Oushak Fragment, Western Turkey, c. 1920

The colors in this Oushak fragment are unique to 1920’s Oushak production. Here the viewer encounters what I describe as a smoky palette. These colors appear to have an almost haze like quality to them. Greens, yellows, a pinky red, a deep purple red are typical colors one sees in Oushaks from this period. Additionally the wools in rugs like this fragment are dryer and contain less lanolin than earlier pieces typically do. Yet as evidenced by this fragment there is no doubt that these 1920’s rugs can be extraordinarily beautiful. One of the most interesting aspects of this piece is the drawing of successive crosses down its border. There is great controversy among rug scholars as to the role Armenians played in the weaving of village and workshop rugs.. One school advances as absolute fact that all Anatolian weaving was done by Turks. Turkish weavers were the creators of all the important village and workshop rugs and carpets. The appearance of crosses in Anatolian rugs served only decorative purposes and had no relationship to Christian iconography. Of course, this position by Turkish scholars is vehemently contested by Armenian experts. Their position is that the depiction of the cross in these rugs is irrefutable evidence that they were made by Armenian artisans. As one can imagine this clash of positions goes far beyond a mere academic disagreement. It is fueled by fierce nationalistic and historical circumstances that drive this dispute far into the political realm.


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The Antique Rug Fragment as Serious Art

There are passages in all art that can exist independently as a meaningful aesthetic, functioning separately from the complete work they once belonged to. In these frames we see pieces from archaic rugs, fragments from their mother rug, which had over time been destroyed. Occasionally areas of these old surviving pieces can exist on their own, and still express spirituality, decoration, a sense of magic and what it means to live in a timeless culture. The events that have defined all human life are symbolically addressed here: giving birth, raising a family, tending to animals, accepting the inevitability of death and the absolute belief in the existence of an immutable godhead. These fragments express all that we look for in an art object: beauty, honesty and mastery of craft. These humble fragments establish a life of their own, one that takes us directly without distraction to the essence of rug art.