Archive for December, 2007

Correction, comparison, progressive abstraction and mirror copies

December 21, 2007


All in one post! The first is a carpet from the Bruce Baganz collection in Texas. It’s fine detail suggests that it is an antecedent to the two rugs compared in a previous post. More importantly it reveals an error in our attribution. I plead haste and over-confidence! This particular design does NOT represent the defeat of the Soviets, and the road north through the Salang Pass, as I had suggested previously. No, a careful reading of the scripts in this more precise Baganz carpet shows that it depicts the city of Herat: the Hari Rud river, the famous Malan Bridge, even the Herat Silo, the Herat Forest, and the road to Mazar Sharif (the long way). Now compare it with a carpet acquired recently in Herat:


You will see that the major elements of the second carpet are a mirror of the first – even though some of the minor elements float around the pictorial spaces. Two things can be derived from these observations: one it is common to find mirrored figures in pictorial rugs, suggesting one is copied from the reverse of the other. Secondly, the pattern is flexibly interpreted: see how the machine gun and other elements are moved around by the maker, flipped upside down, reinvented. This suggests that either the cartoons for each element exist as separate patterns, or that the makers carry even these new designs in their memory, and as we do using Photoshop, they can flip the design to fit the spaces. Impressive!


Coeval? Not quite…

December 11, 2007

Semi 2 450

Max Allen’s definition of coeval production is something like: examples of carpets that are clearly made within the same environment, possibly by the same people or persons, with or without an antecedent, and with no visual or material distinction to suggest one is the antecedent of the other. In which case, what do we call comparisons such as this pair?

Semi 2 225semi 225

The first was bought online from a Pakistan dealer two years ago. Which means it could have been made anywhere, including Pakistan. The second was bought last month in Herat. While the major elements of the design shows a strong correspondence (the bus with the same luggage on top, the tank above the truck, the shape of the helicopters, even the inverted tanks at the top of the rug) the colours, weave structure, accuracy of detail, and the presence or absence of motifs like the handgrenades etc, all speak of different origins and traditions. Of course the conundrum is that we have no idea when the “new” rug was made – it could have been sitting in a stack in a dealer’s warehouse for fifteen years, which is stylistically (and logistically) possible. In which case the first rug could be a copy of a copy of a copy, and therefore another example of “progressive abstraction”…

Blue Semi 450

corner 2corner 1

test post

December 10, 2007

Testing – we are having some technical problems behind the scenes, please bear with us.