Turkish rugs

With chart in hand we may here review the entire subject
and endeavour to use the general considerations as mapped out, in the
examination of as many rugs as possible, presenting to ourselves the stereotyped
questions about shape, size, possible use, materials, colours, methods
of manufacture, style of ornament, and religious significance, that we
may be led legitimately to demand of each object that it reveals to us
its nationality in spite of all that it may have borrowed from outside
the boundaries of the land of its birth.

We are not travelling in the Orient, where
we might watch the busy fingers of native men and women tying with untiring
patience gay knots of colour on the grey background of carefully strung
warp. We cannot speak with conviction about the pots of colour used, or
the way wools are washed and dyed, or even of the commercialism of to-day;
but we have, in common with all travellers and students, all that any
one has about the past, every record, writing, hieroglyph, and account
of exploration and discovery.

All letters of travellers and descriptions
of the doings of the mighty monarchs of ancient times are ours to-day,
a common heritage; and right in our hands, here in our modern homes, we
have the most significant of all art objects to assist us, — the Oriental
rug !

When we first began to hear about Oriental rugs in
this country they were called ” Turkish” rugs. This was due
to the fact that they were shipped from Turkey, and Constantinople became
a prominent centre, as still it is, for the sale and distribution of vast
quantities of rugs and carpets. No matter where they were made, they were
carried by land and sea and sold in either Constantinople or Smyrna. After
a while, those who had learned more than others about the matter called
all Oriental rugs ” Smyrna ” rugs, and this name was in vogue
for years.

Then we began to hear of “Anatolian
” mats and rugs, and learned that they too were ” Turkish,”
Anatolia being the name applied to Asia Minor. The three names, ”
Turkish,” ” Smyrna,” and ” Anatolian ” served
those who bought and sold until the names which applied to the country,
city and province failed to satisfy those who wished to be more explicit,
and travellers who went from plae to place began to study the styles that
were adopted by the weavers, whether they were nomads, villagers, or dwellers
in towns, and we began to hear of ” Kulah,” ” Ghiordes,”
” Ladik,” ” Konieh,” and ” Melace ” rugs,
of ” Mosul ” productions and ” Baghdad ” weaves.

Then, when commercialism seized European
agents, alluring offers were made of carpets and rugs manufactured to
fit any room, and large carpets were woven after designs furnished by
the agents, who ordered the goods and forwarded money to erect looms large
enough for the weaving of fabrics of extra size. Consuls were directed,
by their respective governments, to look into the matter of weaving in
the places where they were stationed, and now and then in newspapers and
magazines we noticed the names, then new to us, of towns where the rug
industry was stimulated by increased demand.

In Turkish rugs before the middle of the
last century, though the weaving was, as it has always been in western
Asia, of coarse quality, the designs were native, the dyes pure, and the
methods those that had obtained through the years. Soft blues, greens,
yellows, and vivid reds were blended with a skill that gave subdued effects,
though dealing with primary colours.

The rugs that first came from Turkey were
apt, in design, to follow the general form of the hearth-rug, in which
the field of the rug was pointed at both ends. In antique Turkish rugs
the chief characteristic, to which allusion was made in the chapter on
classification, is the use of detached motifs of ornament, and such, repeated
in certain portions of the rugs, produced in some cases an ornamentation
that lost in art value because of its rigid adherence to symmetry. Effort
to copy Persian designs gave rise originally to this style of decoration,
but it has now become distinctive in Turkish productions and differs from
anything else.

The location of Asia Minor cannot be too often considered
by those who are studying the products of Anatolia. Its nearness to Europe,
and its position midway between the Orient and the Occident, have made
its art sensitive to every subtle influence. It has been the birthplace
of many of the arts. In needlework its women have always excelled, and
much that has been accomplished by the needle has been copied in weaving.
A close study of antique Asia Minor and Syrian embroideries, many of them
the dowry linens of past ages, reveals a native style in treatment, and
leads to recognition of the same in the adaptation of the designs to warp
and woof.

It is important that we dissociate Asia Minor and
Syrian productions from those of the provinces that separate Turkey, from
Persia—Mesopotamia, Kurdistan and Armenia,—so that we may
be cognizant of the peculiarities in purely Turkish fabrics. For our purposes,
therefore, we include in this division merely the country west of the
Euphrates, where in hamlets and by wandering tribes, as well as by well-known
weavers in towns given over to manufacture, rugs are woven and carried
to one or another of the special markets for sale, where the goods are
often given the name of the place where they are sold, to the exclusion
of the name of the town or village where they were woven.

This leads to great confusion in classification. Two
influences of widely differing nature must be considered in studying the
fabrics of any chosen rug-producing district of Asia. These are, first,
the effect upon design of the spontaneous, unhindered thought of the nomad
following his sheep and goats through the mountains, under the sky’s wide
canopy, with lack of all restraint and conventionality, including in the
most irresponsible way anything in design which he picks up on his travels,
weaving along with tribal designs all sorts of odd conceits. The second
influence is that which bears evidence in fabrics to a long-continued
use, in settled localities, of historic design.

Without any knowledge of the migratory habits of the
tribes, who have spread themselves all over middle Asia, we should be
sadly confused in our study of ornament. It is for this reason that it
seems wise to exclude from “Turkish ” rugs those that bear such
direct relation to Caucasian products that they are often mistaken for

Turning from a careful study of a good atlas, upon
which we may locate the already mentioned rug districts, to our own maps,
we may enter the names specified in our first classification of Turkish
rugs,—Melace, Ghiordes, Konieh, Kulah, etc.,—and, with typical
illustrations in hand, proceed to study the rugs of each district, and
the special patterns that for some unaccountable reason have been adhered
to in spite of the rise and fall of Empires under whose control the land
has been for centuries.

The whole of western Asia as well as Egypt
and Morocco, should be included in any comprehensive study of Turkish
textiles, for from a Mohammedan standpoint alone can the subject be properly
grasped. The religion of the Turk has absorbed into itself the most meaningful
of old Jewish symbols. Tracing its ancestry back to Abraham, it has a
right to all the Hebraic traditions. To the Moslem as well as to the Jew
belongs the six-pointed star, the ” Ensoph ” of the Chaldeans,
and it is interesting to note its prevalence in the art of Syria. In Turkey
we may find traces of Greek, Byzantine, Persian, Rhodian, Roman, and Russian

In fact it is in western Asia that we find
Chaldean and astrological influences in old designs, and so elemental
in their significance are many Arabic, Syrian, and Asia Minor patterns
that we may safely recognize the fact that the mind of the people who
migrated westward from the heart of Mesopotamia had in it a conquering
power which is felt in design to the present day.

It is almost impossible to study the textiles
of western Asia without some knowledge of the potter’s, art, for the two
arts are more absolutely interdependent in that region than in almost
any other. Designs in the tiles and pottery of Damascus and Rhodes, in
fact upon the enamelled walls of mosques and tombs, wherever the Saracen
travelled, may always be easily distinguished from the Persian, which
in the vast majority of cases gave them birth.

These enduring materials have been an unceasing
fountain of supply to the workers in other arts, and an evidence of the
thought-life of the people during the successive domination of foreign
and domestic rule. We sometimes find the designs upon enamelled tiles
copied in their entirety upon grave carpets, and, wherever the Mohammedan
settled, the two arts, those of the potter and of the weaver, have been
companions. There are, in truth, so many side-lights on the subject of
design, that we are loth to leave any untouched.

The quilted and appliqué decorations
of Cairo and Damascus furnish the most useful means of analysing ornament,
for such free work can be done with the scissors and needle that each
detail of a pattern is wrought out to perfection, and upon the inside
of canvas tents one often finds a wealth of ornament to decipher.

There are some styles of Oriental rugs that
are generally classed as Mohammedan without regard to the nationality
of the weavers, and under the name Hispano-Moresque (a term used in describing
pottery made in Spain by the Moors by processes taught by the Persians),
are grouped the productions of various countries where the religion of
the Prophet has persistently held sway.

An iridescence such as is at its best in
some old ” Melez ” rugs of south-western Asia Minor, whither
the influence of Rhodes must have carried Persian suggestions, and also
in some antique Cairo and Morocco gems, is traceable to a chemical mingling
of colours in careless methods of dyeing and to the atmospheric effect
of years of exposure. We frequently see in modern rugs an ‘effort made
to reproduce this iridescence by combining many different shades and strands
of extremely fine wool in each knot so that the mottled effect produced
might suggest the antique colouring.

It is an interesting fact that a name which
connects itself with the latest development of an art in a country far
removed from its place of birth, will often establish itself in the vocabulary
of the student, who, not knowing the original terms, will use the new
word to describe the old process. Thus the name ” Hispano-Moresque
“suggests a Spanish process, whereas the art of lustre was originally
carried from Persia to Spain by the Moslems long after its invention in

To Byzantine influence many Turkish designs
may be traced, and it is difficult to separate the mosaic patterns of
Asia Minor from the geometric ornamentation of the Turcoman and nomad
tribes, though the latter were ordinarily based on the study of natural
phenomena upon which tribal pattern grew, and the former were copied directly
from the mosaic work in stone which was forced into shape by the limitations
of material.

We also find among old Turkish patterns many
that carry thought into the past, when Christianity was first warring
with the infidels ; and in the St. George and the dragon country Christian
and pagan designs are often mingled, while to the northeast, Armenians,
who claim theirs to be the oldest Christian Church, have so blended secular
and religious concepts as to cause the greatest confusion. Because of
the vast amount of conflicting evidence, the task of identification of
objects is not easy, and yet we proceed with courage, as analysis will
at least familiarize us with oft-used motifs, and in the labyrinth of
Eastern symbolism we may perchance find much to stimulate further research.

The Oriental rug in an Occidental home is
a very different thing from what it is in the land of its birth or even
in the possession of a dealer, from whom one may often learn much in regard
to its possible and, perchance, absolute ancestry. As a thing of beauty
it has a right to exist,—it pleases the eye and serves its purpose
in every way, even though we ask of it no questions and bring to it no

The sunlight of the day and the shadows of
the gloaming only increase and augment its charms. But when there come
to us moments of interest in the history of Asia and of design, suddenly
we are aware that in the material object before us we may learn to detect
evidences of thought, and we turn with new interest to that which has
long been a treasured possession, but has never before been either more
or less than that.

We learn from one skilled in deciphering
patterns, hieroglyphs, and ideographs, that in western Asia, particularly
in Syria and Arabia, the use of the equilateral triangle antedates the
adoption of any other form in design ; that as a primary symbol it was
used to indicate the most mysterious and occult belief of a people given
to vain imaginings. We discover, in our intercourse with the Orientals
who have adhered most absolutely to their native beliefs, that, however
modern civilization may have forced upon them European ideas, there come
times to each and all when inherited convictions alone satisfy and alone
are regarded. In many years search I have found no sign, symbol, or design
so frequently bound upon the body as a talisman as the triangle, and to
it scores of Turkish patterns may be traced.

The seal of Solomon, built on the right angled
triangle, and the signet of David, based on the equilateral triangle show
relations of forms to each other which are most convincing to students
who care to penetrate through the sign to that which it signifies. Turkish
geometric patterns are largely indebted to the equilateral triangle for
a fidelity to tradition which can readily be traced in designs. In some
few rare old specimens of Asia Minor weaves, isolated fragments of many
designs may be found. It is not always possible to trace to rugs themselves
the designs which weavers have copied. In old embroideries, paintings,
and manuscripts are found evidences of the determination to hold to tribal
and national ideas when decorating ceremonial art objects, and to these
it is always most safe to revert in studying a design and tracing its

In the analysis of any pattern which we
are studying, it is wise, whether we be draughtsmen or not, to draw as
carefully as possible the main outlines of border designs. Take, for example,
any familiar Turkish border seen in old Ladik or Anatolian fabrics. A
flower looks like a flower until, in endeavouring to trace it, we find
it is composed of one square or triangle after another, and has, with
utmost difficulty, been given floral form.

On Rhodian tiles, pottery, and embroidery
we find the ancestors of many patterns that have been thought to belong
exclusively to Asia Minor, but which have evidently, through the Saracenic
occupation of the islands of the sea, found their way into Anatolia, and
have influenced geometric Turkish designs. The cross-stitch, so universally
used in Greek and Russian embroideries, has perpetuated many meaningful
designs, while in old lace and cut-work, patterns were forced to take
rectilinear forms, but it is not difficult -to distinguish between those
that were deliberately based on squares and triangles and those which
assumed angular forms because of the limitations of materials.

We find that the design known as the ”
link,” the ” spiral,” and by various other names, was first
represented as a combination of triangles And in many old designs the
two angles face each other without the connecting line. All through the
western Orient this pattern can be found in fabrics, —in the borders
of Asia Minor rugs and as detached ornament on the field of nomad weavings,—in
some a mere ” happen-so ” arrangement and in others showing
a definite use of it as a ” sun motif.”

The spirals of Egyptian ornament are being
studied very carefully by students who feel that their significance is
far greater than was at first supposed. Recognition of these three variants
of the design, the link, the sun motif, and the spiral, makes us cognizant
of the fact that it was originally an interesting motif, and we may look
for its appearance and learn to distinguish between the significant and
the meaningless use of it. Until within a century or two the Orient has
seemed remote, and the lay mind has not grasped the fact that in Turkey-in-Asia
are native many of the designs known to us as European.

Confusion has resulted, and many people,
not interested in the study of Oriental
rugs claim that the old patterns found in Sicilian silks and Italian velvets
were inventions of the weavers of Europe, whereas in reality the Crusaders,
on their return, introduced into their own lands all sorts of Oriental
designs. Our knowledge of Italian and Spanish adaptations so far anteceded
our interest even in the remote lands east of the Mediterranean that we
have to unlearn much that we have hitherto accepted.

It is surprising how true it is that the
eye sees only that which it is trained to observe. Ask any dozen people
to look at a rug, and then to turn from it and tell what they have seen.
Almost invariably not one can answer so simple a question as ” What
form did the scroll take in the broad border design ? ” In analytical
study one sees that the meanders vary in rugs, and that in no better way
can the individual handling of foreign motifs be detected than by following
the development of the methods of forming scroll designs in rug borders.

The Persian rug easily leads in naturalistic
representation of the flowing vine, and upon recognition of old Iran perfection
we may base our comparative study. Turkish treatment in the west, and
Indian in the east, show widely differing means of accomplishing the same
end. One cannot always tell to which division a rug belongs, because.
of the details of ornament ; but it is surprising how quickly the mind
responds to the mental training, and the eye to the practice of looking
for some definite thing.

In certain rugs we find an easy adaptation
of borrowed patterns, while in others it seems almost impossible for the
weaver to accommodate himself to a new thought. The East Indian will crowd
his vine motif into octagonal form and it is with difficulty that most
weavers outside of Persia find it possible to carry the undulating line
through an entire border without breaking it up into sections.

Archaic, classic, and tribal designs should
be separated and classified by each individual student who wishes to verify
for himself that which should be accepted only when it carries conviction
with it. The arts are interdependent and explain and interpret each other.
The history of art motifs and their migrations is as authentic as any
record of the past. The antique Oriental rug (for only such can serve
as type and standard) will awaken our interest in the past as few art
objects can, and comparison with all other art manifestations will help
us to comprehend much that at first seems enigmatical.

Under the general name of ” Asia Minor
rugs ” collectors gather rare specimens of old ‘weaves that have
made the Anatolian peninsula famous, and that have so distinguished its
fabrics and patterns that there are certain features always similar in
them, though the weavers of different localities lay claim of priority
to either their invention or adoption. Such are plainly traceable to archaic
and symbolic designs which were the common property of all alike. This
accounts for the fact that in all rug-weaving localities at the present
time recurrence is made to types that once obtained more universally than
they do now.

These designs come under the head of primary
or symbolic ornament, for almost invariably they bear testimony to elemental
phenomena, as water, star, and sun motifs prevail. This is not apparent
at first glance, and one may study for years over Ghiordes, Kulah, Melhaz,
and Ladik specimens before being able to see the evidence of local handling
and craftsmanship which differentiates one object from the other. ‘he
main features seem at first so much alike that we are tempted to cease
all effort to subdivide until interested to do so, because methods finally
force their peculiarities upon us, and we find that these primary symbols
have been differently used by individual workers.

With those Orientals who revere tradition
and who cling to pre-Islam Hebrew thought and conditions manifested in
old design, or to the Armenian handling of Christian truth, and to the
rendering throughout Syria, Arse Minor, and Arabia, of prehistoric conceptions
of natural phenomena, there is a decided preference for archaic patterns
which have always been used as types. It is rarely now that one is able
to procure old specimens of ancient weavings, but such, when obtainable,
are copied more or less accurately.

Such also are modified by more modern methods
of portraying the same thing, the straight line giving place to the curve
when expert weavers, without meaning to do so, change the entire appearance
of the patterns by their improved methods of workmanship.

For purposes of comparison we may divide Turkish rugs
into three groups, showing three stages in the designs of Asia Minor.

In the first group we may look for early
handling of the meander, which figures as an accepted Ghiordes motif.
This zigzag in the first, third, fifth, and seventh of the border stripes
in rare old rugs was at first a simple water-motif an elemental design
based on primary symbol. Later, in the second group, we find the same
motif treated in a more decorative way as the ” ribbon,” and
still later the floral meander marks the third group. The two latter designs
of secondary import both show development in craftsmanship, knowledge,
and beauty, but deviation from the elementary use of symbol.

When the technical characteristics that force
specimens into trade distinctions coincide almost universally with our
own conclusions, we feel it legitimate to trust ourselves to them, comparing
what we have ourselves discovered from an Occidental standpoint with that
which Orientals in full possession of knowledge of the fabrics themselves
consider worthy of emphasis, and we become convinced that local treatment
of design may be detected as well as the methods of manufacture.

The Oriental rug proves all that is claimed
for it to be true when it leads us to look into the history of the world’s
progress as it does in Asia Minor. Many of the places colonized by the
Greeks bear evidence to the fact that the early Dorians were sun-worshippers,
and gave symbolic patterns to potters and weavers which have ever since
been perpetuated, marking with virility and beauty many forms that had
originally been carried into Europe from the Orient.

Scholars who are tracing the migration of
important symbols from the places of their birth are trying to separate
the original thought from that which has been built upon it, and an excellent
opportunity is given us to follow their lead in the analysis of Turkish
patterns. For example, the handling of all things Persian by the craftsmen
of Damascus and Rhodes has given a strictly Rhodian style to which we
must attribute many of the textile patterns that are deemed important
by native students of Oriental art. Tracing the vicissitudes of the small
island of Rhodes, where early sun-worshippers gave to designs the wave,
water, and various sun motifs, it is easy to note the changes brought
about by the fact that first one and then another conquering power controlled
its developing art.

Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Venetian, Persian,
and Turkish influences made Rhodian art a combination of all others, and
yet its mongrel nature assumed an individuality which has so marked its
styles that Rhodian designs, copied in the neighbouring seacoast towns
of Asia Minor may easily be distinguished as different from any other
rendering of distinctive designs that have i:. other ways reached the
western shores of Asia. Thus old Rhodian interpretations of Greek classic
designs in many of the wave patterns to which we have alluded have been
adopted as borders in old Asia Minor rugs, and from these later styles
have evolved.

It is not claiming too much for the potter’s art to
assert that without it we should be deprived of many of the most beautiful
conceptions of master artists, and of the ability to place designs accurately.

Under the familiar names Ghiordes, Kulah, Melhaz (Milassa-Melace),
and Ladik we may subdivide the Turkish division of the rug-chart, leaving
to later study the less well known styles and types. With rugs in our
hands to examine, how may we distinguish between the products of these
four important centres? Antique specimens alone avail us as standards,
and such only should we consider while our opinions are in a formative

As prayer-rugs the most beautiful of antique Ghiordes
weavings have come down to us through the years, and a few of their main
points are at once noticeable ; as, for example, the prevalence of many
borders, the high prayer-niche, the plain colour of the field, and the
pliable quality of the fabric itself.

There are two ways of approaching a rug for
study : one is to look upon it from a distance as it lies on the floor
a number of feet away from us or hangs on the opposite wall ; the other
is to stand in the centre of the object and look down upon and into the
pile, allowing the thought gradually to extend from the centre to its
outer limits, studying in turn each of the borders and their relation
to the whole make up of the fabric.

For proper conception of the plan of old
Ghiordes rugs it is essential to follow the latter method and look down
upon the design. In the first place, when thus examined the mottled appearance
of the plain surface shows rare beauty and a lustrous liquid quality.
The borders that surround the central panel should each in turn be seriously
considered, as in some of the smaller stripes there are flowing antique
designs, while the broad main border, generally speaking, is rectilinear,
filling an imaginary square with squarely drawn flower and leaf forms,
so that in combination the flowers and leaves form distinct designs that
are repeated again and again all around the rug. Though this style of
ornamentation is copied in different localities, it is always recognized
as a Ghiordes feature.

The colours of antique Ghiordes specimens
defy description. In the most carefully made rugs the mottled effect Of
some of the solid coloured centres is produced by combining three or four
strands of fine wool of varying shades of the same colour in each knot
tied, and blues, light greens, and hay colours, with reds of gem-like
clearness and white of ivory tint, mingle and blend rather than contrast
with each other, so that, though there is no confusion, there is not the
absolute distinctness that we find in the productions of the more easterly
provinces of the Turkish empire. This it is well to note, for oftentimes
at first glance this recognition of the distribution of colour will lead
to the proper classification of fabrics.

The outline divisions of Ghiordes rugs differ in form
from other prayer-rugs in that at the base and above the prayer-niche
there is commonly a panel into which is crowded an abbreviation of the
pattern in the wide border stripe. These panels are generally surrounded
by their own special border, which may or may not be like the narrow stripe
that immediately surrounds the field.

It is in Ghiordes rugs that collectors find
their rarest specimens of the mosaic style of weaving so greatly admired,
it being a time-honoured custom among the weavers to cut the knot-ends
closely, and thus to preserve the semblance of well-worn fabrics that
have been handed down as copies. In old Ghiordes rugs the warp and woof
were fine in quality, and the materials were carefully spun and dyed,
the selvages being so well and evenly completed that the rugs were symmetrical
and shapely to a degree.

The number of knots to the square inch varied
from 36 to 81, and in the great majority of cases might be easily counted
on the face of the rug on account of the close cut pile, which exposed
the knot. In some old rugs intended for sacred purposes, use is made of
the colour green allowed only to those in high office in direct line from
the Prophet. Such green as seems to have borrowed its translucency from
the deep sea, and its shadings from mosses and grasses, is seen to perfection
in some of the old Ghiordes weaves, though a tendency to surface fading
has softened the colours so that the sea shades obtain where the leaf
tints disappear, and an aquamarine of unusual beauty is the result.

There is adherence to the three primary shades,
red, yellow, and blue, in all Ghiordes rugs ; but so soft are they that,
while reds remain red and do not favour the crimson hues of other localities,
they are so held in abeyance by the other tints employed that they are
prized for their superior merit. So with the blues and yellows : the former
a blue heavily laden with a whitish quality that, though it lightens,
at the same time it preserves the primary tone; and the yellows do not
assume the shades of hay, tan, and sun colour that some Kulah rugs affect.
Altogether the rugs of Ghiordes name and make easily take rank among the
finest of Asia Minor products, and as such may serve as standards of both
merit and style.

Kulah rugs differ in a few minor points from
Ghiordes and yet their peculiarities make it easy to distinguish between
the products of the two places so near each other that it is surprising
that any individuality at all has been preserved. Ancient traditions in
weave and design are in Kulah rugs, as in the Ghiordes products, best
preserved in prayer-rugs in which the prayer-niche is not as high as in
the Ghiordes and is often serrated in a way that bears no resemblance
to the zigzag outline around the field and prayer-niche in Ghiordes rugs,
which is distinctly a water motif. In place of the wide central stripe
a number of very narrow ones make up Kulah borders.

Where these features are not noticeable it
generally follows that neighbouring devices have been borrowed, and that
in describing specimens the prayer-niche is spoken of as having ”
tall and modified angles like the Ghiordes ” or as showing some characteristic
feature of Ladik or Konieh weave. The careful cataloguing of Oriental
rugs for auction sales and trade purposes has familiarized even those
least interested with a vernacular which even five years ago did not exist,
and the main points of interest are now known to all who care to make
use of them for the furtherance of their studies.

It is difficult to keep types firmly and
definitely in mind when individual rugs present such mixtures and adaptations
that it is hopeless to try to find for them any more definite name than
the general one of the main division. Discouragement need not attend study
and effort if one will only be content with ability to classify broadly
until details make themselves evident and paramount. The most perplexing
of old Kulahs are those which were made in close imitation of antique
productions which in both form and design are strongly indicative of pre-Mohammedan
and Persian influences.

From these old so-called Kulahs certain motifs
have been adopted by all Asia Minor weavers. Great effort is now being
made by Orientals to obtain rare old specimens of these weaves which,
judged by design, would be classed as ” Kulah,” ” Ghiordes,”
or ” Ladik.” It is because of the great difficulties attendant
upon all effort to say positively that certain things were made in certain
places at definite times that the more conservative of judges group under
the comprehensive heading of ” Asia Minor ” these rare old rugs
which bear the same relation to Turkish productions as ” Iran ”
rugs to the output of the Persian looms. In colour the reds in old Kulah
rags are far from primary, and yet are not of the deep crimson so offensive
in the modern products of the dyer’s ingenuity and experiment.

A test of the beautiful red best known to
those who care for Melhaz and Rhodian products is one that may be carefully
applied by novices in their analytical study. If the thought of ”
magenta ” comes to mind at first glance when examining a specimen,
immediately class the rug as moderately modern, certainly not as an antique.
There is something so convincing about the quality of red which as ”
crimson ” or ” rose ” traces its ancestry back to a time
prior to the ” magenta ” period, that one soon becomes susceptible
to slight variations that make all the difference in the world between
artistic and crude results.

In the most south-westerly province of Asia
Minor, Caria or Karia, many rugs are made which bear the general name
of Melez (Melhaz or Melace) because in the town of Melassa the productions
of neighbouring villages are sold, and as is often the case, the name
of the market is given to all things brought there for disposal. It has
become quite customary to look for good effects in the colouring of old
Melhaz rugs, and, while the weavings are not indicative of the refinement
displayed by the craftsmen of the Kulah and Ghiordes districts, there
is a certain virility and strength about the handling of materials, colours,
and designs which appeal very strongly to one in search of these increasingly
scarce qualities.

A very careful distinction is sometimes made
between the products of Asia Minor woven and used by the Greeks, and those
made by workers of Hebrew ancestry.

These fine points, which are to be respected
when we grasp the fact that they exist, are most valuable in analytical
study of pattern. While yet it is not too late to do so, it would be most
helpful to have gathered together in some place where they could be carefully
studied, rugs and carpets that educated Orientals themselves will vouch

European judgment is often based upon the
verdict of some absolutely uneducated Turk, Persian, or Chinese of the
lowest class, who, knowing nothing about the folklore or traditions of
their countries, simply testify to the local habits of their own isolated
home. Under the ban, oftentimes, of some proselyting religion which has
made them afraid to express inherited beliefs, their testimony is not
to be relied upon.

There is much distress among those Orientals
in Europe and America who are willing to sacrifice even opportunity to
increase their wealth if they may in some way gather together objects
made by their own people which will establish truths that seem destined
to oblivion. From Asia Minor across the entire continent to Japan in the
far East, the truth is departing from real native art because of false
Occidental opinions concerning it ; and it is for this reason that it
seems important for us to study objects themselves analytically, ascertaining
what they are like, and how they appear as they come to us like flotsam
and jetsam after the great migration of other people to our land. Well
may we protect the traditions that are all too swiftly passing away.

In Turkish carpets of large size many styles are grouped
under the trade name ” Ouchak ” in which modern methods are
observable. Often the wool used in the warp threads resembles worsted
rather than yarn, while large surfaces are left plain, both to suit European
ideas of preserving single-colour effects in furnishing, and because it
requires less manual labour to make solid fields than to introduce ornament.

Almost without recourse to our maps we might
locate the weavers of a great number of the rugs which come to us as Turkish,
but which do not resemble, save in points of weaving, the productions
of western Asia Minor. Nomadic influence is so evident in design that
we should naturally attribute them to the rude mountaineers and villagers.
As ” Yuruck,” as ” Mohair,” and as ” Kurdish,”
we meet these rugs in classifications, and, while differing in certain
ways from each other and from textiles made further west, there are many
points which mark them as Turkish ; while rigid adherence to tradition
and the manifestation of belief, in pattern, shows the weavers to have
been beyond the limits of the influences that have produced so much that
is mongrel in design.

One can readily tell, when studying the rugs
made by Mohammedans, to which sect the patriarch of the tribe belonged,
by the choice made between patterns which exclude, and those which retain,
animal forms ; it being clearly understood that if one makes an image
of any living creature he will be called upon at the judgment-day to endow
the same with a soul. Geometric and naturalistic ornament without addition
of human or animal forms may safely be considered as shiak or orthodox
Mohammedan. We have yet to learn more of the rugs of Syria and Arabia,
which are often made in the purest tribal styles.

At the great fairs held on feast-days, in
various places in the district known best to us as the scene of Biblical
events, many rugs are disposed of, and agents from trade centres secure
the best of them, which are packed in bales and sent to Constantinople,
whence, with rugs of better grade, they find their way to Occidental countries.
Occasionally these odd bits may be picked up, and they rarely fail to
interest those who are ever on the alert for traces of individuality in

The patterns that distinguish these crude
specimens are called ” memory designs,” as they are handed down
from one weaver to another, from mother to child. Frequently some definite
patch or pattern testifies to the fact that the weaver, fearing the evil
eye, has taken pains to provide some charm against disastrous consequences,
for, if the object were too beautiful, the eye of envy might be turned
upon it, and so the spot is arranged to avert that evil eye. There are
certain chosen emblems that, worn as charms, are supposed to be most efficacious
as talismans ; among these are trinkets made in the shape of horns, human
hands with the fingers in special positions, faces of animals, small pieces
of metal and stone, and even cotton cloth,—these are cut into significant
geometric forms which have had origin in ancient belief and have been
copied again and again in patterns woven or embroidered in Syria.

In the products of the seacoast towns on
the east of the Mediterranean one meets a mingling of Egyptian motifs
in the ornamentation of fabrics. We find bird, beetle, and flower designs
of extreme interest, and all sorts of sun, star, and moon emblems which
are skilfully wrought by weavers and embroiderers who have not the faintest
idea of the legendary art they are perpetuating.

Occasionally an ” Arab rug ” finds
its way to us as we are pursuing our analytical study of objects in this
land so far away from the desert where the Arab cameldriver founded the
religion that has made the name of Mohammed of world-wide import. Though
puzzled by its crude workmanship, our interest is whetted when we are
finally led by it into more critical study of Arabia as the home of tent-dwelling
people, now as always; and memories of our childish imaginations accentuate
our interest in the caravan-traversed peninsula where once the Children
of Israel wandered for forty years.

We turn with renewed interest to Old Testament
accounts of tents and tabernacles, and to our amazement find much which,
critically read, carries us along to a comprehensive realization that
the ancient Hebrews preserved for modern art more than is commonly supposed,
and we learn from orthodox descendants of the Patriarchs that in Talmudic
and Kabbalistic traditions we may find explanations which the student
of art has long been seeking. Such, for example, is the six-pointed star,
known as the shield of David worn as a talisman by many who have not even
questioned its meaning.

This has furnished a whole system of religious belief
for peoples who have migrated into Europe, and in various places have
dwelt and are dwelling as gypsies and wanderers who profess to read in
geometric forms the fates that control human lives. In magic squares,
magic circles, magic star-forms built on the equilateral triangle, are
many designs that show a belief in the Divine answer to Man’s thought
when under the silent sky he erects his rude altar and awaits the recognition
of Deity.

Of modern Asia Minor carpets we find it safe
to say very little, as they defy the purposes of the student who wishes
to analyse patterns, for weavers are catering to the demand of the present
day for ” Turkish carpets warranted to fit any space in Occidental
homes.” However good such are,—and many of them are thoroughly
well made and sold by reliable firms,— they do not come within the
limits of our avowed purpose of studying rugs as things of sentiment and
for their art value. Until we have made ourselves thoroughly acquainted
with all that we can discover in the study of types in which are the authentic
renderings of historic design of symbolic significance, we should not
trust ourselves to do more with the productions of modern human machines
than to buy them for utilitarian purposes as most desirable floor-coverings.

To those who handle and dispose of such either
in the Orient where they are made, or in any of the great markets of the
world, we may safely look for much information concerning trade classifications,
and we may unreservedly admire the well-organized effort to secure the
best work from weavers who, if not backed by capital and controlled by
intelligence, would be unable to supply the demands of Western buyers.
But we cannot, however, hope to study ornament in its purity in these
modern rugs, however beautiful they may be, unless we are so familiar
with types in their purity that we can distinguish for ourselves how faithfully
they have been adhered to in the textile designs of to-day.

When we know for a certainty that designs
are being furnished by young men and women in London and New York, which
are sold to agents and distributed freely to Asiatic weavers, we may well
hesitate to base an opinion on rugs as manifestations of thought.

Among the most interesting of Mohammedan observances
is the annual pilgrimage from Cairo to Mecca for the purpose of carrying
there the covering for the ” Kaaba,” or ” House of the
Sacred Black Stone.” In the centre of the court-yard of the mosque
at Mecca stands the sacred building, which is so revered by the followers
of the Prophet that each loyal soul desires to accomplish the pilgrimage
to the Holy Place once during a life time. One who has made this journey
is allowed to call himself henceforth ” Hadji,” and the performance
is one for which the pilgrim is revered.

Abraham and Adam share the honour of having received
from the angel Gabriel the small sacred stone, as a gift from Paradise,
to contain which the original temple was luilt. Traditions are attached
to the rebuilding, once in so often, of this holy edifice, and every detail
of its history is treasured and has been immortalized in the ornamental
art of Islam.

The stone, about 6 X 8 inches, which was originally
white, is now black because of the stain of sin imposed upon it through
centuries of touch of unworthy hands, and the pilgrims make it a duty
to circumambulate it on account of its magic power to remove all taint
of sin.

The outline form and the various features of the mosque
at Mecca, the ” Kaaba,” the sacred well, etc., furnish now,
as they always have done popular designs for textiles. Anything and everything
about that which happens within the precincts of the Holy Place is of
moment to those whose whole lives have been spent in anticipation of the
journey thither, and whose future will be blessed by its accomplishment.

The covering for the Kaaba is renewed every
year. It is made of a heavy black silk damask lined with cotton, as it
is contrary to the laws of the Koran to use anything which is made entirely
of silk. About the covering, which is called the ” Kiswah “,
is a broad band decorated with inscriptions in gold and green, and this
highly ornamented fabric is carried in state from one part of Cairo, where
it is made by the same family year after year, to another part of the
city, where it remains until entirely completed, and thence it is transported
on the back of a sacred camel to the Holy City.

The old covering, which is each year removed
to make place for the new one, is cut into scraps by those who have the
matter in charge, and these are sold or given away to the pilgrims, who
so highly esteem the treasures that they carry the bits back to their
homes, where they serve as markers for their Korans or as ornaments in
their turbans. Many votive offerings are sent by dignitaries to the mosque
at Mecca—carpets of rare beauty, and mosque panels of various sorts.

The designs in some of these beautiful rugs
and embroideries have been copied and reproduced through the years, and
some of the choicest relics have, from time to time„ been sold at
a price. The commercial opportunities afforded by the pilgrimage to Mecca
have always been most highly prized, and large revenues have been gathered
from the pilgrims by those in charge of the mosque and sacred objects,
as well as by those who go to meet the enthusiasts at different points
along the route, where they may buy and sell to their own great profit.

All through the Orient, pilgrimages are made
to one or another of the various holy cities made sacred because of the
presence of the tomb of some saint, or on account of some great happening
in the past. There are seven places considered sacred to the pious Mohammedan,
and to them pilgrims journey at all times.

” In the order of their sanctity
are Mecca, where Mohammed was born; Medina, the burial place of the Prophet
; Nejef, on the Euphrates, where Ali was martyred ; Kerbela, on the banks
of the same great river, where the earth is so sacred that bodies are
brought by caravans for burial there in hundreds every year ; Kazemein,
the village close to Bagdad, where stands one of the loveliest of all
mosques; Meshed, the holiest of all the cities of Persia, with its glorious
golden-domed mosque ; Samara, in southeast Russia, reckoned sacred by
the western Tartars ; and Kum, a village in Persia, near Teheran, revered
by all Persians, but little-known to the outside world.”*
. *” St. James Gazette.”

At the present day, modern methods of travel
and changes of one kind and another have made it less possible than formerly
to speak with confidence about that which occurs, for it is not now true
that one year but repeats and perpetuates the past. Very few Europeans
are supposed to have ever gone on the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, and
one of these Sir Richard Burton has given us the most interesting account
of what he witnessed after the arrival of the caravan at the end of its
long journey. Robertson, the royal historiographer, in the following words,
describes the caravan travel of a century ago :

” I will now enter into a detailed
description of the caravans which visit Mecca. The first is the caravan
which takes its departure from Cairo in Egypt, and the other from Damascus
in Syria, and I select these both because they are the most considerable
and because they are described by authors of undoubted credit who had
the best opportunities of receiving full information concerning them.
The former is composed not only of pilgrims from every part of Egypt,
but of those which arrive from all the small Mohammedan states on the
African coast of the Mediterranean, from the Empire of Morocco, and even
from the Negro kingdoms. When assembled, the caravan consists of at least
50,000 persons, and the number of camels employed in carrying water, provisions,
and merchandise is still greater. The journey, which in going from Cairo
and returning thither is not completed in less than a hundred days, is
performed wholly by land ; and, as the route lies mostly through sandy
deserts or barren uninhabited wilds which seldom afford any subsistence,
and where often no sources of water can be found, the pilgrims always
undergo much fatigue, and sometimes must endure incredible hardships.

” The caravan from Damascus, composed
of pilgrims from almost every province of the Turkish empire, is little
inferior to the former in number, and the commerce which it carries is
hardly less valuable. This pilgrimage was performed in the year 1741 by
Khojeh Abdulkurreem. He gives the usual route from Damascus to Mecca,
computed by hours, the common mode of reckoning a journey in the East
through countries little frequented. It is a singular proof of the predatory
spirit of the Arabs, that, although all their independent tribes are zealous
Mohammedans, yet they make no scruple of plundering the caravans of pilgrims
while engaged in performing one of the most indispensable duties of their

” Great as these caravans are,
we must not suppose that all the pilgrims who visit Mecca belong to them
; such considerable additions are received from Persia, from every province
of Indostan and the countries to the east of it, from Abyssinia and from
various states on the southern coast of Africa, and from all parts of
Arabia, that when the whole are assembled they have been computed to amount
to 200,000. In some years the number is farther increased by small bands
of pilgrims from several interior provinces of Africa, the names and situations
of which are just beginning to be known in Europe.

” Besides the great caravan which
proceeds to Cairo, and is joined by pilgrims from every part of Africa,
there are caravans which have no object but commerce, which set out from
Fez, Algiers, Tunis, Tripoli, and other states on the sea-coast, and penetrate
far into the interior country. Some of them take no less than fifty days
to reach the place of their destination. As both the time of their outset
and their route are known, they are met by the people of all the countries
through which they travel, who trade with them. Indian goods of every
kind form a considerable article in this traffic.

” As the journeys of the caravans
which are purely commercial do not commence at stated seasons, and their
routes vary accord.. ing to the convenience or fancy of the merchants
of whom they are composed, a description cannot be given of them with
the same degree of accuracy as of the great caravans that visit Mecca.
But by attending to the accounts of some authors, and the occasional hints
of others, sufficient information may be gathered to satisfy us that the
circulation of Eastern goods by these caravans is very extensive.

” The same intercourse was kept
by the provinces in northeastern Asia with Indostan and China ; and among
the numerous tribes of Tartars, even those which retain their pastoral
manners in greatest purity, the demand for the productions of India and
China is very considerable. In order to supply them with these productions,
caravans set out annually from Boghar, Samarcand, and several other places,
and return with large cargoes of Indian and Chinese goods.”

It is recorded that Mohammed, becoming jealous
of the progress of Christianity, was anxious to outdo the older religion
in every way possible. In order to secure a large number of converts,
he determined to attack the various caravans as they approached Mecca,
where he dwelt, and where, all through the centuries, pilgrims had gathered.
At the point of the sword he demanded allegiance, and threatened death
to any who refused. In this way he terrorized many who avowed their purpose
to yield to his claims, and thus he added to his followers, and finally
sent converts everywhere to spread his teachings.

From time to time certain rugs find their
way into collections, which are called ” Mecca ” rugs, and there
are various reasons for the use of this name. A ” Mecca ” rug
is one that has been made for or by an individual for his own pilgrimage,
and it is customarily of the finest materials and bears the choicest of
tribal and national designs. Such are handed down in families as heirlooms,
and are sometimes cut up in small pieces and distributed to different
members of the family of the pilgrim at his death. Vast numbers of Shiraz
rugs have been used for pilgrimages which have in this way obtained the
right to be called ” Mecca ” rugs.

Besides the rug, which is personal property,
each pilgrim who performs the journey to the Sacred City, is apt to take
with him choice specimens of family or tribal weavings to sell for the
high prices obtained there, or at seaport towns east and west of the city
itself. These rugs are also called by purchasers ” Mecca ” rugs,
and they were apt to be very beautiful before the spirit of commercialism
seized the people of the Orient.

In still another way the name is applied
by connoisseurs who wish to describe the great beauty of a bit of antique
weaving. They say “The rug is a gem, and a genuine Mecca,”—
just as Orientals will speak of a valuable Persian weave as an ”
old Iran ” without attempting to say when and where it was made.
This careless use of the word has given erroneous impressions to many
who have supposed that genuine ” Meccas” were made in the Holy
City. This, however, is not the case.

A consideration of the reasons for certain
forms of present-day worship invariably carries the student of ornament
back to a period prior to all that is customary to-day, and specialists
everywhere are devoting themselves to the task of making connections between
that which is and that which was and no more valuable contributions can
be found to serve as repositories for silent unintentional testimony than
antique Oriental rugs in which remain designs which were originally based
on symbols. In their accounts of pilgrimages to Mecca, travellers lay
special stress on the fact that the worshipper must go around the Sacredstone,
and this harks back to the old sun-worship of people in that part of the
world, and to various forms instituted by them.

The circular movements practised by devotees
of all religious systems from Arabia to China have given easily recognized
forms based on the primary symbolic representations of the sun, the solar
disc, the circle, the wheel, etc. The old Assyrian winged globe and the
Buddhist praying-wheel both testify to early belief in the movement of
the great god-sphere through the heavens, and are closely copied in both
ancient and modern textile designs. The wheel has two distinct forms of
expression in ornament,—one the evolution of the floral, and the
other of the geometric style.

Buddhist handling of the thought has given
us lotus forms, and western Asian methods the various star forms which
have found fullest development in Caucasian designs, and which have now,
it is needless to say, become but empty pattern. In sun symbols, showing
the intention of the designer to indicate revolution, are found, painted
upon pottery and woven into textiles, the swastika inside the circle,
and sometimes the cross with equal arms.

The circle vies with the scroll and “S”
form for popularity in representing the sun. Winged circles, both Egyptian
and Assyrian, sometimes show flame motifs, either within the circle or
emanating from it, and modern pattern-makers constantly revert to these
old classic and archaic designs in the present-day reproductions.

In Scandinavian and Norse ornament are found borders
which are full of significance, “and which unite the theories about
several distinct variants of the best known sun motifs. Through this most
interesting use of pattern, and in designs that at first do not plainly
manifest their origin, we are led to a recognition of features indicative
of secondary as well as primary symbols. The human intention to assist
the great hero in his journey, and to provide sun chariots and sun boats,
is demonstrated in the art of Asia Minor and eastern Europe wherever Turkish
rule has been established.

By the skilful use of colour the outline forms in
many fabrics are entirely concealed, and in this way the rare ability
of the Oriental weaver is evinced. The boldest patterns are softened and
blended by changing the background from time to time, so that all thought
of stiff design is eliminated, and the marvel of beauty confounds our
Occidental senses. It is perchance because the art of Asia is so old that
it is possible for it to embrace both the most remote and realistic expression
of man’s mind, and at the same time every fantastic dream that has delighted
medixval and modern interpretation of design.

2 thoughts on “Turkish rugs

  1. Pingback: How to consciously buy Tibetan rugs - All you need to know about Tibetan Rugs

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *