After reading louise mackie’s technical description of the Benaki fragment, perhaps the best part of her long-winded ramble through the Safavid design idiom, it is clear the warps have been dyed light and dark blue and grouped in alternating color pairs. The warps were then knotted asymmetrically open left and are fully depressed. The weft were dyed light red and vary from 2-4 between each row of knots.
The dyed warps are highly unusual, rarely encountered in weavings made outside of atelier/workshop/factory situations. The fully depressed warp knotting also implies more highly organized production methods than those typically found in town, village, or nomad weaving environments.
There are six colors, the field having only two and the border the same two plus four more. Creating a two-color field, when others were at hand, is another rarely seen convention.
According to mackie “…The asymmetrical knot open to the left survives primarily in Persian carpets from the 16th century onwards and is the overriding reason for attributing this fragment to Iran. Turkish carpets were woven primarily with the symmetrical (Turkish or Gordes) knot.”
Guess ms mackie never saw an “S” group weaving. So much for her Iranian thesis.
The rest of the hali article is sprinkled with similar optimistic interpretations but to her credit she does state the supposed resemblance between the Benaki fragment and those carpet-like floors in 14th and 15th century miniature paintings “…only partially holds up under close scrutiny.”
According to mackie’s view “All of the above leads to the hypothesis that a silk textile woven with two colours inspired the field design in the Benaki carpet fragment”. And it does if you agree with her “take the evidence that fits and ignore the rest” methodology.
Sorry, louise, the Benaki fragment may actually be Timurid but it wasn’t necessarily made in Iran. Did you forget where the Timurid Dynasty hail from?
One piece of evidence presented in her myopic attempt deserves to be illustrated:
This two-color silk textile is described as a “…doublure for an Arabic manuscript believed to have been rebound in Istanbul ca 1480/81A.D…”. I like the grace and style used here to express these idiomatic patterns compared to their far more flaccid and rote re-uses in most of the later Safavid, post 1650, carpets and textiles.
I also like the way she describes the Persians as being “colour- intoxicated”. But definitely don't savor her thought, presented as a fait accompli ,“The design of the Benaki fragment is a highly logical silk pattern.” Weaving ain’t necessarily logical, ms mackie, especially the designing end and the pattern on the Benaki frag could just as easily been originally a “carpet” pattern that migrated to the silk draw-loom as visa-versa. And while “the sophisticated linear character” mackie states is associated with royal workshops, it was not necessarily limited to silk textiles – two other holes in her hypothesis.
But she really blows it at the end with this: “Given the technical affinity of the Benaki fragment with carpets from Iran and not from other carpet weaving areas, a Persian attribution is unavoidable and justifiable.” - unavoidable and justifiable onlyif you wish to ignore any other possibility.
The possibility both the Benaki fragment and most of the other “mythic” Timurid weavings were made in Central Asia is far more likely than their having been made in Persia. Even after the Timurids had settled into Persia for decades, the weavers working in the royal atelier/workshops/ factories they established there were equally as likely to have roots and traditions from Central Asia as those from Persia.
The Benaki fragment is definitely a vestige from an unknown lineage and assuming it might be Timurid is not unreasonable – but declaring it to be Persian is.