Home > Flatweaves >Anatolian Kelim and the gulbudak
Mon, Jul 20th, 2020 10:10:35 AM
Topic: Anatolian Kelim and the gulbudak

Detail from the archetype birth symbol Anatolian kelim that is the probable precursor to the gulbudak.

Some weeks ago scrolling though one of the ersatz discussions on the faRcebook kilim group webpage we read some substantial chatter about two Anatolian kelim fragments with what one participant called the gulbudak motif.

Early traditional period Anatolian kelim with so-called gulbudak

That participant, whose name is ali reza tuna, aka Les Tunas and tunafish, and three others were driving the discussion. Lets name them just for completeness. First and foremost was michael bischof, a hyped-up supposed expert on dyes. This is something we seriously question, as would we the competence of anything he might say or write about pre-19th century Anatolian weavings. Second was peter scholten, a washed-up Anatolian rug and kelim dealer, who now is a faRcebook rug pundit that talks a far better game than he plays, played, or ever will play. And third Arlette Boltag, the owner of a rug and kelim retail shoppe in Zurich, Switzerland.

She posted this second kelim to compare with the other posted by tunafish. She did so with the proviso hers was later and he agreed calling his its grandma.

Both these kelim are in our world nothing very special. Good but not very good, forget great, might succinctly put them into perspective. Surely neither, or discussion about any comparison, worth that much palavar. Plus they are not very old. Wed categorize them as early Traditional period, which translates for those readers who like a date circa 1st/3rd 19th century.

We do not necessarily agree with the consensus reached on the faRcebook thread the Les Tunass fragment is several generations earlier than the Boltag one. Nor, by the way, did anyone mention any criteria to support this claim besides a general its better drawn.

As far as we can see these two kelim are about the same age, neither is a whole hill of beans better than the other. The few trifling very minor differences in design proportion the Les Tunas example displays, besides for perhaps having better color which is impossible to judge from a digital image, are worth notice but in the end moot to prove it is two generations earlier. This is typical for what goes on in forums like this where know-littles express opinions as facts, and opinion becomes justification. Here tunafishs belief his gulbudak kelim is two generations older than Boltags a perfect example.

But listen up, RK has not bothered commenting to demonstrate the low level of expertise or connoisseurship in this faRcebook thread. No, rather this is to try and explain how and where the gulbudak motif could have developed. This is far more interesting and worthwhile topic than a mine-is-better/earlier than yours opinion jamboree.

Readers know iconography and identifying its source/roots is of great interest to RK. It underlies our Anatolian kelim theory a small group of archetype examples exists and has the ground-zero iconographic origins for all other later examples.

This explains the obvious and not so obvious iconographic relationships these weavings have and that they are not coincidental or accidental.

They exist because a potent and viable historic weaving culture preserved these archetypal icon and transmited them to many subsequent generations of weavers. This was done through inherited awareness of this weaving culture that to some degree, great or small, was part of every weavers enculturation.

This inheritance has for countless generations instructed kelim weavers what to weave and how to incorporate it in their weaving.

The closer culturally a weavers group was to the information in the historic weaving culture, the more exactly it was reproduced. The further from it the more reinterpreted, changed and degenerated it became.

Remember weavers can exist only as part of a group -- weaving is and required group activity. No weaver on the Anatolian plateau worked alone. And as part of a group every weaver to some degree participated in the generational transference of this weaving culture.

Viable documentary evidence and proof for this theory -- all Anatolian kelim have iconography derived from this group of archetypes can be demonstrated by what we call sets. Their identification prove pattterns and motif on later Anatolian kelim are derived from icon displayed on an archetype kelim, or more than likely a recombination of icon from two or more of them.

Direct or almost direct reproduction very seldom occurs and only two of the eleven archetypes do not have numerous later copies., These are those archetypes. The first has two and the second only one.

So-called vulture kelim; 240 x 125 cm, 8 x 5; published Image Idol Symbol: Ancient Anatolian Kelim; vol.2.plate 3, 1989

So-called vulture kelim; deYoung Fine Art Museums collection; published Anatolian Kilims, Fine Arts Museum, San Francisco, California; Inv.no.1989.79.2; 254 x 141cm, 47 x 84

The reason their distinctive iconography, and set of icon, was never copied by later weavers is most probably the extremely important and sacred spiritual/religious/cult connotation and association it carried. This prevented it from ever crossing the line and becoming part of secular/domestic iconographic environment.

RK is convinced, but cannot prove beyond strong circumstantial evidence, such a dicohotomy existed. Originally we theorize there were two separate and exclusive iconographies one consisting of complex-patterned icon destined for use within a cult/nonsecular environment and another of simplier, less complicated and complex ornaments for use on secular/domestic weavings. The progressive disintegration and breakdown of this once inviolate system explains the proliferation of later non-cult Anatolian kelim with identifiable remains of early archetypal cult iconography.

It likewise explains the rarity of archaic complex-patterned Anatolian kelim. They were once cult items produced and used by very few weaving groups.

As centuries passed most but not all their iconography became secularized, codified, lost its former cult connotations and ended up incorporated in the parallel domestic weaving tradition. After almost forty years of serious widespread activity to find early Anatolian kelim, the fact such an extremely small group of only eleven archetype examples remains cannot be properly explained any other way.

These weavings had to have had important ancient cult associations. Their iconography was sacred, and as such carefully protected from outside circulation. Cult activity is always part of a secret society sheltered within a larger group. It is practiced by a small, select, in-group membership. The objects used in these activities, and the meaning of their visual iconography, were carefully protected from outside exposure to non-members.

Presumably this cult kelim iconography was preserved within a proprietary special branch of the historic weaving culture. Exactly why, when and how it became profane is unknown, but secrets rarely remain secret forever.

The results are seen in the huge proliferation of post-archetypal period Anatolian kelim with various combinations and recombinations of icon derived from the historic archetypes.

This theory can be proven by comparative art historical analysis, as the evidence presented in our Anatolian Opus project shows.

We are on strong ground with these three concepts. One: there is a small group of eleven archetypal kelim. Two: the theory of sets that proposes when two or more kelim display the same three or more icon/design elements they are related, and their weavers shared access to the same part of the historic weaving culture. Three: a potent historic Anatolian weaving culture existed for many hundreds of years and was responsible for preserving and transmitting an archetypal and distinctive iconography to later generations of weavers.

By the way, the set theory works with kelim of different ages, even ones that are separated by centuries or those that appear quite dissimilar. We have published a considerable number of examples and readers who are unfamiliar with it can begin here by searching for set theory:

But back to the gulbudak and the two kelim and others which display it. By the way, to explain its origin set theory evidence will be essential.

Since there is no archetype kelim with the gulbudak design, or even one that resembles it, identifying its source and how it might have developed is difficult. But not impossible, there is some valuable tangential evidence available.

The first clue to the orgin of the gulbudak is realizing its relationship with this archetype kelim.

So-called birth symbol panel; 372 x 74 cm, 125 x 2.5; RK collection; published Image Idol Symbol: Ancient Anatolian Kelim; vol.2.Plate 5, 1989

At first any connection might seem improbable but the following analysis should make it clear.

First and foremost their color-palatte, color-juxtaposition and color-rhythm are just too similar for coincidence. Granted comparing color from photos is a weak basis for reference but it should not be discounted here because of color juxtaposition and rhythm synchronicity.

The following iconographic ones are far more convincing.

Set factor 1: The codification and simplification of plate 5s red and white comb border that separates the field from the wide purple border and the narrower brown and white one on the Les Tunas kelim is an obvious link. There are not many older kelim with this border, and while it is not unique it is rarely encountered even in early transitional period examples.

Set factor 2: Each of the gulbudak, aka spread eagle motif, just like plate 5s birth symbol, have hexagon dead center between the pair of arms/wings. Here the hexagon have been doubled, which is not surprising as this and other design accretions and subtractions are typical types of degeneration later versions of archetypal kelim icon exhibit. Also it is no accident the same icon encased in the Plate 5s hexagons has been repeated in each of those doubled hexagon, as well as a second row of hexagon above and below the spread eagle wings.

Set factor 3: In the white reciprocal space above and below the spread eagle arms/wings a codified almost hidden version of a birth symbol can be detected. Again, this is not chance but the residual, vestigeal remains of the archetypes dominate icon.

Set factor 4: the serrated or jagged edges of the spread eagle motif mimic those on parts of the red border that separate Plate 5s wide purple border from the white field.

Set factor 5: The almost identical iconography, mostly the important icon or an accreted version, that appears in the central hexagon of each Plate 5 birth symbol and those in the paired hexagon in the center of each gulbudak. The important icon

Left: Gulbudak design; Center left: central motif gulbudak; Center right: Plate 5 birth symbol; Right: central icon Plate 5 birth symbol

Set factor 6: The gulbudak kelim border is quite unusual, we do not remember seeing it before. Comparing its simple design elements to those far more complex and intricate, yet quite similar, ones that appear in Plate 5s four elem panels (there are six but two are repeated) provides good insight to its origins.

Here are two border comparisons we believe are convincing enough to support our conjecture.

Left: One of the two repeating gulbudak border elements(blue) that contains an icon RK has named the important icon; Center: Plate 5 central hexagon with same important icon; Right: detail Plate 5 elem/border with same important icon

Left: Complex elem/border icon Plate 5; Center: gulbudak border; Right: Detail Plate 5 elem/border.

We seriously doubt these six set factor are just coincidence or chance occurance and not a demonstration how the historic weaving culture preserved archetypal icon and transmitted them to weavers over centuries of time.

Plate 5 is at least several hundred years older than either of the gulbudak kelim. We would not be shy to guess three hundred. So after that long extended time period, especially considering the major societal, political and economic changes that occured on the Anatolian plateau, its remarkable these and other icon were preserved and found their way into later weavings.

The gulbudak is one of many similar design concoctions found in post 1750 Anatolian kelim that were based on archaic icon. While they are interesting in their own right, and trying to discover their origins an interesting pursuit, they cannot compare to the evocative and potent archetypal imagery they can be shown to have come from.

As a footnote, it is equally interesting to see other, later and subsequent reproductions of the gulbudak.

Here are two we noticed in our search through the hundreds of Anatolian kelim photos in our files.

Details two middle 19th century Anatolian kelim with gulbudak motif in their elem/border panels

Trying to explain how archetypal icon were degenerated and degraded by a several centuries long transmission process visualize telling a story to someone and having them tell it to someone else and that person retelling it. Each time the story is repeated, no matter how diligent the story tellers try to be, there is the opportunity for something to go missing or something else to be added. So it was with these icon and the generations of weavers who took part in its reproduction and transmission.

Many kelim weavers, unlike most carpet weavers, lived in remote and isolated environments, and that isolation and remoteness helped to keep their weaving cultures intact. There were no economic pressures to produce kelim for any outside or foreign demand and this too protected the tradition.

RK has written much about this cultural phenomena and we welcome any reader comment or questions about anything in this thread or Anatolian kelim in general.

Author: RK
email: [email protected]
Mon, Jul 20th, 2020 10:10:35 AM

This thread bears reading for those interested in Anatolian kelim research and investigations

Author: jc
Tue, Mar 20th, 2018 04:35:30 PM

Since placing this thread online yesterday we received several emails asking us to explain what we mean when we use the terms icon, amulet, emblem, motif and design. Also what is what we call the important icon.

These topics are discussed in our extensive 'Anatolian Opus' research report which can be found here:


And below is the section where the answers to those queries can be found.


Icon Dissemination and Proliferation

fig130 early Traditional period; published Anatolian Kilims deYoung Fine Arts Museum; Plate 30

This kelim is a virtual smorgasbord of post-Classic period iconography and an apt starting point for the conclusion of this analysis. Before discussing it in detail the following needs to be clarified: What is the difference between an icon, an amulet, an emblem and a motif, as all these terms have been used in this paper? Icon are the major and most important symbols woven on the kelim of certain Anatolian groups during the Archaic period. At that time each of these icon, except the vulture, seems to have had proprietary meaning and was not shared or seen outside each groups weavings. These icon, through the passage of time and various design transference processes, were stylized and codified. It appears as this was happening they became more widely used and their esoteric and non-secular importance, connotation and meaning were secularized and domesticated. They then became amulets.

These amulets still carried significance but no longer continued to have any specific group association, identity, or it seems deeper esoteric meaning. They became profane, common domestic ornament. As time went on more and more groups, both indigenous and foreign who migrated onto the Anatolian plateau, began to weave kelims. These weavings now displayed a plethora of emblem, some based on close copies of the formerly sacrosanct icon, other on amulets, others on combinations of the two which created highly stylized and barely recognizable new ones. Finally, the historic weaving culture disappeared and kelim began to be produced for commerce and trade. Huge quantities of kelim were produced during this Commercial period with motifs that entirely lost any relation to the iconography of the earlier periods.

There is no doubt this is what happened. The surviving corpus of Anatolian kelim proves this beyond doubt.

Icon are potent, mystical, powerful. They are special, highly regarded patterns of significance whose use appears to have been reserved, guarded and protected. Icon are spiritual and non-secular, they were never made to decorate domestic objects, to be domestically used or consumed they were of the Gods and from the Gods. They belonged to the Gods. Knowing who those Gods were remains another elusive question. However, it is not as important to know who they were as to recognize which kelim have icons and which have later versions of those icon. Who these Gods were cannot be answered, as these kelim weaving groups, communities and societies were pre-literate and left no written history. But rest assured the makers of archetype Anatolian kelim had Gods -- it would be against everything known about human history, and pre-history, to pre-suppose they were God-less.

Simply put, icon were the first design phase, amulets the second, emblem the third and motif the final. These line up perfectly with the four corresponding period of kelim production: Archaic period with icon; Classic period with amulet; Traditional period with emblem; and Commercial period with motif. When each archetype, and its icon set, is compared to its later copies the changes in format, character and portrayal become obvious. This transference of format, form and iconic value show their use in the non-secular spiritual world moved into an everyday, mundane domestic world of existence. The proscribed icon turned into a generalized amulet that became part of a much larger common universe. The emblem and motif were the result of their even greater distribution and use.

The emblem and motif were common, approachable and friendly unlike the exaulted, protected icon and prescribed amulet. They could be used everyday by everybody, whereas it is believed from the available evidence the icon and amulet had very specific rules that governed and limited them to certain use in only specific circumstances. The emblem could be a protective device, like an amulet; or it could be a teaching tool of enculturation like presumably icon were. The concept here is the emblem and motif were symbols for something else. Icon and amulets were that something else which was spiritual, unapproachable, and reserved for special occasion and use.

There is no absolute proof of this theory but the progression of the iconography on Anatolian kelim from Archaic to Classic to Traditional periods demonstrates these changes and implies its validity. The deliberate, exact and explicit placement and use of the icon in the Archaic period and the progression to far less conscious adherence to those principles in each succeeding period also makes this abundantly clear. The preservation of these important icons was diminished as weavers became further and further separated from and disassociated with the historic weaving culture.

Fig130, the Traditional period kelim illustrated above, might be considered a type of sampler demonstrating how later emblems replaced icon and the icon sets of the earlier periods. One of these that retained its Archaic period form, format and use appears prominently in this kelim and its packed to the brim design.

fig131 detail fig130

The reciprocal of the important icon fig96 appears in the wide yellow ground stripe actually is one part of dualistic reciprocal pair one believed to represent male and female. More often than not two or more of them are placed side to side in a row as they are in this kelim, which produces the reciprocal between them .

fig132 Left: The important icon often shown in pairs like here to create a reciprocal figure/ground design format; Middle: the male icon; Right: the female icon.

This icon pair might be called the Anatolian ying-yang. This interpretation of their meaning is speculation, however, it seems quite likely correct. Both icon are composed of two triangle -- the male has a projection between the triangle when they are placed point to point, and the female an indentation when they are placed the opposite way. This conforms to the anatomic difference of men and women and, of course, the sexual the man enters and the woman is entered. The first detail above of the yellow ground stripe shows the pair, the colored figure part being the female the yellow color ground the male.

fig133 detail of the reciprocal male/female icon

The detail below shows the same reciprocal pair icon in the same format on an Archaic period kelim.

fig134 Detail Plate Three showing a reciprocal of the important icon, female, between a pair of yellow and brown male icon;published Image Idol Symbol; Plate 2

The longevity this icon pair maintained in the kelim weaving traditon, stretching from the Archaic to the traditional periods and even to today, is no accident or coincidence. It is further proof the viability and influence the historic Anatolian weaving culture iconography manifested over many centuries.

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