Unique western Anatolian rug, circa mid-16th century, with archetypal turreted-outline ‘gol’ similar to that found on typical kepse gol; Collection TIEM, Istanbul
The next to last chapter in the “New Perspectives” publication is one rageth has hung his hat on so to speak. This is why RK has chosen it for examination and review. The title “From Safavid Palmette to the Turkmen Kepse Gul: the origin of the Turkmen multiple gul carpet design” immediately sets off two ringing alarm bells, so let’s list them before we continue.
First, there are other explanations for the origins of the kepse gol besides the Persian palmette, as the illustration from the very rare and early Anatolian rug above makes clear. This is also the case for the other gol displayed on MC of the multiple-gol group. The second, nearly as conspicuous, is where did the Safavid palmette come from? Both these topics are avoided like the plague going completely unmentioned in rageth’s one origin fits all theory.
Throughout the rest of this book jurg rageth (and his collaborator hans christian sienknecht) has not been overly concerned with unraveling the complex questions surrounding the origins of Turkmen rug iconography. Choosing instead to fixate on a single explanation, like the Persian palmette as the source of the kepse gol, at the expense of any others. Worse yet, rageth does not even mention where or how it, and the other solutions he cites trying to find ‘new perspectives’, might have originated. He just accepts them as fait accompli, and expects reader to as well. Clearly, near the end of 880 pages of effort rageth is not any more interested in airing alternatives.
Many of the questions rageth tries to answer in this book can rightfully be compared to the old conundrum, which came first the chicken or the egg. Ignoring this, as rageth and sienknecht have consistently done, negates their arguments often before they have even begun. But, OK, let’s carry on and see if there is a glimmer of recognition for the possible sources of the stylized Safavid palmette that surely are an essential part of this chapter’s focus.
The first sentence, though, raises enough concern to ask should we even bother? “Multiple gul carpets are one of the last great innovations in the history of Turkmen carpet design.” One of the last great innovations? What is rageth trying to say because the origins of these rare MC go conservatively back to the late 16th century. Are readers to interpret hardly any other innovations came thereafter? What about the obvious slew of ‘innovations’ in the middle and later part of the 19th century? And what pray tell were the earlier innovations? No answers from rageth, move along nothing to see there.
RK also does not like the term ‘innovation’ to explain the iconographic origins and changes Turkmen weaving experienced, as nothing is really innovative in a design world like the Turkmen carpet where new designs usually were degenerated from pre-existing ones thanks to the proscribed nature of their culture which valued iconographic repetition, not invention.
RK has written about proscription and its important effect on design transmission and portrayal with Anatolian Kelim and have explained it in terms of Turkmen weavings as well. We need not retrace our words with anything more than this statement: The Turkmen weaver was not free to do whatever she wanted. She was held in place by strong cultural traditions that proscribed what she wove and how she wove it.
Artistic innovation, what rageth seems to be describing, was completely absent from, and abhorrent to, historic Turkmen carpet weaving ideology, and to propose it was not is to completely misunderstand the subject, an accusation RK has already leveled more than once in jurg rageth’s direction.
“Multiple gul carpets have little all likelihood have little to do with tribal amalgamations and a corresponding heraldic denotation; rather like the palmette carpets of Kurdistan, Armenia, the Caucasus and northern India (figs 5-9), they are a product of 16th and 17th century design developments.” With this one sentence, on the first page of this chapter, rageth believes he destroys one of the central concepts of the Turkmen rug -- some gol had heraldic meaning and proprietary use – notice we say he believes because reading through this entire chapter there is not one iota of proof to support that claim, or the larger one multiple-gol carpets are derived from Safavid palmette ones.
Frankly, RK should stop here and not waste any more of our time, or our reader’s. But we know without documenting our statement we will leave the door open for rageth supporters, most of who are just RK bashers, to criticize us with unwarranted epithets.
Moshkova was the first to propose the Turkmen gol was heraldic and was used according to her theory of living and dead ones. And while RK does not agree with all the ramifications of this hypothesis we do believe the certain gol originally had important societal and religious connotations.
But if the kepse and other gol found on multiple-gol carpets were only ‘decorative’, as rageth’s theory tries to establish, the complexities of their appearances in other early, ie pre-1800, weavings would not never have occurred. Also, were he referring only to the kepse gol, which RK does not credit being a truly ancient historic one, but rather like the S-group engsi a later confection, and we are on record with this for decades, he might have a better chance of proving his idea. But to make a blanket statement that completely negates any of those gol from having any meaning other than decorative is plain nonsense coming from the pen of someone who proves over and over he knows hardly anything about the Turkmen weaving culture he is trying to explain. We find it incredulous rageth can over and over make such inane statements as the one above and then immediately follow with something that either questions, disproves, or negates what he just said.
“The relatively small number of multiple gul carpets is rather heterogeneous but basically can be divided into two groups. In addition to these two groups, there are a few other pieces of very different appearance…The additional unique examples not only stand out due to significant technical differences, but also do to a completely different appearance..” Logic, something that is not a close friend of jurg rageth, would conclude if there is such a small number of multiple-gol carpets and dividing them into even two groups is complicated by significant differences, and then there are other examples that cannot be made to fit into either of those two elastic grouping, the multiple-gol carpets really must be quite individual, different and dissimilar. This far more suggests they had different ‘meanings’ and significance to their makers and users than had they just been decorative palmette derivative weavings serving one purpose – as luxury decoration to infer social status on those wealthy enough to own them.
Sorry, but this is again rageth trying to shoe horn obvious disparate facts into a one size fits all theory. This is not research, it is story-telling.
“In spite of their heterogeneous appearance, common to all multiple gul carpets is the alternation of a palmette design such as the kepse gul, the “Eagle” gul, or the compound gul and a second design such as the dyrnak gul, the c-gul, or the curl-edge “cloudband” gul. Well, if this does not sound like exactly like just about every Turkmen carpet with gol, a major gol and a minor one we give up. Now let’s remember rageth’s opening sentence “ Multiple gul carpets are one of the last great innovations in the history of Turkmen carpet design.” So what is innovative about these carpets following the well established tradition of major and minor gol, what RK has named the grid-gol format? Absolutely nothing and rageth is just blowing hot air hoping an audience of readers even more uneducated than he will lap up his words like kittens a bowl of milk.
RK doesn’t intend to be so disparaging, but how else can you honestly comment on rageth’s text except perhaps to just ignore it?
“The small number of multiple gul carpets can partly be explained by the fact that the new design concept was to(sic) foreign and could not “catch on”….” This is the most ignorant, amazingly dumb statement rageth makes in his 880 page book. Thing did not just “catch on”, or not catch on, in the very conservative proscribed historic Turkmen weaving culture. By the time it had broken down and was all but destroyed in the later part of the 19th century this might have been possible, and no doubt rageth’s blinded vision cannot see the difference between that time and the “16th and 17th century”, the time period he proposes the multiple gol carpet was born of Safavid influence.
If this loopy idea and blind assumption was not bad enough, rageth’s penchant to presuppose his values and concepts onto the minds of four and five hundred year old Turkmen weavers is even more astoundingly absurd. “In three pieces a third design can be found called the “curl-edge-palmette gul” by Jon Thompson. However…I prefer to change its name to the “curl-edge-clouband gul”. The curls decorating its edges more resemble the element of a cloud than those of a palmette, indeed they are part of any Safavid cloudband. But among the Turkmen, the “curl-edge cloudband” gul could not establish itself in Turkmen tradition.” This is another example of rageth’s continued inability to understand what the historic Turkmen weaving culture was all about and how it functioned. Iconography derived from a purely decorative one like the Persian palmette, by any other name curl-edged or not, had no place in the highly codified, icon rich vocabulary of the historic Turkmen weaving culture, where icon had meanings and purposes and were not just pretty patterns.
This is a presumption no one can prove nor can it be disproved. However centuries of careful repetition of a very specific iconography with the lack of any real change or addition until the middle of the 19th century must imply those icons were important and inviolate. What could have been the reasons for this other than they carried significant meaning and import? After all, to create complex patterned pile weaving like a historic Turkmen rug was not a simple process, the expense of both manpower and material cost was huge, and it is practically impossible to believe this was just done for fun, or for ‘decoration’. The alternate scenario rageth tries to paint by stating the multiple-gol MC were suddenly whipped up from foreign osurces and their design did or didn’t “catch-on” is absurd in the face of those facts.
Tracing the idea the three gol seen on Turkmen multi-gol MC back to jon thompson’s presentation in the 1980 Washington Textile Museum “Turkmen” catalog rageth then claims “However, the radiocarbon datings performed on the occasion of this study have resurrected this subject. By these radiocarbon dating results we are now confronted with completely new information, allowing us not only a new perspective on different design developments, but also new conclusions.”
This might be believable if a reader just accepts rageth’s claims wholeheartedly. However, as we will demonstrate, by questioning his assumptions the conclusions he draws break down and disappear.
“One of these new conclusions concerns the group of so-called multi-gol carpets with the kepse gul, c-gul, and the “curl-edge cloudband” discussed here. All these designs are Turkmen versions of Safavid palmettes, of which, as will be shown below, only the kepse gul prevailed.” The first major gapping hole in rageth’s Safavid origins to these and other gol theory is why Turkmen weavers, who already had their own very specialized iconography would want to copy someone else’s? And considering the Turkmen were not exactly partners with the Safavid rulers, and viewed them as at best foreigners, if not adversaries, the impetus for copying Safavid decorative patterns in their own weavings seems rather implausible.
Also remember there is substantial evidence Turkmen iconography was not decorative but spiritual/religious. It had such important connotation up into the 19th century when various traveler and ethnographic reports verify their iconography carried talismanic and amuletic properties. It was for all intents and purposes part of the magic and ritual of Turkmen society, as well as an individual’s life -- from birth, to maturity, to marriage, to childbirth and death. These weaving were not decorative accessories to life, they were part of life itself. To deny this is to completely misunderstand the most central idea of the historic Turkmen weaving culture.
If readers doubt this, another reason rageth’s Persian palmette theory just does not make sense is why would a sacrosanct weaving culture, like that which existed and produced the historic Turkmen weavings, suddenly for no apparent reason begin to integrate foreign decorative designs into their weavings in the late 16th century? Especially in ones that are as significant materially and design-wise as the multiple-gol MC.
This is something rageth not only does not try to explain, he completely avoids even breaching the issue. To call this a major error is to make light of it.
Offering the following in a sub-chapter titled “Birth of the Turkmen Palmette” makes this become ever more evident. “The birth of the kepse gul, the Turkmen Palmette par excellence, does not seem to have occurred before the late 16th century. A Turkmen palmette design dating from this period – the earliest known form of the kepse gul – in the following referred to as the ‘early kepse gul’, is only known on three carpets so far (figs. 11-13). Two of them have been radiocarbon dated to the 16th/17th centuries, (figs. 11, 12), while the third might not be much newer..”
Above: cat. no.106(fig.11); Middle: cat. no.107 (fig.12)Bottom: fig. 13;
Citing thompson’s idea the kepse gol was a “late” one derived from the Caucasian/ Persian palmette, rageth continues along the same path without questioning the truth or even logic of this theory. And again this idea begs the quandry why would Turkmen weavers want to stick a Persian design in one of the most important types of early carpet, the multiple-gol.
Even if this is accepted, why did Turkmen weavers supposedly create an entirely new gol, the kepse, and not just amalgamate certain features of the Persian palmette with one of their already extant ones? The answer here is the kepse already existed, as the image from the early Anatolian Village carpet proves. Questions like these sink the ship of anyone trying to ply the waters of this theory, be it jon thompson, jurg rageth or hans christian sienknecht. One more caveat: Why suddenly would Turkmen weavers start adopting Persianate designs when they surely had the opportunity to do so long before and didn’t?
Sorry, race fans, but this whole paradigm does not float, fly or walk its way to reality. A far better topic to examine is the differences in the other gol, the border and the elem these carpets display. Plus, interestingly enough there are tertiary gol on cat. no. 107, which are also to be seen on fig.13, the Wher/Dal’Olio MC. Those tertiary gol on fig.13 are not very interesting, except one a double kotchak echoes the much larger one in the gol centers of cat. no.108. The close relationship these multiple-gol rugs share, even though they have great differences, leaves RK wondering the connections, besides an iconographic one, the weavers evidently shared. Perhaps in depth fiber analysis and more dye testing might illuminate this topic.
Another multiple-gol carpet, which rageth c14 dated but did not picture in color -- it is the last black and white illustration cat. no.168 -- is the famous, and enigmatic, Ballard MC now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art(MMA) in New York.
Cat. no.168 (in color) the ex-Ballard collection multi-gol MC, now in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York
In Spetember 2013, RK published a detailed paper on this fascinating rug, “An Enigmatic Turkmen MC”, and the only rug close to it the other multiple-gol rug in the deYoung Museum, San Francisco, also gifted by George Hecksher.
The omission of the de Young multiple gol MC in rageth’s case building for his thesis is telling, and we know why -- it throws more doubt on its accuracy. We must mention there are a number of questions about this MC, the most important who made it, and if it even is Turkmen.
Multi-gol carpet sold at sothebys in 1999, and then gifted to the deYoung Museum in San Francisco by George Hecksher.
RK knows this carpet well, having examined it carefully several times, and while we are not able to say who made it, where or when, we can say it is seriously early and an important link in the transition process we believe produced the typical kepse gol. A process in direct odds with rageth’s Persian palmette theory, and one that demonstrates the kepse gol was not developed from foreign iconography but far more probably from earlier Turkic(Turkmen/Anatolian) design elements.
RK also published, on Nov. 9, 2013, another paper on multi-gol MC, this one even more focused on the kepse gol. It is titled “Uncovering the kepse gol origin” and we republish it here in it entirety.
Unique western Anatolian rug, circa mid-16th century, with archetypal turreted-outline ‘gol’ similar to that found on typical kepse gol; Collection TIEM, Istanbul
The kepse gol stands alone; there is no other Turkmen gol even remotely like it.
This is enough to provoke questions about its origin.
The earliest form of a recognizable kepse gol is the unique double-gol we described and pictured in our paper “An Enigmatic Main Carpet: The Ballard MC”.
However, the carpet in which it appears is not, in our estimation, the earliest with a kepse-type gol.
That honor goes to the ex-Ballard Collection multi-gol MC, now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC thanks to James Ballard’s bequest.
Possible kepse gol archetype; ex-Ballard Collection MC, Metropolitan Museum of Art Collection
Unfortunately the Ballard carpet is cut in half and the gol above, and others, are disfigured.
This sad fact does not diminish calling it a fascinatingly curious weaving. Nor does it prevent viewing a stellar expression of the iconography archaic Turkmen weaving culture embodied.
Upper: Archetypal kepse gol, cut-Ballard multi-gol MC; Lower: Prototype kepse gol; multi-gol carpet sold at rippon-boswell 2009
It is truly unfortunate for Turkmen rug studies so few archetype weavings remain.
This is, in our opinion, not the result of the ridiculous wive’s tale assertion “The Turkmen just mindlessly consumed their rugs, treating them as everyday objects to be used and then discarded.”
Yes, this probably was the case for certain domestic weavings but for ones with complex iconography this surely was not the case, and to believe so is blatantly ignorant.
No culture anywhere in the world treats objects with proprietary sacred symbols, their spiritual imagery, haphazardly.
They revere, honor and protect items -- be they woven, sculpted, painted or carved – which display these insignia.
They will even kill and go to war over them.
So it is completely absurd to believe the Turkmen just carelessly used and abused weavings decorated with their most sacred iconography.
It is even more incorrect to believe certain motifs on Turkmen carpets had no spiritual content or connection.
Two possible transitional versions from archetypal kepse gol to the prototypes we have illustrated; Upper: ex- Ballard multi-gol MC; Lower: later ex-Hecksher/deYoung Museum MC(2)
Again, it is highly unfortunate no actual proof of this exists directly from Turkmen sources, or indirectly reported by outsiders who might have witnessed first-hand certain ceremony or rituals.
Therefore Turkmen studies must take for granted, and as fact, some pre-commercial period weavings possess spiritual content, and their iconography was often in part or wholly non-secular.
Now then, which motif are sacred icons and which are secular design/decoration?
This is an equally difficult question to answer but two type of indicative evidence are worth consideration.
First: What icons are primarily seen on early weavings and rarely on later ones?
Second: What icons are seen in the weavings of only one, or two, Turkmen groups; and what are seen on many?
This paper is not going to explore this important topic but rather mention it as background to try and understand the history of the kepse gol.
Before beginning this discussion one apparent, but rarely discussed caveat needs to be noted: Before 1800 very few complex patterned Turkmen weavings were produced; and before 1700 far, far fewer. The same goes for before 1600.
As these centuries passed there was an ever increasing urbanization of Turkmen groups. The available historic data shows this was the case enumerating increased number of yurts and livestock herds possessed by each group living in these areas.
Along with this urbanization (which should not be considered in the contemporary sense of moving into cities but settling into oases, villages and towns rather than remaining nomadic or semi-nomadic) came population increase as well as increased material wealth.
And one important type of wealth was carpets, trappings and woven goods.
The historical record also supports these conclusions, as do the numbers of extant Turkmen weavings from each succeeding time-period.
Nor is it coincidence the Turkmen measured material wealth by livestock herd ownership, or that it was these animals that produced the raw material necessary to create their weavings.
Those weavings were also considered important material wealth, besides for their (suspected) hereditary, heraldic and spiritual value.
In brief the way we see this demographic was larger and larger numbers of Turkmen weavings were produced with each passing decade, and century, to satisfy the now far more numerous and wealthy Turkmen clans.
Forget about export market possibilities which likewise increased exponentially as the 19th century dawned and then progressed.
We believe concomitant with this increasing supply of weaving came a decreasing number purposely created and imbued with sacred iconography, as the stresses of societal change, ie urbanization, the spread of Islam, and the internal conquests of weaker Turkmen groups by more powerful ones destroyed direct connection with the historic roots and sacred nature of the weaving culture and its proscribed proprietary iconography.
This seems apparent from the increased supply of secular weavings displaying some formerly, and most probably, non-secular symbols. These leaked into the secular domain due to the persistent breakdown of the sacrosanct proprietary nature, tenet and prohibition followed by the ancient Turkmen weaving culture.
The ostensible reason for this, and one also supported by the historical record, is the ever-decreasing number of individual Turkmen groups, though the overall numbers of Turkmen people were increasing.
Many minor groups virtually disappeared without a trace, while others became amalgamated with more powerful ones. Raiding and killing among Turkmen groups decreased, another factor causing increased overall population.
It is believed these ‘disappeared’ groups, and others known to have been absorbed, had their proprietary weaving iconographies absorbed as well.
This was no doubt one of, if not the, main reason for formerly non-secular, sacred, symbols falling into secular usage.
What could be more insulting than taking your enemies prized sacred icons and placing them on your floor coverings and domestic products destined for hard daily use?
Again, the apparent large number of certain types of 19th century pre-commercial period weaving, like some engsi and the Tauk Nauska gol main carpets, appears to be the result of this development.
We cite the huge number of extant Tekke engsi as perhaps a prime example. Also, the numerous examples of Yomud, Chodor, Ersari, Kizil Ayak, and their still poorly understood sub-groups, who produced an inordinate number of Tauk Nauska gol MCs.
This seems to explain why there are so very few pre-1800 engsi and Tauk Nauska MC while there are so many 19th century ones.
Though this lens it is not difficult to see how a formerly sacred-protective format like the engsi, and its very specific iconography, became desirable as domestic door ‘furniture’ for the enlarged numbers of Tekke clan, the most powerful, dominant and numerous Turkmen group throughout the 19th century.
Or how certain proprietary and individualized versions of the Tauk Nauska gol, produced by Yomud, Chodor and eastern Turkmen groups, became homogenized into the multitude of nondescript Tauk Nauska gol carpets made during the second half of the 19th century.
OK you might ask where is all this leading, and what does it have to do with the kepse gol?
RK briefly discussed the kepse gol in our “An enigmatic Main Carpet: the ex-Ballard MC”, noting its earliest appearance is exclusively in multi-gol carpets.
That paper now appears in the Best of RugKazbah Topic Area and we are sure many readers have already seen it.
Detail of a prototype kepse gol we call skeletal
Here is the complete MC where this gol appears
Multi-gol carpet sold at rippon-boswell in 2009
This carpet appears to be circa 1750; maybe slightly earlier, though not pre-1700.
But the far more simplistic iconography, compared to the typical kepse gol, and skeletal format are key signs it is different.
We view these factors implying it is significantly earlier than the typical form, probably one of its prototypes.
Also the fact its skeletal format is unique, and the carpet in which it appears undoubtedly pre-1800, add considerable weight to our position.
The basic form of the kepse gol is there, one that clearly underwent significant accretion in its transformation to the later, typical, well-known, format.
The process that took this prototype, and others we will illustrate, and transformed them into the typical kepse gol is the theme of this exercise.
We have always considered the typical kepse gol a contrived iconographic element, one lacking genuine historic roots in Turkmen weaving culture. And that assumption proves correct according to the chronology we have developed.
Put another way: Until publication of this paper, and some ideas in our forerunner “An Enigmatic main carpet: The Ballard MC”, no one in Turkmen studies recognized what we see as strong evidence of how the typical kepse gol originated.
Our theory rest on the premise the gol displayed in the enigmatic Ballard MC represents the only existing version of the archetypal kepse gol, which then over time became transformed into the prototypes, like the skeletal and other versions below.
Left: Archetypal kepse gol, cut-Ballard multi-gol MC; Right: Prototype kepse gol; multi-gol carpet sold at rippon-boswell 2009
One small piece of evidence to support our concept can be found on another multi-gol MC.
Detail multi-gol MC with transitional archetype to prototype kepse-gol (number 2 in this photo); illustrated in “Turkmen”; Washington Textile Museum, figure 42; Wher Collection
This ‘look’, the thicker gol segment on the left side, echoes the drawing of the archetypal kepse gol, and shows the initial codification that transformed it into a typical kepse gol.
Actually this is only an illusion created by color juxtaposition, as there is no appreciable height difference left to right.
Whether or not this illusion was intended cannot be known, but the illusion is there.
Also worth note are the pincer-like finials at the left and right horizontal terminus of the gol.
Again the left side is accentuated by color choice, adding to the idea the illusion was purposely done.
This unusual, pincer-like motif is rarely seen and will be mentioned in the description of the next MC.
Recently photos of another multi-gol carpet, with a prototype kepse gol, were emailed to us and not surprisingly it provides additional support for our theory.
This multi-gol MC can be considered somewhat a game changer as it displays four distinctly different gol.
When we received the pictures the carpet was unknown and unpublished, but since then it has been consigned to a European auction and now has been published.
We have placed numbers next to the four gol in the detail below to facilitate discussion.
Number 2 is the prototype kepse gol.
We believe this kepse gol to be a contemporary prototype similar, but actually quite different when carefully examined, to the skeletal prototype.
These are not the only MC with versions we consider to be prototype kepse gol.
Here are two others
Upper: Multi-gol MC that appeared at auction in Paris, 2012; Lower: Multi-gol MC, deYoung Museum ex-Hecksher Collection(1)
And the complete Wher collection MC
While ostensibly similar they all have subtle differences, and these can be used for comparative dating as well as help to hypothesize how the kepse gol developed.
Note: Because there are two ex-Hecksher collection multi-gol MC we have numbered them (1) and (2) to avoid confusion.
At this point it is probably pertinent to comparatively date these rugs on a continuum.
Chronologically the vertically cut Ballard MC is the oldest; next would be the ex-Hecksher/deYoung MC(1); then the other ex-Hecksher/deYoung MV(2); then the multi-gol MC soon to be auctioned; next the rug which was auctioned in Paris; next the Wher collection (black and white photo); and last the rug auctioned at rippon-boswell (the skeletal kepse gol).
Perhaps one day an even earlier than the cut Ballard MC archetype kepse gol will be discovered.
Maybe it will even not appear in multi-gol format.
Frankly we are dubious this will occur but anything is possible as the boundaries of Turkmen studies have consistently proven quite elastic.
In conclusion we offer the following:
1. The enigmatic Ballard multi-gol rug has no kepse gol per se. It does, however, have a gol we consider to be the earliest presently known version, one that shows the probable archetype.
Two possible transitional versions from archetypal kepse gol to the prototypes we have illustrated; Upper: ex- Ballard multi-gol MC; Lower: later ex-Hecksher/deYoung Museum MC(2)
2. Were the Ballard rug complete, and not cut in half, there might be some additional clues how that actual archetypal kepse gol might have appeared.
But it isn’t.
All we have to rely on the later ex-Hecksher/deYoung MC’s(2) version, which is early enough to support our theory it and the ex-Ballard collection display the best indications how an archetypal kepse gol probably looked.
3. Careful study reveals these two unique gol possess just too many typical kepse gol iconographic elements, perhaps the most significant an interior horizontal central axis, inner (roughly shaped) hexagonal central medallion, and the unusual jagged, stepped, outer perimeter (more about this soon) to be coincidence.
4. To try and pinpoint how the rest of the kepse gol elements came together requires insightful comparative analysis, and some imagination.
The historical record shows as time progressed the number of proprietary Turkmen gol (those used on only one groups weavings) decreased and the number of shared gol (those used on more than one group’s weavings) increased.
It is also implies some of those that remained active, like the kepse gol, more than likely incorporate features formerly belonging to those disappeared gol.
5. This process can now be far better understood thanks to the past 25 year publishing avalanche of newly discovered rare and early Turkmen weavings.
It also helps locate where several key kepse gol iconographic elements might well have originated. But how, by whom or when they coalesced into the standard full-blown version is something it cannot explain.
Though problematic these unknown do not diminish the possibilities cited in this paper.
6. The first of those iconographic element is the anchor motif every typical kepse gol displays.
Right: Kepse gol from a Yomud main carpet we date earlier than most, circa 1825; Left: detail of its anchor motif
A proto-anchor even appears in one of the oldest prototypes.
Arrows pointing to kepse gol anchor motif; Soon to be auctioned multi-gol MC
7. After considerable research we believe to have located where the anchor originated.
Some years ago RK discovered a Tekke large format torba (LFT) that is remarkable, and without doubt the earliest Turkmen weaving we know.
We have no qualm dating it circa 1600 or earlier.
We have listened to suggestions for submitting it for c14 dating. But since we do not trust c14’s reliability to date a weaving which has been subjected to many types of contaminants through centuries of use we haven’t, and have no plans to do so.
Detail archetype Tekke LFT gol; previously published RugKazbah.com; RK collection
8. For those who can’t see it, here is a detail of the anchor, and one from a typical kepse gol for comparison
Left: Detail Archetype Tekke torba gol anchor icon; Right: Detail for comparison of a recently published Chodor MC with typical kepse gol anchor motif
9. The bird/animal head icon in the Tekke LFT gol anchor does not appear in typical kepse gol.
However it does appear in some of the earlier prototypes(see below).
This is not surprising. We can point to other instances of early gol iconography where this significant icon appears but then is omitted, ie forgotten, in later copies.
10. While the archaic Tekke LFT gol and kepse gol comparison might appear far-fetched, there is some corroborating evidence – a set of factors these two quite disparate gol share.
RK has mentioned the set concept before – three or more shared iconographic elements that identify relationship between seemingly unrelated weavings.
11. Within the center hexagonal medallion of almost all the prototype kepse gol is a particular type of (equilateral) cross with a circle, or kotchak, at each terminus.
Prototype kepse gol with crosses in their central medallions; Left: detail ex-Hecksher/deYoung multi-gol MC(1); Right: detail, soon to be auctioned multi-gol MC
This same cross appears in the central medallion of the archaic Tekke torba gol.
Right: Archaic Tekke gol; Left: blacked-out detail of the same
And the Tekke LFT’s (roughly) hexagonal outlined in blue medallion is another comparative worth noting.
12. The third part of the set is the bird or animal head icon.
Left: Archaic Tekke LFT gol animal-head icon; Right: a prototype kepse gol animal head icon, ex-Hecksher/deYoung Museum(1)
Again, unsurprisingly, it also appears in the archetypal ex-Hecksher/deYoung multi-gol MC(2) kepse gol
Bird/animal head icon embedded in the archetypal kepse gol, ex-Hechsker/deYoung Collection multi-gol MC(2)
Additionally, the typical kepse gol turret's jagged peaks above each anchor are reminiscent of the pair of grander orange and white ones above the Tekke LFT anchor, as well as the halo of them attached to the hexagonal outer medallion outlined in blue that surrounds the inner octagonal medallion with the cross.
13. We sincerely doubt sharing this set is coincidence.
At the least it shows tangible relationship, and at the most the transcription of important iconography from an outwardly unrelated archetype model to later subsequent copies.
14. We trust it should not be hard to reason how the animal/bird head anchor icon from the archetype Tekk LFT gol became integrated and embedded, albeit it in a far less defined form sans bird/animal head, in the synthesized later typical kepse gol.
15. Now don’t get us wrong there is a long (age) gap between the archetype Tekke LFT and any main carpet with a typical kepse gol, with a transformation/transition process that cannot possibly be fully plotted.
We likewise realize our kepse gol speculation is just that, speculation. But the documentary evidence we offer provides a realistic roadmap.
16. Then there is the simple fact no early, ie pre-1800, carpet with a typical kepse gol exists and from that period only multi-gol MC with prototypic kepse gol are known.
This goes a long way to support our contention the typical kepse gol developed over time, and its use in carpets with a major/minor gol format a rather late addition to the Turkmen gol vocabulary.
16. Lastly, the tantalizing, and relevant as we see it, detail of an early Anatolian carpet published at the beginning of this paper deserves mention.
There are strong links between certain types of very early Anatolian carpets and those of the Turkmen. This is due to the well-recognized fact Turkmen groups colonized areas of Anatolia from the 13th to the 16th century, bringing their traditional weaving vocabularies and iconography.
Here is a photo of the carpet that detail comes from
Collection TIEM, Istanbul
We referred to this carpet as “tantalizing” because of its connections to the kepse gol.
Even a cursory inspection reveals this carpet has a two-gol layout. The first being the one we illustrated, and do again below on the left. The second is on the right.
Details of the two different gol from the Türk ve İslam Eserleri Müzesi (TIEM) carpet
There are a number of very interesting iconographic features the gol on the right also shares with the typical kepse gol, as well as its prototypes.
Although the turrets are not nearly as pronounced, they are still present.
More significant is the shape of the outer (red) hexagonal central medallion that mirror the typical kepse gol outline.
And while these pictures are unfortunately low resolution they are good enough to see these features.
Those pincer-like elements at its horizontal ends also appear on the multi-gol carpet that is to be soon auctioned (gol numbers 2 and 4 below).
Seeing these on a “C” gol, number 4, is unusual, perhaps one other indication this carpet is not as early as the growing gossip surrounding it believes.
The far more regular and simple fork at the end of all the typical kepse gol no doubt a vestigeal remain.
While hypothesizing these and other possibilities let’s get even father out and suggest the kepse gol archetype was a Timurid invention.
Clearly, the chances for it being Anatolian and then going back to Turkmenistan are far less than it originating in an even closer Turkic weaving tradition, like that of the Timurid, or one of the earliest Turkmen groups who migrated into Anatolia.
Such an issue and others raised in our examination of the kepse gol, are at the cutting edge of rug studies.
Perhaps the coming decade will provide new discoveries of both carpets and ethnography which will help to answer these questions.
And, we are sure, raise others.”
This analysis makes pretty clear the kepse gol is a Turkic design element, not one copied from a foreign and decorative design like the Persian palmette. We could also shoot holes in many of the supposed factors of gol development and relationship rageth uses to ‘prove’ the Persian connection. However, we feel we have already done enough to prove it is another rageth opinion that is specious and at odds with the facts.
There are likewise a number of important sub-topics raised by the multiple-gol MC group that unfortunately are far beyond the capabilities of a jurg rageth to identify and discuss.
One concerns putting the c14 dating results he reports, and the implications made from it to date the earliest group of the multiple gol MC, in their proper place. We believe that place is far below what any competent art historical analysis could prove. The c14 results showed the deYoung MC(1) to be later than cat. nos.106 and 107. We definitely do not agree and very briefly will explain why.
Of the three multi-gol carpets rageth dated and compares we feel cat. no. 106 is the youngest, then cat. no. 107, the earliest is the deYoung(1) cat. no. 108.
The curl-leaf border of cat. no. 106 has a stiff, and two dimensional quality, not at all possessing the dimensionality, finesse and grace of the other two. Also, while the minor border is unique it just does not have the animated appearance and crisp articulation the borders of other very early Turkmen rugs always display. Another weak point is the elem, and though both are at first glance different actually they are quite similar. In any event they also are not 16th century style. We know an early engsi with what appears to be the archetypal drawing of this elem icon.
Left: Detail elem icon cat. no.106; Right: Detail elem icon early Yomud engsi; RK collection
Plus the multitude of anchors placed so conspicuously in the lower elem, and the “c” icon from the c-gol almost hidden in the middle horizontal row of kepse gol, are what we see as a later conventions that disrupt the singularity of these icon.
The borders, major and minor, of cat. no. 107 are far superior in all respects, but comparing them to cat. no.108 shows 108’s to be far better and earlier. As far as elem go cat. no.107’s are identical, which is usually not the case in early MC but here that ‘rule’ is broken and its elem are much better and conceptually earlier than 106’s. Notice the anchors are an integral, central, part of the elem icon, and do not appear as some kind of after-thought like they do in the elem of 106. Overall the drawing of the kepse and c-gol of cat. no.107 look quite similar to 106, but the splendid tertiary gol sprinkled on the field of 107 more than compensates for its lack of the third gol, a transitional type kepse gol, seen in the next to last row of gol at the top of 106. The archetype of that gol can be found in the Ballard multi-gol MC and is discussed in our paper cited above.
But all bets are off when comparing both of them to cat. no 108, where a rococo extravagance no other MC we have ever seen captures attention like fireworks on a moonless midnight. This is a grand gesture of Turkmen weaving prowess no other known Turkmen MC can equal. This does not necessarily guarantee it is the earliest multiple-gol MC, but it surely is the most beautiful. And, by the way, we believe it is the earliest now known. We will not try to prove this now, as our point is to disprove the result of rageth’s carbon 14 dating. The fact both gol, the kepse and the c-gol, have the same icon, the double kotchak cross, in their centers we believe shows a iconic cohesiveness no other multiple gol MC displays. Same for the identical elem with their oversized ashik trees placed in light blue ground panels, and field ground color ones in the lower row. Lastly the kepse gol do not have the anchors seen in all others but rather a small symbol that could well be a headless anthropomorphic icon.
This multiple gol MC sets the standard for all others, and regardless of a later date from a dating method unreliable for dating carpets, this rug has no features anyone could use to try and prove it is not the earliest of the multiple gol group now known.
In his summary rageth concludes “I propose the Turkmen multiple carpet design to be a 16th or early 17th innovation, adapted from or at least related to Safavid palmette and the so-called ispahan carpets produced in workshops of Shah Abbas I.” Seems even he realized the title’s certainty this was the case was more than just a little bit dogmatic. We’d have to say completely so.
More to come, stay tuned…