Archive for the ‘Precursors to War Rugs’ Category

The Oriental Rug Society

April 15, 2011

On Wednesday 13th April the Oriental Rug Society of NSW  and the Asian Arts Society of Australia invited Nigel Lendon to present a lecture entitled What? Who? for Whom? and Why? The War Rugs of Afghanistan at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney. Here Nigel is shown speaking about one of his favourite examples – which demonstrates the diversity of artefacts which can be included in the genre. On screen is a saddle bag collected in Kunduz by the pioneering German collector Hans Werner Mohm. After the lecture several members of the Society brought along examples of different kinds of war rugs, which led to a lively discussion of form and content. Most remarkable were the two precursor rugs owned by the Cadry Family, which celebrate the Turkish defeat of the ANZAC forces at Gallipoli.

Here is the extremely fine silk rug which depicts the Straits of the Dardanelles and the Cannakkale (Gallipoli) Peninsula from (then) an impossible aerial perspective. This example is one of two known to exist, the other being one of the treasures of the national collection in Istanbul. As well as this modernist aerial viewpoint, there are two almost-photographic cartouches which are montaged into the scene, which depict the landscapes of the battlefield. The elaborate calligraphy reveals that this rug was made for presentation to Enver Pasha. Reproductions of both these carpets are to be found in the catalogue of the exhibition mounted by the late Jaques Cadry Woven History: Stories in Carpets which was held at the State Library of New South Wales (1990). This catalogue is also one of the first such publications to include illustrations of war rugs.

More on Helicopters…

December 12, 2006

New images have been added to the post Modernising traditional motifs…, including this one, from the book Russia’s War in Afghanistan, by Isby D. and Volstand R., 1986:

Afghan Landscape with Hip

And some information on the Mi-8 Hip from the article Soviet Air Power: Tactics and Weapons Used in Afghanistan:

Whilst the Hind is the primary attack helicopter being used un Afghanistan, the Soviets have also made extensive use of the big multi-purpose Mi-8 Hip in several different capacities, [such as] to serve as the main troop carriers… The Hip has also been used for aerial mine-laying … [and] as a heavily armed attack helicopter to comlement the Hind. …

Has anyone found any other realistic helicopter images on war rugs which look like the Hip or the Hind? The Halo now seems less likely, as it apparently was deployed in Afghanistan later in the conflict, possibly after this rug was made…

Modernising traditional motifs – and a mystery for militaria buffs …

October 9, 2006

This is an example of a “war rug” adopting a pre-existing set of form-structures or motifs and replacing the previous (traditional) gazelle image with an image of a helicopter. There’s no irony intended here – there can’t be any greater contrast between the symbolism of the elegant motif of nature and innocence suggested by the gazelle with the lumbering alien threat represented by the helicopter.

Kevin Sudeith of has posted his version of the gazelle rug at his blog (where he notes that it has had a mild chemical wash):

Rug with Gazelles

And here is an image of the helicopter version, from the collection of Joyce C. Ware; it’s currently touring with the exhibition Weavings of War. We’ve brightened the image a little to make the comparison easier:

Joyce Ware's Helicopter rug

Joyce Ware’s helicopter rug and a gazelle rug similar to Kevin Sudeith’s were exhibited by our friend former Army Ordnance Officer Tatiana Divens in the 1993 exhibition she mounted with George O’Bannon (discussed here).

In the exhibition catalogue, Tatiana wondered whether the helicopter shown was one known as the Hind, the Soviet Mi-24. (That Wikipedia etnry tells us “the Soviet pilots called the aircraft ‘letayushiy tank’ or flying tank”; it also tells us that it was “a large combat helicopter gunship and low-capacity troop transport operated from 1976 by the Soviet Air Force, its successors, and over thirty other nations.”)

Given the parallels between the rugs, it’s interesting that that Mi-24 was known as a Hind, a female deer. We found out that the name is what’s called a “NATO reporting name”, titles created by NATO to describe Soviet (and Chinese) military equipment when the real name might be unknown; the reporting names used for helicopters started with the letter H.

However, we wonder whether the helicopter in the rug might actually be the Mi-26, the Halo, which became operational in 1983. The Halo is a heavy cargo transport, and much bigger than the Hind- 40 metres long as opposed to 17.5 metres, and carrying 80 troops to the Hind’s 8. It even seems to have the “smile” that Tatiana noted in her catalogue description. Compare this image of the Mi-24 Hind:


and the Mi-26 Halo:


with the detail from the rug:


Two other images from the book Russia’s War in Afghanistan, by Isby D. and Volstand R., 1986:
Mi-8 Hip-C helicopter

Mi-8 Hip-C helicopter, DRA Air Force.

Afghan Landscape with Hip

A typical scene of ‘Afghan pastoral’: ‘Landscape, with Hip’.

The Mi-8 transport helicopter is on final approach at the Communist outpost of Anawa in the Panjshir Valley in 1983. More recently, with the increased threat from SALs, Soviet helicopters make their approaches in a steep spiral, dropping heat-decoy flares. (Tim Cooper, via Afghanistan).

I guess we’re now favouring the Hip over the Halo over the Hind! This is supported by the argument that the Halo was rarer and later in the Soviet occupation era,  maybe post-dating this rug,  but we still think the  image on the rug looks more  Hip than Hind…

Portrait Rug 3: Stalin

April 16, 2006


This is a rug which Muhammad Sajid (at has estimated to be more than 30 years old. We have no information as to where it was made – or who could achieve such extraordinary photographic verisimilitude? When it came to venerating their “great leaders”, nobody surpassed Stalinist regimes. Pity the poor workers who built this remarkable image knot by knot…



and here’s another:


This rug is described as follows: “made by Tekke women of Turkmenistan, who built this remarkable image knot by knot. Very extraordinary rug, all hand made using wool base and wool weft. All dyes are from natural sources. Measurements: 47″ x 31″. Made in circa 1980s.”

The “I” may stand for Josef, but I have not been able to find a “w” as the initial of Stalin’s middle name… The dates refer to the duration of the Soviet involvement in WW2.


Portraiture and figuration in rugs

April 15, 2006

The following account of figuration in Iranian rugs is to be found at, based in Vancouver, Canada – the webmaster is the photographer Masoud Soheili.

I’ll be making contact to find out the author of this entry…

The 20th century must be known as reveal(ing) portrait making in Iran. Since, in this century, there was considerable attention toward portrait and naturalism; portrait making was attracted by artists and craftsmen, as (a) public movement.

Print curtain makers were the first artists who joined (the) portrait movement and instead of using usual flowers, they printed pictures of (the) old and classic tales and myth(s) of Iran on curtains, in large scale, such as Khosro and Shirin, (and) Leili and Majnoun. Printed portrait curtains found their ways to people’s houses; urban rug weavers were interested … and very soon, this became their patterns.

Printed portrait curtains were ideal for rug weavers, in all ways, as (the) size and composition of it were almost the same as those of the rug. As it has (a) margin (and) ground … it was not far from nature of rug. So, some of portrait rugs were woven from printed curtains; these rugs were called “Curtain”, as well as rug sellers have used this expression, yet. (more…)

Moroccan War Rug

March 27, 2006

Luca Brancati has unearthed this fascinating reference to a “war rug” from Morocco (“seen in Rabat”) in a letter to ORR VII/6? Can anyone read the text – the text in the rug, that is?

Rostam and Akvan

September 9, 2005

Nasser Palangi (an Iranian artist living in Canberra) has an extensive collection of early lithographs, and has sent us some images to fill out our earlier posts which help locate the iconography of this rug, from the Peter Bellas collection in Brisbane, Plate 1 in The Rugs of War catalogue.

Compare with these 19th century lithographic illustrations to find the origins of this reconfigured story – now located in a field of elements signifying the contemporary conflict.

Other posts and examples are here; click on the post titles to open the images.

Mosque at peace

August 25, 2005

Jim Cotter submits this variant on the pre-war mosque motif. Compare with the previous post where we found a similar early Baluch rug in Parsons…

In appearance it appears to be about 20 years old, but it has had no wear, so it’s hard to tell whether it dates all the way back to the pre-war era. While the main field colour is this strange bleached blue-grey (which we’ve never seen before), and its handle is quite coarse, the kilim ends show a degree of care in its production.

We think the seven minarets is a very interesting (and unusual?) device.

A pre-war Baluch Mosque rug

August 15, 2005

A search through Parsons (Parsons, R.D., Oriental Rugs, Volume 3, The Carpets of Afghanistan, 1990) reveals this beautiful “old” Baluch rug (plate 67a, a “Kizilayak prayer rug from an area southwest of Herat”).

This rug, plus three other less complex examples (plates 44, 57, 90), are direct precursors to the images of “mosques under threat” posted in the past few weeks. They reveal how the rug designer freely refers to the architectural details of the mosque to construct the directional structures of a prayer rug. While this may begin by referring to some specific mosque, clearly the artist may elaborate and emphasise all those elements which confirm the characteristics of this subject as a sacred site.

The architecture allows figuration without the representation of the human form. That is, the motifs such as the multiple towers and repeats of archways, doors and gardens all reinforce and confirm the characteristics which connote a sacred space – a space therefore imaginatively occupied by the Muslim devotee, wherever he may be.

Thus, we could argue, the images of mosques under threat, or invaded, or defiled (such as those listed here) convey the reality of war in a doubly transgressive manner, with religious as well as a political dimensions.

I’d appreciate any further references to examples of mosque images, both from the 1980s onward, and to precedents such as this.

P.S. Readers may post a comment, or communicate or send .jpeg images by email, from which I can insert load as posts…

The Battle of Rostam and Ashkabus

June 26, 2005


This is the second antique Azerbaijan “war rug”, sent by Vugar Dadashov. He tells me this one was made in Tebriz, in the beginning of 20th century, and is now in a Moscow collection.

Other posts and examples are here; click on the post titles to open the images.