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preface

Turkmen pile weavings, unlike so-called classical carpets produced by the imperial courts of the Safavid dynasty in Iran(Persia) and the Ottoman in Turkey(Anatolia), lack provenance data gleaned from many sources that is available answer the difficult when, where and why questions all historic rugs present. These classical rugs have been quite successfully provenanced by utilizing information contained in related dated, sometimes signed, works of art like miniature painting, metalwork, ceramic and wood carving.

Some of these classical carpets even have inscriptions detailing their maker, their date of manufacture and their intended use, a situation that does not exist for any historic Turkmen rug. There are also numerous signed and dated western paintings where classical carpets are faithfully depicted, adding considerable confidence to their provenance and dating.

It is our firm belief there are also extant surviving pile weavings from Turkmenistan that were produced in the 15th and 16th century, the same time period when we now know certain classical carpets were produced.

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Because Turkmen carpets have no such positive information to backup similar claims of antiquity the probability they are also as old has gone unrecognized. It is then even more regrettable the forensic investigation and analysis the Weaving Art Museum has discussed has yet to be funded, as this type of investigation could provide scientific evidence and proof Turkmen pile rugs existed along side, if not before, these classical carpets.

Regardless of the absence of dated related art-works, representations in European paintings, mentions in travel accounts or newly discovered scientific data, it is our belief proper art historical comparison utilizing the now quite large corpus of published examples of historic Turkmen pile carpets can in fact provide effective evidence to address this question. Some of the information found in the two previous Turkmen weaving exhibitions on the Weaving Art Museum website was developed through this type of comparative analysis and it will again play a role in this one as well.

Many of the textiles in the target group featured in this exhibition were discovered and excavated in controlled archaeological environments. Therefore positive dates are available for them, either by terminus ante quo or highly substantiated C14 analysis of the textiles themselves as well as other objects found with them. So not only do these textiles demonstrate an archaic graphic and visual iconography closely related to Turkmen pile weaving but they do so with assurance.

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Once again there are no secure citation or illustration in any published historic reference material, few related prehistoric archaeological artifact, or any illuminating reference or illustration in early European or Middle Eastern travel accounts or paintings to date historic Turkmen weavings; nor are there depictions in any early European paintings. Therefore the comparison of certain related designs and patterns found on the textiles in the target group, both individually and en masse, and other ancient objects and weavings can and do provide significant clues to answer the intriguing question: How did the iconography of the historic Turkmen pile rug develop?

     
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