Carpets and Prayer Rugs of Hereke

Carpets and Prayer Rugs of Hereke

Hereke is a unique weaving center in Turkey located near İstanbul. Because of its wide range of activities and products and because it has had a continuous history from its founding until today, we will give special attention to the story of its development.

İn 1843 the looms ofthis town, which lies on the northern edge of the Bay of İzmit, began the weaving of silk and cotton flannel. Some time later, during the reign of Sultan Abdülmecit, the emphasis was focused on silk weaving. One hundred new silk looms were added and fifty cotton weaving looms were moved o ut and reestablished in Zeytinburnu, west of İstanbul. Textiles in silk were first produced here for palace use and only later did they find their way into the commercial market. Production came to a sudden halt when in 1878, during the reign of Sultan Abdülhamit, the factory burned to the ground. İn 1883, on the site of the present high school, imperial workshops were founded with buildings bearing the monogram of Sultan Abdülhamit. To these workshops were brought one hundred looms and the initial work force, a group of weavers from Sivas, Ladik and Manisa. İt was only a few years later that Hereke carpets, which were first sold in the markets of İstanbul, were in great demand and received European acclaim. İn 1895 Kaiser Wilhelm and his wife Victoria visited Hereke and on this occasion they were presented with some carpets and silk clothes. Continued improvement of the workshops and an increase in the number of looms in 1945 firmly established the existence of this School of Carpet Weaving in Hereke. But this was only a part of the total industry; looms were set up in homes and yarns distributed to villagers who were then given jobs on contract.

İn this way a complete system of carpet and rug production was established in Hereke. İt was notjust a simple workshop but a factory, all of which operated under the patronage of Sultan Abdülmecit. The largest single collection of prayer rugs preserved from the production of this factory is in the Topkapı Palace Museum, İstanbul. These are the samples that remain of the work from the 19th century, pieces produced for the palace as well as for commercial sale. Although these rugs are more or less Persian, Mameluke, Uşak and Anatolian prayer rugs in design composition, they stili have some remarkable characteristics of their own.

Among these unique features are the thread and yarn which were usedf that is, very fine wool yarn, and silk, gold and silver thread. The warp was finely plied cotton or wool yarn while the weft was fine white wool. When silver thread was employed, the yellow colored weft was silk. The knots, typical of these Hereke rugs, are either Turkish or Hekim, a complicated knot resembling the Sine knot. İt was possible to create smooth curves in rumis and hatays and at the same time to achieve a fineness by using a single knot on each row. The knots themselves were made with long fibered Anatolian spring wool. There are about 3,600 knots (60×60) per 10 cm2; the knots are tighter, up to 6,400 in the carpets produced especially for the palace. The number of knots changes between 90×90 to 100×100, that is 8,100 to 10,000 knots in silk carpets. Alizarin is used in the dyeing process. Besides the rugs using silk and silver thread, carpets, with designs in relief those with parts of the pile left longer than others were also produced. İn this technique the impression of relief is achieved by cutting the ends of the wool firstshort then long.

The Hereke prayer rugs were made in many different colors and designs so it is impossible to single out one typical composition. They imitate the Persian designs from the 16th and 17th centuries so successfully that it is difficult to distinguish some of these rugs from the originals. Besides the general modifications in Persian designs, also evident are these features: the inscriptions from the Koran on the borders; the general positioning of the cartouches; the spiral stems of the rumis filling the niche; and, the cloud motifs. These are all imitated with extreme care and appear just as they were on the original rugs. Most of the rugs kept in the Topkapı Palace Museum, İstanbul, can be attributed to this group, though some of the rugs reflect the influence of Caucasian, Uşak and Mameluke compositions. A few also are of the reversed niche style. The colors most frequently used are dark green, orange, blue and medium brown on white.

The thirty-five Hereke rugs in the Topkapı Palace collection have been classified into eight groups. They are the ones with medallion s on the niche field or with Uşak medallion compositions; or they are ones having one of the following features: geometric motifs, fine slender stems, hanging lamps, rumis, vases, or cloud motifs on the niche ground.


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On the borders of some of these prayer rugs appear inscriptions from the Koran in sülüs and talik script. İn some, the inscriptions occupy very liftle space. These examples may be connected to the tradition of Ottoman palace carpets, that is, the tradition started in the Hereke workshops under palace patronage and continued through the 19th century. The technical charaeteristics are the use of the Turkish together with the Hekim knot, and the use of silk in the weft. To enhance the elegance of the rug, the Hekim knot was especially used to implement the Turkish knot in the inscriptions, floral fillings, Chinese clouds and rumis.

A closer look at four of the finest examples of different types in the collection of Hereke rugs illustrates their unique value. One is a rug with a medallion Uşak composition. İt measures 1.38×0.90 m. The dark blue medallion on a field of ivory takes the shape of a salbekli şemse (şemse: rosette, decorative sun or stylized central sun medallion with two similar small end medallions) as found on leather book covers. Four huge clouds, two green ones placed on both sides and two blue ones placed at the top and bottom, are interspersed with white flowers on dark red, slender stems. Dark red contours also outline the medallions.

The palmette at the top is blue, the one at the bottom green. The quarter medallions at the top corners conta in dark blue branches and orange rumis on a field of blue, whereas the ones at the lower corners have a green ground with the same designs and the same colors as the upper ones. The upper horizontal panel exhibits an inscription of the call to prayer in green. The wide border with a dark blue field completes the pleasing composition with its corner arrangements and blue clouds.

Another prayer rug measuring 1.45×1.08 m and having a geometric design is a rare example because of the emphatic use of only two colors throughout. An endless design of yellow lozenges diagonally positioned and filled with reverse lotus motifs appears on a field of deep blue. Eight pointed yellow dahlias with four protruding arms are framed in squares and share the upper corners with other floral motifs. A Kelime-i tevhid (declara-tion of the oneness of Allah) appears on the ayettik. The wide border contains a flowing repetition of stylized angular rumis and palmettes with fourlobed leaves and slender stems.

A third rug featuring silver thread measures 1.64×1.07 m. İts prayer niche of deep blue is filled with rumis formed by twisted branches in red and contoured with silver thread. Red colored verbenas and large orange flowers with delicate green branches fiil the whole ground. The corner fillings are ivory clouds and green spotted rosettes on a field of dark belge. The wide border with a field of ivory is decorated with small flowers in belge. The huge cartouches in dark red are enIivened with dark green flowers and clouds of silver thread. On the upper car touches an Ayet-el-kürsi (a verse proclaiming the dominion of Allah) in sülüs script appears in silver thread contoured in black. This rug has a mate in the collection but in thatrug the field is dark red.

The last example from the Topkapı Palace collection is one with a vase. İt measures 1.70×1.14 m. The prayer niche here is dark red. Pink blossoms and small green leaves on the thin branches in silver thread reach up from the bottom of the niche. Huge flowers and leaves with small black flowers spray out on both sides of a light blue vase placed at the top. The vase has silver trimmings at its base and mouth. The outer corners of the five lobed prayer niche are filled with dark red rumis, verbenas in silver thread, and again, branches with pink blossoms. Black cartouches outlined in red appear on the wide border. The cartouches contain clouds in silver thread interspersed with white and dark red flowers with green leaves. Inscriptions in pink sülüs script and medallions with black Kufic inscriptions on a field of pink complete the cartouche design. An Ayet-el-kürsi in brown appears on an ivory ground on the outer border.

Feshane Carpets

Besides the Hereke carpets, the Feshane carpets constitute a second group in the last peri od of Turkish carpet weaving. The studio which had served as a weaving factory from the time of Sultan Mahmut II until 1830 in Kadırga near Kumkapı was expanded at this date and transported to Defterdar near Eyüp. The buiİding on the new site was originally constructed during the reign of Sultan Mahmut II for the production of fezes, the headgear of the time, thus the name Feshane. The factory, a military establishment in 1876, was turned over to the Sanayi ve Maadin Bank in 1923 and then to the Sümerbank in 1936. The production of carpets which continued until 1914 coincided with the beginning ofwork in Hereke, the last quarter of the 19th century. There is general agreement that the carpets for the palace were woven in Hereke and also in Feshane before either had been formally named as such. Feshane carpets are identified by the name and date which appear in the upper right hand corner of the carpet, but there are some known to ha ve been woven there which are not so marked. Among the few Feshane carpets which stili exist are those with Iranian carpet designs and some rough floor carpets with European designs and warp and weft of cotton. The high quality carpets display roccoco and Empire designs and some of them have peacock and pheasant figures dispersed throughout.
Summary