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Rugs in Prayer Design

Alberto Boralevi, an architect by profession and a passionate rug scholar
‘…  noted that when he saw rugs hanging in their church locations in Transylvania, they were typically mounted on the wall, and that got him thinking that the rugs were woven for hanging, not for floor covering. This suggested a decorative purpose, rather than functional use for praying.’

Prayer rugs are rugs in ‘prayer design’ and they are different from prayer mats, at least, in size.

Can we however consider them decorative?

It is argued that prayer rugs, or rather rugs in prayer design, are part of religious art; they represent the sacred in a manner that is permitted by the strict canons of Islamic law.

Can such rugs though be viewed as votive art?

Spectacular works of art in prayer design were offered in the past to mosques but that does not mean they were endowed with any religious function.

Yağcıbedir rugs, all traditionally in prayer design, too, were commonly offered to mosques in villages in and around Belikesir province.

The so-called ‘Suleyman Seal’ which frequently appears in Yağcıbedir rugs is a motif symbolizing a supplication for a return to health.

Suleyman Seal also known as Suleyman Apple

In that sense therefore, at least Yağcıbedir prayer rugs may be regarded as votive art.

A.G.

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Tree of Life Design Evolution

Understanding of symbols contained in tribal rugs is not always easy.
These symbols go through various transformations and often appear only as abstract forms bearing little resemblance to what they were before.

A classic representation of the Tree of Life in the late 19th or early 2oth century Yagcedebir rug transmogrified over less than a century to become no more than a seemingly decorative motif .

Turn of the 19-20th century Yagcedebir rug section

In mid 20th century, the same motif begins to become more geometric but it is still recognizable as an image of a tree:

Leter rugs from the same area (Balikirsir, west Anatolia) feature a very abstract form that barely resembles the original but it is also much easier to execute:

Many such motifs underwent similar processes becoming difficult to understand and/or interpret.

Often, only such heavily evolved and abstract motifs are known to younger generations of weavers.

For that very reason , tribal rugs can be only interpreted (understood) if compared to their predecessors (prototypes).

A.G.

Turn of the 19-20th century Yagcedebir rug
 london wash copy 1 416x595
London Wash-ed 1950s Yagcedebir
Second half of the 20th century Yagcedebir

All three rugs are available in our collection

Read our 2019 blog on London Wash

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Numerology in Bacali Prayer Rugs

This is a very old and interesting design found in kilim prayer rugs from towns and villages around Konya.

This particular one, once in the collection of late Sonny Berntsson, is believed  to originate from Seydishehir.

The design of this kilim is locally referred to as ‘bacali’ from the Turkish word ‘baca’ meaning a chimneystack, and it most often consists of five serrated (stepped) prayer niches atop each other; each niche marked by seven steps on each side.

The upward direction of the niche (the so-called mihrab) represents the symbolic ascend to Heaven. That is quite common in most Anatolian prayer rugs with number seven – the seventh step – representing the seventh Heaven. 

There is presumably however another numerological aspect to this design i.e. the number of niches or mihrabs.

The accession to Heaven is possible through prayer as it is evidenced in the actual use of smaller prayer mats often confused with these larger adoration pieces.

The ‘bacali’ design seems to imply more: we can possibly assume that the five niches represent the five pillars of Islam of which five daily prayers are an integral part.

Thus apart from its unquestionable beauty, Sonny Bertsson’s kilim bears a profound religious weight for all those who see their salvation/redemption in Islam.

A.G.

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Yağcıbedir Rugs

Colour Symbols and Motifs in Yağcıbedir Rugs and their Meaning

The Yağcıbedir rugs are named after a Yörük (Turkoman) tribe settled in Anatolia some 3000 years ago.
Yağcıbedir rugs are made in the villages of Eşmedere, Çakıllı, Karakaya, Eğridere, Alakır and Kayalıdere around the town of Sındırgı near Balikersir , not far from  the Turkish Aegean coast.

Yagcibedir rug | Etsy

There are four principal colours in most Yağcıbedir rugs, and dyes are exclusively organic: dark blue, which forms the ground colour of most Yağcıbedir rugs, red, dark red and white.

The rich deep dark blue which symbolizes the sky is obtained from the root of the labada plant (sorel family).
Red, the colour of henna represents the expectation of fertility. It is obtained from the local Sarikiz plant and the madder root.
White means the joy and the longing to be a bride; it is mainly used by young girls.

 Rugs with white background colour are mainly produced in Eğridere and Alakır villages.

The rare brown which is obtained from the pomegranate or by adding bush cones to the second water of red represents the cyclical aspect of life; all living things come from the soil and return to the soil

Black appears in the Yağcıbedir rugs sporadically. Black is sadness. It is used by older women.
It is obtained by boiling soft black rocks with herbs.
Black cannot be found in rugs from the villages of Eğridere and Alakır.

All (or most) Yağcıbedir rugs feature seven borders surrounding the central composition which reflects the idea that the sky having seven floors.

‘In religious or mythological cosmology, the seven heavens refer to seven levels or divisions of the   Heavens (Heaven). The concept, also found in the ancient Mesopotamian religions, can be found in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam …’ (Wikipedia)

The niche or the stepped mihrab typically crowned with ram’s horns (masculinity symbol) is an indispensable motif in all Yağcıbedir rugs. It represents the ascent to Heaven.  

The motifs of the niche, which is frequent in Islamic art, it is often argued, evolved out of more ancient and universal motif of the Tree of Life.

The Tree of Life frequently found in Yağcıbedir rugs reflects the hopes and expectation of a better future.

There are three stars which often surround the niche. The star in the middle (within the niche) represents the sun and the other two stars represent the moon. The sun is the star that gives life to the world. The moon is the illuminator of the night.

Mühr-ü Süleyman (Solomon’s seal): it is often locally called “Haci Huseyin Elmasi or Hadji Husein Apple” . It is made for good luck.

Frequency of that motif on the rug indicates that the weaver felt sadness or someone from her family was ill.

The Sycamore Leaf is usually found on the edges of the star in the middle; it is the longest-lived tree in region. It is used as a motif mainly in the carpets from Eşmedere and Çakilli villages.

Meanings of many subtle motifs found in the Yağcıbedir rugs are lost, and it is hoped that more studies within and without the region will reveal their significance.

The Yağcıbedir rugs are all fine quality rugs with 30-35 loops per 1 sq. cm. The knot is Turkish (Görde knot) and the pile is cropped short perhaps as legacy to their ancestral roots, the Turkoman carpets.

A.G.

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Kungrat Uzbeks

Abstract:

The article focuses on the textile arts of the Kungrat Uzbeks in the southern regions of Uzbekistan. This important group has been insufficiently studied in the past and their textiles have sometimes been wrongly attributed to other groups. Based on field-research, the author provides insights into the original Kungrat textile arts in – cluding the crafting of carpets, felts and small embroidered household items with their unique designs and styles. Kungrat textile arts reflect the nomadic past of Tur – kic peoples, for instance in their similarities to Kyrgyz, Kazakh or Turkmen traditions of carpet weaving. They do, however, also feature traces of the history of contact and interaction with local sedentary communities (Uzbeks and Tajiks) and their textile traditions, particularly those of embroidery.

Please read Binafsha Nodir’s article

E v a l u a t i n g  t h e  T e x t i l e  A r t  o f  t h e  K u n g r a t s   in the Southern Regions of Uzbekistan

A.G.

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Talish Rugs

Talish rugs are works of the ethically Persian Talish people inhabiting territories in north-west Iran and Azejberjan, formerly Talish khanate.

Talysh in Iran



Talish people speak their own language, and in the context of the Caucasus, they constitute a distinct group with a complex history; their works are as distinct as their ethnicity.

Talish long runner-like (wedding) rugs are perhaps the most recognizable within the large spectrum of all Caucasian rugs, but Talish rugs come also in more traditional forms. Only a closer look at the material and the construction may allow experts to tell a Talish from rugs from Kazak, or Genje

While the field (the so-called Talish) is most of the time plain, some Talish rugs feature complex floral patterns framed by the usual four borders.

A rare Talish in our collection

The 19th century Talish rugs are nearly all wool constructs; the wefts (side to side cords), are, more often than not double, made of cotton, usually grey.   

The warps (up and down cords) consist of two twisted plies of undyed beige (yarn) and brown wool.

The selvages are often blue overcast on the typical Caucasian double-step cord finish.

The knot is symmetrical (Ghiordes)  

Antique Talish rugs are rare; some are erroneously attributed to other Caucasian schools, they are highly collectable.  

A.G.

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Turkmen Carpets Masterpieces of Steppe Art

Elena Tsareva

Turkmen Carpets Masterpieces of Steppe Art, from 16th to 19th Centuries The Hoffmeister Collection

Peter Hoffmeister of Dörfles-Esbach, near Coburg in Germany, has been collecting, cleaning, studying, lecturing and writing about the traditional rugs and carpets of the Turkoman tribes of Central Asia for forty years. In that time he has assembled one of the largest, best and widest-ranging private collections of antique and historic Turkmen knotted-pile weavings in Western Europe and the Americas, rivalling the holdings of major museums in the West and in Russia, as well as in Turkmenistan itself.

Download the entire work click here

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The Dhaka Muslin

By Zaria Gorvett 17th March 2021 BBC THE LOST INDEX | INDIA

In late 18th-Century Europe, a new fashion led to an international scandal. In fact, an entire social class was accused of appearing in public naked.

A model wearing a muslin stole from the 19th century (Credit: Drik/ Bengal Muslin)

(Image credit: Drik/ Bengal Muslin)

The culprit was Dhaka muslin, a precious fabric imported from the city of the same name in what is now Bangladesh, then in Bengal.

It was not like the muslin of today. Made via an elaborate, 16-step process with rare cotton that only grew along the banks of the holy Meghna river, the cloth was considered one of the great treasures of the age.

It had truly global patronage, stretching back thousands of years – deemed worthy of clothing statues of goddesses in ancient Greece, countless emperors from distant lands, and generations of local Mughal royalty.

Dhaka muslin was also more than a little transparent.

Still, Dhaka muslin was a hit – with those who could afford it. It was the most expensive fabric of the era, with a retinue of dedicated fans that included the French queen Marie Antoinette, the French empress Joséphine Bonaparte and Jane Austen. But as quickly as this wonder-cloth struck Enlightenment Europe, it vanished.

Many of the skills needed to make Dhaka muslin have been lost which makes matching the quality of the fabric a challenge

You may read the whole article here The ancient fabric that no one knows how to make

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