Selçuk Carpets

Selçuk Carpets

A high point in the art of carpet making was to be achieved during the three centuries of the Selçuk Period but unfortunately there are no examples from the period called the Great Selçuk Period. We do however ha ve surviving carpets and fragments from the Anatolian Selçuk Period. These have been designated the “Konya Carpets” but basıcaIly this is a misnomer. The sources of our evidence come from three finds those from Konya, those from Beyşehir and those from Fostat.
İn spite of the fragmented condition of most of these samples, it has been possible to piece together what we have come to believe is the first expression in a consistent development of design and quality. Thus this group can be called the first group of Turkish carpets recognizable as the forerunners of carpets of later periods even up to the present.

Today the total Selçuk carpet collection consists of eighteen pieces, fifteen of which are fragments. Eight of these were found in Konya and three in Beyşehir. Seven are from Fostat. Only two with in the group are quite similar; both of these are in the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, İstanbul. The others ali have varying colors and motifs; each is unigue. Such variation indicates the existence of considerable creative potential on the part of those who produced them.

In essence a study of the Selçuk group reveals that the prototypic designs were derived from the infusion of highly stylized floral motifs into geometric designs and from border compositions consisting of Kufic devices. İn som e cases the geometric forms are created by the repetition of motifs in rows. İn fact floraI motifs, if one can identify them as suchf are not only stylized but highly abstract; certainly representational figures are unknown. As we examine each ofthese fragments it will become quite clear that generalizati ons must give way to the unique and stunning quality of each piece.

The original carpets discovered in Konya’s Alaeddin Mosque dating from the first half of the 13th century are products of Selçuk Anatolia and show the development in pile carpet making up to that period. They have also come to be considered as prototypes for ali post-Selçuk carpets. The details of their origins stili are a matter of speculation.

Until 1905 none of the visitors to the Alaeddin Mosque, Konya including F. Sarre, the carpet expertt had been aware of the existence of any valuable carpets there. They were first discovered in 1905 by F. R. Martin who pointed out their great importance to the history of carpet making to Herr Loytved, the then German consular representative in Konya. İn a short space of time they became very well-known even though Martin himself did not publish them until 1908. Then they were given a place in his extraordinary two volume work of text and plates measuring 67×56 cm.  (The text volume alone weighed ten kilos.)The story of the adventure surrounding this discovery and ultimate publication is found on page 113 of Martin’s volume. He states that in the “Alaeddin Mosque in Konya, which was finished in 1220 AD, are four carpets and two fragments that differ from all the others which to the number of several hundred cover the floor of this mosque, one of the most beautiful and most ancient in Turkey Their ground is decorated with a very simple pattern repeated many times. The border of these carpets, which is their charaeteristic feature, consists of Kufic decorative letters, which by their pompous form and large size are entirely different from all such letters known on other carpets.” After Ferid Pasha ceased to be the governor of Konya, and became the Grand Vizier of Abdulhamid II who had assumed the Ottoman throne, he ordered that photographs and watereolors be made for H.R.H. Prince William of Sweden of any Selçuk carpet he wished.
Martin’s footnote No. 247 goes on to explain how “the German consular representative Herr Loytved had kindly undertaken to supervise the photographing. However before dispatehing to H.R.H. Prince William any copy of the photographs, Herr Loytved, who is a Dane by birth, though now in German employ, deemed he might serve his new country by sending the photographs of these remarkable carpets to those interested in the matter in Berlin. That is the reason why Dr. F. Sarre could reproduce them in a recently published article on the carpets of Asia Minor in the Austrian art review Kunst un d Kunsthandwerk, October 1907. Dr. Sarre states that they are the object of ‘besonders hoher verehrung.’ İt is a liftle peculiar that the author of the text of a large work on oriental carpets during ali the lengthy period that he devoted to the study of oriental art in Konya, and assuredly for preparing his great work on Persian arehiteeture, was often a visitor at this mosque, had not before noticed or heard ofthese carpets which he now finds so remarkable. They are certainly tattered, though not so “ausserts sehleeht erhalten’ that their peculiar colour and design do not at once strike the beholder. The real fact is that these carpets were not appreciated at ali, being relegated to that portion of the mosque that was farthest from the Mihrab, where they have been trodden underfoot unnoticed not only by Herr Loytved, but also by all other carpet connoisseurs that have visited Alaeddin’s wonderful mosque, and yet they are so total-y different from all other carpets in this mosque, that even ata distance their peculiar colouring would have attracted the eye. Subsequent to my having pointed out to Herr Loytved their great scientific value they have become one of the sights of Konya and object of “besonders hoher verehrung.”

A further note explains how the Prince asked Loytved to assume responsibility for the photographs and watercolors made at the time, and also, that Loytved had copies made also for himself, sending them without permission to Berlin. A year previously Sarre had stated in an article on the subject that he had worked from Loytved’s watercolors and photographs without having seen the original carpets. Sarre’s article, “Mittelalterliche Knupfteppiche” in Kunst und Kunsthandwerk, appeared a year prior to the publication of Martin’s book and was widely distributed, causing an immediate interest in these carpets. The interest of course was renewed when the carpets were republished in 1909 in his book, Seldchukische Kleinkunst They were again published in 1914 by Bode and Kühnel in the second publication of Vorderastiatische Knupfteppiche aus After Zeit.

The eight carpets discovered in 1905, though severely damaged, have indeed survived from the Selçuk Perlod and now have all been brought to the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, İstanbul where they are preserved among the world’s largest and richest collection of carpets, one which now consists of over one thousand items and is housed in the museum’s new location at the renovated İbrahim Pasha Palace.

Let us look at these pieces. Three of them are almost intact and five are fragments. Ali are knotted in wool with the Turkish knot, with a two play warp of coarse cream and buff colored wool and a weft of twoplay stiff red wool. These pieces have an average of 840 knots per 10 cm2 and two or three weft shoots between each row of knots. The main charaeteristic design element is a border of large Kufic writing, but highly stylized plant motifs and geometric devices are also featured.

Because of their importance, each piece will be deseribed individually. First among the pieces discovered is a woolen carpet 2.85×5.50 m deslgnated as Anatolian 13th century  which was brought to the museum on March 31, 1930. The carpet conta ins dark red highly stylized (eagle?) motifs resembling arrowheads, outlined in brown, and with small light blue lozenge shaped central fiilings arranged in offset rows on a light red field. The border consists of light blue Kufic motifs outlined in white on a darker blue field and decorated with red bands and yellow hooked fiilings. A row of eightsided blue stars in red squares fills the inner guard border, while the outer guard border which encloses the main border has the same scheme, but here the colors are reversed.

The second carpet from this group and of the same period,  measuring 3.20×2.40 m was broughtto the museum on the same date as the first piece. The knots of this carpet are slightly inclined to the right with 729 knots per 10 cm2. The dark blue maln field is covered with light blue eight pointed star filiings, all arranged in offset rows and joined on four sides by a cross-like scheme of double bands which are also light blue in color and decorated with double hooks resembling Kufic letters.

The third carpet is 6.08×2.46 m and has the same attributions as the one above except that in it the Turkish knots are a littie inclined to the left. The compositon on the main field consists of red octagons in offset rows on a cream field. The octagons are filled with four palmette like hooked motifs  known as “camel’s  feet” arranged in mirror image pairs.  The main border, which survives on only one edge of the fragment, contains a row of paired facing Kufic like motifs. Each pair, drawn with white contours and outlined in brown, is linked in the center by a motif crowned by a crescent. The inner and outer guard borders are identical, consisting of a wide brown band between two narrow blue bands.

Selcuk Carpets 2