|Bukhara rugs||Yomud (Yomut) rugs||Afghanistan-Bokhara rugs||Beluchistan rugs||Samarkand rugs||Yarkand and Kashgar rugs|
FROM the Caspian Sea to the Chinese frontier, and from the Sea of Aral to Afghanistan and Persia, stretches an immense territory, comprising thousands on thousands of square miles, and inhabited by numberless rug-making tribes.
In the deserts and sand-hills of Turkestan, both east and west of the Oxus, and among the foot-hills of the Hissar and Turkestan Mountains, the rough, quarrelsome Turkomans, most of them under Russian rule now, make rugs which follow quite closely a general type, and which have attained a high degree of popularity as strong, well made, and serviceable. Some of them, too, are models of fine ness and solidity. The wool used in them is of good quality. The lower grades of wool are made into heavy cloaks, tent-coverings and thick felts, all of which play a large part in the wild, outdoor life led by the Central Asian hordes.
In considering these Turkoman weavings we encounter again the misunderstanding, which has arisen in the case of so many rugs. The great majority of the Turkoman fabrics are accredited to Bokhara, and by that name are widely known in Europe and America. The plan adopted in this volume of letting the accredited rug names stand for what they have stood for hitherto, instead of inviting the reader to learn a new distribution is particularly harassing here, for what are called Bokharas in America are not Bokharas, and no one in Asia, save the most case-hardened rug vendor, understands what an American means by "Bokhara" rugs. On the way up the Black Sea I talked rugs to a Frenchman who for years had been "expediting" all sorts of Eastern rugs - Persian, Caucasian, Turkoman and" even bales from farther east.
"Do you have any Tekkes in America?" he asked.
I told him I had heard the name applied to kilims, and to some coarse nomad weavings out of eastern Anatolia.
"Oh, no!" he said. "That is not the Tekke. You must see the real Tekke of Turkestan. When we arrive in Russia I will show you some, but they are not for sale. All the veritable Tekkes are in private hands, and no one will part with them, for they have become very rare. Once in a while one is offered for sale, but the price is very, very high".
When we reached Batoum I saw the Tekke the "veritable Tekke". If it were displayed in a Broadway window, the rug merchants would declare it the finest Bokhara they ever saw.
Before the Trans-Caspian railroad was built, the wild tribesmen of all that part of Turkestan, it seems, always took their rugs to Bokhara for sale.
When they reached Tiflis or Constantinople, which latter they did years ago by caravan to Trebizond, the rugs bore the name of the Turkoman capital from which they had been "expedited".)
That name has become fastened on them, and will not be changed. Tekke rugs, or their unworthy successors, will continue to be sold as Bokharas. But what is even more perplexing, under the circumstances, is that the rugs which are made in Bokhara itself, and far to the south and east of its confines, are the coarse, Brobdignagian forms of the Turkoman design, which we know sometimes as;
Afghans and sometimes as Khivas. For the rest, the Samarkands and the Chinese weavings have been Included in this group, not because they resemble the others in any respect (for they are essentially Mongol) but solely upon geographical grounds.
"Bokhara or Bukhara Rugs" or Tekke. In the whole range of Eastern fabrics there is probably no pattern which so conclusively identifies a textile as does the. hard-and-fast division into squares and oblongs and the unvarying octagonal device which are the features of the so-called Bokhara. These rugs, which are now found in almost tiresome plenty, are made by the Tekke-Turkomans who inhabit the plains to the west of the Oxus, and who, until the Russians whipped them into something like civilized procedure, found their chief delight in stealing their fellow-men of all other races whenever opportunity offered, and, having tortured them for diversion, selling them into slavery.
The Russian artist and traveler, Simakoff, who has been spoken of elsewhere, told in the all too meagre letter-press of his splendid book something of these Turkoman weavings. Each family or clan, he said, had its rug design, as one has a sign manual. Nothing that could be offered could ever tempt them to weave any other. Several of the characteristic tribal designs he reproduced in his very interesting work. The particular conceit which in the West has come to be considered most thoroughly typical of Bokhara is one which when once seen cannot be forgotten. No matter in what minor details it may vary, one feature will proclaim it instantly. The lines of demarcation in the pattern are heavy and hard, and as true as those of a checker-board. The arrangement of the devices on these oblongs is also characteristic. A single figure does not lie within a single oblong, but on the intersection of the lines. Each quarter of it is in one corner of each four adjoining" oblongs. The center, usually filled with a diamond shape, marks the actual point of intersection. The pattern itself is an elongated octagon, divided in four parts by the lines referred to above. Inside of it lies a similar shape, the diagonally opposite quarters of which are colored alike, and in contrast with the alternating quarters. For example, one and three will be of red and brown, two and four of white and black. In the outer part these colors are reversed, which gives balance to the pattern. The ground of the rug and its dominant color throughout is red kermes, madder, or glowing scarlet. The other colors are brown, black, blue, white and sometimes a shade of orange. All these are, however, thoroughly subordinated to the dominant reds. Some conventional diamond-shaped figure occupies the spaces between the octagons.
In some of the smaller pieces there is a complex border, the stripe effect of which is multiplied by many narrow lines of contrasting color, arranged after the fashion of the Chinese fret, between the broader stripes, which carry a definite pattern contrasting with the bold body of the rug. The red-and-black effect is maintained, but lightness and brightness are imparted by the addition of small areas of orange and diminutive fillings of pale blue and white, and sometimes, though rarely, of green. This border, which has much of the East Indian about it, is wider at the ends than at the side, and of a more broken design, usually suggesting some form of the tree of life.
A feature of many Bokharas, shared by kindred fabrics, is the web, sometimes ten or twelve inches deep on the ends. It is a Turkish device, and has traveled with the race. In color it is similar to the pile in most antiques; and through it, in most of the pieces, run narrow stripes, single or double, at intervals of two, three or four inches. They are blue or black and white. Instead of this there is sometimes a plain piled surface, running out clear to the small selvage and carelessly twisted fringe which finish the ends. In the small moderns the web is white. The rugs come in all sizes, though it is only within the last few years that they have reached real rug dimensions.
The prayer rugs differ entirely from the sedjadeh. Barring the borders, there is little to indicate that they are of the same variety; but in each the type is strictly adhered to. The bold reds of the rugs are usually missing from the prayer rug, which, when of fine, antique quality, is soft, sedate, but indescribably rich. The customary color tone is mahogany, relieved with the wonderful deep copper bronze tint found in some few of the Beluchistan; and the skilful, artistic use of the lighter shades gives to the variations of the design a lustre little short of marvelous. There is a multiplied tree pattern in the border, the high lights of which are in thin lines of pure white. The conformation of the arch and niche would be too heavy and severe if the coloring did not soften them so completely. The field design is of the same order as the borders, presenting in more elaborate but still rectilinear form the tree motive. Across the field, midway, runs a broad horizontal band, which, aided by a perpendicular, divides the whole area into four quite distinct parts, in each of which the tree appears. What the significance of this division may be it is hard to say. So plain in some points of the prayer rugs is the likeness to the Beluchistan that it is not wholly unreasonable to believe that the quartering, even though the fabric be Mohammedan, harks back in some way to the quadruplicate division which maintains throughout all the Vedic worship writings of India.
It is worthy of note that the Bokharas are wider in proportion to length than most other prayer rugs, always excepting the Ladik and Bergamo. The only light color used in them, aside from the white and yellow and the orange values, is pale blue, in which the minute floral patterns are sometimes laid. The pile, which is woven in the Sehna knot, is trimmed very close in the old pieces, and the surface is fine and velvety. Very rarely a pure Bokhara is found with a field of blue instead of red. These are greatly prized. What are frequently sold in America as "Bilooz", or "blue Bokharas", are Beluchistan rugs, made in a blue tone instead of the reds and bronzes which prevail in most of their class.
Many of the multitude of Turkoman designs of which Simakoff speaks could be seen up to a few years ago in Tiflis, whither the Turkestan bales were sent for redistribution; but since the extension of the railway to Bokhara and Samarkand the Turkoman tribes can intrust their weavings to the freight agents at any point on the railway, with the knowledge that they will go straight through to the Constantinople dealers. The result is that in Tiflis, where ten or a dozen years ago good Tekke rugs could be had, there is now an utter dearth of them, and small fragments of the old rugs are deftly sewn together to make a piece as large, perhaps, as a prayer rug. For these patchwork affairs astounding prices are asked.
It is impossible for any one to fix the right names and places of manufacture for the manifold weavings of Turkestan, unless, indeed, it be a native intimately acquainted with all the strolling companies scattered over that well-nigh boundless waste.
They differ in detail, but the fundamental parts of the design, as well as the general scheme of color, vary little. It is well to take what we know as Bokharas as a point to reckon from. There are designs which approach this very nearly, and there are others which, while following the color scheme and general arrangement, have eliminated many of the features. What some American dealers have chosen to call Khiva-Bokhara, for example, are identical with the Bokharas in knot, color and finish, and so nearly resemble them in pattern that at first glance they are easily mistaken for the Bokhara pieces. There are points of difference: first, the Khiva-Bokharas are inferior to the Bokharas in fineness. Superlative Bokharas have as many as two hundred knots or even more to the square inch, and a good specimen has a hundred and twenty. The best of the Khiva-Bokharas has not more than a hundred. Second, scrutiny reveals that the hard division into squares or oblong spaces which is the feature of the Bokharas is omitted from the other class or classes.
In yet other pieces which have departed even more widely from what we have adopted as a standard design, animal figures are used to diversify the quarterings of the octagon, instead of the geometrical and quasi-floral shapes. This, there is little doubt, denotes that the rugs were woven by tribes making their home in the more westerly part of the plain. They have caught, though in a degree diminished by distance, the fashion of the Caucasus, so frequently illustrated in the Kabistan and Kazak rugs. They have adhered, however, rather strictly to the Bokhara traditions, and the rugs are a happy and convenient medium between those formal fabrics and the less conventional weavings of the Yomuds.
The "Bokhara pattern" has found greater popularity in America than any other of all the Turkoman lot. It is repeated and repeated in rugs great and small, which are sent to this country by thousands annually. In the majority of them, lately, the colors are bad. Effort to make antiques of some pieces by washing has reduced them from glowing reds to the palest of pinks. The market weavers have abandoned, apparently, the other designs, and yet the finest specimen of Tekke weaving I saw presented an altogether different pattern - one which was based upon the diamond shape, after the style of the Yomuds, and not on the square and octagon. These were the rugs of which my fellow-voyager had spoken. They had an incredible number of knots to the inch, a surface fine as velvet, and while thin and flexible, almost, as paper, were strong, and in their design and texture perfect.
Dealers offer to sell what are known as "Royal Bokharas". If there were any "Royal Bokhara", it would be the kind I have just mentioned, and they are made no more - and probably never will be.
Yomud or Yomut Rugs. There is one variety of the Turkoman weavings which carries upon its face indisputable proof of its origin. Its designs tell where it was woven.
Away at the western end of Turkestan, scattered over plains, along the shores of the Caspian and in the foot-hills of the mountain chain which has for a time stopped, nominally, the southward march of the Russian, dwells the great Yomud horde of Turkomans. There are, perhaps, no rugs which from an ethnological standpoint are more interesting than theirs. They are satisfying, not more by reason of their warm color, admirable weaving and neat, cleanly defined patterns than because in every minutest particular they are what one observing the geographical position of the Yomud territory must expect them to be. Following religiously, on one hand, the color, textile traditions and general theory of the Tekke folk, with whom they are by race, customs and political affinity allied, the Yomud weavers have yet reached out across the Caspian to their near neighbors of Daghestan, Derbent, Kuba and the Shirvan district, and borrowed for the borders of their rugs and the adornment of the pure Turkoman figures all the elements and decorative tricks which distinguish the fabrics of these parts. With a skill of which they might scarcely be suspected, they have perfected in these praiseworthy rugs an adaptation, or better, an amalgamation of patterns, in ideal accord with the outline of the process as given in the chapter on Design.
The task has been simplified by the fact that the decorative quantities with which they have had to deal, on both sides, are purely rectilinear; nevertheless a great obstacle lay in the way, in the matter of coloration. To so temper the uncompromising blood-reds of the Bokharas on the one hand, and the bright yellows and blues of the Caucasians on the other, that there should be peace and harmony in the finished crug, was a labor for masters. It has been accomplished in masterly manner. To judge by the side borders alone, one might reasonably say, looking at some of the Yomud rugs, that they had come from the Shirvan or Daghestan looms. And yet the end borders and the body of the rugs are Turkoman. In some cases the colors follow the red schedule of the Tekkes; in others that is mellowed almost to an old rose, to meet and harmonize with the alien hues of the Caucasus. They retain the striped red web and the long fringe of goat's-hair; they retain in general the Tekke division, but it is in the drawing of the Caucasus. The latch-hook is everywhere. In many cases there is a broad white or wool-colored stripe at the outer edge of the web on the ends, and in it, oftentimes, a small outline border pattern, embroidered in red yarn. Occasionally the fringe, instead of being left loose all the way across the end of the rug, is twisted at irregular intervals of from three to eight inches into stout ropes like those of the Kazaks. Between these the warp-threads of goat's-hair lie loose.
In the majority of Yomuds the pattern is an array of diamond shapes, distributed upon the field in the Turkoman order, but equipped inside and out with the latch-hook. In the borders, too, Caucasian hand-marks are apparent. There is the stiff form of the swaying vine. Where it crosses from one side to the other it is heavy with latch-hooks. Where it lies parallel with the sides it is nothing but the barber-pole stripe found in nearly all the Transcaucasian fabrics, and in so many Kabistans. Even in the rugs in which it may be held to have originated, this stripe does not play a more important part than in the Yomuds. It furnishes both broad and narrow elements for the sides and in the end borders; it figures as trunk in the tree patterns, the branches of which are composed of a form of latch-hook.
There is one feature which seems to be wholly the property of the Yomuds. It is a coarse side selvage of two ribs, which, instead of being wholly red, has alternate squares of red and blue, red and brown, or two shades of red, in each rib, so that a sort of checker board effect is secured. Even when the rugs are piled out to the last thread of warp (body finish,) this is preserved in the pile. The nearest approach to anything of the sort, in any other rug, is the selvage of red, white and blue at the ends of the Shiraz, but that is worked in the Soumak stitch, while the selvage of the Yomuds is in the kilims or tapestry stitch. The piling of the Yomuds may be either in the Sehna or Ghiordes knot.
One division of these Turkoman rugs, which avoids on the one hand close adherence to the Bokhara device, and on the other the latch-hook style of the Yomuds, is called Beshir. In the matter of web and fringe it follows the example of the rest of the group, but the web is more generously adorned with stripes than in any of the other varieties. The patterns manifest somewhat more of the Arab character, but the manner of arranging them upon the field is still that of Bokhara. A feature of the border is the "reciprocal saw tooth", the sechan disih of the Persians.
Afghanistan-Bokhara Rugs. Another interesting although perplexing feature of the confusion in which these rugs of Middle Asia have become involved is that what we have been wont to purchase as Afghan rugs are really the product of Bokhara, though they are, naturally enough, made also by the dwellers in northern Afghanistan, on the slopes of the Hindu Kush and all along the Bokhara border.
They are great, coarse, rugs with the Bokhara octagon device much enlarged, and without the dividing-lines which make the field of the finer fabrics look like a decorated checker-board. Though on a greater scale, they are more after the order of the Khivas, and have been commonly sold under that name. All of boldness, all of wild force, that is read or imagined of the dwellers in these stern uplands, finds record and expression in the Afghan rugs. They are fierce and full of character. The spirit of the mountains and gorges is in them. The gloom of wind-swept highlands is over them. They are of a dark, savage red, or rather of two reds one with an ugly suggestion of blood in it, the other darker and more sombre, dulled by the admixture of indigo almost to brown.
The patterns, great and grim and impressionistic, are thrown in with much freedom and energy. Dashes of white, positive to a degree, but minute in such a desert of grimness, only emphasize the rude grandeur of the fabrics. The border is crude, but in it is recorded the finer spirit of the people. Whatever there is in them of leaning toward civilization and the politer arts has its expression here. Outside of this, formed by the ends of the goat's-hair warp, is a long, straying, ashen-brown fringe, suggesting the beard of the Cossack. Some pieces the minority are wrought out in lighter shades, but the ratio between the values is still justly maintained. The web takes on a brighter tone and better finish as the colors of the pile grow brighter; the fringe is a lighter gray. The consistency of it shows a certain artistic impulse strong in the nature of the people. Other examples manifest a leaning to orange and bits of light blue. In some the squares are resumed, some of them being laid in orange, others in rich green. The borders grow in complexity, and flower patterns creep in; but at the brightest they are in harsh contrast with the flower-strewn rugs of the Persian or the brilliant panels of the Caucasian.
The Afghans are sometimes made of goat's-hair and some times of wool. The warp is of brown wool or the coarser hair of the goat. Spinning these filaments is a difficult task. When wet they curl so tightly that they cannot be spun at all; therefore the hair is not always washed, but after the shearing is carefully combed. There sometimes remains in a warp made of this thread a strong odor which it is quite difficult to remove.
The nomad products of Afghanistan itself show a diversity which quite entitles them to a separate classification, after setting apart the Herat rugs, which have been placed with the Khorassan group of Persia, and most of which are today really made in Persia. Perhaps the most singular, as they are the rarest, of these "independent" Afghan fabrics are made by the Turkoman tribes dwelling in the defiles of the Barkhut Mountains, the gateway through which is the renowned Pass of Herat. Their rugs are a positive announcement of their position on the map, for they have borrowed the design, fish pattern and all, from the Herati, but have wrought it out in the colors of their kinsmen and neighbors on the north. The relationship, the strong general likeness of the fabrics in color and theory of contrast, and finally that they are both worked in the Sehna knot while the Herati use the Ghiordes, would perforce lead to placing these rugs in the same class as the Tekkes. This version of the Herat pattern is wholly rectilinear. The leaves which inclose the rosette are like bent spear-heads, and the flowers and stalks are stiff to the last degree. Aside from the blood-red of the ground and the dark brown or blue which is used to outline the patterns, there is small show of any color in the body of the rug. In the borders there is more life. The pattern here, usually a great, indented octagon, combined with some form of the tree, is adorned with several bright colors, orange, light blue and the like. Its lines are plainly copied from the old Beluchistan.
These weavers seem to have caught from the Herati, too, the notion of magnitude. The rugs are meant for chef-d'oeuvres, and are pretentious affairs. Some of them are twenty feet or more in length. Until the manufacture of whole rug sizes in the Bokharas was begun, after the railway had opened the wilds of Turkestan to commerce, these Afghan fabrics were far and away the largest of all the Turkoman rugs. They have the broad web at the ends. Some of them have coarse goat's-hair for warp, and the pile contains sufficient of the soft goat's-fleece to give them a lustre like to that of the finest of the Tekke fabrics.
Throughout the southern ranges of Afghan hills, down as far as Kandahar, rugs similar to these are woven, all copying in some measure from the Persianized patterns of Herat and Khorassan, but adhering to the stiff, rectilinear treatment found in Turkestan and Beluchistan rugs. Many of them have the Beluchistan coloring instead of the Bokhara red. All these are without doubt the fabrics referred to by Mr. Robinson in his "Eastern rugs" thus: "The weavers of these particular rugs are not able to give the floral patterns they use their true forms; and the explanation of their inability to do so probably lies in the fact that they are a Turanian people, settled among Aryan neighbors, by whom they have not yet been completely Aryanized".
Beluchistan Rugs. The rugs of Beluchistan, ever since rugs began to be an article of commerce, have been brought laboriously across the rugged reaches of Afghanistan to find market in the Turkoman cities. They are of many types. Some of them are of no type, embodying features from more than one form of decoration. They have not escaped the general decadence. The modern Beluchistan have fallen about as far from the high standard established by the old ones as any rugs which find their way out of the East today. It is not surprising, for the production is enormous, and even the coarsest and poorest of these are stable and full of "wear". This modern stuff from Beluchistan is nearly all made on one model, with some small diversity in color and less in design. The old rugs were in many forms, and although the colors differed according to the influence under which each piece or collection of pieces was wrought, there was always a depth and luminous quality in the dyes, a lustre in the wool, which, with certain textile peculiarities which never seemed to be omitted, made them easy of recognition. That they should have maintained any fidelity at all to pristine design is singular when the geographical location and history of the country are considered. On one side they have the Kirman province, where the old Iranian creed and textile methods are still preserved; on the northwest is Khorassan, with its rich floral fabrics, bright in color and full of realism; to the north is Afghanistan, whose principal rugs, from the earliest times to the present day, have retained the most perfect Persian character, and have, as a matter of fact, been sold as Persians; on the east, India, where Persian models have for at least three hundred years been followed with scrupulous fidelity.
This little four-cornered country has been constantly traversed through all the centuries by Greek, Arabic, Persian and Mongol invaders of India, and by the great caravan trade which long before the Christian era was carried on between India and the Mediterranean coast. Still the Beluchistan fabrics have preserved a system of design and coloring which bears little resemblance to any other of the East. There is found now and then among the Yuruks of Asia Minor a rug which in general tone, patterns and principal colors forcibly suggests the Beluchistan.
Ethnologists are at a loss to determine the derivation of the Beluchees and Brahoes, who inhabit Beluchistan, having long ago wrested it from the Hindus. They are generally believed to have come from Syria or Arabia, but in the turbulent course of time the stock has been replenished by wandering tribes of Kurds, and even large bodies of Grecian adventurers are known to have settled there and ingrafted themselves permanently upon the population. It is significant that the Beluchistan weavers use the Sehna knot. Aside from this there is small trace of Persian influence in their weaving.
The predominating influence in Beluchistan for several hundred years has been Turkoman. The chronicles of invasion show it, and there are corroborative marks which still abide in the textiles. Occasionally a piece is found which while borrowing something from the Chinese, with whom the Beluchees have always had caravan communication, follows in a general way the Tekke arrangement and also the Turkestan theory in coloring, while preserving in its finishing the Beluchistan marks.
All the Beluchistan rugs are heavy in tone. Where the principal figures are laid in madder or deep blues, they have a richness not surpassed. The greater number of them, in the American market at least, are of a brown cast. The range of colors is narrow. Few bright ornamental figures appear, though orange and some light shades of red are sparingly used. The rug in such cases takes on a brown key, and the design, which invariably has a certain ruggedness about it, is drawn simply, in lighter shades of the same. Brightness and accent are sometimes secured by working the outlines of the patterns in orange or a yellowish white. Most of the figures are big hexagons, octagons, all sorts of loose geometrical devices, ornamented inside and out with broad lines and keys in parallel arrangement, which emphasizes the rectilinear effect. The field in many Beluchistan is divided into two or three parts by transverse stripes of the same character. Sometimes, in the old rugs, these figures are woven in floral form, suggesting garlands. The derivation of the treatment is not clear. The pile is quite long and compact. The ends have a web like that of the Bokharas, extending sometimes ten or twelve inches beyond the pile. This, figured in colors or worked in a minute diaper pattern, makes a most artistic finish.
Although in point of propinquity these rugs might naturally enough be counted among the India fabrics, the rug dealers and rug makers of the peninsula do not so consider them. Even the wool of Beluchistan is not, as a rule, taken for the modern India rugs, since most of it is of a dark hue, and experiments have failed to make it take on the light colors required in the India designs. Bleaching, which has been industriously tried, serves only to impair its quality. Perhaps this has had much to do with the long preservation of distinctive character in the Beluchistan, a character which makes them easy of identification, even among a multitude of other fabrics. The weavers have made of necessity a virtue which has redounded greatly to their credit and to their advantage as well. They have utilized the dark natural hues of the wool, and attained additional depth, lustre and softness from a free admixture of goat's-fleece, which is produced in plenty in their mountains.
Samarkand Rugs. - The rugs named for the city which was the capital of the conqueror Tamur, and which is now his burial-place, are in numberless characteristics eloquent of Mongol influence. Most of them show only the smallest trace of Persian or Caucasian form. The central field, to begin with, is usually covered over with the intricate Chinese fret, laid in some shade of red or blue on a ground of some other value, or red on blue, or vice versa; sometimes it is in a pale tint of fawn brown on a background of yellowish white. Distributed in this area are medallions, one, two, three, four or five, seldom more, in which sometimes appear Chinese devices, such as the dragon, fish or pheasant, and sometimes flowers. These medallions are round or polygonal. Occasionally there is a single large one in the center, and rectilinear floral forms appear about it. In the borders the fret is further utilized in various shapes and colors, or there are decorative symbols of animal origin but floral form, which alone bear the mark of Persian treatment. Yellow predominates in the borders, giving the fabric a warm tone.
In many of the rugs of Samarkand the fretted field and its medallions have been abandoned for an attempt at floral display, but the rich, almost lurid coloring remains; the reds and yellows, and in a smaller degree the blues, in which these flowery fields are wrought, are superb. But amid the profusion there always creeps in some feature reminiscent of the old pattern. In most cases it is the largest of the flower forms, which stand out so straight, so heavy, so prominent, so octagonal, that they utterly obscure the accompanying patterns, and, stripped, before the mind's eye, of all the stems and leaves which surround them, are naught but the old figures after all.
It is to be noted, in connection with this Mohammedan floral development in the rugs of Samarkand, that upon the taking of Baghdad and other Western cities the Mongol ruler took back with him to his capital the greatest artists and artisans, in the hope of instilling a new art impulse into his people. The elaboration noticeable even in the present day in many of the Samarkand rugs must be considered a remote result of that effort.
The borders of the Samarkands carry two main stripes, of medium width. One usually presents the undulating vine in more or less angular form; the other, a lotus pattern, three flowers on a stem, which calls to mind the similar formation in the old Ghiordes border. All around the outside of the rug is usually a narrow band of some solid color. In nearly all the Samarkands four threads of the weft, which is of cotton or brown wool, are carried across after every row of knots, as in the Kazaks. The warp is usually of cotton. The knot is Sehna. The ends are finished with a narrow web and loose warp-ends. Sometimes the broad Turkoman web is employed.
Armenian dealers often apply to the Samarkand rugs the name of "Malgaran", mentioned heretofore as a common substitute title for Tcherkess and Mingreli. The confusion arises partly from the tenacious belief that Mingreli is a corruption of Mongolian.
Yarkand and Kashgar. Little is heard in American markets of the rugs of Yarkand and Kashgar. They are exported from Asia through Peking, and a few examples have found their way to Constantinople with other consignments, and have been picked up by American buyers there. Of late there has been a considerable influx of these fabrics to American markets. The Yarkand district is somewhat out of the way of the Persian influence. The city is a hundred miles or more east of Kashgar. It is well aloof in a southeasterly direction from both Bokhara and Samarkand, being eight hundred miles from one and six hundred miles from the other. After the shaking off of Chinese rule and the establishment of an East Turkestan empire, with capital at Kashgar, Yarkand became an important trade center, but on the death of Yakub Beg in 1877, Kashgar was again taken by the Chinese, and Yarkand reverted to the old sovereignty. Cut off by such a stretch of wild upland country from the trade centers of the West, and with the Great Pamir and other vast mountain ranges towering between it and the markets of India, Yarkand for a long time escaped the demoralization which had attacked most of the rug-making districts. Mr. Robinson found its fabrics many years ago at Srinagar in Kashmir, along with some of the weavings of Tibet. He described the old examples as being made with silky wool, taken probably from the yak. "The quality of these rugs", he adds, "is admirable, and the colors harmonious, the designs having a Tartar character in the geometrical figures, circles, medallions and octagons, alternately blue, red, green and yellow - the green of an emerald hue, obtained by dyeing strongly with Persian berry over indigo".
It is plain that either the quality of these rugs has declined amazingly, or that those which Mr. Robinson saw were show-pieces and far superior to the average, for the consignments which have come to America during the past two years have presented little that was attractive. Consistency is their chief merit. Interest in them is based principally on their oddity. They are nothing if not Chinese. They show no trace of the Western influence noticeable in the Samarkands, no indication of effort at floral diapers. The fretted grounds are most frequent. The circles and octagons, with their Chinese emblems, are a multitude. Dragons and fishes and variations of the fret are everywhere. In some pieces the medallions, instead of being large and few in number, are small, contain a wonderful diversity of figures, and are distributed, more or less regularly, all over the field. A favorite form is the combination of four dragons, so arranged that they form a swastika. The entire filling in some examples is made up of realistic animals.
The border space is small in proportion to the size of the rug. There are usually three stripes, a broad middle stripe, with a guard stripe on either side, but the guard stripes are not figured alike, as is customary in Persian or Turkish rugs where the borders are similarly distributed. In most cases there is some form of the Chinese-Greek border, most frequently of two meanders, so intertraced as to form swastikas at intervals, and so shaded as to present the material effect of relief. The narrower stripes are adorned with some fret forms or Chinese floral conceits.
The colors are garish, and, though in some cases brilliant, are not warm nor attractive. Pale terra-cotta, tending to pink, is common. Some rugs are made up of grayish white and yellows; others present only white with two shades of blue, suggesting delft. The greens and yellows are of the lemon order. There is some vermilion and orange in the figures.
As to texture: the material Is coarse wool, the pile about the medium length of that in the Demirdji rugs; the warp is of fourstrand cotton; the weft is thrown across four threads at a time. as in the Samarkands; the sides have a selvage built upon two threads of the warp, and the ends are finished with the loose warp-threads.
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