Volume IV Number 5
Report already has used Henri-Rene d'Allemagne for certain concrete
particulars concerning rugs from Mashad, Kabala stones, and prayer
cloths. The title of this 1907 work is misleading, for Du Khorassan
au Pays des Backhtiaris (1) does not merely recount a Persian
journey. While in part a trip report, the book also is an exposition
of Persian life in the tradition of the great 17th century Persia
descriptions by French authors, also travel based and also encyclopedic.
There is a
general presentation on rugs, as well, which is of special interest,
albeit in a peculiar way -- a treatment of rugs on a par with the
Persian rug chapters of the early 20th century rug books. It is
especially so with respect to the one written by Mary Churchill
Ripley (2) as d'Allemagne has cribbed extensively from it, taking
all of her categories and some of her details. He does, however,
add material of his own, including economic and commercial data.
Thus, the result is a travel based annotation of the Ripley chapter,
and the reader gets two early 20th century Persian rug chapters
for, so to speak, one money. The gist of the two accounts follows.
school is simply noted and illustrated by an example of a classical
Persian carpet. The "modern" Kerman school similarly
is merely noted, but with some technical data on the weave: (a)
3-4000 "points" per square decimeter, and (b) cotton weft
and warp. An interpretation of "points" as knots yields
a Kerman product of 425 knots per square inch.
What is termed
the Khorassan school is more generously described. The typical
field pattern is given as all-over, realistic flowers, and border
motifs are given as frequently palmettes or a floral design. The
dominant rug color is a brilliant blue-red. There is a particular
about design, and another about construction. When the field of
the rug has "bandes" they contain floral designs, palmettes,
and motifs which look like grasshoppers. The weave is specified
as four or five rows of knots followed by three or four weft shoots,
giving a distinctive characteristic to the back of the rug and to
combines two rather distant place names into the school of Herat
and Ferahan, embodying the assertion that Ferahan weaving is
a development of the Herat school. The Herat design is given as
"flowers closely surrounded with leaves which are in the form
of arches. The oldest products, with "oldest" undefined,
are described as bearing "long oval leaves", light on
one side and dark (shaded) on the other. The principal border motif
is cited as "outlines of butterflies" (stylized scrolls),
and a principal field motif as boteh all pointed in the same direction.
The ground color is designated as "generally" a dark blue,
but sometimes as of a rich red, or even ivory. The most frequent
border color is green.
are presented as an extension of Herat characteristics: Herati field,
plain borders with either a rosette or palmetto motif along with
a vine, with a ground which is often a "beautiful" green,
or rose. If the field has a central medallion, the rug's colors
are alleged likely to be cream, red, or "young green".
and Kurdistan school is similarly divided into two parts, the
one, Sennah, the other, nomadic. Sennah rugs can have either cotton
or silk warps and for ornamental detail either floral motifs or
the Herati pattern. The field is white or ivory, but also can be
blue-red, or a "very gentle" violet. Yellow is frequently
in the border, accompanied by "angular motifs". The nomadic
weaving of Kurdistan is said to be characterized by a richness of
color, and by a weaving fineness akin to carefully shaved velvet.
One design is that of a right-angled trellis with each compartment
filled with flowers of various colors; another is a central medallion;
another is a central lozenge with little botehs. Colors are deep
rose, red, blue, and yellow, and there is a metallic blue ground.
The rugs of
the Hamadan school are not well described. A predominant
blue-yellow is cited as a characteristic, as is a field ground made
from white wool. A typical motif is an elongated diamond. Natural
camel hair is used; warps were previously of wool, but changed to
school is rather sketchily treated. Specific notations are:
a pure wool giving a brilliant color, scattered animals, "essentially
full-blossomed roses", a beautiful blue color, medallions and
botehs, and distinctive end kilims.
production points are less extensive, but are informative, and do
not derive from Ripley. D'Allemagne lists the provincial cities
which weave traditional products as Tabriz, Sultanabad, Teheran,
Kashan, Meshed, Ardebil, Kermanshah, and Veramin. Such particulars
as there are involve Tabriz and Sultanabad. For Tabriz these are:
(a) 100 rug workshops employing 1200 (b) an additional 10,000 workers
in other weaving, with more in the outlying villages; and, (c) a
special product of prayer rugs bearing a tree of life design, or
a pattern "inscribed with the emblem of a dervish order."
For Sultanabad the details are: use of Central Persia designs, 20-25,000
individuals employed in rug weaving, predominantly European designs,
uninteresting colors, and high pile.
market cities are listed as Tabriz, Hamadan, and Meshed, with a
large fraction of exports going to Constantinopole. Kermanshah is
a collection point for silk rugs exported to Baghdad and Egypt.
The Persia export market valuation is put at 6.3 million francs
for 1902, and 12 million for 1906. These, again, are d'Allemagne
to make of the d'Allemagne embellishment of the Ripley chapter is
not obvious. One resolve is the H. D. Dwight observation that all
rug books are laughable plagiarisms. But, the scruples of the author
do not necessarily make the substance wrong. In fact some of the
Ripley/d'Allemagne specifics ring true enough -- Khorassan weave,
Ferahan green, Herati pattern, cotton and silk warps in Sennah,
wool to cotton warp shift in Hamadan. It may be that these and other
details have merit, for example, the putting of the rose (gul-i-frank)
pattern within the "Shiraz school" at this time. This
design was fairly widespread in Persia, was used by Afshars south
of Kerman and appears on some South Persian rugs.
such as a striped (shawl pattern) design in Khorassan, may be of
interest, for they are d'Allemagne's contributions and he visited
these places. Some of his material, a steady recitation of color,
however, leads only to frustration. The problem is that there just
isn't a way to take a verbal description of a color and apply it
to rugs in hand. The terms seek to convey the impression of particular
hues, but what, exactly does a "young green" or a "very
gentle purple" look like? The book's photos are black and white.
d'Allauagne's possibly useful additions is his listing of provincial
cities as production points for "traditional" rugs, particularly
Kermanshah, Ardebil, and Veramin. Rug books contemporary with d'Allemagne
do not appear to have much to say, for example, about Veramin, now
an increasingly popular attribution, typically given as nomadic
product. But, per d'Allemagne, there may have been a little more
going on there than the pastoral.
is the enigma of the Herat/Ferahan association. Perhaps a simple-minded
extension based on the one design, perhaps a more perceptive linkage,
for while the pattern is ubiquitous in Persia, it is especially
prevalent in the West Persia product. A related matter is the "Sennah
and Kurdistan school" which indeed correctly reflects the small
city with surrounding hinterland reality of the area.
The best way
to view all this, seemingly, is not to dismiss Du Khorassan,
but rather to take it as an interesting and possibly useful adaptation
by someone with field experience. Mary Ripley's book resides in
a relative obscurity it does not deserve, it is blowsy in style,
and lengthy, with chapters on such ancillary matters as legends,
symbols, and calligraphy. The author claims to have used expert
opinion, but there is no specification of sources. Her work is in
effect an excellent representative of the turn-of-the-century rug
book, with full measure of that genre's strengths and weaknesses.
The upshot may be that Ripley on the rugs of Persia as used by the
traveller d'Allemagne contains a number of type and location leads.
Henri-Rene, Du Khorassan au Pays des Backhtiaris, four
volumes, Paris, 1911. All quotes come from Volume I, pp. 90--108.
Research Report translations.
Mary Churchill, The Oriental Rug Book, F. A. Stokes, New
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