Home > Rug, Kelim, Soumak, Textile Post Archive >Karapinar: Myths and Facts Epilogue
Author:jc
email: jack@rugkazbah.com
Mon, Jul 25th, 2005 11:31:32 PM
Topic: Karapinar: Myths and Facts Epilogue

If this discussion dealing with the Karapinar appellation has not satisfactorily proven the inaccuracies and myths associated with it, the following should add a few more nails to the coffin into which this writer would like to see it consigned.

In that regard this epilogue will present more argument to that end. First will be the illustration of two other “Karapinar”-design rugs but these, like those already discussed, show few if any shared characteristics other than the drawing style of the medallion. Then, two others with even more divergent features will be illustrated to demonstrate how the “Karapinar”-design migrated into the iconographies of rugs that bear even less similarity to those that define this group.

Two other groups of rugs that are known as Karapinar will also figure into this epilogue and finally a rug with the “Karapinar”-design that might actually have been made in the Konya/Karapinar area will be presented. Remember it is the very specific medallion that ties all these rugs together and bestows on them all the designation “Karapinar”, as they share no other proven distinguishing characteristics.

The first illustration is a single medallion example but its size is unusually large – 7 foot by 11 foot 6 inches – for this type(ed. borders were added to a medallion fragment to "complete" the picture). Here is a photo:


The drawing style and iconography here is quite analogous to the Brunk/Casper rug, making this its closest relative. Notice the cloudbands, which are also featured in the field of the Brunk/Casper example and not in any other piece of this type, appear in this rug. Plus the famous and mysterious chintamani pattern, the three-ball design that is scattered throughout the field with the cloudbands, hints this rug has some interesting connections that belie its somewhat folksy appearance. That appearance is perfectly in character for a weaving like this that was produced in a provincial village/town environment. But any further ideas about its origination are impossible to formulate, as only this small b/w photo could be found for illustration here.

The medallion’s drawing does not exhibit the perfect proportions exemplified by the Brunk/Casper’s, nor for that matter can it compare favorably with several of the others illustrated earlier, and the large rather gross pendants above and below the medallion provide ample evidence for believing it came from this type of environment. However, that said the wonderfully expressive floral drawing in the corner-pieces, added to the cloudbands and chintamani in the field definitely make one wonder about this rug and its placement in the continuum for this group. There should be little doubt it was made after the Brunk/Casper rug but how much later is surely the question. It is definitely one of the best of these rugs and placing it at the beginning part of the continuum, in third place just after the Rijksmuseum’s Cantoni rug, should elicit little controversy. Coincidentally, it was published in a small catalog by the Rijksmuseum in 1951 and credited to the collection of the Bayerische Nationalmuseum in Munich, Germany.

The second rug is illustrated in Erdmann’s “Seven hundred Years of Oriental Carpets”, also in b/w. Here is that photo


This long rug, which is in the Turk ve Islam Eslerei Museum in Turkey, does not have as much in common with the other rugs as the example above but it does demonstrate a transitional step between the medallion Ushak style and the “Karapinar”-design group and is illustrated here for that reason. Notice how the cloudbands have been replaced by four stiff amorphous floral forms around the medallion and while the drawing in the quartered-corner-pieces above the upper medallion bear some similarity to those in the “Karapinar”-design group, the larger triangular ones below it have a completely new interior drawing style. The drawing in the border and medallion show unrelated designs and, save for the shape of cartouches in the main border that relate to those in the minor border of the Brunk/Casper rug, the attempt to reproduce the distinctive gentle crenellation of the “Karapinar”-design group medallion and the patterning within it, no other design similarities link it to the more traditional weavings in this group. For these reasons and other unmentioned, a rug like this should be placed closer to the end rather than the beginning of the continuum.

So far this discussion has focused attention one specific style of rug that has been labeled Karapinar and now it is time to make it clear there are two others that have also been labeled Karapinar in rug literature. Henceforth the rugs with the distinct medallion the Brunk/Casper rug defines will be referred to as Group I to facilitate organizing and discussing these additional types. The weavings of both these two new groups also have distinctive medallions, which are likewise their most distinguishing feature and offer the most likely means of differentiation and classification.

But before illustrating these examples, which by the way have hitherto been previously lumped under the misleading Karapinar label, let’s look at a few others belonging to the Brunk/Casper Group I. Like the other Group I pieces they feature the distinctive medallion but unlike all the others no other similarities can be easily demonstrated. These two are by no means the only ones that could have been chosen, there are many others but most of them date post-1800 and are too far removed to be of use in this discussion. Basically, few in any Turkish rugs made after 1800 were able to remain unaffected and unadulterated by the creeping effects of commercialization, disintegration and dislocation to which many weaving groups were subjected.

These two rugs, though labeled as Group I, really are so very different from the rest their inclusion might seem an error. However the presence of the distinctive medallion connects them all and this comparison will be useful to demonstrate the following: The “Karapinar”-design the Brunk/Casper rug defined was one of the most important and powerful influences on post-Seljuk Anatolian (Turkish) pile carpet weaving. While no detailed technical/structural analyses are available for any Karapinars, it is blatantly obvious there are numerous differences present in Group I and even those that appear similar will be shown by intensive technical/structural/ forensic analysis to exhibit differences capable of proving they have little in common except for design. Perhaps one day soon these statistics will be compiled and when they are I am sure they will confirm this and lay to rest once and for all the Karapinar label and myth. Here are the photos of these two rugs:


Both are in the Vakiflar Museum in Turkey and were without a doubt made in eastern Turkey, unlike the other Group I pieces that appear to have been made in the western parts of the country. The one on the right is from the extreme eastern region and the other still east but closer to what is known as central Turkey, where the towns of Konya and Karapinar are located. They are also village/town rugs and almost the same size – about 6 feet by 8 feet. Their medallions and corner-piece drawing reflect the traditional Group I style but surely could not be described as anything closer than reflective. Their borders completely depart from the set patterns and styles to which almost all the others adhere. Surprisingly the interior drawing of the medallion on the carpet on the right is much closer to the known Group I form, even though it was definitely woven much farther east than all the others. The drawing within the corner-pieces also has more in common with the Group I style, albeit not as much as it does with the type of patterning found in the main border of some of the later pieces like the Textile Gallery one that is illustrated in Part IV. The source for this style of floral drawing can be traced back to the Cantoni’s interpretation but in the later examples it becomes stylized and codified, as it appear here and even more so in the Textile Gallery piece. It should also be mentioned the two rugs illustrated here should be placed near the beginning of the Group I continuum and the Textile Gallery’s much closer to the end of it.

Examining these corner-pieces, particularly the different ways they define the upper and lower parts of the field, provides another interesting point. Unlike the example on the left where this effect produced a typical result (compare it to those shown in Part IV), on the right the drawing with its projections into the corner-pieces produced a very different one. By comparing it to a certain group of small rugs also known as medallion Ushaks we find an interesting and quite amazing parallel. Here is a photo of one of these Ushak rugs and a detail of the field definition these rugs all have:


The resemblance these two rugs share is as unmistakable as are the differences it presents to the one on the left and all the other Group I pieces. An interesting historical fact was responsible for this transference and sheds additional proof for this discussion’s theory the archetype weaving for Group I, the Brunk/Casper rug, was woven in western Turkey and not in the Koya/Karapinar area.

The Ottomans not only built government, religious and cultural centers to control and organize the conquered population but they also engaged in the practice of uprooting entire village populations and moving them en mass to other locations, often quite distant ones. They did this repopulation for many reasons that are way beyond the scope of our discussion here. However, the effects it played on the transmission of certain weaving styles and designs cannot be ignored, as those formerly belonging only to specific locations were soon to be found in completely different ones.

Some of these forced migrations have been documented and it is known certain villages from western Turkey were placed in the far eastern reaches of the Ottoman’s Turkish Empire. The appearance of a rug like the one on the right, which was discovered in the Ulu Cami mosque in Divrigi located in the far eastern Turkey, with such a distinct and specific western drawing style from in the Ushak area perfectly illustrates this point and provides some additional proof to explain how the Group I medallion also migrated there to appear in this rug as well.

Let’s now look at two weavings, both of which are known as Karapinar but neither has the design characteristics embodied by the Brunk/Casper rug or the other Group I pieces. These are not unique examples and others with these same medallions, which remember is their most indicative characteristic and the one used to define their respective groups, could have been chosen. These are illustrated here for two reasons: They are can be dated prior to the 18th century, are champion examples and prototypes for their respective groups.

The first one defines what we will now call Group II and it, too, is in the Vakiflar Museum collection. Unlike Group I, this group and the next one illustrated, Group III, are far less numerous, with Group II examples outnumbering the even less frequently encountered Group III. Four Group II pieces were published in an article written in 1976 by May Beattie entitled “Some Rugs of the Konya Region”. This article present some interesting parallels for this designs development but doesn’t prove where these rugs were made or who made them. Again the question remains: Where were they produced?

Here is the Group II rug this writes feels is the best of the published examples:


As different from Group I as this type appears, it nevertheless shares some affinities, not just the so-called and misleading Karapinar appellation. Notice the crenellation of the medallion perimeter has been geometricized but is still present and accounted for, the interior quatrefoil suggested but not fully represented and the ancillary drawing inside the medallion looks like some of the later Group I examples and repeats the large tulips the Canonti medallion featured. There should be no question the medallion design in this group are related to Group I but only as distant cousins, surely not brothers or sisters.

Group III examples are perhaps the rarest, as only two examples that pre-date 1800 are known to this writer. But surely they are not the most beautiful, evocative or ancient. Here is the most well known, which is in the Christopher Alexander Collection and published in his book. The other is published in Jacoby’s “Eine Sammlung Orientalischer Teppiche” and also later in the various James Ballard Collection books. Here are the photos, the Alexander piece on the left and the Jacoby/Ballard on the right:


Neither one of these rug appears much older or better than the other but the Alexander piece’s border suggests it has closer relationship to the iconography in Group I. That said I must comment on my dislike for those four amorphous designs in the field and even though they are no doubt the source, and earlier than, those in the Erdmann Group I example pictured above, they still appear to be an after-thought. I realize other commentators are on record extolling the archaic character of this rug but that is just blah blah. This Group III design is in reality just a recombination and of elements found in early Group I. It’s a reproduction.

Personally I prefer the Group II rugs to those of group III but would gladly be open to changing that opinion when and if an archaic example of this group might ever appear. These surely aren’t. One last comment, I have examined the Alexander piece and can confirm it probably was made in the Konya area but again the Karapinar label has never been substantiated for it, nor do I believe it ever will. I might guess the Nigde/Aksaray as a more plausible location based on the brilliant coloration and wool quality.

Finding answers to the pertinent questions posed by the Karapinar appellation rests on technical/structural analysis and not until this is compiled will even the most rudimentary information be available to begin to group these rugs on any criteria other than design. And not until forensic testing has been applied will there be any positive data useful in determining their production locations and relationships. This discussion makes no claims to have done anything other than examine the corpus of existent examples called Karapinar and debunk the myth that surrounds it.

What is written here has raised and confirmed two main points:

1. The Brunk/Casper rug is the archetype for all the Group I carpets.

2. Few if any of the pre-1800 rugs known as Karapinar were made in Karapinar.

In closing this discussion, there is two more photos that should be shown. The first will help to put the second of those conclusions into even better perspective. Here is a photo of a Group I weaving that really appears to have been made in the Konya/Karapinar area and if any piece deserves to be labeled Karapinar, its this one:


However, Konya and not Karapinar is more likely the place where it was made and again until positive information is available provenancing any pre-1800 weaving to Karapinar is an impossible task to prove.

The second shows an archaic Group II example, which is the archetype for this group. It has not been published before and exists only as a 9 square foot fragment. But what a fragment it is:


I have personally examined a number of the Group II examples and like those in Group I, there are technical differences that more than suggest these weavings could not have all been made in the same location, although some of them do appear to have been. But the technical aspects - wool quality, dyes and weaving structure - in this last Group II example suggest it came from a completely different location than any of the others as well as it having much earlier date of production. It’s a remarkable survivor and may someday prove to be an Anatolian weaving made before the Seljuks arrived and imposed their design concepts and iconography on the indigenous weavers known to have existed in Anatolia since the Neolithic period.

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