Home > Rug, Kelim, Soumak, Textile Post Archive >RK Examines Anatolian Kelim
Part XVI
Sat, Jan 16th, 2010 09:13:58 PM
Topic: RK Examines Anatolian Kelim
Part XVI

Plate 27; Anatolian Kilims; Fine Art Museums of San Francisco; 1990

Basically there are two types of Archaic period Anatolian kelim ones with several main icon we call narrative, and others with only one main icon we call unitary.

The birth-symbol archetype is an example of a narrative kelim and the one above of a unitary.

RK knows of no other analogous example to it; perhaps, someday one will show up but quite frankly we doubt it will.

This unitary icon, one we have called the S icon, is frequently seen as a minor or ancillary device in many later kelim, and once identified it is surprising how many instances of its use can be substantiated.

Below are some, mostly presented in chronological order as they would appear on the continuum.

A great multitude of others exist in the published literature; these we have chosen demonstrate the importance weavers of all period paid to this icon, which being unitary has no set with it the icon itself being the set.

Some, like the one below, have already been illustrated in earlier parts of this examination and their appearing twice or more has no connotation other than the fact our webmaster is overworked enough.

Classic period; deYoung Museum Collection; Plate 6; illustrated in part VIII.A

The key piece of evidence here is the vertical extension the S icon displays; this being another example of prescribed repetition: The Classic period example, above, compared with the archetype below.

This is not accident or chance.

It demonstrates the cohesive nature of the weaving environment that produced early Anatolian kelim.

Here is a later kelim with the same unique representation, or tag, linking it directly to the archetype.

early Traditional period; Flatweaves/Flachgewebe: The Vakiflar Museum; Plate 34

There are, in RKs opinion, a number of generation between this kelim and the Classic period example from the deYoung Museum and, in turn, more between it and the archetype.

How many? RK would not like to say for the record, however, off the cuff we would say at least three between this and the deYoung, and perhaps twice or three times as many between the deYoungs and the archetype.

There is no doubt in our mind Archaic period kelim were woven many hundreds of years before the present.

A small but highly noticeable tag, like the one here, proves how protected the iconography on Anatolian kelim was, how important that iconography was to the small scale societies who produced these kelim, and how important it was for them to reproduce that iconography exactly.

Weaving a complex patterned kelim prior to the mid-late Traditional period must have been a large undertaking and we believe the necessary technology was not extant in many area of Anatolia.

This is a central fact overlooked by most authors and one RK wants to make clear to the readers of this series.

The collection of wool, its cleaning, carding, spinning and plying was the first step.

The dyeing many times more time consuming; the level of expertise required, from the collection of the dyestuff, to the preparation of the wool for dyeing, the dyeing process itself, and then the mordanting or fixing of the dye onto the wool even more time consuming and demanding an incredibly greater level of training, experience and expertise.

The knowledge of the exact iconography was, perhaps, the greatest and most secretive part of the process.

Remember we are speaking of the earliest pieces, not of the later periods of weaving when the former icon became emblem/amulet and then eventually common, meaning-less, motif.

Thats not a typo, just RKs way of saying the motif still had meaning, presumably both to the weaver and to the group, but that meaning was not nearly as significant as the icon and then amulet had been to their generations.

In the conclusions of this examination we will discuss this again but for now lets finish demonstrating the tremendous longevity and power an archaic icon like the S possessed.

late Traditional period; Flatweaves/Flachgewebe: The Vakiflar Museum; Plate 50

This kelim is a late piece, everything about it demonstrates it is far down on the continuum, however, the retention of the tag the S icon exhibits is remarkable.

Again this is no accident or chance occurrence, rest assured, the weaver knew, and the culture she lived and worked within taught her otherwise it would not be present.

It is interesting to note the white ground stripes, though half as wide as those they bracket, are the most prominent element.


In our opinion because the icon they display was the most dominant and, yes, potent element the weaver knew needed to reproduced and accentuated.

RK could easily believe the separation in time and space between this kelim and Plate 34 is as great as between the archetype and Plate 6.

And between Plate 50 and the archetype many hundreds of years and many hundreds of miles.

This is almost unbelievable, not the time/space separation, but the maintenance of cohesive prescription through time and space.

As we wrote when we quoted James Mellaart in certain area of Anatolia incredibly long periods of cultural retention were normal and commonplace.

RK has no doubt somewhere even today, in Anatolia, a weaver is faithfully reproducing the S icon and its archaic tag.

RK also wrote the retention of cultural trait did not happen in a linear fashion, as the next illustrations will prove.

Classic period; Flatweaves/Flachgewebe: The Vakiflar Museum; Plate 18

Notice the S icon lacks its archaic tag, those vertical extension are gone.

Now this is a seriously old kelim; RK handled it in 1980 when we visit the Sultan Ahmet Museum, in fact this picture is one we took out in the courtyard as the photos were being made for the Vakiflar kelim book.

So you might ask what happened to the tag?

The answer to this question is imbedded in the difference between proscription and prescription.

In the Classic and subsequent periods there is no proscription, seemingly this must have existed only during the Archaic period; therefore all post-Archaic period kelim have, and express, some degree of modification from their archetype.

This kelim is a perfect example, the slight but significant change the S icon has undergone attributable to this process.

Plate 18 is a key weaving, it presents a pastiche, a combination of elements from several archetype icon set used as model for many later generation of copy.

The gabled niche in each of the three large panel taken from the birth-symbol archetype along with the narrow solid color stripes flanking each panel; the paired rhomb in each of those panel from Plate 1 Image Idol Symbol; the barely visible upper and lower border also from Plate 1; and the flip-flopped winged-arrow motif, in each of the wide stripe flanking the three gabled niche panels, a spin-off of the archetype icon discussed in Part XV.

This is, once more, prescription at work.

Another example is the appearance of another S icon hidden between every two of the winged arrow motif.

These S icon are white and can be seen when they, and not the winged-arrow motif, are viewed as the figure and not the ground.

Lastly, and RK knows this is highly interpretative, the skeletal cross-like motif flanking the green and yellow niches, and only the left side of the blue one, are remnant of the archetype S icon with its vertical extension we called the tag.

If you draw the original icon in a rectangle and then look at the reciprocal it forms this motif is generated.

Prescription and the process of design transference sometimes focused on the ground discarding the figure, as appears to be the case here.

Why? This is a tough question to even guess at but here goes: To protect the sanctity of the icon -- to hide it under a layer of design capable of being deciphered by those who know, but missed by those who dont.

Remember, prescription is not linear and while this kelim is not less a pastiche than Plate 6 deYoung Museum Collection it is significantly later, that separation of time and space perhaps the reason the tag was lost and a new motif invented.

The next kelim is even father down on the continuum but it, too, retains a significant number of emblem from Plate 6 and surprisingly the archetype S icon tag.

late Traditional period; ; Flatweaves/Flachgewebe: The Vakiflar Museum; Plate 34

Comparing this kelim to others, the prescribed emblem set becomes obvious, this being yet other proof of RKs three-part thesis.

Below is an end of line, or last of the mohican as we like to call kelim of this period.

late, late Traditional period; Flatweaves/Flachgewebe: The Vakiflar Museum; Plate 23

The changes to the prescribed emblem set are great, but not so great as to obfuscate identification.

The S icon, sans tag, is here but the gabled niche and all the other parts are gone, in their place motif that are no longer as significant or potent.

This is the end of the line; a circumstance each of the archetype can be shown to have suffered.

There is, in addition to those above, an important S icon spin-off we have mentioned but will discuss in a bit more detail.

Early Classic period; Image Idol Symbol; Plate 9

In our estimation these narrow emblem filled panel, rather than those with the gabled niche, are the earlier form and format.

So, too, is the smaller step-and-peaked double-sided emblem they frame, and not the similarly placed paired rhomb seen in Plate 18.

These point aside, it is the S icon with its tag that dates this piece into the Classic and the others the Traditional period.

This kelim has real presence, it vibrates with energy.

Compared to Plate 9, the Vakiflars Plate 18, while a champion in its own right, is too busy and accreted; these factors push it down on the continuum into the late Classic period, where some over-design and a lack of true elegance are more often than not the norm.

Also the high level of fluidity and the synchronicity the design elements in Plate 9 manifest cant be matched by Plate 18. This is another sign of later Classic period weaving.

So to is the brilliant geometry the interlocking S border on Plate 9 displays. This border is one we have never seen equaled in any other kelim.

Note bene: The presence of a well delineated icon is not, in and of itself, a guaranteed sign of early work not at all, as some of these example prove.

But when archetypal icon, along with other associated criteria are present, like in Plate 9, an early date is assured.

Heres another kelim and a later version of the interlockingS border for comparison.

Traditional period; 100 Kilims; Plate 63

The obvious prescription the weaver of this kelim took from the one above is patently obvious, so is the missing genius of its conception and execution.

We have not handled the 100 Kilim example but we are 100 percent positive were the two hung side by side any viewer, even a not very experienced one, would be able to discern why we have dated them as we have.

The proportions on Plate 63 are imperfect, the later interlocking S border too large and the complex emblem in the panels to small.

Notice one very subtle but telling accretion Plate 63 exhibits: The ground color for each of those panel continues along the edges of each panel to the selvedge, while this does not occur in Plate 9s panels.

Its a very, very small difference but tiny errors in proportion or unnecessary design accretion, like that seen above, are the hallmark of a later weaving culture.

That difference, by the way, prevents Plate 63 from attaining the cleaner, crisper and far more distinct look Plate 9 has.

Details like this, or the others we have pointed out, were not missed by the weavers of the earliest extant masterpiece kelim and careful analysis of these weavings proves this beyond any shadow of doubt.

End Part XVI

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