Selcuk Period Carpets – Part 2

Selcuk Period Carpets – Part 2

İn the same period Ebul Fida in his writings informs us that, according to İbn Said (d. 1274), “There, Turcoman carpets are made and exported to all countries of the world. Aksaray is mentioned as a center of production and is probably the “there” referred to in the quote. Another traveler, İbn Battuta who passed through Anatolia in the 14th century, similarly praises the carpets of Aksaray, which he says are exported to all “the Turkish countries” referring to Egypt, Syria, lraq and Iran.
The fragments found at Fostat corroborate this. İn fact, as Lamm relates, whether they came from Fostat or from the rubbish heaps near the tombs, it is certain that they are all examples of carpets imported to Egypt from Anatolia between the 13th and 15th centuries. The commercial channels between the two areas were well established by this time. During the Selçuk era important trade routes passed through Anatolia and certain trade rights were granted to the Venetians and Genoese. For example, in 1220 trade rights from the port of Antalya were granted specifically to the Venetians.

We can also learn a great deal of Information from examining the contemporary paintings of the period both in the East and in the West. We see characteristic Selçuk carpets represented in paintings as early as the 13th century. The Makamat Manuscript (İstanbul, Süleymaniye Esad Efendi Library, Inventory No. 2916) contains a miniature representing a carpet with a geometric field pattern and Kufic border which is compositionally a varia-tion of the Selçuk type. The field design is reminiscent of the eight Konya carpets with their interlinked octagons interspersed between small sguares.

Towards the end of the 14th century and even more so in the 15th century, these carpet representations began to appear in Iranian miniatures. Ira design these painted carpets contain a main field filled with small, repeated geometric devices and borders which are derived from Kufic motifs. A miniature of Huma and Humayun, in a Shiraz Baysungur manuscript dated 1420, shows Hümayun who fainted when he first looked at Huma. He is lying on a carpet of a similar composition consisting of interlinked octagons with a border of interlaced Kufic devices, a composition which also could even be a ceramic design (III. 5). Another miniature in the British Museum, London dated 1485, contains a carpet with a design composed of rows of interlaced cruciform and star motifs with alternate rows of star-shaped rosettes between them. This composition is typical of the first type of Holbein carpets (III. 7). Squared geometric divisions and interlaced Kufic borders are the marked features of these carpets of this period and are clearly seen on the carpets in all of these miniatures.

But towards the end of the 15th century we begin to see interlacing appearing between the field devices. Also medallions and foliate scrolls begin to appear alongside the geometric motifs, and finally they become so dominant that they replace the geometric motifs altogether. A Herat miniature from the first half of the 15th century found in Folio 24a of an albüm in the Topkapı Treasury (Inv. No. 2153), contains a representation of su eh a carpet (III. 6).

Another example can be seen in a fresco painted by Giotto in the Arena Chapel in Padua dated 1304. İt was used as an altar hanging. The field design is an exact copy of the one in the second Komya carpet. Here we see a series ofstars outlined by cruciform arms. İt is quite possible that as a model Giotto might have used a  carpet which was imported from Anatolia. İn fact a document dated 1305 refers to such importations.


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The influence of the use of Turkish carpets is seen in the oll paintings during the 15th century, first in Flemish paintings by the Eyck Brothers in the city of Ghent, and then later in the Italian artists and particularly those in Venice. İt became a popular custom to drape these carpets from windows or balconies. The use of the colors in these carpets can also be seen in paintings starting with Giovanni Bellini and it was then taken up by other Renaissance painters like Titian, Tintoretto and Veronese.

The dating of the Selçuk carpets has been challenged by some authors notably Agnes Geijer, who traced the patterns of one of these carpets to a Chinese textile of the 14th century. The proof of this argument lies primarily in the similarity of the motifs in the textiles of the Yuan Period (1279-1378) in China. The comparison is made with a small Konya purplishred carpet containing stylized flowers in alternate diagonal rows. The stems of flowers are twisted alternately left and right.

İn a Chinese scroll by Liu-Kuan-Tao deseribed earlier, the Kubilay Han hunting scene is exactly represented as the background motif of the biggest Selçuk carpet at the Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum, İstanbul. The background motif decorated with flowers and erosses in the middle, can also be seen on a Chinese silk fabric which was found in Egypt.

The Chinese silk fabrics and the carpet represented on the scroll which were said to have been influenced by the Huns, are all left from the time of the Yuan family. This family, belonging to the Mogul dynasty of Cengiz Han, and the Moguls were all faithful to the Turkish culture and the art developed in the hands of the Turks especially the Uigars. So, it is more logical to say that the Turkish carpet motif s have influenced the Chinese textile and art with the help of the Moguls. New information about these Chinese scrolls and silk fabrics is being documented.

The tendency to say that the Selçuk carpets belong to the 14th, even to the 15th century is a result of not knowing the Selçuk art and culture well enough. There has always been both an interrelated and a parallel development in Selçuk art particularly between carpets and other branches of art such as architecture, tiles, fabrics, decoration, paintings and miniatures. Later on however, this has changed between the Selçuk and Ottoman periods, as can be clearly seen in the architecture of the 14th and early 15th centuries.

The Selçuk field motifs can also be seen on a Spanish carpet from the second half of the 15th century. An example is the carpet with Spanish knots having dimensi ons of 3.73×1.52 m which was brought to the Washington Textile Museum from the Dumbarton Oaks collection. On it hooked dark brown flowers are lined up on a dark mustard colored ground. The  border has braided bands like the ones on later Spanish carpets and the inside border is made up of diamond shaped designs (III. 11).

The characteristic background design of these Selçuk carpets also has been used on the Uşak carpets of the 16th century. A long half rug (5.75×1.56 m), now in the İslamic Art Museum, Berlin has a dark brown background with red flowers and yellow in the middle and diagonal clouds scattered among the flowers. These are interlaced with each other with stems from the tips. Selçuk carpet motifs have most certainly influenced the 14th century Chinese silk fabrics as they have also influenced the 15th century Spanish carpets and the 16th century Uşak carpets (III. 12).

The geometric motifs of the Selçuk carpets have survived in Anatolian carpets, kilims and cicims and are considered as traditional motifs used on Middle Asia Türkmen carpets for many centuries. The Turkomans especially the Tekke Turkomans have used the Holbein Type I carpet compositions and color contrast up to our time. Maybe the origin of these carpets goes as far back as Turkestan’s old carpet art.

Animal Figured Carpets