|One Example of Anatolian Kilim Evolution||Marla Mallett|
|Differences in the Analysis of Weavings from Various Tribal Weaving Groups|
|Analysis of other tribal weavings in attempts to establish
dates can vary considerably. In studying Turkmen knotted-pile
pieces, for example, we deal almost entirely with production that
fits within a 100-year period. When we date those pieces, or even
just try to put them into reasonable sequences, we confront lots of simple copywork,
and a broad set of general principles legitimately
applies. Analysis becomes largely a matter of pointing out
quality degeneration over the century. It is practical to speak of
layouts becoming more compact (less "spacious" to use a favorite ruggy term). From almost every
Turkmen tribal group the pieces become
increasingly crowded as borders and excess ornamentation
proliferate. Individual motifs may also become compressed or degraded.
With available Anatolian kilims, which span five centuries and present an extremely wide variety, the problems of analysis become far more complex. There are vast gulfs between pieces from the Northwest, Southwest, Central area , Southeast/Syrian areas, and the primarily Kurdish areas of the East. There are many different genre within each of these areas. Brocaded cicms form almost a separate category. Thus each genre must be treated separately, and there are few general principles that can be applied across the board. It's easy to confuse quality issues with design evolution.
|Normal Generational Changes in Anatolian Kilim Design|
|So WHY and HOW do
generational changes occur in traditional nomadic kilim design?
If we consider the rough conditions in which Anatolian nomads lived, it's quite amazing that so many old kilims have survived. Really old pieces exist today simply because of the unique Anatolian custom of Vakiflar donations to mosques--donations often made to honor deceased family members. These weavings accumulated in village mosques, where they were rarely seen by women, because these were men's institutions, not normally visited by women.
We should consider then, what kilims were most likely available to be seen by young and middle-aged Anatolian country women. A girl growing up and learning to weave was surrounded by her mother's pieces. Working alongside either her mother or older sisters and aunts, the young weaver tended to copy what she saw, often with few changes, unless she had a particularly rebellious nature. After achieving competency as a craftsman, when she married and went off to live with her new husband's family, she was suddenly surrounded by a new set of woven pieces, and she could hardly avoid the influence of her mother-in-law's work, that of other relatives in her husband's family, and that of her new neighbors. It was quite natural that her imagery should undergo a transformation--more or less drastic depending upon how removed her new family was from her maternal home. Thus her work changed naturally, and a blending of styles occurred. This wasn't rare...it was normal. Later, when her own daughters reached marriageable age, the same thing happened again.
We tend to forget that a great percentage of a nomad woman's weaving time was spent producing clothing and functional household items: bedding, storage sacks, bands, tent panels, etc.--all this in addition to her other household chores. So even if she spent long hours at the loom, only part of that time could be devoted to kilim weaving. In periods when significant time intervals between the production of one kilim and the next were likely, significant changes in even one person's patterning occurred naturally.
It's a much different situation for today's settled village pile-carpet artisans, who wear store-bought fabrics, make padded quilts of printed cottons, who find wooden chests more convenient than woven cuvals, who no longer must repeatedly replace worn out goat-hair tent panels, horse covers, etc. and so have time to produce rugs for the market. More repetition in designs and layouts can be expected.
In any case, under the harsh conditions of nomadic life, there was little likelihood that many weavings produced by a weaver's grandmother or great aunts survived within the family. Nor were pieces made by her husband's older relatives. Elderly women themselves, with failing eyesight, arthritic fingers, back pain and fatigue from years at the loom, most often occupied themselves with the simpler tasks of carding or combing wools, spinning and plying yarns. The actual presence of kilims made by a great-grandmother was out of the question--those belonged to another world. A nomadic lifestyle, with frequent moves, did not encourage the retention of excess belongings. There would have been a limit to how many huge 12- or 15-foot kilims could be carried along on migrations. When pieces weren't damaged and discarded, Vakiflar customs allowed for an easy and comfortable shedding of older family kilims as new items were produced.
Since a relatively short survival rate of old kilims within a nomadic household would have been usual, there were automatic stylistic disconnects within the system. Without old models at hand to copy, changes were incremental but continuous. Thus the coherence of an early kilim theme could easily be lost--even in a society which valued its traditions highly. The repeated adaptations of new forms through the repeated intermingling of families assured that the art form remained vibrant, that the blending of forms was routine. It also facilitated the periodic development of new forms. Among Anatolian nomads, mere copywork generation after generation was rare, and occurred most often in isolated areas with inbred populations.
These circumstances changed slightly as nomadic groups gradually settled and it became more convenient to save occasional "heirlooms." As nomads settled part of each year into village houses, they continued to produce a few kilims for their own use--mostly for sedir covers and wall hangings. Unfortunately, as Anatolian nomads settled into village life, many of the younger people turned to the production of pile carpets for the market and the ethnographic kilim tradition gradually came to an end. Increased production and rote repetition became more common as a whole new set of factors determined the direction of commercial village pile-rug production.
|Color in Early Anatolian Kilims|
|In trying to date or
even place early kilims in proper sequences, it is very difficult
for colors to be reasonably included as part of one's judgments if
these judgments are based on photos or book plates. In the vast
majority of publications, colors have been routinely enhanced, with
saturation considerably increased to make a more handsome product.
Other times hues are distorted. If one is used to seeing kilims in
this way, it can be a shock to visit an exhibition of early
The DeYoung catalog from 1990 that displays the McCoy Jones collections of kilims provides one of the most egregious examples. The 1990 ICOC exhibition of these pieces was held in an extremely dark exhibition hall with just portions of the kilims lit with tungsten spots. This way the colors seemed vibrant. When viewed in natural light, in the museum's storeroom, many of the pieces prove to be a different matter entirely--some are extremely faded, mere ghostly reflections of their book plates.
Not everyone realizes that computer monitor representations can distort reality, as the luminescence adds brilliance. In my own experience, I have found it necessary when editing photos for the web to nearly always cut the saturation in order to represent pieces accurately.
|Kilim #1 above was published as Plate number 33 in Jurg
Rageth, Anatolian Kilims & Radiocarbon Dating, 1999,
Basel. The calibrated age (with 95% confidence limit) was listed as
1427-1692AD (86.4%) and 1728-1815 AD (9.8%). The radiocarbon date
was listed as 320 + or - 88 years BP, (meaning before present, using
1950 as the base). Thus the radio-carbon date estimate would
translate to some time between 1542 and 1718.
Kilim #2 above is from the collection of Horst Heinzlreiter and was posted on Turkotek.com on November 25, 2009.
Kilim #3 above was published as Plate Number 34 in Jurg Rageth, op cit. The calibrated age (with 95% confidence limit) was listed as 1690-1730 AD (19.2%) and 1814-1924 AD (80.8%). The radiocarbon date was listed as 80 + or - 30 years BP (meaning before 1950). Thus the radio-carbon date estimate would translate to sometime between 1840 and 1900.
Kilim #4 is from Harald Bohmer's publication Nomads in Anatolia.