Mosul Rugs

Oriental-rugs-history.com home page
Mosul Proper Gendge or Genje Some Varieties of Kurdish

    The diversity resultant upon mixed population is nowhere so manifest as in the rugs collected in the country about Mosul, the old city in the heart of Mesopotamia. This territory is traversed by the river Tigris. Since the beginning of history the tide of conquest has ebbed and flowed mightily here where now half ruined walls inclose a straggling and moribund town, and serve in seasons of flood to avert the encroachments of the river. A little way outside the gates of Mosul are the ruins of Nineveh, Senn and Nimrud.

    Here Persians followed Scythians as conquerors, and were themselves succeeded in turn by Macedonians, Tartars, Arabs and Turkomans. Under every sway Mosul was a capital. That it has been a center of manufacture finds proof in the one word muslin, which had its derivation here. In the population of the district are represented far more than half of all the races, which go to make up the Ottoman Empire of today. In the city and its adjacent villages are gathered many distinct nationalities, all living in perpetual dread of the wild Kurdish and Bedouin neighbors who infest the unguarded highways or roam over the surrounding mountains, preying upon commerce and travel, and disclaiming both subjection to Osmanli and faith in Islam. The Mosul fabrics include also rugs made in the mountains of old Armenia and Erivan, and others from the south toward Syria.

    The multitude of designs common to this strangely peopled region presents not only all the characteristic forms of the Caucasian class, but well nigh every device which Oriental ornamentation knows, though most of them are wrought roughly. Every corner of the East, even as far as China, has contributed some trick of texture or design to the varied fabrics of Mosul, yet most of them show affinity with the Caucasian lot. The fact that so many of the Mosul tribes are out of the reach of trade influences speaks well for the honesty of their product, and examination, in the main, bears out the inference. Wool, dyes and workmanship are well up to the average, considering always the weavers' lights, and the designs, diverse as they are, still preserve a thoroughly Eastern character. Nearly all the rugs included in the Mosul shipments are, however, more or less coarse, heavy, and suggestive in their patterns and construction of the rude life which prevails in the entire region.

    Mosul Proper. — The two characteristics which, taken in conjunction, provide the first step toward identification of these fabrics are: First, the soft, flocky nature of the pile; second, a marked tendency to the use of yellow and warm, yellowish or brownish reds in the coloring. A great deal of camel's-hair and goat's-hair filik is used in the pile. The camel's-hair in natural color contributes a yellow tone, but aside from that, saffron seems to have taken a firm hold upon the favor of the dyers in Mosul. In the antiques, which have a glossy finish, this prevalence of yellow gives an impression, when the rugs are seen from a distance, that they have undergone some process o? gilding. Blue and green are chiefly used in small areas, to brighten the figures in the border stripes; if in large areas, they are almost invariably in dark shades. In all the multiplicity of designs, the Caucasian influence is plainly visible. Some feature of it can be found in almost every rug, although the patterns are loosely wrought and, owing in a measure to the length of pile, fine definition is impossible. For example, the parallel bars — horizontal or diagonal-inclosing rows of small figures, found in the body of the Kabistans and Chi-chis, are frequent in the Mosuls, but the small patterns are usually queer reciprocal key devices, or geometrical tree forms, although sometimes the pear is found.

    The diagonal lattice-work of the Daghestan group has its place in the Mosuls, too. Thanks to Persian influence, the Mosul weavers are prone to do with color shading what those of Daghestan do with the oft-repeated latch-hook, in softening the contrast between one body of color and another. The latch-hook in great measure disappears in the Mosuls, although it is found in some rugs of the Turkish class farther to the westward, made by nomads who have trod this path in their migrations. The barber — pole stripe, first noticed in the Kabistans, is very common here, and the large geometrical figures used as the central design of so many Daghestans and Kabistans are often found performing the same function in Mosuls. The Persian and Kurdish influences are also apparent. The pear device is especially frequent, but in hard forms, so rectilinear in some instances that at first glance it is scarcely recognized. It is a hexagon, with a particolored square in the center, and the elongation merely a projecting angular hook in yellow or red. The same form is found in the decorative art of India. The reciprocal trefoil border stripe, in dark red and blue as a rule, runs through a great number of Mosuls. There is found, too, the star emblem seen the world over in the decoration of synagogues, possibly an adaptation of the seal of Solomon or a copy of the Persian symbol, but held by some writers to have been originally representative of divinity.

    The borders are most often three in number, and separated by heavy lines of very dark brown or blue. Geometrical or crude floral designs are used, but almost invariably one at least of the border stripes carries some well-known Caucasian pattern. Very often a three- or four-inch outside band of camel's-hair or some other yarn in the natural brown color runs around all four sides of the rug, inclosing the whole design as in a frame, and emphasizing the yellow tone, which, as was said in the beginning, is a Mosul mark. The sides of the rug are overcast and the ends finished with a narrow, thick selvage if the warp be cotton, with a fringe if it be wool.

    Gender or Genje Rugs. — In the sandhills along the border lines between Mosul province and Persia, roam bands of Turkomans. They are otherwise known to the Ottoman population as the "Gendge people", after Genghis Khan, in whose warlike train their forbears came westward from Central Asia. They dwell in tents and change their abode with the seasons. They are part of the mixed Turkish peoples who are scattered all through the country west of the Oxus. The title of Turkman was given by the Persians in whose service they fought during the interminable wars of the Middle Ages. It implies "a resemblance to Turks," these tribes having, from their long residence in the Iranian country, lost many of their race characteristics, both of temperament and physical appearance. They retain, however, their bold, warlike disposition and fondness for outdoor life.

    In the rugs, which they send to the annual fair near Mosul and to the bazaars in Tiflis, their race traits and their manner of living are plainly to be read. The fabrics are exceedingly heavy, which is natural since they are made to be spread upon the ground out of doors. The warp is a three-strand thread of goat's-hair or brown wool, and the pile about twice as long as that of the Shirvans. There are seldom fewer than forty knots to the square inch, and they are woven from fine wool, which the women of the tribes spin.

    The designs consist principally of the geometrical devices found in the Caucasian fabrics, but the nomad elements of crudity and simplicity and a prevalence of small, separate figures are discernible. The Persian influence sometimes crops out in the use of the vine with flowers attached. The Turkman, whose nomad impatience and poverty of artistic conception make it impossible for him to reproduce the complex designs of Persian rugs, has by crude repetition of the easier border elements made a central design of his own. He often has a series of these border patterns running side by side through the whole length of the body of the rug. The undulation, which in most Persian designs is gracefully curved, he treats in the less difficult rectilinear fashion, and his versions of the palmettes and lotus buds which the vine carries at its curved intervals are severe in drawing and immensely unlike what they are meant for. The whole effect is ambitious, and pleasing, too, perhaps because it is so badly done. He repeats the same idea in the border, using for adornment of the vine, for example, a white cross, evidently of floral derivation, upon a red octagon, instead of the more difficult rosette, which belongs to the pattern in its purity. The pear is freely employed, both in the body, where it is used in alternating rows of red and blue, and in the border stripe, where it relieves other figures. Nomad authorship is shown by the detached bird and animal figures in the body of the rugs and occasionally in the border. The sides are selvaged and the ends finished with a small fringe. In this respect the Turkman follows the urbane rather than the nomad custom.

    In Constantinople, as in the American market, miscellaneous bales of rugs, all measuring between three and five feet in width, and six and eight feet in length, are jobbed under the name of Genghis, or, as the bills of lading have it, "Guendje." They are made up of the odds and ends of the Shirvans, Karabaghs, Mosuls and other secondary fabrics of the Caucasian class, and usually come from Elizabetpol, the old Armeno-Persian name of which was Gandja. Of late a great manufacture of this sort of stuff has been organized by Armenian middlemen in the Baghdad district, the output of which is being marketed in this country. In addition to the rugs named some Persians, Hamadans and the like, are taken for patterns, and several low-grade mats woven on each warp.

    Some Varieties of Kurdish Rugs. — More striking contrast could scarcely be imagined than that between the rough, common, misshapen rugs made by the Kurds in the north of Mosul and about Lake Van, and the masterly ones turned out by their kinsmen in the upland towns of Western Persia. These "Mosul Kurdish" rugs are of the same general character as the Genghis just described. In ornament the Genghis are accounted somewhat better, but the Kurdish fabrics are more closely woven, heavier, and more durable. They have, to be sure, fewer stitches to the inch, but the pile yarn — and also, indeed, the warp and weft — are much heavier. The rugs are rough and to the last degree savage in appearance. In the conglomeration of colors a certain rude strength is manifest, but although the general effect is warm and lustrous the absence of anything like decorative refinement is complete. In many of them a great deal of dark brown wool in its natural state determines the color tones. Brown sheep's-wool or coarse goat's-hair thread is taken for the foundation. The sides are overcast or selvaged at the caprice or convenience of the weaver. The ends have usually the nomadic web extension, and the braids with which they are finished complete their barbaric extravagance. The ends of the warp are plaited into tight, flat strands, like the Mexican lariat, about two inches apart and knotted at the ends. In some examples several of these are worked together, and form small, compact, triangular plaited mats, from the outer point of which the braids depend. These rugs are utterly lacking in symmetry, and sometimes are so crooked that they have to be cut and sewn together again to bring them into anything like regular shape.

    Similar to these Mosul Kurd fabrics in texture and quality are those sometimes sold under the name of Kozan, an Asia Minor vilayet to the west of Mosul. They are finished with selvage on the sides and a long fringe at the ends instead of the plaits referred to above.

Oriental-rugs-history.com home page
Mosul Proper Gendge or Genje Some Varieties of Kurdish

Oriental rugs shop Copyright © oriental-rugs-history.com