Turkish Rugs

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Konieh rugs Smyrna rugs

    THE substitute term for Turkish in the vocabulary of the rug-seller is Smyrna, or was so until the American manufactures began to bear that name. But in any event it is in essence a misnomer, since in Smyrna no rugs are made for market, nor have been, within the memory of man, Smyrna is essentially a mercantile capital. Next to Constantinople, it is the chief point of export for Oriental rugs and the products of all districts have thus come to bear its name in vulgar usage, although no fabrics are sold in the wholesale market in Smyrna save those made in Asia Minor.

    The Turkish class, though commercially very large, is small in the number of its varieties. A line drawn from Trebizond, on the Black Sea, southwesterly to the head of the Gulf of Iskanderum, in the Mediterranean, would cut off the Anatolian peninsula from the Asiatic mainland. It would have to the west of it all the territory whose rugs may properly be called Turkish. Those which alone have shadow of right to the name Smyrna are a component group of the Turkish class. They are made chiefly in the towns of the two western provinces, Aidin and Broussa, which are directly accessible from Smyrna by rail, or in their remoter quarters by caravan, and which find in that city their most convenient and, in fact, inevitable point of sale and shipment. This proximity to a commercial center and close communication through it with the Western world has given to the rug industry of these provinces a double character not found in any other section of the Orient; has in fact in some degree robbed it of its distinctively Eastern quality, so that although many of the old-time Turkish rugs were of remarkable workmanship, fully ninety per cent, of the fabrics made there today are representative of nothing save the passion of the West for this form of floor covering, the aptitude of Western designers at devising new combinations of Oriental figures and of color, and the amazing, possibly unsuspected ability of the Turkish weavers to do under pressure a great amount of work in a short time.

    The peninsula, so far as its rugs are concerned, is merely a workshop, and Smyrna is its counting room. The great burden of the output in the Western district is, as I have said, made upon orders from outside markets. Some of these are general; some are specific; but altogether they have sufficed to wean the workman from old materials and old methods. He aims now at volume rather than excellence. Large business sagacity, to be sure, has been shown in the selection of this particular region for the enterprise. It presents facilities for shipment, and it not only produces readily and plentifully all the materials used in the construction of rugs, but numbers among its population a representation from almost every Eastern race. There is no form of weaving which may be needed in filling a business order, but in this hodgepodge of peoples men and women conversant with it can be found, and the conditions of the country make it certain that their work may be had at a price which warrants a goodly margin of profit to every person through whose hands the fabric may pass before it reaches the user. In Afion Karahissar, for example, Armenian women weave for from four to seven cents a day.

    The singular conditions prevalent here present a difficult dilemma to the writer. Each weaving town has in effect two classes of fabrics. To prosecute faithfully the purpose of this book description should be given, to the end of identification, of the typical antique rugs for which some of the districts have been renowned. They have a distinctive character, which the new products have not. The modern fabrics made in certain towns of Asia Minor bear no relation to the antiques made in the same places, so far as likeness is concerned. These towns have in the modern fabrics almost no distinctive types at all. They produce loose, heavy rugs of conglomerate design, which recall nothing so much as young Falconbridge, who "bought his doublet in Italy, his round-hose in France, his bonnet in Germany, and his behavior everywhere".

    Less, then, to emphasize this difference than to avoid inadequacy, it is necessary to make clear something of the character of each of the older rugs, specimens of which are occasionally encountered, before speaking of the coarser latter-day fabrics which are rushed out from the looms of the same towns to meet the demands of trade, and which, no matter how much their existence may discomfort the amateur, are proving themselves of vast worth and service to the householder who has a floor to cover and a careless, hardheeled company to tread it.

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Konieh rugs Smyrna rugs

References:


Smyrna is its counting room:
The system of dealing in the Smyrna and Constantinople markets is infinitely complex, made so, doubtless, by the Turkish dealers as a means for gaining an advantage in intricate transaction with Western buyers. Out of the accumulation of facts bearing upon this matter these will be of general interest: In wholesale dealings in Smyrna the big rugs made throughout Asia Minor are sold by the square "pick" — five square feet — while the Bergamo, Milas, and other small rugs are disposed of by the piece. Payment is made in the medjit — twenty Turkish piastres. In Constantinople the modern Persians, Sultanabad, Tabriz, Heriz, Feraghan, and the like, are sold at so many francs per square meter, and the antiques at so many Turkish pounds apiece. The Caucasian and Tartarian, excepting perhaps some of the large Bokharas and Afghanistan nomad rugs recently sent to market, are disposed of at so many francs apiece and never by the square foot.
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Distinctive character:
All authorities upon ornament set forth that there is no original and distinctive Turkish system of ornamentation: that the custom of the Turks, as conquerors, was to command the services of artisans; that the Turkish type, so far as it may be said to exist, is a combination of Persian and Arabic. Leroy Beaulieu remarks that the Turks show in everything an imitation of the Persian genius, and it is matter of history that the Osmanli Turks, after each successful incursion upon Persian territory, sent captives of the artisan class to Constantinople to weave, carve and carry on other art industries for the beautification of Turkish palaces.
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