Home > Rug, Kelim, Soumak, Textile Post Archive >A Very Provocative Hunch
Mon, Apr 16th, 2018 06:45:03 AM
Topic: A Very Provocative Hunch

Detail so-called Sogdian silk samite weave shirt; lot 125 sotheby 4-25-18 Islamic Arts Auction London

As soon as we saw this lot in the coming sotheby sale we knew its iconography could very well provide the archetype for a soumak khorjin front we have owned for decades.

Soumak khorjin front: RK Collection

Early soumak khorjins are rare, very few can pass the circa 1850 line. Even fewer can be rightfully called circa 1800. And 18th century examples are almost non-existant.

We have published this bag a number of times and have not been shy to state we believe it to be the earliest known example, not only of the type which is undeniable, but of any type.

Yup, we date this khorjin front circa 1700.

As sharp and motivated readers might remember, we acquired it in Newport Rhode Island from a friend who was a well known antiques dealer there. He got it from a family, who had inherited it and many other marvelous antiques from their patriarch, a clipper ship captain.

He died in 1803 and according to what the family told my friend no furniture, paintings or other decorative art had been put in that house since his death.

That would mean the soumak khorjin came to America prior to 1803 and presumably it was old then.

It is in generally good condition but there are definite signs of age and wear we suspect imply it was 100 years old or so before it ended up on a table in that ship captains home.

It is sure this khorjin half is ancient, but pure speculation how old it really is. The fact it is the rarest design type of soumak khorjin and its iconography, particularly the large finely rendered gods eye medallion in the center of the bag that we do not know another of the type, the 'gothic style' major border and the unusal coloration makes us pretty sure our supposition this bag is as old as we claim is right on.

However, speculating its main iconography came from the same place the samite shirts has is even more controversial and provocative.

Visual omparison of the two weavings shows distinctive/unique similarities, ones that are rarely if ever encountered in other examples of either type.

In fact, we have always wondered where this gods eye design originated as no other weaving we know from the trans-Caucasus has anywhere near some resemblence.

And this small icon

has always intrigued us, and until we noticed the shirts ducks, and their long necks, we could not possibly place what it was all about.

RK thinks it not too far from possible that in the intervening centuries those ducks were codified and stylized into this curious little icon.

There is one other much more subtle but equally as telling detail, as the four illustrations below show.

Left: Detail of a 'cross' on the samilte shirt; Right: Detail ofa 'cross' o the sumak khorjin face

Larger views of the horizontal bars with 'crosses'

Calling this a coincidence or accidental occurance stretches the pizze dough too thin. We can only interpret this as another of the many we have found and illustrated that show how specific historic weaving cultures retained iimportant conographic details and transmitted them to weavers across centuries of time and space.

Anyone who cannot understand how a thousand year old Central-Asian 'royal' garment could display iconography that could have come from, or at least was shared by, a weaving created by a small scale society like this soumak bag some hundreds of years later is just not paying attention or unable and unwilling to connect the dots.

Anyway, this comparison is definitely intended to be a shot in the dark, but one with some chance of hitting a target.

Enjoy the speculation

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