Konieh province and the districts, which surround it, exemplify perfectly the diversity in topography, climate and population, which mark the whole Anatolian peninsula. The plateaus of this section afford all the conditions required for wool growing; the valleys, which traverse it, are fertile in the production of dye materials.
The general methods of construction are similar throughout the entire group, but the difference between the varieties, in quality and appearance, is clear. Those which come from the north, about Kir-Shehr and the vicinity of the salt lake Tcholli, and as far as ancient Csesarea, are of sterling texture and good color and design, while the products of the south, of Nigdeh and Karaman, among the foothills of the Taurus mountains, are rough, and made in evident ignorance of any known decorative system. The designs of these are crude, and the colors, while largely vegetable, and striking in the mass, are arranged in utter disregard of theoretical harmony.
Konieh Proper. Konieh ancient Iconium the name has its origin in the Greek word (picture), on account of the legend of the locality has never until very lately ranked with other towns of Asia Minor as a rug-producing place. Even under the old dispensation, its weavings had not the wide fame and favor accorded to those of Ghiordes, Kulah, Bergamo, or Ladik. They were made more strictly for local use than perhaps any of these. For this. reason, probably, the antique specimens from the Konieh looms are more rarely met with nowadays. They are, nevertheless, of eminent merit, and though pursuing a different theory of color from the rugs of "Smyrna" towns, exhibit skill in the dyeing and a wholesome though sometimes not over-delicate taste in the adjustment of color.
Most of the antique Koniehs which have found their way over-seas are sedjadeh, odjaklik, and yesteklik not, as is the case with those of the other cities named, for the greater part prayer rugs. The antique odjaklik, or hearth rug, of Konieh abounds in warm rich color. It is worthy of notice, too, that all the hues have a peculiar luminous quality when exposed to a slanting light such as falls upon them from the fire-place, a glow that they do not reveal when looked at point blank, in the light of common day. They are constructed with this effect in view. One excellent example had at the time of writing lain for several months in a pile of small antiques of different varieties, in a large New York rug establishment. Piece after piece had been sold from the pile, and it had frequently been replenished from new consignments, but the old Konieh, in every way one of the rarest and most desirable possessions of the lot, had always been relegated, after examination, to its old place and the more showy fabrics chosen. It was not, as a fact, of an appearance to catch at first glance the fancy of the average purchaser, yet at the time the author of this book saw it there was the best of reasons for believing that it was the only rug of its sort to be seen for sale in New York.
The feature of the odjaklik design, found in the majority of rugs made for the hearth, is that it has in some fashion or other the conical or pointed formation at both ends of the central field. It is as if the field were made up of two prayer rugs, joined base to base. In the piece just referred to an elongated hexagon was set in the central oblong, with its acute angles pointing toward the ends. The ground color of the field was a singular, lustrous quality of sky blue. Just inside the border stripes and running all about the edges of the field, was a row of pinks, drawn in profile and arranged with perfect regularity. In each of the corner spaces left by the hexagon was a floral figure of some magnitude, supported by an elongated device, apparently of animal derivation, on either side, and by rectilinear flower stalks. The sides of the hexagon forming the two angles at the ends were serrated like the sides of the arch in most Kulah prayer rugs.
Inside the yellow and red defining-lines of the hexagon ran a complete circumference of rosebuds arranged in the same manner as the pinks about the boundary of the oblong. These flowers were as realistic and lifelike as any found in Persian weaving. Then the entire area of the hexagon was filled with a rich growth of flowers, made up of two flowering shrubs or plants, springing from two jardinieres, one at each of the terminal angles. The branches and blooms met and mingled at the middle of the space in a fashion which, though governed by the Anatolian formality of arrangement, had yet much of Persian warmth and profusion. The ground of the main border stripe was blue, of a very deep shade, in contrast with the brilliant sky blue of the center. Upon it the waving vine was traced in red, in angles instead of curves, and with its flowers, yellow and pale blue, putting forth upon straight stalks. The narrow borders, or guard stripes, were the small, uniform, repeated stripes found in Ghiordes and Kulah, except that they were in red and white instead of black and white, and were ornamented with the barber pole device of the Caucasians, instead of the small patterns which adorn those characteristic stripes in antique Ghiordes and Kulah rugs. All around the outside was a narrow band of the pile, in the same deep red which was dominant throughout the entire fabric. Its brilliancy had seemingly been softened by age, but it still glowed with a strange sort of under light.
The ends were finished with a narrow, colored web, and reaching partly across one end the rest had been worn away was a selvage outside the web, formed by weaving back the threads of the warp. This had originally been the finishing of both ends of the rug and the sole bit that remained showed what long and severe wear the old piece had known. But it had still a thickness and evenness of pile far superior to that of many new fabrics. Its pile must have been originally of about the same length as the best Kir-Shehrs. The sides were finished with a narrow selvage made of extra threads of red. The technical oddity of the piece was that the weft was thrown across, two threads at once, and then another row of knots put in before it was carried back. The solidity afforded by this method was apparent.
The modern Konieh manufacture is almost wholly of the heavy rug order. The grade names of Oushak and Ghiordes are used and the products are practically the same as theirs. The Konieh moderns are noticeable, however, for one thing, the diversity of yarns used for the warp. These are all of wool and necessarily very stout; in color they are everything, and, as if sufficient variety could not be secured otherwise, two colors are often found in one yarn.
Among the heavy Asia Minor "whole rugs" there is probably none of more worth than the Konieh variety known as Tokmak. The name itself, though really taken from a town to the west of Konieh, is in its literal meaning descriptive. Tokmak is Turkish for compact. In its primary use it means "a mallet". The materials of the Tokmak are well chosen, its patterns of a good order, and in fineness and workmanship it excels, perhaps, even the best grades of Oushak.
Kir-Shehr Rugs. The rugs of Kir-Shehr, in the province of Angora, just over the Konieh border to the north of Lake Tcholli, lead all the Konieh fabrics in texture and color. They are renowned for brilliancy, and the excellence of the water in that section, for the solution of dyes, is proverbial throughout Turkey. The reds and greens, especially, in many of the older Kir-Shehrs are exemplary, and dyes for these colors seem to have the maximum of preservative value, since the red portions of the designs, and some of the greens and darker blues as well, protrude from the surface as if they had originally been put in with a longer yarn, for the purpose of making a raised pattern. The foundation threads, which are of wool, are usually dyed in the color prevailing in the pile, like those of the Bergama.
In design the antiques are perhaps more elaborate than the old Koniehs, but the small moderns of the two manufactures are sold interchangeably. Geometry seems to have been overcome in the older Kir-Shehrs. Industrious attempt at Persian elaboration is apparent. There is a patent effort at unity and integrity in the design, which, particularly in its central patterns, follows closely the Arabic forms. The borders, too, are eloquent of a higher artistic aim than can be found in the Koniehs. There are fewer stripes than in most of the Persian rugs, and the main stripes carry a most pretentious form of ornamentation. Border medallions, which are seen in Persian rugs, and are plainly borrowed from Arabic forms, are found in Kir-Shehrs of old date. Rectangular border figures are relegated to the subordinate stripes.
In the modern products ambition is not so manifest, but the skilful blending of colors is still noticeable. The pile is of good length, making the rugs thick and durable. They are meant for practical use and are much to be desired. Liberal use is made of phenomenal shades of green, and brilliant harmonious effects are produced by them in conjunction with the reds already mentioned. Some of the small Kir-Shehr mats have several particolored tufts at each end, composed of all the yarns used in their piling, and formed by weaving these in clusters into the webs with which, supplemented by a fringe of the warp, the ends are finished.
In rare examples these little tufts are made of human hair, and sometimes small devices are woven with hair upon the webbing.
Kaba-Karaman Rugs. Little need be said of these. They are simply called "Kaba" by the Smyrna traders. The word means "coarse", and describes them accurately from every standpoint. They are made by nomads in the southern province, along the ranges of the Taurus chain, toward the Zeitoun district, and furnish a good index to the tribes which make them, whose fame for roughness, cruelty and quarrelsomeness has gone over all Asia Minor. The Karamanians are migrant Turkomans, and in their weaving preserve in rude form the patterns prevalent in the Caucasian countries.
Most of the Kaba-Karamans which come to America and they are a multitude are small prayer rugs and sedjadeh. Their likeness to the Caucasian fabrics in design, heightened by the free use of bold patterns in white, enables salesmen to dispose of them for Derbent. Some of the better specimens go as Karabagh, and particularly good ones as Shirvan, and even Daghestan, to purchasers who are in a high degree credulous. Although carelessly made, they are stout, and useful for some purposes.
Yuruks Rugs. These plain shepherds, who wander with their flocks over the southern and middle ranges of Anatolia, are blood kin to the Kazaks of the Caucasus and the Kirghiz, and the Turkomans of the Mosul districts; in the fabrics they send to Smyrna the relationship is plain. The tribal name "Yuruk" means "mountaineer". It is the wild, harsh life of their mountains that they have woven into their rugs. Most of these are dark affairs, with the heavy, ashen brown hue prevailing, brightened by titanic patterns in wonderfully rich colors. The designs seem fairly to grow out from the grim groundwork of dark sheep's-wool. They are made up of simple figures, which the artistic limitations of the weavers have forced them to repeat again and again. The corner triangles and patches at the side of the central fields not taken up by the main device are filled with stripe effects, composed frequently of the hook pattern found in the Caucasians, although the shape of it here differs somewhat from the Caucasian form.
Kazil and sometimes brown wool are used for the warp, but the fierce-looking knotted braids with which the ends are adorned are of white or gray wool, sometimes of cotton. The broad web of the middle Asia Turkomans sometimes appears here. The sides are selvaged, but over the selvage in a few rugs is an overcasting of colored yarn, which serves at once to fortify the edge, and make it more nearly equal to the piled part of the fabric in thickness.
The Yuruk weavings have a peculiar softness, proof positive that they are made to serve the ends of personal comfort where that commodity is scarce, and not those of adornment or display of skill. Some of them lack symmetry, but as a rule they lie evenly, and, being made in the sturdiest fashion, wear like iron.
Anatolians Rugs. Small mats are made throughout the Konieh district, and in fact all the middle and eastern part of the peninsula, and sold under the name of "Anatolians". They are seldom more than four feet in length and vary in respect of narrowness. Nothing could be more heterogeneous than are these yesteklik, both as to color and design. They embody every sort of device, curved and rectilinear. Those made in recognized communities of weavers follow closely the rugs of the locality, but many which come in the great consignments are merely individual conceits, the first thing that has come into the weaver's head. Their very oddity makes them attractive.
The only feature common to most of them is a soft, flocky pile. This is purely utilitarian, since originally their chief use was as pillow covers. There are in most cases strips of cloth web at the ends to facilitate making them into pillows. Clinging to the backs of many of these mats will be found seeds and specks of clean straw, showing that they have already been used, and that the collectors, seeking for everything buyable in the way of native textiles, have stripped them from the pillows and sold them for export.
The designs include everything, stripes and angular figures, Saracenic center-pieces, heavy geometrical devices like those employed by the Yuruks, and even the neat patterns of the Caucasian fabrics. The latch-hook plays an important part, especially in the mats made by the mountaineers, who, it would seem, have brought it with them from the shores of the Caspian and the uplying country. It is of different form, however, more like that seen in Kurdish rugs of Mosul. Some of the older mats are really fine and highly prized by connoisseurs. Like the larger rugs, many of them have suffered from the use of chemical dyes, and pieces which, were their colors honest, would have considerable value, are ruined by the fading of their principal areas to dirty and unsightly stains. Poor coloring may often be detected by comparison of the ends of the pile with the part, which is below the surface and has not been exposed to light and air. The under part, even in very old rugs, retains its original brightness.
There are made all about Caesarea rugs of considerable size and enormous thickness, which in trade are called "big Anatolians". They have all the peculiarities of the large Kir-Shehrs, but the pile is much longer and thicker. In some specimens it is fully an inch and a quarter in length, and is packed upon the warp as closely as the most energetic beating with the batten can crowd it, and as the yarn is of the heaviest the fabrics are nothing less than cushions, upon which a body might fall heavily a hundred times a day without possibility of injury. There is more wool to the square inch in one of these rugs than in the very thickest of Oushak or Ghiordes rugs. Much of the material is poorly prepared. In some cases it is not thoroughly cleansed of the animal oil, and after the rug has been used for a time it flocks, like the wool on the back of a thick-coated sheep.
The designs are mostly of an archaic, rectilinear order. The colors are brilliant and their areas harshly denned. There are no half-tones. The anilines are prevalent. If, however, interminable wear is all that is required, one need seek no farther than these "big Anatolians".
In Caesarea a large general manufacture has sprung up, both of big rugs of the Oushak type, and copies of the Persian sedjadeh, in both silk and wool. The latter are known in trade as Caesarean Kirmans, Caesarean Sehnas, etc. None of these products bears any relation to the old, spontaneous industry of the locality.