I may repeat here that the Smyrna rugs of today are all made for market, and are as purely commercial creations as Axminster or Wilton. The paltry rates at which weavers can be employed more than overbalance the American tariff upon imported fabrics, and there remains the indisputable fact that Americans cannot, even with better facilities and the best of Oriental designs to work from, satisfactorily imitate the Eastern products.
The genuine antiques from this region are growing lamentably scarce, but at long intervals a new rug is found, made with all the old fineness and purity of design, and colored with the old-fashioned dyes a very oasis in the desert. The manufacture of rugs of the Smyrna type is making its way eastward with great rapidity. It was a long stride when looms for the heavy grades were set up in Konieh, and now, since Caesarea became a factory, Caesarea and other towns, still farther east, have begun to contribute their quota. The great body of moderns in the Smyrna group, no matter where made, are alike in all points save comparative coarseness and some technical differences such as weight, solidity of texture, quality of wool in the pile, and the materials used for warp and weft. The names by which they are known in the trade serve merely to define grades. The designs are anything and everything, European as well as Eastern, and the dyes, in most instances, largely chemical.
The Smyrna fabrics are surely entitled to the name rug, if size is the desideratum. They are made now to fit almost any floor. For a time the experiment was tried of making these great affairs in several sections and deftly joining them afterward. The process proved unsuccessful, as the pieces seldom matched sufficiently well to make the completed fabric seem a unit.
Ghiordes Rugs. About fifty miles northeast of Smyrna lies the rug making town of Ghiordes. You may see it written in nearly as many ways as there are stitches in its famous fabrics Gordes, Gurdiz, Gierdi, Yoordis, Yurdi, Yordi, and many more. But by whatever name, it is to the native always to be revered; not so much because in the popular belief, which cannot be shaken by archaeological doubts, it is the ancient Gordium, home of the Gordian knot, by severance of which, in accordance with prophecy, world-compelling Alexander became master of all Asia, but because the old Ghiordes rugs have there been woven, which to the Turk, and many people besides, are the acme of textile excellence.
From the limitless field of design and the countless possibilities of color combination, the weavers of Ghiordes, in other centuries, wrought out a type which had universal recognition as their own; a type to the chaste perfection of which the designers, whether of East or West, have not been able beneficially to add, and from which only laziness, haste or greed has since prompted any man to take aught away. This type found its greatest prevalence in the prayer rugs, but can still be seen in floor coverings, though they have now grown rare. In the famous collections of Europe the old Ghiordes bits are placed side by side with the most prized antiques from the Persian looms.
It is an interesting middle ground, which these most renowned of Anatolian fabrics occupy, in the matter of design. While eschewing the Persian realism and profusion in floral patterns, the Ghiordes weavers have attained equal mastery of synchromatic arrangement. From the deep mass of solid color, sometimes rich red, canary, or pale green, but most commonly blue, which forms the arched central field of the prayer rugs, there is the most delicate alternation of colors throughout the several borders, even to the outermost band. I n the ground of the main or middle border stripe, or perhaps in its chief floral pattern, will be found recurring, in subdued but still dominant value, the central blue. In the inner guard stripe, next to the central field, the blue is almost unnoticeable, giving place to red or yellow, the alternating color. In the outer one it is stronger, though not sufficiently prominent to diminish the value of the blue in the broad main stripe. Where the prevailing color is red or the pale yellow frequent in all Asia Minor prayer rugs (though most common in the Kulahs), the balance is just as skillfully maintained. To aid in this adjustment of color-balances the daintiest tints of other colors are used, pale Nile green and the paler yellow, which serve the lighting-place of white, but leave softness instead of a glare. Where particularly delicate color tone is required, cotton is sometimes used in place of wool for the small white figures.
The patterns used in the Ghiordes border ornament are singularly adapted to this skilful distribution of color. They are chiefly floral, and so insure softness, but the flower forms, instead of presenting the broad conventional surfaces customary in the Assyrian patterns, or the severe angular indented style of the Caucasians, consist of finely broken leaves and blossoms, which assist in the production of the most minute color areas. While not harshly geometrical, they are quasi-rectilinear and so drawn as to lend themselves to regular arrangement. There are in each spray one blossom and two leaves, two blossoms and one leaf, or three blossoms. These are arranged within an imaginary square, which, repeated many times, forms the main border stripe. One corner of the square is occupied by each leaf or blossom, the remaining corner by the base of the stem and a few tiny leaves, which put out from it. The fine color balance between the leaves and flowers on each branch is distinctly noticeable in all the old examples. The border stripe is virtually made up of these squares, which are so arranged that the stems of the spray point alternately inward and outward. Thus, in many pieces, the succession of stems produces the effect of undulation, without resort to the conventional vine, which is the foundation of the whole Persian system. The only pronounced trace of this is in the narrow tertiary stripes, which separate the borders proper. These carry a central wave line, or thin ribbon, and can be found in the majority of Ghiordes fabrics.
In some Ghiordes rugs the main border is made up of a pattern, which at first glance suggests a comb. This, examination will show, is also a leaf form. There is sometimes substituted for the main border stripe, with its rich floral decoration, a series of narrow stripes, alternately very dark and very light almost black and white. This feature, which is carried to an even greater extreme in the antique rugs of Kulah than in those of Ghiordes, lends a decided brilliancy of effect, but interferes somewhat with the fine color adjustment.
In the spandrels over the arch of the prayer rugs there is a repetition of the pear patterns or some variation of the characteristic trifoliate border design, still arranged in rows, and usually in an emphatic shade of the alternating color. The entire oblong is topped by a horizontal panel in which the principal color is even more pronounced than in the border stripe. The patterns in this panel and in a second panel nearly always put in underneath the field, may be eccentric Anatolian floral forms, but more frequently appears some phase of the old symbolism, such, for example, as the swastika.
The niche in the Ghiordes prayer rugs has a distinctive form. It is tall. The angles at the base of the arch are frequently broken; the apex of the arch, instead of running to an acute point, is also broken very near the top, so that its angle is obtuse. In many specimens the tree of life pattern, almost omnipresent in prayer rugs, is without trunk, and consists merely of protruding floral branches, drawn after the manner of the flower designs in the borders and spandrels.
A feature peculiar to some of the best of these prayer rugs is that the fringe on the upper end, instead of being the customary finishing of the ends of the warp, is a separate affair, usually of silk, sewn fast, and reaching down each side of the rug for the space of a foot or more. The weft is sometimes cotton, and the finishing of the sides often an extra selvage of silk in pale color and of the finest weaving. So much for the antique Ghiordes. It cannot be mistaken, except for the product of the neighboring city of Kulah, and once seen at its best will scarcely be forgotten.
As for the modern Ghiordes, it marks the maximum of change in Turkish rugs, as the Feraghan does in Persia; but the Feraghan has been loyal to its antique design, while the Ghiordes has not. The modern fabric is of infinitely coarser texture and astounding color. The old vegetable tingents are little used save in the finer grades. Even when the dyes are vegetable products they are mordanted by chemical methods, and the old formulae for preparing and fixing them seem to have been lost.
There is no special characteristic in the modern Ghiordes by which they can be distinguished from other Smyrna rugs, except that for the sake of economy a cotton thread is used, even in the best of them Hamidiehs, Sultaniehs, Osmaniehs for weft.
The better grades are known by the greater number of knots contained in the square inch. The lowest have twenty and the highest about seventy-five. All that these big moderns retain from the old Ghiordes is the general border arrangement, and the small undulating stripe referred to in the description of the antiques. That is found, in some shape, in all the latter-day fabrics except the fantaisie rugs. For the rest, the fine patterns so delicately wrought in the old prayer rugs are abandoned for great and garish ones in the new rugs. "Big" colors prevail. There is no limit to them. Harsh reds, greens, terra cottas are common, and all manner of figures are used to fill the vacant space. Frequently there is a gigantic medallion in the center, in red, green, or some other heavy color.
The remainder of the field is filled in with all sorts of disjunct figures, a reversion, unprejudiced critics would say, to the barbarian tendency found in Kazaks, Turkomans, and the rough products of Mosul and Southern Anatolia. The pile of the great rugs varies in length from an inch downward. The Ghiordes weaver of a century ago would have laughed at these as monstrosities; today they are sold by the ship load. The big firms who make the farmaish have in Ghiordes, as in other large factory towns, expert men whose business it is to establish the scale of the patterns. They weave small sections of rugs, which are given to the rank and file to work by.
Kulah Rugs. In former times Kulah produced rugs of much the same pattern and workmanship as those of Ghiordes, from which town it is less than fifty miles distant. So few and so fine were the points of difference that even connoisseurs often find it difficult to say positively of some of the rare examples now offered for sale in this country whether they be from the looms of one city or the other. Both have the same brightness, delicacy of pattern and fine though chaste display of color. In old Kulah prayer rugs red is oftener the prevailing color than in those of Ghiordes, and the golden brown color more frequent still sufficiently so, in fact, to be almost characteristic. The niche or pointed arch, measuring from the base of the spandrel, is seldom so tall, and its sides are more apt to be serrated. The inner field of the rug is more frequently filled or partly filled with small figures than that of the Ghiordes, in which solid color is a rule. These figures are usually floral, of the Asia Minor character three-leaved, and with the flowers hanging down them and are arranged in rows like the pear and shrub patterns in the field of Chi-chis and Kabistans, but without the separating lines or bars found between the rows in those rugs.
Figures of the same sort are repeated transversely to form the main border of the Kulahs, in lieu of the large individual patterns common to the Ghiordes. The narrow alternating stripes (dark and light) referred to as appearing in the Ghiordes must really be considered a Kulah mark, from the fact that in the old Kulahs, instead of being used chiefly as a substitute for a main stripe pattern, they are employed in great number, sometimes as many as seven, or eight, or even ten, inside and outside the main border stripe. Each of these narrow stripes carries a succession of small, separate devices in place of a running pattern. The narrow stripe with undulating pattern, referred to as a characteristic of all Ghiordes, antique and modern, is rarely found in pure Kulahs, and the peculiar arrangement of the top fringe of the Ghiordes prayer rugs is absent from the Kulahs, except in rare cases where it has been supplied at the dictation of individual caprice.
The extensive manufacture of rugs for market has been carried on only for a short time in Kulah, but so rapidly has it increased that the town is today one of the most important rug-making places in Turkey. Certain of the makers here maintain with heroic fidelity the use of vegetable dyes, and strive to keep their products up to the old standard of merit, but for a time the general quality declined so sadly that government interference became necessary to insure its restoration. Oddly enough, much of the weaving is done by men. Rugs of the better grade are made chiefly by the Christian population. They taught the art to the Turks, who speedily abandoned it and went into the raising of rug materials. The Mohammedans now weave the low-grade rugs. Of late years mohair has been used with an admixture of wool, for piling what are known as Kulah mohairs. These rugs look well when new, but instead of improving with age, like most Oriental fabrics, lose their gloss, and when the mohair becomes packed, as it does with comparatively brief use, unpleasantly resemble felt. In design the modern Kulahs have nothing characteristic. The old models have been abandoned, and like well nigh all the present day Smyrna fabrics they are made from designs furnished them by European dealers. The Kulah moderns, with woolen pile, run almost entirely to large sizes. With some few exceptions, they are inferior products; often coarser in texture even than the Ghiordes barchanas. The mohairs are made in all dimensions, from the single door-mat up to the whole rug.
Demirdji Rugs. In 1880's Demirdji, a town of twenty thousand, was unknown to the rug trade. Its present prosperity and fame are the outgrowth of misfortune. It is commonly said that the weavers from Ghiordes journeyed to Demirdji, set up looms and taught the natives to weave. This is not the fact. In 1880, or thereabouts, Demirdji was partially destroyed by fire, and the majority of its population were left homeless, some helpless. In desperation some hundreds of them went to Ghiordes, where at that time the rug industry was beginning to assume commercial proportions. They learned the trade, and after a short time returned home and taught it to their townsmen. Skilled dyers went there, and finding the water of a good solvent quality, opened shops. The best of wool is produced on the plateaus east of Demirdji, and today the rugs made there are accounted among the best in Turkey. They are more compact than the average Ghiordes, the yarn is rather better selected, and of double or sometimes of triple strand. The pile is clipped shorter than in the Ghiordes.
The rug trade in this country seems of late to have set its face most resolutely against the Demirdji rugs, maintaining that they are practically one with the Ghiordes product, and believing that the Ghiordes rugs are substituted, while the Demirdji price, about twenty per cent, above that of Ghiordes, is maintained. But as all the motives of rug sellers are not altruistic, nor all their practices wholly ingenuous, the doom of Demirdji need not yet be considered as altogether sealed. The Demirdji quality known as Hindustanieh, is a finer and perhaps better finished rug than any of the staple products of Oushak. It is very closely trimmed, but has a large number of knots to the inch, which makes it heavier and more durable than others which have a longer pile.
Oushak, Ushak or Usak Rugs. Railroad connection with the Mediterranean seaboard has contributed to make Oushak one of the greatest rug-making towns in Asia Minor, or for that matter in the world. In the quantity of its exports, it easily outranks all other seats of rug manufacture. Growing to keep pace with the enormous demand for its products, Oushak now numbers its looms and its weavers by thousands. The population ten years ago was estimated at twenty-five thousand. Today it has almost if not fully quadrupled, and the value of the exports amounts to more than two million dollars a year. Few if any small pieces are made there. The whole working force is applied to the production of great, deep-piled rugs, which are found in hotels, in the saloons of steamships and apartments of the kind, as well as in thousands of dwellings, all the world over. There are half a dozen varieties, but they are in no wise determined by color or design, as the work at Oushak is done largely from patterns furnished by Europeans, and the colors, instead of following an established local preference, vary with particular requirements in decoration or the changing fashions of the West.
The Oushak rugs have a softness to the foot not to be anticipated from their appearance. This results from the invariable use of wool for the foundation. In the qualities known as Yaprak and Kirman the warp is usually dyed in strong colors red, green, blue, terra cotta or maroon. The wool of the woof is the same grade as that of the pile.
Some years ago a rug dealer in Smyrna, who has an extensive trade with the United States, started a steam dyeing establishment in Oushak, to color all the wools at wholesale with chemical dyes.
Fortunately for the native dyers, and probably for the entire industry, the undertaking met with no success. The water at Oushak is of such remarkable quality that much of the wool from other districts is brought there for washing, but of late much of the Oushak wool has been poorly washed.
The several denominations of Oushak rugs differ principally in texture. The ordinary Oushak, generally called Kirman, has from twenty-five to fifty knots to the square inch, and the Gulistan, and Enile or Inely, from fifty to ninety. The Gulistans are finer, in many respects, than the Eniles.
The Yapraks the original Oushak rugs can be singled out from the fact that they are coarsest of all, and ordinarily contain only two colors, red and blue, or red and green. The warp and weft are dyed in one of them, and the pattern, in the alternating color, is as plainly visible on the back as on the front of the rug. The Kirmans are softer than the other varieties.
Rugs very like the best of those of Oushak are now made in Kutayah, whither master artisans were sent from Oushak to set up the looms and teach the people the required method of weaving. Kutayah does not, however, figure often as a trade name. The products of its looms are sold under the Oushak or Ghiordes classifications. Many of them are extremely good fabrics, following in the quality of foundations and some points of finish, both of ends and sides, the heavier of the Bergama rugs. They are, of course, so much heavier than any Bergama, and so altogether different in coloring and design, that their small textile resemblance affords not the slightest aid to identification. They affect large central fields of plain color, blue or red, or some such faint fretted diaper as is found in the grounds of Hamadan and Samarkand. The medallions and rectangular corner ornaments, as well as the borders, are generally semi-geometrical in character and small in proportion to the rug.
Bergama and Ladik Rugs. Nowhere does the wealth of historic suggestion which lives in Oriental rugs assail the mind with more force than in the fabrics which, in comparatively small number, but until lately inversely good quality, come from the neighborhood of these two old towns, one lying to the north of Smyrna, the other farther to the east, on the main highway from the west coast to the Euphrates.
Bergama, as Pergamos, was a stronghold of Christianity in its earliest periods, and site of one of the seven churches mentioned in the Apocalypse. But centuries before that they were centers of civilization. Pergamos, founded, according to tradition, by a son of Hercules, became after innumerable wars the home of royal magnificence. Its rulers discarded the barbarism of the strictly Oriental races, and espoused Hellenic art and learning. The Roman arms perpetuated its greatness. It was renowned in its time for libraries, altars, and sacred groves. It was the chief shrine of Asclepius, and all the culture of the East came to it for one purpose or another. The sculptures on its giant altar of Jupiter were famous throughout the world, and the excavations made there in recent years by German archaeologists have shed more light, it is said, upon the art and architecture of Grecian antiquity than any others in the Orient.
Ladik, a corruption of Laodicea, is one of several cities, scattered through the Orient, which bore the name. It is situated some distance northwest of Konieh. This locality, too, retains relics of ancient grandeur. Fragments of superb architecture are still found, and coins of the Roman emperors are frequently turned up from the soil under which its ruins lie buried.
The towns have, of course, fallen victims to that long decadence which has made of all Asia Minor a great burial-ground of splendor, but their rugs have retained, with a tenacity that is comforting, something of high artistic character. These have been almost the only districts within the range of Smyrniote influence, which have not yielded outright to the blandishments of commerce and permitted themselves to become converted wholly into sweat shops.
Their old fabrics have so many points in common that it is difficult to define the points of variance. In both the combinations of color are superb. In no other fabrics made are there to be found finer displays of red, crimson, yellow and blue. In the Bergama sedjadeh the figures are notably bold, and large in proportion to the size of the fabric. This and their artistic elaboration distinguish them instantly from other Turkish rugs. There is more of the pretentious unity of design which marks the high-class Persian fabrics, and the best examples have been mistaken, even by persons well versed, for the early Saracenic masterpieces of Cordova and Morocco. The design starts from a central point, and the figures and areas balance, both In respect of color and location, and rich effects are produced by gorgeous massing as well as by a profusion of small and graceful forms. The texture is a little coarser and the pile a little longer than in the ancient Ghiordes.
In most of the points concerning which experts are critical the Ladiks are accounted the better fabrics of the two. They are glossier, and somewhat superior in material. They have more of brightness and life than the Bergama, and are of heavier yarn and more closely woven. They show a liberal use of white and scarlet, in contrast with the madder reds, which prevail in the Bergama. Ladik rugs resemble in some respects the antique models of Ghiordes, and even more those of Kulah, particularly the prayer rugs, in which red and yellow prevail as tonic colors. The Kulah small stripes, however, are not often found in the Ladiks.
The preservation of the fine old designs has been accomplished by almost slavish copying. It is not unusual to find a Ladik prayer rug which, though forty or fifty years old, gives textile proof that it was scrupulously copied from an older fabric. It must be confessed that a deterioration has of late been manifest. At first it was shown in the omission of the smaller details of the design, and a tendency to a loose texture. Since the railroad's invasion of this part of the Peninsula the quantity of the rugs shipped out has increased vastly, while the quality has in large measure declined. Bergama and Ladik features, though in very crude form, are now found in coarse and inferior small pieces which are offered in large numbers under the name of Bergama, but which in color and design are unspeakably remote from the genuine antique products. The designs in these new rugs are Turanian, nomadic, heterogeneous, and the color shocking. Whether any respectable number of these are actually made in the region of Ladik and Bergama or not it is hard to say. They certainly are a sad mockery of the name.
That the genuine products are still to be had, however, at adequate price, is beyond dispute. In a letter written from Eski Shehr Mr. Denotovich says:
"About two hours' travel by rail south of this place is a station called Sarain. Ladik is some hours' horseback ride from the railroad at that point. I visited the neighborhood some days ago, and found a. fairly good number of namazlik, odjaklik and even sediadeh, of the old quality and design, offered for sale in the bazaars. The weavers and merchants are fully alive to the superior quality of the rugs, and demand a good price for them. The dealers inform me that the making of that class of rugs is still carried on by the inhabitants to the westward of Sarain, in the foothills of the mountains which lie between Ladik and Bergama".
The rugs of both Bergama and Ladik are in the smaller sizes. They run from three to six feet wide by four to eight feet long, and are inclined to be considerably wider in proportion to length than other Asia Minor rugs. The rich general color effect is heightened in both varieties by dyeing the foundation threads in the principal color of the piled design. The weft is always colored, and, closely woven upon three or four outside threads of the warp, in the kilim stitch, forms a tinted selvage at the sides, in harmony with the general tone of the rug. Warp and weft are woven into a two- or three-inch red web at the ends, usually striped with yellow or blue. Beyond this the warp forms a small loose fringe, or sometimes a narrow selvage like that of the old Koniehs, which are made nearby. In some of the older and finer examples the finishing of the ends is more elaborate, and even in the coarse and irregular modern substitutes, which retain no vestige of the artistic merit of the antiques, the web at the ends appears inwrought with its small device indicative of superstitious feeling.
Ak-Hissar Rugs. This name means the "white citadel". As ordinarily spoken it is Axar, with a decided emphasis on the final syllable. The town lies in the mountains, less than a hundred miles northward from Smyrna. It was here, about twelve years ago, that rugs were first manufactured in any quantity from mohair. The stubbornness of the Angora goat's-hair, which had been imported to the town in 1885, made spinning it a difficult task, but a workable yarn was finally obtained by combining it with wool. The output of Ak-Hissar consisted, until lately, almost wholly of these mohairs. They are of the same general quality as those made in Kulah, and subject to the same comment. The pile packs and loses softness after a little wear. Both warp and weft are of coarse wool.
When the mohair rugs were first placed upon the market, and for some time thereafter, they commanded a higher price than almost any of the Smyrna rugs, but the quotations on them nowadays arc extremely low. The little success achieved by the mohair fabrics has led the weavers of Ak-Hissar to work in wool yarns. They make rugs very similar to those of Ghiordes and Oushak.
Milas Rugs, or Carian. In some of the seacoast towns to the south of Smyrna, and many of the scattered islands of the sea, rugs are made which bear the name Milas (probably because their primary market-place is Miles, Milassa, or Milesso), or Carian, from the ancient name of southwestern Asia Minor. They are also called Makri, from the Gulf of Makri, near which Milesso is situated. The name Makri has been applied to the general product of the coast districts of southern Asia Minor and Syria, and some of the fabrics found in these regions have the broad Turkman web at the ends, similar to that seen in the Bokharas, Afghans and Yuruks. As a rule the Milas rugs are small, and the texture is comparatively coarse. The old examples, now rare, are in rich but mellow color, abounding in a peculiar quality of red and a yellow such as marks some exceptional Ladik pieces. The colors in the moderns are largely aniline, and are almost offensive in their brilliancy and not harmoniously blended in the weaving.
The red conspicuous in new Milas rugs is of a peculiar metallic quality-bordering closely upon cerise, and yet retaining the solidity of pure carmine. It generally appears in striking mass in the central field, but the smaller patterns in the border are so enlivened with it that the fabric can hardly be accused of inconsistency. The other colors, too, notably the yellows, light blues and greens, are of a commensurate value. All are garish, but after the rugs have been in use for a time, and the colors have had opportunity to fade, some of them are really attractive. The designs lack coordination in their smaller elements; they impress one as being jumbled. With more of unity the extravagant colors might seem less tawdry, but the mixture of small detached figures presents nothing to chain the attention, and so the entire character of the rug is imparted by the hues. The designs are heterogeneous, too; this is particularly apparent in the borders. In one rug the Caucasian latch-hook is prominent, while in the next the character most often repeated is the Persian pear.
The Ghiordes knot is used; the warp is of two- or three-strand wool, often colored at the ends in some cheap-looking shade of light blue, or perhaps a violent pink, and left to form a loose, unattractive fringe of considerable length. The weft is usually of cotton, and is worked around three or four outside threads of the warp, forming a compact selvage for the sides.