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PLATE TEN
Size: 38.5 x 22 cm


This fragment is the most evocative as well as beautiful piece illustrated in the “Carpet Fragments” catalog(18). It is also the key piece in this presentation and is the best candidate to prove some of the arguments used in the other Plate descriptions. Tracing the sources of the Lamm fragment’s or their influences on later weavings has uncovered little positive supporting evidence but here circumstances are different. Unlike all the others, Plate Ten has both a direct prototype and antecedent.

Two rows of large birds or some other fantastic animal with large tail feathers are arranged in rows on a brownish gold field. In the lower row an almost complete blue one faces a large staff-like vertical bar that other authors have referred to as a stylized tree, particularly when trying to associate it with the tree of paradise or axis mundi motive familiar from central Asian folk mythology. But here this interpretation would appear to be off-base as the notched extension at its top, which contains a pair of red and blue reciprocal hooks that are also repeated lower down the vertical, implies a different meaning. These symbols are unknown on the numerous other representations of this icon, like the large group of bronze sculptures made in Luristan during the late Bronze Age in Persia as well as on a much smaller group of silk textiles made during the 10th-16th centuries, that are interpreted as described above.

Presumably another of these extensions was attached on the other side and another bird was placed on the left to complete the scene of two birds face-to-face. However, the addition of the notched extension and hooks indicates this weaving was not based on the myth of the two birds and tree that symbolized the axis mundi but rather it relates to the earlier and original one where a deity, not a tree, was pictured between two fierce or
Fig. 34
mythical animals(fig. 33).
Fig. 33
The archetype weaving for this design does exists and it provides ample proof for this interpretation(fig.34) .

Undoubtedly earlier than Plate 10, figure 34 was not made in knotted-pile like this Plate but rather in slit-tapestry, ie. kelim. Of great interest is the depiction of the fantastic animals as both anthropomorphic and pregnant. And although a recognizable deity figure is not depicted, the weaver purposely placed three hands-on-hips symbols on the bar/staff that appears between these animals. This hands-on-hip symbol is indelibly connected with female deities and their inclusion clarifies the somewhat abstract character of this scene. It is probable these symbols are the source for the pairs of red and blue hooks referred to above.

In addition the blue figurine with elongated splayed arms atop the bar/staff in figure 34 adds an additional anthropomorphic connection to the bar/staff’s deity connotation. Notice also how the small round circles or globes that are held upside down above the human bird heads defy gravity as if by some sort of magic. This characteristic further imbues this image with super-human abilities that are only associated with a deity. The scene is ripe with imagery unrelated to the animal tree myth, in fact it is most probably its source. Further mention of this is included with another of the online Weaving Art Museum exhibitions. It is entitled “Cult Kelim” and a link to it can be located in the Exhibition Archive area listed on the home page.

The similarity between this slit-tapestry fragment and Plate Ten is unmistakable. All the icons from figure 34 - the large birds, their exaggerated tail feathers, the stripes on their bodies, the deity figure, the hooks, and even the gold field color - have been retained and remain together as an ensemble, reappearing hundreds of years later on Plate Ten. This longevity was facilitated by the strict confines of the traditional weaving culture responsible for producing these wondrous weavings.

This same iconographic scene continued to be produced afterwards and, like the subtle differences between the archetype versions figure 34 and Plate Ten display, another related but subsequently produced knotted-pile weaving also shows some modifications but not enough to disguise its connection to them.(fig.35)
Fig. 35
Here the fantastic animals have now clearly been depicted as quadrupeds but notice the vestige of the bird’s large feathers from the earlier two examples has remained affixed to their backs. Now the deity/staff between them has been morphed into an almost unrecognizable abstract and highly stylized geometric form and their hooks have become a series of stylized half moons sprinkled over the animal’s bodies.

There are no other sets of weavings from such an early period that demonstrate the continued use and changes an archaic design experienced, this triptych of pieces being the only one. Its discovery indicates the amazingly retentive nature of the weaving culture these weavers shared as well as illustrating the remarkable consistency these traditions maintain over the almost 1,000 year time period which separates them.


Footnotes:

18. This knotted-pile carpet fragment is illustrated as number 14 in the “Carpet Fragments” catalog

Bibliography

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