January 8, 2005: Annual Dinner. Speaker: Walter Denny: “Carpets Before 1500 A.D.”
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February 9, 2004: Brian Morehouse: The Dragon and Floral Abstractions: A Discussion to Uncover the Mystery of Two Related but Distinct Designs: Krimsa Gallery :
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May 11, 2005: Rupert Smith: THE ORIGIN OF WARP FACE BACK WEAVING IN TIBET: Sandra Whitman Gallery
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June 18: Pat Leiser: "Embroidered Prayer Rugs" : Vacaville
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September 21: James Blackmon: The Gateway Tunic of Tiwanaku: The World’s Most Important Ancient Textile?: James Blackmon Gallery, San Franicisco

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A few Kazak photos

November 22, 2005: Transylvanian Rugs in their Context: Alberto Boralevi, at Sandra Whitman Gallery
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December 7th, 2005: SECCADE; Prayer Rugs of Anatolia, at Peter Pap Oriental Rugs

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January meeting

The San Francisco Bay Area Rug Society cordially invites you to attend our ANNUAL DINNER to be held January 28th, 2005 at The Horizon Room of the Claremont Resort and Spa in Berkeley. The keynote speaker will be Professor Walter Denny of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. The title of his talk will be “Carpets Before 1500 A.D.”

6:30 PM Drinks Reception
7:15 PM Dinner
8:00 PM Keynote Speaker

The Horizon Room, located just off the main lobby of the hotel, features gracious views of the Bay Area and promises to provide a lovely venue for our annual dinner. Parking will be available in the hotel lots. Parking passes will be provided at check-in to all attendees as required.  Valet parking will cost extra. The evening will close with a raffle. Members or dealers who would like to donate small woven/textile items for the raffle should contact Peter Poullada at 415-602-0709 within the next ten days. Any donors will be effusively thanked prior to the raffle and their items displayed at the entrance to the Horizon Room.

DIRECTIONS: The Claremont Resort and Spa is located at 41 Tunnel road in the Berkeley Hills, just uphill from the intersection of Ashby and Claremont Avenues in Berkeley. The nearest BART stations are Rockridge and Ashby.

“Carpets Before 1500 A.D.”

When Kurt Erdmann wrote his work on 15th century Turkish carpets in the 1960s, he was able to come up with a very few examples; he also cited a group of what he thought were 13th century carpets, and left the 14th century more or less a void. Carpets before 1500 were an incoherent series of groups of works that were dated largely from comparison with depictions in European paintings. While Erdmann theorized a carpet design revolution in the 15th century that in effect created the world of carpets as we know it, he was unable to show early examples that supported his ideas. Gradually we have begun to understand the crucial 15th century better, although we still have a long way to go to make sense of the emerging data. This talk will look at the evidence for fifteenth century carpet style on the eve of the design revolution, and assess its importance for the subsequent history of carpets.

About the Speaker---Walter Denny is Professor of Art History and Middle Eastern Studies, University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He is Consulting Curator on Islamic Art, Smith College Museum of Art and Charles Grant Ellis Research Associate in Oriental Carpets, The Textile Museum, Washington, D. C. Professor Denny is an internationally renowned scholar specializing in Islamic art, in particular the artistic traditions of the Ottoman Turks and Islamic carpets and textiles.   His recent publications include: The Classical Tradition in Anatolian Carpets (Washington and London, 2002) and Iznik: Turkish Ceramics and Ottoman Art (London and Paris, 2004).  His current projects include contributions to two major catalogues of private collections of Islamic art, a chapter on Islamic art for a major American textbook, a monograph on the history of carpets, and several articles on 15th-century carpets in the Middle East.  Professor Denny is a former trustee of The Textile Museum, chair of the International Committee of the International Conference on Oriental Carpets, and serves on a number of governing, advisory, and editorial boards of organizations, publications and museums with interests in Turkey and the Islamic world.


February meeting The Dragon and Floral Abstractions: A Discussion
to Uncover the Mystery of Two Related but Distinct Designs
by Brian Morehouse
President, Textile Group of Los Angeles

February 9, 2005, 6:30 PM
Krimsa Gallery, 2190 Union Street
San Francisco ( Corner of Union and Filmore)

Brian Morehouse brings his entertaining  showmanship and  presentation skills back to the Bay Area for a evening of exploration of one of the compelling debates about the meaning of motifs among carpet afficionados, namely "Is it a dragon or is it a flower?"

In Brian's own words: "The origin of this presentation goes back some twenty-five years, on two different occasions in London, when two well-known collectors asked my opinion about a design format that is found in some Persian saddle bags. Some twenty years later, when I purchased a rug with a similar format, my interest peaked and I made the time to try to resolve the issue.”

The talk is presented as a mystery and provides clues in solving the nature of a specific group of floral and geometric abstractions that are found in many carpets from the Caucasus to Fars. Several years ago in Oriental Rug Review, one of these formats was interpreted as an "Island Dragon" format. This talk tries to systematically follow the development of these motifs in order to show their true origins and development within an Oriental and Western context. Members are encouraged to bring in examples of weavings from the Caucasus, Azerbayjan and Persia that may also contain mystery motifs based on the Dragon or the Flower.

About the Speaker. Brian Morehouse has been president of the Textile Group of Los Angeles since 1997. He studies at UCLA and did graduate work there in the Near Eastern Studies Department. He was an instructor at the UCLA Extension School where he taught courses in Oriental Rugs, in Collecting, Evaluating and Purchasing Oriental Rugs. He was the West Coast Representative for Hali Magazine from 1984 to 1985, and has been a frequent lecturer and contributor to both the ICOC and ACOR.

In 1996 he was the curator of the show on Yastiks ( Anatolian cushion covers) at the Philadelphia ICOC and that same year published the very fine book Yastiks: Cushion Covers and Storage Bags of Anatolia published in conjunction with the Philadelphia ICOC. For the 10th ICOC in Milan in 1999 he presented a paper entitled Carpets from Southwestern Anatolia and at the 11th ICOC in Washington a paper on Abstract Floral Forms in Persian Carpets. Tonight’s presentaion has also been given at he Textile Museum in Washington and the International Hajji Baba Society in New York.



March 16, 2005, 6:30 PM, Tony Kitz Oriental Carpet Gallery 2843 Clay Street San Francisco

On March 16th we will be returning to Tony Kitz’s lovely Pacific Heights gallery for the first time in several years to hear from Tom Cole. This talk will be in keeping with one of the major themes for the Rug Society this year, namely, the iconography and symbolism of design elements in carpets.

Tom Cole, a well-known Bay Area dealer and carpet authority, will talk to us about his recent exhibition in Singapore which explored the theme of the representation of mythology in Inner Asian weavings. Tom will give us a visual presentation on central Asian rugs starting with images of several 2500 year old textiles and one pile weaving excavated from an ancient Scythian tomb found high in the Altai mountains of southern Siberia. From there he will discuss the art of the steppes as it is manifested in both China and Tibet, as well as in the oasis centers of Xiajiang (East Turkestan).

Continuing through West Turkestan, eastern Persia and Anatolia, he will illustrate and discuss the shared features of their weavings as well as the relationship of these designs to pan-Asian mythology and beliefs. Tom has also published a catalogue of the Singapore exhibit which explores in more depth the ideas and images presented in his talk. The Pan-Asian theme presented here offers an interesting contrast to the more Eurocentric and Nativist explanations for designs and iconography that we heard last month in Brian Morehouse’s talk.

About the Speaker: Tom Cole is a frequent contributor to the SFBARS and a restless and sometimes iconoclastic but always stimulating generator of new ideas and ways of looking at Inner Asian and Middle Eastern carpets and textiles. Our Society last heard from him in 2003 when he gave an interesting talk on Turkmen embroideries.

Since 1991 Tom has been a contributing editor at HALI Magazine. His first contribution, “Tibetan Rugs—A Tribal Tradition” (HALI #49), offered a useful perspective to both collectors and dealers. This was followed by “Chinese Rugs—Art from the Steppe” (HALI #67). In addition, Tom is well known for his expertise in both Turkmen and especially Baluch carpets, subjects covered in several articles that appeared in HALI as well as in talks at ACOR and other carpet conferences. He is also famous for his travelogue articles for HALI which documented his journeys throughout many of the regions which are the source for significant tribal rugs in the marketplace, including Turkmenistan, Baluchistan, Tibet, Nepal, Pakistan and Afghanistan. These articles combine historical perspective with Tom’s own observations.

We encourage and welcome any collectors who have carpets with interesting animal or mythological representations to bring them to the post-lecture Show and Tell.



April Meeting


(photos April 2003)


April 3rd was a rain soaked and wind swept day in the North Bay and many of us looked outside that morning and decided to forego the visit to Jim Dixon's. It certainly wasn't the day to be wandering around his extraordinary garden terraces but it was a great day for viewing rugs. For the hardy few who managed the long trek to his storm tossed house, it was a rare opportunity to hear Jim exhibit and talk about some of his favorite rugs, pulled from the store room and unrolled with careful attention. But first we all had the chance to wander through his rooms, climb the staircase up to the tower bedroom with its Turkish prayer rug suspended from the ceiling and gaze out at the huge Ushak masterpieces that hang in the main hall.

Whenever I go to Jim's I promise myself I will find at least one new gem to savor, and this year I managed to tear myself away from the room of Mujur prayer rugs, the whole wing devoted to my favorite Amu Darya Beshir Turkmen palace carpets and found in the little alcove to the left of the main hall a magnificent Konya-area carpet with saffron, aubergine, and mellow green medallions, all in perfect layout of memling guls floating in a sea of russet. I sat for a while listening to the rain crashing on the roof and contemplated this 18th (?) maybe even 17th century central Anatolian village wonder.

This year we were especially fortunate that Levon Der Bedrossian from the Armenian Rug Society and La Mediterranee restaurant in San Francisco so kindly brought trays and trays of delicious delicacies, so much that I think even a hundred people would have been sated. Jim, as always, laid out a more than sufficient spread of beverages and desserts. By 3pm, with most of the guests patting their stomachs with satisfaction, Jim began his own private version of "Show and Tell". We all clustered around him in the Great Hall and had our eyes educated and opened to some of the mysteries of medallions, lotus flowers, nd the numerology of the Turkish, Persian and Caucasian carpets draped around us. Finally when we all felt we safe and dry from the storm battering the ridge, we then were rewarded with the treat of a flow of great old carpets, some perhaps even earlier than 1500, that Jim slowy revealed to us: a series of Anatolian and Caucasion treats that we then admired and puzzled over together. For me it was one of the most rewarding "Show and Tells" of the past ten years. The lesson for the future is, even when it's raining a visit to Jim's carpet palace and the chance to see just a hint of what he has in the store rooms, makes it all worthwhile!!

On behalf of myself and all the members of the Society I want to thank Jim and Levon for making that rainy Sunday a very special day.

Peter Poullada


May Meeting

Wednesday, MAY 11, 2005,
Sandra Whitman Gallery, 361 Oak Street, San Francisco,
6:30 PM Reception,
7:00 PM Talk


Rupert Smith

The Tibetan Rug Debates

On the evening of May 10, 2005, at a SFBARS meeting hosted by Sandra Whitman at her Gallery, Rupert Smith reported on his recent research about the origin of Wangden rugs of Tibet. Since Wangdens were once thought to represent the oldest weaving tradition in Tibet, they are an important way to open a discussion of how to organize the concepts and working assumptions for discussing Tibetan rugs as a whole. At this meeting the proposition that Wangdens are the oldest Tibetan rugs was investigated and debated.

Smith brought to this discussion the rarest commodity in the rug world, namely new evidence. Rather than rehashing the literature, Smith presented a video showing weavers making rugs, along with interviews with these weavers, in the village of Gabu in Wangden Valley, west of Lhasa. Smith was able to slow the video so the group could see clearly how Wangden knots were made by the weaver. The video included scenes of Wangden rugs on the benches of Tibetan monasteries, indicating their use in context. As with many Tibetan rugs, these Wangdens displayed strong color, and Smith noted that colors which might seem unusually bright to us bring light to a life that is led in a harsh environment. Throughout the talk, and based on years of local experience sourcing rugs and talking to weavers and traders in Tibet, Smith offered a series of propositions about how to understand the range and age of Tibetan rug arts.

Of course, as often happens at SFBARS events, a number of other experts on Tibet were present, and the debate began!

The major issue emerging from the discussion was one of origin and dating. One prevailing opinion has been that the oldest Tibetan rugs must have been made with the Wangden weave. Smith did not concur with this view. He stated that this style of knot had been found in the Dunhuang archeological sites, saying that its thick foundation provided insulation that must always have been functional in dwellings in the high plateau and mountains of Tibet. However, he claimed that the technique and canon of designs we know today as the Wangden were developed 500-600 years ago by Lama Jamyang Teme Gyentsen during the Sakya period of monastic expansion. As for the presence of a number of kinds of weave in the varied and complex textile culture of Tibet, Smith seemed to agree that other weaves probably evolved alongside the Wangden weave over a very long period of time.

Accordingly, the discussion turned to the economics and social context of rug making in Tibet, which led to the identification of at least four distinct weaving techniques. In addition to the warped face back weave a second category is the "big knot" Tibetan rugs, which have finer knotting (and are thus more expensive to make) on thinner foundations (both cotton and wool) and are used for everyday life. Most "big kno" rugs are made for utilitarian purposes, such as sleeping rugs, saddle rugs, door rugs and so forth. (Rugs made for religious purposes tend towards red and yellow colors, rugs for secular purposes tend to be blues and other colors.) For utilitarian purposes the heavy thick foundations of Wangden rugs would be an inconvenience.

A third category would be the fine knotted rugs from Tibet, which are rare but often spectacular. These are expensive to make and likely made for the aristocratic families who controlled the land and whose dynasties had close political relationships to the important Buddhist orders. Fine rugs were made for both specialized religious purposes (such as tantric rugs) and for aristocratic use.

What seemed to come out of the discussion was the suggestion that specific designs and often colors and wool types could be identified with each category of rugs, which with economic factors helps to place rug techniques against the background of social institutions. (As an aside, Smith mentioned that he has re-introduced natural dyes to Wangden, to encourage weavers to produce new rugs of the quality of old rugs, and to help them establish an export business to support the local weavers and culture.)

Most interesting of all was the identification of a fourth category - the nomadic weavings - which remain a mystery, although several educated guesses were made during the talk. Some traced nomadic weaving technique and design back to Central Asia, a case supported by the wide geographical scope of the early Tibetan empire. Others felt that nomads co-existed with settled communities, the former herding animals, the latter pursuing agriculture and trade. Others felt that the "nomadic" category remained ambiguous, noting that the Tibetan economy depended upon long trade routes that would take traders away from home for months or years. These traders might have had their own functional textiles or traded with nomadic peoples for light but warm flat woven rugs and clothing.

All in all it was an informative and provocative discussion, with many more questions raised than could be answered in a short time. A number of interesting and important lines of interpretation became apparent in the on-going debates about Tibetan rugs.

At the end of the video, talk and discussion, we descended the enchanting curving staircase of the Sandra Whitman Gallery, enjoying her extraordinary exhibit of early rare Chinese textiles. A crowd gathered at the bottom of the stair, unable to pass quickly by a glorious needle loop silk fragment depicting the most elegant possible vine and flower design. One couldn’t help but think of the way many Tibetan rug designs had been inspired by the silks of China. Thus, one thinks of the possibility of yet another talk on the origins of Tibetan rug design from China, Central Asia, India and the Silk Route - but for another day.


For many collectors Tibetan rugs hold an unusual attraction. Especially appealing are these rugs’ rustic folk qualities, bold and varied designs, strong colors, and heavy knotting. Of particular interest are the unique weaving methods distinguishing these rugs. The rather obscure origins of these methods have been the subject of some speculation. Tibetan warp face back weaving has been used in monasteries from Alchi in India to Kumbum (where the Dalai Lama was found) in North East Tibet. While Tibetan rugs have been often compared to some Turkoman weavings the cultural history and distinctiveness of Tibet suggests the need for a more complex account.

Rupert Smith has traveled extensively in the Himalayan region of Asia and has an intimate, authoritative, and locally-based knowledge of Tibetan weavings, their history, and the market in antique and contemporary Tibetan textiles. In addition to sharing this knowledge, based on 10 years of research in the Wangden valley of central Tibet he will reveal unseen footage of warp face back production along with previously untold folklore of the region.

About the Speaker. Rupert Smith has been sourcing rugs and other textiles in Tibet and Nepal for 20 years. He maintains a permanent base in Lhasa as well as a residence and gallery in Kathmandu. He also has a showroom in Chiang Mai, Thailand, and is working on a new textile showhouse in Derbyshire, England. He has been active in the oriental textile community, giving talks at Denver ACOR, Milan ICOC, and the London Oriental Rug Society. He has exhibited at the San Francisco and New York Tribal Arts Fairs and will be taking part in the London Hali Fair this year.


June 18: Pat Leiser: "Embroidered Prayer Rugs" : Vacaville

Another SFBARS Safari to the country. Come for a Patio Potluck Picnic, Saturday June 18th at 10 am. at Pat Leiser’s Home in Vacaville.

Real lemonade will be provided and we’ll Ponder Prayer Cloths and some of J. L. Sommer’s Bottom-of-the-barrel-goodies.

Pile carpet weaving is essentially a pointillist art form much like pixels on a video screen. As such it is very flexible and can readily adopt designs from other mediums whose own structures, i.e., technologies, may restrict patterning or actually engender particular patterns. Previously, Pat Leiser has looked at what she believes are the influences from Roman mosaic and opus sectile pavements on Turkish carpet designs. Having now acquired two so-called Turkish "prayer cloths" that are actually "pieced-embroidery" rugs, she would like to look at Mediterranean embroidery traditions as possible sources for Turkish rug designs. We will also be able to view some Ottoman embroidered felt prayer cloth/rugs from Dr. Sommer’s collection. We hope others of you will have examples that you would like to discuss.

Bring a picnic lunch or nibblies to share on the shaded patio by the fountain.



September Meeting

September 21: James Blackmon: The Gateway Tunic of Tiwanaku: The World’s Most Important Ancient Textile?

September 21, 2005

James Blackmon Gallery 2140 Bush Street, SF.

(Parking available in Japantown shopping center, about 3 blocks away)

Some textiles are so rare, so beautiful, and so loaded with cultural meaning that they transcend their traditional role as mere vestment, container or decoration, and rise to the level of great historical document. The Bayeaux tapestry and the Pazyryk carpet are two textiles which arguably reach this standard. The Gateway Tunic from the Pre-Columbian culture of Tiwanaku is also a candidate for consideration as a textile of this high level. Come to this lecture and learn more about this fascinating and important art work.

The Gateway Tunic dates to the beginning of the first millennium. Its intricate tapestry weave depicts ceremonial and architectural detail that complements and extends information already known from the archeological record. Yet the textile likely pre-dates many of the stone monuments on the site, including the Gateway of the Sun, and depicts other monuments not currently known – pointing to potential archeological treasures not yet excavated.

The tunic is a visual tour-de-force. Complete, and in nearly perfect condition, in rich hues associated with Tiwanaku royalty, the tunic is encoded with important information about Tiwanaku’s ancestors, her principal deity forms, ritual practices, and ceremonial sites. Margaret Young Sanchez, curator of the recent exhibition Tiwanaku: Ancestors of the Inca at the Denver Art Museum, said “in both iconography and cmpositioin, this tunic is the most complex and sophisticated surviving artwork from ancient Tiwanaku and one of the most important works of art from ancient South America.”

About the speaker:

For more than 30 years Jim Blackmon has been a collector and importer of textiles; a textile restorer, conservator, cleaner, weaver, and appraiser; a writer and lecturer on and student and curator of various private and museum exhibitions; and lastly, a textile gallery owner. He has also served on the board of the Textile Arts Council of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and is currently a member of the Textile Museum’s Advisory Council. His most recent project was as curator of the exhibit “The Fabric of Life: Columbus Collects Textile Art,” at the Columbus Museum of Art in Ohio.

Jim says emphatically that he is not a scholar but a serious student of the textile arts. However, he admits that after more than 30 years of involvement in the field he is qualified to be called a textile expert, having done a little of everything. His primary area of research and greatest interest has been what he regards as the world’s two great wool weaving traditions: the carpet and textile traditions of the Near East and Central Asia and the Andean textile tradition. In addition to these areas, he has to a lesser extent been involved in the textiles of north and sub Saharan Africa.


Sometime near the beginning of the first millennium AD a magnificent tapestry tunic was woven in the flourishing Andean city of Tiwanaku. Created under the auspices of Tiwanaku’s ruling elite, this finely woven textile was at once a ceremonial garment of the highest order and a revered icon. Employing a symbolic language of striking visual metaphors and explicit imagery, the tunic encoded important information concerning Tiwanaku’s ancestors, her principal deity forms, ritual practices and ceremonial sites. Imbued with mythic images, the tunic was destined for use in potent rites conducted within the central ceremonial core of the city.

Known today as the Gateway Tunic, this extraordinary work of art features clearly woven representations of Tiwanaku’s monumental architecture. Included are images of carved stone gateways, ceremonial platforms, sunken courtyards and towering monoliths. As such, the Gateway Tunic displays an unprecedented level of iconographic exactness and intent not seen in Andean textiles of this period or any other. In a city of monumental architecture and finely incised monoliths, the Gateway Tunic was a portable monument, a sacred icon – a cosmogram of Tiwanaku sacred space.

Surviving for nearly two millennia, this textile offers fascinating insights into an early Andean civilization of great significance. Preliminary studies of the tunic’s colorful and densely patterned images have brought to light some of the earliest versions of Tiwanaku’s imperial iconography. Archetypal images like those found on the Gateway tunic would be literally carved in stone on the city’s monuments during Tiwanaku’s later classic period. Today, the Gateway Tunic endures as probably the most iconographically rich work of art from the Andean civilization that we call Tiwanaku and one of the most important works of ancient art from the Americas.

James Blackmon

Review of Jim Blackmon's talk on September 21st:
The Mantle of Tihuanaco-World's Greatest Textile?

Jim Blackmon gave SFBARS a brilliantly illustrated and well-presented talk (appropriately enough on the evening of the summer equinox) about this magnificent and astonishing Andean weaving at his lovely gallery.  Unfortunately, it was very poorly attended with no more than a dozen members present.  Perhaps the low turnout was due to the lack of a time listed on the Announcement, for which SFBARS would like to apologize* to both members and to Jim.  In any case, for those who did not attend we can say you missed a thrilling exposition.

Jim showed many slides of the archaeological site of Tihaunaco, an early Andean city and religious complex on the shores of Lake Titicaca.  Although digging has been going on at that site for many years we still know relatively little about this great culture which thrived in the first 500 years of the Christian era, the earliest of the major civilizations of the Americas.  Jim showed us how the mantle, a finely woven woolen pancho probably worn by a high priest in special solar ceremonies at Tihuanaco, contains not just a symbolic map of the ceremonial complex, but is also packed with cosmological, astrological and ethnographic-religious symbolism.

Jim also discussed some of the theories explaining this and other Andean weavings drawn from the recent symposium and exhibit at the Denver Art Museum when the mantle itself was taken from the secret private vaults and finally revealed to the scholarly community.  Jim even provided the SFBARS audience with a complete, full scale mock-up of the Tihuanaco Mantle which we laid on the floor and gathered around for close inspection.  Frankly, it is impossible to describe; you had to be there, so densely ornamented and so complex are the designs and symbolism on this textile.  In fact the sparse attendance and Jim's belief that this object deserves more attention has convinced us to try to sponsor a repeat performance of his talk, perhaps at the time of the Ft. Mason Tribal Arts show and hopefully in a venue (at the De Young Museum?) that will attract a wider audience.  More on that idea in coming Newsletters.  Suffice to say that all those who did attend came away in awe of this weaving and feeling that Jim may well have convinced them that the Tihuanaco Mantle is "the world's greatest textile"!!

Peter Poullada

*(Specifically, apologies from the editor---BD)




Jim Dixon has kindly invited SFBARS Members and their Guests to his East Bay home for an evening of discovery and discussion about Kazak rugs. This is a rare opportunity to study a well-known group of carpets from the Caucasus and to discuss some of the controversies and mysteries that surround them. Jim has brought down from Occidental about 35 examples from his collection that are commonly labeled in the carpet trade as "Kazak" in order to let us compare and contrast the many varieties of these Central Caucasian weavings. There will also be a chance to see what other treasures he has hanging on his walls.

WHAT IS A KAZAK? Well, Peter Stone in his Oriental Rug Lexicon says these carpets are identified with "an indefinite region of the South Central Caucasus, north of the Aras River, south of the Kura...19th century rugs of this area have bold designs in bright colors. Kazak rugs are characteristically coarsely knotted with a density of about 40-60 symmetric (Turkish) knots per sq. inch...the rugs are made of wool throughout. There are from two to three wefts between the knots varying within the same rug. For the most part, wefts are dyed red or pink." Many of us think we know what a Kazak looks like but few realize just how short is the history of their scholarly identification and classification.

It was not until Schurmann's 1965 book on Caucasian Carpets that the now widely used labels of Bordjalu, Fachralo, Lori Pambak, Sevan, Karachof, Shikli, Shalaver, Star, Pinwheel and Chelaberg-Eagle Gul (actually from Karabagh district) were laid out and became standard for attributions. In fact, most of these labels and almost everything that Schurmann, Eder and other rug scholars have written about the Kazak were taken from the work of the Soviet scholar Kerimov in his 1961 book, Azarbayjan Carpets. Most of the terminology and the village designations that the rug trade has used since then is very lightly grounded in fact. Ian Bennet, in his 1981 book on Caucasian carpets warns us: "Our knowledge of Caucasian village weavings is at best only fragmentary and at worst represents the particular readings of just one individual (Kerimov), which may be very inaccurate...more contemporary writers on Caucasian village rugs have tended to treat the Kerimov/Schurmann classifications with considerable caution: (Ian Bennet, Oriental Rugs, Vol. One, Caucasus, 1981).

Just to make this topic even harder we don't really know why these carpets got the label Kazak. Is it a reference to the village of Kazak, southeast of Tiflis, near Akstafa? How could so many varieties of weavings come from just one place? Or is it a shorthand name for a larger region of may weaving centers (as is the case with the label "Heriz") found between Tiflis, Erivan and NW of Lake Sevan? Even the term itself is troublesome: is it a reference to the Turco-mongol term "qazaq," meaning rebel or bandit, from which comes the terms "cossack" and the name for the Uzbek tribes that broke away from the Confederacy of Abul Khair Khan in the mid-15th century to become the Kazakhs? Could it be related to the Turkish term "kozak" which means pine-cone, used to describe a group of weaving villages in NW Anatolia, near Bergama? What about the idea that most of these rugs, in fact, were woven by Armenians?

Our visit to Jim Dixon's will allow us to ponder these issues, hear his views, and share our own theories, while handling a number of fine examples of Kazak carpets. We will be able to educate our minds, our eyes and hopefully, our fingers. SFBARS Members are encouraged to bring their own favorite or good quality antique examples of Kazaks for our Show and Tell. We will hand out some maps of the Caucasus to help us in our study and enjoyment.

Peter Poullada



Transylvanian Rugs in their Context: Records From a Study Tour to Transylvania
by Alberto Boralevi, Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The Sandra Whitman Gallery, 361 Oak Street, San Francisco 6:30 PM Reception 7:15 PM Talk

This PowerPoint presentation is related to the recent publication of Antique Ottoman Carpets in Transylvania (Rome 2005), to which Alberto Boralevi has contributed as co-author and chief consultant. Edited and published by Stefan Ionescu, this book is the result of a two-year field research that has brought new light to our knowledge of this outstanding group of antique rugs still preserved in Transylvanian churches and museums. Mr. Boralevi’s talk will present some first-hand information along with some new discoveries made after the book’s publication. The Transylvanian collection is composed entirely of classical early Turkish rugs, including Holbeins, Lottos, White Ground Selendis, and so called Transylvanias, in all their variants, including a number of prayer rugs. For show and tell, members are invited to bring antique Turkish or Ottoman carpets or kilims. Please note that Mr. Boralevi will have copies of his book for sale. (Price $170)

About the speaker.

Alberto Boralevi comes from a family of art dealers that have been in the antique carpet and textile business in Venice and Florence since the beginning of the twentieth century. Born in Florence, he always lived and studied in his hometown where in 1975 he obtained a degree in Architecture. Mr. Boralevi has been lecturing on oriental carpets since 1976. In 1978 he became the Italian representative of Hali Magazine, editing and publishing an Italian Supplement from 1981 to 1986. In 1982 he discovered in the Pitti Palace two previously unknown Cairene Carpets exhibited in London during the third ICOC (1983).

Since 1986 Mr. Boralevi has run his own gallery, first at The Carpet Studio, where he organized a number of exhibitions, some accompanied by catalogues, and beginning in May 2001 on the first floor of Palazzo Frescobaldi in the antique dealers' area on the left bank of the river Arno in Florence.

Mr. Boralevi has been a member of the ICOC International Standing Committee since 1986. In 1999, as Chairman of ICOC Academic Committee, he organized the Lectures Program of the 9th Conference in Milan. He also curated the exhibition of Classical Carpets from the Bardini Collections (Oriental Geometries) held in Florence during the Conference. Since 2003 he has been a member of the ICOC Executive Committee and has been appointed Chairman of the International Academic Committee, in which position he is responsible for the Call for Papers and the Academic Program of the next ICOC Conference in Istanbul in 2007.

Mr. Boralevi has presented papers in most Carpet Conferences around the world in the last 25 years. He has published several books and catalogues, including: Sumakh (1986); L'Ushak: Castellani-Stroganoff (1987); From the Near West (on Sardinian Rugs and textiles); and Oriental Geometries. His lastest work is Antique Ottoman Rugs in Transylvania, edited by Stefan Ionescu (co-author and chief consultant of the project). He has also written approximately forty articles on oriental rugs in Italian and international Journals.

Mr. Boralevi has been written about in "Oriental Rug Review, Vol. VI, No. 9 (December 1986: pp. 25-26), and in "Hali", N. 114 Jan-Feb 2001, p. 157.


December meeting, SFBARS December 7th event: SECCADE; Prayer Rugs of Anatolia

An evening of Show and Tell with Jim Dixon, Peter Pap and Peter Poullada. This event will allow SFBARS Members to hear two collectors and a dealer present their views on a selection of Anatolian prayer rugs from their collections.

Wednesday December 7th, 2005, Peter Pap Oriental Rugs, 470 Jackson Street, San Francisco Start time 6:30, presentation to begin at 7:15pm, Tel. 415-956-3300, Public parking available off Battery Street

In Turkish a prayer rug is called a “ seccade ,“ pronounced “ se-ja-day “. In Persian they are called “ jah-namaz” and in Central Asia “ namazlik”. The term used in Turkey originally came from the Arabic word “ sajjada “ denoting a prayer carpet, derived from the Arabic verb “ sajada “ which means to bow down, or to prostrate one’s self, in this case an action intimately associated with the Muslim act of prayer, which plays such a central role within Islamic culture. The second meaning of the Arabic verb also has had great significance within Islamic culture both in spiritual and ritual terms because of the link between the rituals of prayer, the act of prostration ( known in Arabic as “ sajd ”) and the meaning of the word “ Islam “, which can be translated from Arabic at its simplest as “ submission or reconciliation “ to the will of God.

In addition, at the level of practical religious activity, prayer rugs came to be closely associated in the context of Turkish and Persian Islamic cultures with the Sufi brotherhoods and in particular their spiritual leaders who in some cases were referred to as the “ sejadeh “.

Prayer rugs or carpets ( I use the terms interchangeably) tend to be smaller than room size and have a characteristic layout: most prominent is the symbolic representation of the prayer niche at their center. This “ mihrab ” is presumed to be imitating the central niche found in all Islamic mosques which traditionally indicates the direction to Mecca, thus gives centrality to the ritual significance of the carpet.

The connections in classical Islamic culture between the prayer rug, the individual and the mystic Sufi brotherhoods is well illustrated by a passage from the early 14th century traveler Ibn Battuta who tells us the following:

“ a custom of the members of the “ zawiya “ ( the Sufi Brotherhood Lodge) is that each of them sits on his own sajjada when offering the morning prayer...” Ibn Battuta goes on to say that when an individual wished to join the lodge of a particular spiritual master he would ” arrive at the door of the zawiya standing and waiting, his waist bound by a girdle, and carrying his sajjada on his shoulder...the servant of the zawiya goes to greet him and to ask where he is from, in which other zawiyas he has stayed and who has been his spiritual teachers ( shaykh ), the servant then invites him into the zawiya and spreads out his sajjada at an appropriate spot...after the stranger makes his ablutions he goes to the place where his sajjada has been spread and says a prayer as he then greets the shaykh of the Order. “

Richard Ettinghausen, in his 1974 catalogue Prayer Rugs, comments that “ it is evident that the sajjada was more than a mere implement used for the five daily prayers. It appears to have been a very personal object treated with a certain reverence which was also used to sit on for sacred faunctions.” He also points out that the itinerant Sufis carried with them a ewer for use during the ritual washing. This linkage between carpet and ewer, Ettinghausen points out, may account for the presence of the image of a ewer in many carpets, just as the use of a lamp is a reference to both the interior of the mosque and a passage in the Koran which says that “ a likeness of ( Allah’s) light is as a niche in which there is a lamp” ( Sura 24)

In this same publication Ettinghausen also lays out a useful summary of the types of classical Anatolian seccade, dividing them between those that were Ottoman court products and those from the main carpet weaving centers of western Anatolia, namely: Bergama, Ushak, Ghiordes, Kula, Melas, as well as the central Anatolian centers of Konya, Ladik and Mucur. In addition I would have to add the more village style prayer carpets from the 19th and 20th centuries from places like Avunya, Keles, Monastir, and, of course Mekri/Fethiye.

For our Show and Tell each presenter has selected 4-5 seccade on a purely personal basis and will then talk about it from their own private perspective; why they like it, what made them buy it, what special significance or meaning they may derive from it and any other relevant personal judgments that they feel give meaning to the carpet. Comments, reactions and questions from the Members will be welcomed and there will be time at the end of the evening for Members to show off some of their own favorite seccade to solicit the reaction of the “ experts” and for the viewing pleasure of the audience.

Peter Poullada