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The Red, Red Rugs Of Turkey
Asia Minor, the home of the Turkish rug was the great melting pot of the ancient world. The trails of Western Asia Minor and lower Europe with their hub at the Golden Horn, Istanbul since 1922, were pathways as old as the five seas that crowd the lands and catch the spill of their rivers.
Here boats or camels, mules and horses brought traders and adventurers from rude North, and cultured South. Armies plundered and scattered goods back and forth. Scholars, religious leaders, philosophers and idle rich from all points of the compass gathered about Anatolia's Classic temples and vast libraries. All left their religious, tribal, and social symbols in the patterr,.s of Turkish rugs.
Babylonia's eight pointed star and tree of life, the star and crescent from Zoroaster's fire altars, the Norse S or sun-worship symbol, the Egyptian palmette, cypress and lotus, the Hebrew six pointed star (star of David), and Solomon's "crossed hour glasses" seal, all appear in Turkish rugs. What predecessor of Xerxes scattered Persian rosettes and garden flowers and love of shaded colors? The Romans mosaiced Christian church walls with gold and colored glass and Turkish rug weavers imitaten them in luminous yarn and jewel like patterns.
Mohammedan taboos changed Buddhist art design and took animal, bird and human figures from rugs. They put in Saracenic lamps, arabesques, Kufic writing, tiled designs, and curved, stepped or pointed prayer arches for the faithful to point, toward Mecca.
Turkey Straightened and Flattened the Patterns
The Golden Horde left Tamerlane's mark -three balls or circles set in triangular design. And the Chinese, visiting the Turks and considering conquest of the Romans, left sun whorl, cloud band, and water, wave, thunder or meander pattern for Turkish rug fields and borders.
Turkish weavers squared and flattened the flowers, leaves and trees, and fitted them to blocky stems or left them stemless. Certain opposite turning leaves spring from stems so stiff they look like long bird beaks stuck in the squared flowers over the field of a so called "bird rug" of Turkey.
Turkish medallion court rugs. with their great lacy edged circles or many pointed stars (often 16), and flower filled, were surely taken from Persian rug patterns. Probably they were made by captive Persian weavers from Tabriz or neighboring towns raided by Selim the Grim and Suleiman the Magnificent.
The weavers banked Turkish rug fields and corners with such medallions and filled the spaces with stemless and squarish flowers-hyacinths, roses, and carnations being favorites. Cloud bands, stemless flower faces, squared palmettes, or Kufic lettering made up the borders.
Other mosque or palace rugs often were copies of tiled mosque floors and pictured variations of oblongs, circles, stars and diamonds, much flowered, and woven generally in blue designs outlined with yellow on a Turkey red field. These rugs spread throughout Mohammedan lands, and came into Egypt and Morocco and so to Spain hence they came to be called Hispano-Moresque carpets.
The Holbein rug, so called as Holbein used that pattern so much in his paintings, came from Turkey to Europe through trade or with travelers. And Renaissance artists, enamored with the brilliant colors and patterns, painted them on the tables and floors of the rich.
Turkish Colors Were Red, Blue and Yellow
Turkey's red, made from madder root by tedious process, is as lasting as the red in a garnet. Her red from animal blood was anciently famous. Her bold yellow from Persian berries is as vigorous as mustard. The Turks put their red and yellow cleverly together in their rugs.
For their finest prayer rugs they often dim their yellow to a soft hay or tan. Their browns are rich and coppery. Their blues are both pale and deep. Their greens vary from soft apple green, field green, silvery green, and yellow olive green to the deep rich green of dark cypress.
Blending and shading of colors gave vibrancy and a glowing to Turkish rugs. Some say this was done by using several colors of thread in one yarn, juxtaposing the colored threads and letting the eye blend them. Possibly it was this blending trick which gave that "mosaic look" to old Turkish rugs worn down to the web.
The wool of Anatolia was considered even in ancient times as "the best in the world." It was naturally lustrous and the vegetable dyes burnished this luster, or possibly the friction of use did the burnishing by splitting the yarn ends into many tendrils or "hairs" each of which reflected the light.
Prayer Rugs Are the Wonder Rugs of Turkey
Turkey's prayer rugs are her glory. All Mohammedan Turks, whether they live in the black felt mountaineer tents, like the biblical shepherds, or in the modern town houses of the rich, acquire a prayer rug if possible. Wool is the common material, but silk, and gold and silver threads, are used by those who can afford them. The rugs are the finest work of both dyer and weaver. Some of the wonderful old ones can still be bought-softened and burnished with years of use. But prayer rugs are treasures seldom sold by "the faithful."
The modern made Ghiordes does not rate so high, but the old Ghiordes with its field or praying niche of delicate green, soft blue, hay field tan, ivory, or red, is sometimes flanked by stalks or sprigs of Rhodian lily, or by Classic columns. A Saracenic lamp or tree of life shows in the arch. The niche reaches up into a bank of flowers topped by a panel of cloud bands, squared flowers or Kufic writing. The typical border is of blocky leaf and squared flowers on stiff stems.
The Kulah prayer rug, with its many ribbon-like borders, tends to have a field of soft rose, bronze brown or copper luster. Its arch is 'stepped and more simple than the Ghiordes. Often flowers spring from the sides into the field or run up the center.
The Bergamo's plain bright red field has a stepped arch holding a flat flower face. Of the six borders closing it in, the inner border is of flat flower faces in a dark band, the main border being of alternating flowers and leaves, angular and stiff and set in a wide gold band.
The rich rug of Meles, predominantly red and yellow with touches of blue and violet, uses the Rhodian lily in small design in its main border. It also has an outer border of flower faces on a light ground, several inner borders, and the arch takes an almost completed diamond shape.
Ladic's rich blues or reds wear the large Rhodian lilies below the field, and sometimes above it. Koniah's Rhodian lily may spring up the center field like Jack's famous beanstalk, though lovelier far. KirShehr has its high stepped arch, flowered field, and sometimes in-pointed cypress border.
The comb, suggesting neatness; the water pattern (zigzag about the field) suggesting cleanliness; and the holy spot above the springing arch where the faithful places his ball of soil from Mecca, typically appear in prayer rugs.
Home Rugs of the Turks
Turkish rugs are generally long piled, loose feeling, soft and pliable. The yarns, barely twisted, make thick knots, say seven to ten to the inch. The true Turkish knot is the double or Ghiordes.
Using your hand as a loom, the first and second finger as warp threads, run a yarn down between your first and second finger, under the second, up and across both, down under the first, and up between the two under the crossing yarn. Pull the two yarn ends at the back of your hand and you tighten the cross yarn. You have tied a double or Ghiordes "knot" as the Turks do in weaving their rugs. A row of these tied across every two warp threads is held in place by one or more cross threads pounded down tight against the knots with a weaver's comb.
Most of the weaving now is done in home factories with commercial yarns. Even the room size Oushak and Anatolian rugs with their inch long pile come from these small factories. But in the mountains the yarns are home grown, spun and dyed, then woven into the old tribal patterns, as in the Yurulc rugs with their browns, reds and blues, dark in tone. Patterns include diamonds, stemless flowers, eight pointed stars, and latch hooks. Some of these rugs still show the old color shading.
Women draw the tribal patterns in the dust and the young learn. Every girl makes her hearth rug, pillow rugs, and sleeping rugs. These tent rugs are part of her hope chest. Her kilim or marriage bed cover in "tapestry" weave, without pile, has slits where the thread turns back in making pattern. Girls peek thru the slits at prospective husbands. Fine weavers make the slits into a design. The girl's crowning glory is the prayer rug she makes as her bride's gift to her future husband. In it she puts her best in yarns, dyes and weaving.