Turkish Rugs


Among antique rugs, probably the most interesting and colourful group are those made in Turkey - mostly in Asia Minor - in the 17th and early 18th centuries. 

At that time, the finest of the Turkish products rivalled all but the very best of Persian weavings, and the rugs of Ghiordes, Mudjar, Kadik and Konieh, for example, are still eagerly sought by connoisseurs and collectors, to say nothing of the lovely little Melas rugs.

Most of the Turkish production was in standard rug sizes, with the exception of the Oushak area, which mostly produced standard carpet sizes, and an occasional Ghiordes. So-called Sparta carpets (a corruption of Isbarta), and the similar but more finely-knotted Sivas, were of a much later period and were more of a commercial product. 

All Turkish rugs are knotted with the Turkish knot.

Ghiordes  Turkish Rugs

The best known of all Turkish weavings, the Ghiordes at its finest is a magnificent rug, rivalling the best in Persia. 

Examples exist covering several centuries and, even today, pieces from the 17th and 18th centuries still come on to the market. In the namazliks or prayer rugs the arch is very typical in form, rather suggesting a Pathan turban, with flat shoul­ders rising steeply to a point, from which a lamp is suspended. In later forms, this could also be a vase or basket of flowers. Often, in later picces, there is a form of pilaster inside the edges of the field, acting as suppon for the shoulders of the arch. 

The remainder of the field is plain, but the spandrels above the mihrab or arch are closely covered with tracery or angular foliate forms. There is a great variety of main border stripes, but they are invariably squared off in quadrangular forms, except when, possibly through intermarriage, the main border stripe from nearby Kulah is adopted.

Knotting varies from coarse 8.75 to the sq cm (56 sq in) to fine 29.75 to the sq cm (192 sq in). The coarser pieces are of a looser texture, with wool or silk warps, though cotton was sometimes used in later pieces. The main colours include a rich red, dark green, ivory and deep blue.

. Kulah Turkish Rugs 

1 he village of Kulah produces a much looser fabric than Ghiordes, and the mihrab is the flattest of all the Turkish prayer rugs. The field is almost invariably decorated, usually with vertical rows of flower heads, and the spandrels are covered with small repetitive designs.

Red, blue, a mid-green, ivory and yellow are the main colours used, and there is never any clashing of colours. Texture is loose, with two weft threads between every two rows of knots, the knotting varying be­tween 5.5 and 18.5 to the sq cm (35 to 120 sq in). The border stripe con­sists of several narrow stripes about 3 cm (1 in) in width in alternate contrasting colours, each bearing minute floral forms at regular intervals.

There are quite a few rugs other than prayer rugs in this category, mostly like a double-ended namazlik, having an identical arch at either end of the field.

Konieh  Turkish Rugs

There is a wide variety of design in this group in almost every part. Borders may vary from several narrow stripes to an exceptionally wide main stripe that is rather too wide for the rest of the design. Positioning of the prayer arch or mihrab also varies a great deal, and the fields are rarely plain, mostly bearing small stylized floral forms.

The mihrab is stepped and often small latchhooks project from these steps into the spandrel, and so to those of the field. Two threads of red wool wefts across between each two rows of knots, and the backs of these rugs are less ribbed in appearance than most Turkish rugs. Knotting is coarse, varying between 4.5 and 12.5 to the sq cm (30 and 80 sq in) and texture is reasonably firm.

Melas  Turkish Rugs

Although these rugs are characterized by a soft strawberry red, and the designs have an artless simplicity, they offer the widest scope of design in all the rugs in the Turkish group. 

The variety of design is almost endless, yet there is rarely any hesitation in ascribing a rug to the right category. Generally, the mihrab is characteristic in that it 

is sharply waisted with an angular indentation on either side before the arch ascends at about 45 degrees to meet in the centre. The indentations are often filled, with the exception of a small dividing line, with a triangular piece of the same colour as the field.

Despite this, the rule is broken as often as it is observed. In some namazliks the field may be only a long narrow panel running the centre of the rug with a tiny arch at the top, while the rest of the field may be covered with assorted designs or even more, shorter vertical panels.

Rugs other than namazliks are quite common, but the variety of in­vention in design is bewildering. Knotting is coarse, varying from 4.5 to 14 to the sq cm (30 to 90 sq in) and there are usually four weft threads of fine red wool between every two rows of knots.

Ladik Turkish Rugs

These lovely and colourful rugs may still be found in the auction rooms, though the older pieces are often in bad shape. The mihrab generally has a triple arch of which the centre one is higher than the others, while the field is usually a rich red or pale blue. Below the field is a deep panel with a row of reciprocal Vandykes from which, depend a downward pointing row of stems with leaves ending in what look like pomegranates. 

These are very characteristic, as is the main border stripe which usually consists of alternate conventionalized rosettes and Rhodian lilies. Colours are mainly red and a lightish blue enlivened by a typical canary yellow, with a certain amount of green and brown. Texture is on the firm side, with from 14 to 24 knots to the sq cm (90 to 156 sq in). The back is ribbed.

Oushak Turkish Rugs

The carpets of Oushak were some of the first oriental carpets to be seen in the West. There are a good number of examples of these weavings from the 16th and 17th centuries, either in designs with large rounded medallions or with star-shaped medallions. 

There are also 'bird' Oushaks and examples with the Tamerlane motif of three dots superimposed over two tiny wavy bands, both used as repetitive patterns on a white or ivory  field.

 The principal colours are red, blue and green, and the texture is very loose, while knotting is coarse, varying from as little as 2.5 to a top limit of around 11 to each sq cm (16 to 72 sq in). Warp and weft are of wool, the weft being dyed red.

Makri  Turkish Rugs

Sometimes referred to as Rhodian, these stoutly woven rugs are knotted from thick, lustrous wool of excellent quality, and 18th and 19th century pieces can be found in superb condition, but they are very rare.

 Like the rugs of Bergama they are rather squarer in format, but they are distinc­tive in that the field may be divided into one, two or three vertical panels in strongly contrasting colours, each panel carrying a number of dis­junct motifs in bright colours.

Ground colours of the panels are usually red, blue and green in rich depth, with a lot of golden yellow and white. The back is not ribbed, and the knotting is coarse, varying between 5.5 to 12.5 to the sq cm (35 to 80 sq in) giving a fairly loose texture. There is a web at both ends, and usually a flat two, three or four cord selvage in bright mid-blue at the sides.

 Mudjar Turkish   Rugs

The Mudjar is a rare type that is a joy to find, with borders like tessellated tiles, each tile a different colour from that of its neighbours. Colours include mauve, blue, green, red pink, yellow and ivory. The arch is steeply stepped with three or four lines in differing colours outlining the arch which ends with a vandyke, with disjunct ornaments - often includ­ing water jugs - in the spandrels. Above the mihrab is a shallow panel carrying a row of Vandykes terminating in arrow heads.

Texture is loose and the weave fairly coarse, with from 6.5 to 16.75 knots to the sq cm (42 to 108 sq in). There are two shoots of wool weft between each two rows of knots, the weft being dyed red or brown. The warp is also wool.

Kir-Shehir Turkish Rugs

Like the Mudjar prayer rugs, the mihrab is steeply stepped, ending in a vandyke, with the arch delineated by several parallel rows of coloured lines, but there the similarity ends. 

In the Kir-Shehir, stylized carnations extend into the centre panel from all round the sides, and there are usually carnations projecting into the sides of the field and spandrels, while the panel above the mihrab usually carries a cloudband and rosette design. 

There are two main border stripes characteristic of this type, one ot which consists of sprays of flowers arranged in quadrangular form in different colours, while the other consists of quadrangular arrangements of stylized lilies alternating with cypress trees.

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