance of wholeness,but in fact the 2-part carpet is over 70 cms wider.The yellow inner guard on 683a is obviously much wider,as is the main border.If they were from one carpet,it would have been funnel-shaped,unlikely by such careful craftsmanship

The border,again kufesque, resembles that of Konya 1,but a crescent motif(C-gul)has now appeared,as if perched on a Mosque Dome.

The ubiquitous Eli Belinde occupies the field,changing in design and colour at one end of 692/693.

Konya 5
Konya 5

Agnes Geijer discussed this carpet in her 1961 article on Early Carpets,to demonstrate that the design was based on a Yuan silk brocade,said to have been discovered in an Egyptian tomb. She used an example now in the Metropolitan Museum to illustrate her thesis, quoting an earlier publication by von Falke.
No one seems to know where the tomb lay,nor how old it was.

The comparison itself is credible,and was presented as conjecture.However,by 1979,in her "History of Textile Art",it had been elevated to an article of faith,with the suggestion that the group as a whole should be post-dated by two hundred years.The possibility that the design existed before the 14th century seems not to have been considered.

The usually cautious Jon Thompson(Carpet Magic,1988,p.169)defends the "largely ignored" Geijer article,mentioning a group of little known Turkish carpets"of a higher technical order"

He was presumably referring to the Divrigi carpets,and cites Serare Yetkin`s publication of the famous Chessboard example.

The Seljuk Court of Rum came to an official end in 1307-8,but as in the case of the Mamlukes,production of art works surely did not cease immediately,nor did it change overnight.

The presence of the Seljuks could still be felt long after,due to the circulation of their high-quality coinage.There is no reason to post-date the group on such grounds,and the statement that the carpets found at Divrigi were superior technically is too sweeping.

The design can be found on two other carpets,one in Berlin and the other on a 15th century Spanish carpet now in the Textile Museum.
Berlin-note reversed arrow border
TM Washington

Konya 5,after Gantzhorn

Konya 5 is said to reproduce the to-and-fro motifs found in draw-loom weaving(as in Beyshehir 9)and probably marks the introduction of asymmetrical design in carpets.It is also the only example which stands raised on a separate ground,in this case green,and also introduces corner-pieces.

Note the swastikas at the centre of each field motif.It is one of seven carpets with a plain inner guard,here in blue-green.

The small inner border recalls the Marby carpet,and the main border is in the tradition of Konya 3 and Beyshehir 11.This was a medium sized carpet,perhaps 160 cms wide originally,by 300 cms long.

Konya 6-93 x 70 cms-Inventory Nr.684

From another large carpet,this fragment bears a vague resemblance to the field of Konya 3.Viewed sideways the Kufi has mounts of animal heads,not unlike those Tekke torba guls. An inner guard of arrows was later used in 19th century Baluchi carpets(see Cole

Konya 7
Konya 7-77 x 17 cms-Inventory Nr.678

From the Kilicharslan Mosque in Konya(which is part of the Alaeddin)This was the last Konya fragment to have been brought to Istanbul for safekeeping(in1928,according to Aslanapa),and presumably the last to have been discovered.It is not mentioned by Riefstahl in his list of all Seljuk pieces in the Evkaf-which was published in 1931.A field design of latchhooks within a lattice of enclosed S forms,and a kufi border with stars as in Konya 6.
The Beyshehir carpets.
The Eshrefoglu Mosque

R.M Riefstahl discovered a further three "Konya" type carpets in the Eshrefoglu Mosque in Beyshehir,during a summer campaign in 1929.Another four pieces were also found,but of a somewhat later type.They were surrounded in the mosque by "a number of indifferently good Ladik prayer rugs"Riefstahl`s discussion is without doubt the most incisive of all.Despite a great deal of fieldwork,he was unable to locate any direct parallels to the Konya carpets in the Seljuk buildings of the area.Rather,his work veers off at a certain point and paves the way for Amy Briggs`monograph on Timurid carpets.In common with Sarre and Erdmann he repeats the story of Marco Polo concerning the carpets of "Karamania",believing them to have not been the rough-hewn Seljuk pieces.Later,Aslanapa and Yetkin also became entangled in the tale.

David Collection-302 x 187 cms
Keir Collection 207 x 185 cms
Together again-Hali 31-58-original width 260 cms

This well-known item is now divided between the Keir Collection and the David Collection in Copenhagen. When and where they were split up is not clear.

The smaller fragment was sold at auction in 1971 at the sale of the Pozzi Collection in Paris(Jean Pozzi had been French Ambassador to Turkey in the 20`s).

The larger piece was in a European collection before going to the David. It is ironic that despite Riefstahl`s plea for a safe haven for the Beyshehir group(or perhaps because of it?)one rug was obviously stolen,before or after it was to reach the relative safety of the Mevlana Museum in Konya. As there has never been a restitution claim,the misappropriation must have been sanctioned from on high,possibly using the channels which had already been established in Loytved`s time.Riefstahl declared it to be the equal of the other large pieces now in Istanbul,which is certainly true in terms of austerity of design.Agnes Geijer(1963)makes an unconvincing case for an origin amongst Italian silks of the 14th Century,although it certainly is the draw-loom repetition theme again.

However she did not have it so easy as with Konya 5,declaring"a coarse deformation" to indicate several generations between the carpet and the original textile.For this reason,she dated the carpet to the 15th century,or even later.But stylisation and the technical confines of rug-weaving could be the cause of this.The David Collection piece has been dated to around 1400

Lamm saw only a vague connection between this example and the rest of the group

The design makes more sense when viewed as in the direction of Hali 31 and 61(which is perhaps upside-down?). Thus it´s basic pattern starts to resemble Konya 5 . Both Riefstahl and Geijer point out similarities in Chinese,Near Eastern and Lucca textiles featuring undulating vines with drooping palmettes.

It has the most complex field design of all the group.

The main border features again Eli Belinde figures(although not when viewed in the "drooping"direction)It has sometimes been interpreted as a Kufic derivative,but this seems unlikely,and Riefstahl saw "a tree crowned by a palmette flower,with two lateral branches sustaining minor palmettes"It could also be seen as guardians before a tent.
On the David fragment the blue field seems to have been mounted separately,and then sewn onto the ochre backing of the border,thus appearing visually less cohesive than the Keir piece.

Beyshehir 10
Another cleverly designed rug full of hidden reciprocity,made up of hooks,squares,and stars. A beak of border remains on the lower end displaying a kufesque pattern on a red ground.Riefstahl compared the design to a poor linoleum flooring,saved only by its gracious colour.It seems to anticipate the blueground rug from Divrigi.
Aslanapa illustrates a similar rug in a painting from a Maqamat manuscript:
The star lattice had a further career in 19th century Caucasian rugs

Beyshehir 11

Beyshehir 11-112 x 49 cms-Inventory nr.867

This last fragment has the same field design as konya 3,with different colouring.Riefstahl felt it was earlier,in fact was of the opinion that Konya 3,due to its border, was the latest of all the group.

The field here is reminiscent of a Kufi script scratched into the walls of a cave in South-East Anatolia.
after Frembgen

Riefstahl presupposes a floral origin for all the geometrical forms seen here,thus the star motif in the border was originally a rosette flower flanked by triangular leaves.

Other carpets found at Beyşhehir.

Beyşehir 12
Riefstahl found four other carpets in the Eşhrefoğlu Mosque,of varying magnitudes.On the 30 May 1932 he discovered what is perhaps the mother of all small-pattern Holbeins.It had been split up into three pieces(according to Aslanapa,four)which were later reunited with three other pieces from the Konya storerooms in 1969.The most Timurid of all Turkish carpets,its main border survives in truncated form in a group of Sarkişlar carpets

Beyşehir 13
Not a carpet,but a fragment of an Ottoman kilim. Size unknown.As with the majority of items which Riefstahl found we have no exact measurements,apart from his deduction for the Keir/David piece.This is curious from a man of Riefstahl`s scientific background. Perhaps his time spent with these carpets was limited?This kilim fragment certainly would pass in the group found at Divrigi.It appears never to have been republished,and its whereabouts are unknown(possibly Mevlana Museum Konya)Riefstahl presumed the design to have been taken from Scutari velvets and dated it late 16th century

Beyshehir 14
Part of a complex group of medallion pendant carpets in book cover design whose origin can be traced to a small cluster of "Ushak" medallion carpets. The inspiration for all may be sought in the large North-West Persian medallion carpets of the 16th century.This fragment is now in the Mevlana Museum Konya and appears to have been reduced in width and fitted into a large wooden frame.
The karapinar medallion carpets in kilim style probably developed out of this.

Beyshehir 15
A fragment of a Star Ushak carpet.Riefstahl does not elaborate. Appears not to have been republished. Present whereabouts unknown

R.M Riefstahl addressed the fundamental issues concerning the Seljuk carpets in his article of 1931.

That they were the oldest surviving group of Turkish carpets was clear to him(at that point Erdmann had dated them to the 13th century)But Riefstahl avoids the trap of dating them concurrent to the building of the two mosques,a position later taken over by Aslanapa and Yetkin . Bode and Sarre had been waiting for such "Saracenic" examples,since they began to study rugs.As to the place of origin,in lieu of any other contenders,and due to the fact that the carpets were found in the Konya area and nowhere else(italics Riefstahl)then an origin in "Caramania" must be presumed

A central problem for Riefstahl and Erdmann was:were the Seljuk carpets woven in a court workshop?The customary obsession with Marco Polo played a central role,Riefstahl arguing that the coarsely knotted Seljuk group could not have equalled Polo`s description of Konya as the producer of"the finest"carpets in the world.In our time fineness of knotting is no longer a predicate for quality,and Marco Polo has been at least partially discredited,but all the major scholars felt obliged to include his report in their arguments.Thus Riefstahl`s title"Primitive" rugs.He was writing at a time when Classical Persian carpets and Ghiordes rugs were the apogee.However, as Lamm noted,the finer quality fragments from Fustat refute this.

A workshop capable of producing very large rugs on sedentary looms, acquainted with local pastoral weaving and the Turkmen vocabulary,but with access to Chinese and Byzantine textiles, must surely have existed for many decades,perhaps even initially weaving textiles.The carpets are thoroughly designed,with the typical Anatolian disdain for corner solutions. Structurally the red wefts and 2 ply white or white/brown warps set the scheme of Anatolian rug-weaving for centuries to come.Lamm calculated the average knot-count to be 628 to the dm(41 to the square inch)There appear to be no photographs of the backs of these carpets.

The Kufesque borders are unlike the filigraine type seen on Timurid paintings,but do resemble the Kufi script sometimes found in the Konya area.Yet who would dare walk on the name of God? In one Timurid painting reproduced by Briggs courtiers can be seen playing tavla on such a rug. When Gertrude Bell visited Loytved in Konya,in 1905,he took her to see a family of carpet weavers,who were all Greeks.Either the makers of the Seljuk carpets were lax about their religion,or non-muslims.It is blue-eyed to suggest that the people had simply"forgotten"what the Kufi meant.

Lamm quotes William of Ruysbroeck as saying"You should know that hardly one out of ten people is a Saracen,but they are all Armenians and Greeks

This essay was sparked off by the appearance at Christie`s London,on 24 4.12,of a further border fragment in the style of Konya 1.It was subsequently withdrawn for carbon-dating in Zürich.Till then the eyes of the world are on Christie`s London,and the fragment is,like the other carpets of this type,in quarantine.
Postscript

Julius-Harry Loytved † of typhus in Damascus on 7 May 1917,aged 42.
Julius-Harry Loytved and his wife Grace in San Stefano,1903

Loytved did manage to sell/donate at least one carpet to the Berlin Museum,the famous "Hitler" carpet,which perished in Berlin on the apocalyptic night of 10th March 1945.
Sarre published an article about it in 1908.The "Ivriz Carpet" would be an appropriate name.
Wilhelm von Bode † Berlin on 1st March 1929.
Fredrik Robert Martin † Cairo in 1933.



Rudolf Meyer Riefstahl † New York 1936,aged 56

Riefstahl`s gift to the MET

Friedrich Sarre † Berlin 31 May 1945.Many of his papers and photographs were lost as the allies cleared his house(the"Villa Sarre")on the 5th June 1945,to make way for the Potsdam conference
thanks to Aysin Yoltar-Yildirim and Hans-Ulrich Berger for providing letters and information concerning Julius-Harry Loytved.Memnun oldum

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