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PLATE EIGHT
PLATE NINE

PLATES EIGHT AND NINE
Size: 21 x 33.5 cm , 15 x 22.5 cm


Both of these fragments come from carpets with the type of small all-over medallions mentioned in the preceding Plate description. Obviously they are from two different carpets. Plate Eight(15), still retains some of the left side main and secondary borders. Although no indications of border remain on Plate Nine(16) it does appear to be from the top of the carpet as the two thin stripes, a gold and red one which can be seen at the fragments upper edge, were normally placed at the edge of the field where the border would normally begin.

Small medallions with open undecorated central panels cover the entire field of each carpet in a drop-repeat, which refers to their positioning in staggered alternating horizontal rows. Though it is impossible to determine much from these small fragments the superior articulation, especially of the border motifs, and dyeing in Plate Eight imply it is the earlier of the two.

Fig. 27
A few of the Ala al-din Mosque rugs have similar but much larger medallion-like designs in all-over field patterns, however, almost all of these have stylized hook-like projections extending around the medallion
Fig. 28
perimeters(fig.27 and fig.28) although one has the hooks within the medallion(fig.29)as well. The drawing and stylization of the Ala al-din medallions suggest Plate Eight, or one of its contemporary’s, far more complex and articulated version was the archetype. Following this reasoning the source for the proliferation of the use of hooks on the later Mosque pieces might have been Plate Eight’s unusual border.

Fig. 29

Recombining older design elements in different ways, as could have been the case here, was another process used to generate new designs and patterns. This procedure is easily demonstrated with many 19th and 20th century examples where the clear and present connections are much more obvious and readily proven. But in circumstances like this one such information is not available and the use of a motif, like this simple hook, is too generic for anything conclusive.

Another interesting but even more speculative point is questioning the lack on design in the open plain centers of the medallions. Did these Plate’s archetypes have similar open center panels or were they filled with script or pictographs? Perhaps the following can explain how it is possible similar medallions, carrying alphabetic or pictographic content, were used in an even earlier group of still unknown weavings.

The border design attached to Plate Eight may not appear remarkable but when it is carefully examined this proves incorrect. What remains appears to be an almost complete segment or panel but its fragmented condition precludes knowing this for sure. However, one fact is certain - this border is unknown - its pattern is unique. The following somewhat adventurous connection to a group of extremely early slit-tapestry decorated fabrics, known as tiraz, might put this design into its historical perspective and also explain its relationship to figures 27-29 as well.

The term tiraz describes the epigraphic bands of writing that at one time appeared on the sleeves of Near Eastern male vestment(17). The practice of placing lettering in bands on clothing existed throughout the Islamic period when it was exclusively associated with imperial and court use and produced only in court-supported ateliers/workshops. These tiraz decorated garments were used in burial as well as in life. The kufic script on many examples has been translated and often dated by the mention of a known ruling authority but sometimes, because weavers were themselves illiterate and chose to add their own embellishments, many tiraz are indecipherable.

Fig. 30

Figure 30,an example of 12th century tiraz, was done with the more rounded naskhi script that is stylistically different from the earlier and more bold and angular kufic. Comparing this tiraz with Plate Eight’s border is an interesting exercise and while it is not an exact copy the hook-like shapes of this lettering style do appear similar to those found on the Lamm fragment border. Another early knotted-pile fragment(fig.31)
Fig. 31
, which belongs to an extremely rare group known as Dragon and Phoenix, has a border(fig.32) drawn with what appears to be the intermediary step between the naskhi lettering style of figure 30 and Plate Eight’s knotted-pile version.

Fig. 32

This Dragon and Phoenix fragment is one of the earliest known examples and it could date from the mid-13th century. As far out as this comparison it might appear may at some time in the future be proven, as new and unknown examples of both tiraz and archaic knotted-pile carpets and fragments are discovered. The suggestions of links between previously unrelated weavings, like these, as well as the others offered in this presentation have been offered to open new areas of inquiry and to place difficult to explain design forms within the broad continuum all historic Near Eastern weavings belong.

Footnotes:

15. This knotted-pile carpet fragment is illustrated as number 24 in the “Carpet Fragments” catalog; pg. 83
16. This knotted-pile carpet fragment is illustrated as number 23 in the “Carpet Fragments” catalog; pg. 82
17. Catalog of Dated Tiraz Fabrics; Ernst Kuhnel and Louisa Bellinger; pg. 1

Bibliography

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