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Compound concepts

Certain concepts such as 'attribution' are quite complex and link F,A,S,T,I together. Atribution and value are examples.


Attribution means the act of identifying (or claiming to identify) who (e.g. which tribe) made a rug, where it was made , (potentially a large area for nomadic patoralists, a village or manufacturing site for sedentary production), and when it was made.

Since designs migrate and are found in various areas, they are often only one parameter to support attribution. Others are the weave type and the way the sides (selvages) and end finishes are made. Materials and certain dyes that are used or not used help to point to a likely date of production or determine a time frame (e.g. "not earlier than" if a specific dye has been used for which it is known that it entered the market around a certain time).

Suggestions have been made (see a Turkotek Salon by Michael Bischof and Memduh Kürtül) for a grading scheme which would have an 'A' category only for rugs who have a fully documented provenance down to the weaver or village where it was made.

Factors to be aware of are dates woven into rugs, which may be wrong or simply copied from another rug (many weavers were illiterate), or deliberate date forgeries to make a rug appear older than it actually is. Rug forgeries in general are an issue—some are said to be so good to even fool expert dealers.

Quality ('Success')

Here there are many divisions; while many would agree about negative statements faced with 'unsuccessful' rugs, there are different camps when defining top states of high quality and derivative, lesser states. One line is historical, starting from some high point (such as Safavid court carpets) and tracing the decay of pattern in the derivatives. Another line is whimsical, seeing high points of quality in unusual or unique rugs that show personal invention or even weaving errors that are by some considered as charming while others (cf. Bischof) scorn the appreciation of errors and point to negative cnsequences, such as workshops where weavers are told to introduce errors on purpose because they increase the market value by giving the rugs some kind of 'one of a kind' authenticity.

Here are some quality parameter oppositions which need to be elaborated more closely:

negative (but for others positive) positive (but for others negative)
Persian taste (elaborate finely knotted workshop rugs) 'Western collectors' taste (coarsely knotted tribal or village rugs)
court repertoire, floral, foreign commercial influences (boteh, turkmen guls derived from Chinese silk textile floral forms) Indigenous, self-sufficient, 'timeless' tribal repertoire (turkmen guls as ancient heraldic forms)
pattern independent of implementation technique (cartoon) pattern derived from weaving technique (slit tapestry diagonals, equal tension warp-faced weaves, weaving by sight (looking at other rugs or wagireh)
signed and dated, master weaver timeless, anonymous
intricate, balanced, 'boring' simple statement, 'bold', 'one of a kind'
formulaic, repetitive inventive (modifications of design within given vocabulary)
competent (correct application of pattern repertoire or cartoon) incompetent (incorrectly copied writing or date, misunderstood patterns)
wide palette of finely nuanced dyes strong deply saturated dyes
but: strong, synthetic, glaring colour combination (indigenous or Arab taste) natural dyes, no 'hot' dyes
abrash = mistake, incompretent dyeing abrash = positive trait, pleasing variation
European economic manufacturing activity (Petag, Ziegler) remote mountain tribes, no foreign influence
made for export made for own use or as dowry item
externally specified (e.g. American tastes as in the American Sarouk) indigenous tastes
European pattern influences (Bijar cabbage roses, Karabagh deers, American Sarouk flower sprays) own pattern iconography ('ramshorn', 'animal trees', geometric designs, flowers in the desert)
'alien' pattern (Spuhler [6], item 178) pattern in a venerable tradition
religious iconography and formats (prayer niche / mirhab; prayer rug, funerary rug) vernacular iconography and format (abstract geometry, decorative elements, flowers; door rugs / engsis, storage bags)
Islamic iconography (mirhab, lantern) 'Tribal' or other belief systems iconography (evil eye, Zoroastrian sun)


Value (market value) is a compound concept that includes a number of parameters, including attribution:

  1. Age: age markers regarding time of purchase, type of weave, material, dyes, reference to rugs in collections or paintings;
  2. Attribution: can it be convincingly attributed to a certain bracket that confers a certain desirability (such as 'Sauj Bulagh' which will confer more value than simply 'NW Persian' rug)
  3. Quality of features: e.g. saturated dyes, accomplished design, sturdyness, suppleness. Colour/dye quality is generally considered one of the most important. Regarding graphic design, two schools may be distinguished, one that values text-book likeness, i.e. similarity to published types that are understood to be top pieces that set the standard; another that values quirkiness and unusual features; the latter is tied up with
  4. Rarety: where the unknown or very little known may have less value than the known but rare because there is no frame of reference
  5. Fashion: certain rugs may be fashionable at a given time and get out of fashion a few years or decades later. This must be split into utility rugs and collectors' rugs, which have a very different modus
  6. Provenance: the fact that a rug may have had a prestigious prior owner (a collector? a celebrity?) may increase its value. Having provenance documented as far back as possible is also likely to increase the market value.
  7. Condition: sometimes condition is formalised in grading schemes, e.g. by some of the auction houses. The presence and absence (and quality) of repairs is an important sub-topic here
  8. Circulation, with two aspects: has it been published before in a prestigious book or magazine (appreciate value)? Has it 'gone round' dealers (depreciate value) or is it 'fresh to the market'?
Last update: 22 May 2007 | Impressum—Imprint