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3"Prayer Rugs of the Timuri and Their Neighbors

Dr. J.E.T. Aichison, in the same report, also included a list of 28 natural dyes used in the Herat and border areas (29).

Twelve of these dyes have been discussed by Bruggemann & Bohmer as in use in Anatolia (30), and twelve by Konieczny as in use in Pakistna(31). Some of the others may be local to the Herat-Mashad area, including three red dyes other than madder and cochineal (32).Here is good material for further research: once these red dyes are obtained and wool is dyed, pile colors formerly considered to be obtained from synthetic dyes may prove to be of natural origin, giving impetus for dating rugs which use these colors to pre-synthetic decades.

The Dokhtar-i-Qazi pattern was used in the late 19th century by other tribes in the area, for rugs with other borders, colors, and weaves (33) The most noteworthy are the so-called Barawi-Baluch (34) rugs, which were most likely woven by Brahui-speaking people in the area between Herat and Farah (35).

Leaving the best for last, the final group to be discussed (20 of the 90 rugs) contains some of the oldest and best rugs; these I will provisionally call Group A (Fig. 5). They are attributed to the Timuris by most dealers and collectors, although other than the reports of Gen. Bogolubov and Dr. Wegner, there is no specific proff so far. These prayer rugs tend to be nearly square in format, and most likely date to circa 1850 to 1880. Knot counts on this group vary from 60 to 90 ksi (920 to 1525 k/dm squared), average 76 ksi (1180 k/dm squared), and the handle is loose.

Figure 6. A type of so-called Timuri group prayer rug with field ornaments similar to those found in the Doktor-i-Qazi types, but with a larger, bolder articulation of these classic shrub forms associaed with that group of rugs. (Plate 13, Belouch Prayer Rugs, Adraskand)

The field pattern of this group of rugs have repeating motifs, usually floating on the blue ground, without trellis division. There are six types of patterns:
1. Little trees of life with four leaves on each trunk (36). In later examples, these small trees become longer, turning into poles with the leaves often unattached.
2. Khaf guls (38) or similar guls (Fig. 5)(39).
3. Shrubs or blossoms like those used on Dokhtar-i-Qazi prayer rugs, but larger (40) Fig. 6-.
4. A short stalk with three angled branches on each side, and a hooked pot at the bottom (41).
5. Overlapping octagons; the best one of this type was acquired by Vistoria & Albert Museum, London, in 1883 (42).
6. Mixtures of the above (43).
These motifs are also seen on some of the oldest blue-ground bag faces.

Border pattern vary, with 25 patterns being used in the group. The leaf and vine border is used in over half of this group, making it the most common, and one of the identifying indicators of the group (44). Fig. 3 compares frequencies of the most commonly-used borders. Border patterns tend to be an indication of age in all of these rugs, since rugs woven after about 1890 tend to use a different group of borders.

Figure 7. Another variation of a so-called Timuri blue ground prayer rug with a pallete and border system that may place in in the Chakhansur region of w. Afghanistan. (Plate 9, Belouch Prayer Rugs, Adraskand)

The selvedges of this group are two cords of wool. Overcast with red and blue wool in a checkerboard pattern, with later rugs of the group using orange and blue checkerboard, and more recent ones orange and brown. Goat hair wrapping is not used. Although finished of many of these old rugs are gone, those which remain include twelve examples with very wide weft-float panels, done in elaborate patterns; others use stripes of plain flatweave alternating with thin weft-floated strips.

The weft colours of this group are alightly differently from the other groups, where the range of weft colours is rather evenly spread from tan to dark brown in various types. In these earl rugs, however, lighter brown wefts are used twice as often, and very dark browns are used half as often, as in all the other types. Only two prayer rugs of this group have silk details.

To summarize, this group with the squarish format differs from other groups in having a slightly lower knot count, different borders and end finishes, different field patterns, no uses of goat hair for selvedges wrapping, wets of slightly lighter colour, and more blues and fewer browns in the pile.

Figure 8. A classic Doktor-i-Qazi prayer rug with the distinctive mihrab and shrub elements in the field. (Plate 14 Belouch Prayer Rugs, Adraskand)

After about 1890, characteristics of these separate groups of rugs begin to merge, resulting in new combinations, with many new border patterns not seen in the older rugs.

Of course the question remains, just which tribes made these various types of rugs: Timuri, Baluch, or various Chahar Aimaq or other Aimaq tribes in the area (45)? With the exception of Drs. Janata and Wegner, no on-the-spot observer has equated in print specific rugs to specific villages or sub-tribes (46). Thus we must conclude that all other published attributions are either those of dealers, to which we may pay some cautious attention, or those based on some studied guesswork. Assigning a work to a specific place or date is a valid art-historical technique, but it should be done with some care when publishing rugs, with reasons for the attribution included; unfortunately, this has seldom been done with these rugs.

by Robert Pittenger

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