Home > Rug, Kelim, Soumak, Textile Post Archive >The Met's "animal-style" rug
Thu, May 1st, 2014 06:09:10 AM
Topic: The Met's "animal-style" rug

(ed.In the mid-1980's a group of four early "animal-style" rugs presumably appeared somewhere in the Near East.

But, in fact, no one who is talking has ever revealed just where this happened or how, or by who, they were initially discovered.

One thing is sure: These rugs were a very significant find and whoever was behind their entrance into the market made alot of money.

Stories abound, one of them even ridiculously included these rugs were found floating in a river where they had been thrown by “monks” who were cleaning their monastery.

As patently absurd as this story is it was nonetheless one of the more touted ones floated by certain individuals who were in on this “find” or involved in their sale.

Another tall tale places the rugs in the hands of a small “dealer” of new Tibetan rugs in Kathmandu, Nepal.

And it is there, supposedly, they began their rather quick trip to $tardom.

Regardless of the lack of evidence as to their true origin, the rugs eventually appeared for sale in London in the hands of a well respected, now deceased, textile dealer Lisbet Holmes, who lived in a private house in the northern suburbs of central London where she had her gallery on the ground floor.

As soon as RK heard she had them we immediately phoned and asked to visit.

She said OK please come by, but by the time RK arrived she had already sold, for a purported 750,000usd, the best of the group, a “single” animal fragment that was basically complete but missing some of its borders.

Single animal rug bought by Italian collector Bruschettini that is still in his collection.

However that day we did get to see, study and handle the three others.

The three early “animal style” carpets RK saw for sale in the Lisbet Holmes Gallery

The one in the middle is, of course, now in the collection of the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art (MMA).

The one above is presently in Doha's Islamic Museum collection, but formerly was in the Heinrich Kirchheim collection after it was purchased from Holmes by John Eskanazi, and his partner in the deal michael franses, for Kirchheim.

It is RK's opinion it and the Bruschettini "single animal" example, which it almost exactly resembles save the addition of three additional "animals", are both Kurdish rugs made in the late 15th or early 16th century somewhere in the north of the ancient region known as Kurdistan

These rugs are not truly analogous to the earlier Anatolian Village rugs seen in Italian paintings and fresco of the 13th-15th century. Those appear to have been made farther west, probably somewhere in the vicinity of Izmir to Afyon, much closer to the Mediterranean which facilitated their export to Italy.

And the one below was also purchased from Holmes by ebberhart Hermann for Kirchheim and is still, allegedly, in his collection that is now the subject of a legal fight between his heirs.

Needless to say, the Met's (MMA) is the least significant of the bunch and the subject below.)

Since we first laid eyes on the animal rug the Metropolitan Museum in New York purchased in 1990 we have seriously doubted what has now become accepted lore about this weaving.

(ed. the museum description follows in quotes)
"Animal Design, 14th century; Ottoman period (c.1280-1924)
Attributed to Turkey Purchase, Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, Louis V. Bell Fund and Fletcher, Pfeiffer and Rogers Funds, 1990 (1990.61)"

We do not in any way agree that it is Turkish, nor do we agree with the absurdly early dating dan walker, the former curator of the museum’s Islamic department, has published ad infinitum about his purchase.

The fact walker, and other alleged rug experts, believe repeating their questionable ideas about carpets will somehow make them fact is ludicrous and typical behavior for many who write about historic weavings.

However, we have decided to offer the following at this time not to dun walker or others but to publicly stake out a position we have maintained in private for more than 15 years.

In brief our position is as follows:
1. the rug is an Afshar made in Iran and not in Turkey
2. the rug dates from sometime circa 1600 not circa 1300.

We realize our position flies in the face of that held by everyone who is anyone in rugdom but, really now, how many times has the “conventional” wisdom in this art field been proven false or seriously flawed as time marched on?

Anyway, as our time is brief at the moment, let us end this first chapter of discussion by publishing the following photo:

Clearly this rug is a late 19th or early 20th century Afshar and we do not think it is necessary for us to explain the obvious design parallels it holds with the Met’s rug.

We will expound further as time permits on this topic so stay tuned.

Part Two

As any student of historic rugs knows design similarity is the least conclusive factor to prove relationship but, in instances where little other more substantial information exists, design congruity will have to suffice.

Such is the case here and, until real scientific analysis can be instituted on the Met’s rug, RK is confident enough the following will establish some further degree of validity to support our proposition.

After making a very cursory search of Afshar rugs it was easy to see how the rather unique design form the Met’s rug established remained part of the design vocabulary used by much later Afshar weavers.

Here are two more examples that are, as anyone who undertakes a similar investigation will realize, pudding proof of this statement:

The reality Near Eastern weavers, who were working in indigenous traditional social and cultural frameworks, used archaic designs, which often were unique and special to their collective consciousness, should come as no surprise to anyone who has even briefly explored this topic.

It is one of the milestones of carpet and textile studies and anyone who is dumb enough to doubt this deserves to be hung out to dry after an aniline dye bath.

Weaving was the most isolated and proscribed artistic endeavor and, thankfully, this was the case, as it has enabled researchers to draw conclusions that would be otherwise unavailable from the historic record.

Therefore, when one sees with eyes open the parallel between these later Afshar rugs and the Met’s archaic one, the conclusion we forward should be almost unquestionable.

But let us go further.

The Afshar were originally a clan of the Turkic Oghuz confederation, who migrated from the Qibchaq plain in Turkestan to certain areas in Persia(Iran) beginning in the 12th century.

There is no doubt this is fact, as their language, which is still spoken by the way, is a Turkic one and numerous historic documentation exists to support the fact of their migration from Turkestan.

Here is another Afshar weaving with strong design congruity with the Met’s rug that displays a very familiar Turkmen emblem, a Tekke torba gol, within the unique field design the Met’s rug established:

But this design coincidence with later day Afshar rugs is not the only reason we have doubted walker and others provenancing the Met’s rug to Turkey.

First off the rug’s coloration is not in line with any type of early Turkish village weavings we have ever seen. The dye tonalities, and even their combination, are far more similar to those found in Afshar rugs than those of Turkish rugs, especially ones made prior to 1600.

Incidentally the fact walker and others believe the Met’s rugs is a 14th century weaving stretches the pizza dough so thinly one would have to question not only their expertise but also their sanity.

Regardless of the rug’s date, the fact it is dissimilar to any other early Turkish animal rug should be enough to dampen any ideas it could possibly have been made in Turkey or be one of the earliest rugs on record.

Granted, many Turkish rugs can trace their origin to the various Turkmen clans, like the Afshar, who migrated from Central Asia to Anatolia. However, the fact the Afshar ended up in Persia trumps any argument the Met’s rug is Turkish, this fact rather implies it is Turkmen.

We whole-heartedly agree with calling it Turkmen but we do not, in any regard, believe the word Turkish should be used to provenance it.

Another fact leading us to dis-believe the rug is an early Turkish rug is the reality the main border is one never seen on any early Turkish rug, animal style or otherwise.

Rather, once again, it has such strong affinity to what we would like to call the Turkmen design vocabulary we can’t possibly see how anyone could possibly demonstrate the contrary.

In fact we’d welcome walker or any one else to try.

Just one additional point of reference, another late Afshar rug with, yes you guessed it, that border design from the Met’s rug used as an elem:

Sorry, but that’s about all the time we can devote to this interesting and important discussion today. Actually, we feel we need not flesh this out any further but we will be delighted to do so if, and when, any readers care to continue this by writing in to provide their views -- be they for or against our argument.

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