Who was Harold Keshishian
Harold Keshishian’s Textile Rug Morning The Persian Collection
There have been many wonderful shows and displays over the years but my consistent favorites are Harold Keshishian’s rug morning. Not just the wealth of items on display but the effort that HK goes to put them in context for us. He started with Persian pieces so I will too.
Harold has a fascinating way of doing his displays. He builds layers on the front felt board where he pins up a first layer of textiles then a black layer of cloth and then the second layer of textiles. He then does a white layer of cloth and the third layer of textiles. On this day the Persian Textiles were the top layer.
When we were setting up the display I took one look at this and asked Harold if it was Reshti. HK was pleased I recognised it and said that he betted that I had never touched one before. I told him he was right but that small detail did not stop me from writing the Guide to Resht Textiles.
My apologies but this image does not do the piece justice. Reshti Textiles have intricate detail and delicate color which is present but not evident in this image.
These fragments are from a Persian woman’s pantaloons that were made into pillows.
N. B. When we use Pantaloon in this context we are referring to a garment that are called Shalvar.
Harold pointed out the end stripe at the bottom of this fragment. This would have been the waist.
Harold brought in a magnificent Senneh Kilim. It had a boteh design that we also see in his Shahsavan Bijar Sumac. Harold purchased the Senneh Kilim from the grandson of the original owner who supplied documentation that his grandparents had purchased it on their honeymoon in Jerusalem in 1901.
Here we see the Shahsavan Bijar Sumac pinned over the Sennah Kilim. One interesting thing Harold pointed out was that the right border was not original. Look at the scan closely below and you can see the stitches. What Harold did not point out however was that the replacement piece was either a top of bottom piece rather than a side. Notice that the sumac runs in different directions on each side. Th repair is splendid but where is the Sumac it was taken from.
These are more of the pantaloon fragments
This is a Safavid fragment that combines silk with a great deal of silver metal thread. Harold observed that this is the sort of fabric from which an ambassadors coat would be made. I was a bit surprised when Harold said Safavid because I was thinking Mughal because of the naturalistic level of detail in the leaves. But Harold knows a great deal more about these than I do.
As you can see it is a poor shot so refer to the detail below.
Here is a detail of a image that I believe to be the same lampas fragment. Since I can show a better degree of detail I am using it here. The main figure in this scene figure is a male as signified by the taj and turban attended to by a young boy.
Recently a comparable fragment was sold at Sotheby’s London1. They estimated the age of that fragment as late 16th century which to me seems late. The turban is tied in a manner that would have been out of style by the late 16th century. The same for the coat the styles are appropriate to circa 1550. The attendant is a Christian as signified by his headgear. At that point in time many attendants came from the Georgian Kingdom of Kartli which was a Persian vassal state. There has been speculation that some of the youths could be Armenian. (Not by Harold) While possible I have not seen any reason to assert or deny this. The origin of this piece is difficult to place as well. The artistic style is early for Khorasan which only blossomed as a area of court production a little later. But by the same token it is later than we usually see for Tabriz. So then do we say, Qazvin? I do not know but I am inclined to doubt it. I would say Tabriz if I had to guess.
As an afterthought I may as well thrown in Plate 27/T39 in Spuhler’s Islamic Carpets and Textiles in the Keir Collection3. The belt on the main figure is related to that of the attendant in this piece. The turban is similar as is the coat, Spuhler dates this to the second half of the sixteenth century. What Spuhler neglects to point out is that the art work in Plate 27/T39 is in the Shiraz manner (while the Keshishian fragment is not.)
Lampas: This is an old technique of supplementary weft patterning. The warps are silk are silk and the wefts are silk and or metal wrapped silk. This differs from the Moorish Lampas from Spain that are silk on linen. Because of the long front float of the wefts there is a perceptible three dimensionality to the pattern while the fields are most often a taffeta weave The cloth consequently tends to be rather heavy. The technique was used as early as the 10th century but it came into vogue in the 13th century and peaked in the sixteenth century. The silk on silk patterning is usually seen as Persian.
Arts of the Islamic World, SALE L06220 LOT 125, SESSION 1 | 05 Apr 06 10:30 AM. London, New Bond Street, A FINE AND RARE SAFAVID SILK TEXTILE FRAGMENT, PERSIA, LATE 16TH CENTURY
Friedrich Spuhler, Islamic Carpets and Textiles in the Keir Collection (London: Faber and Faber, 1978)
N.B. Harold commented that we really should mention Carol Bier’s Woven from the Soul, Spun from the Heart, Textile Arts of Safavid and Qajar Iran. Washington: Textile Museum 1987 and he is right. Nice book from a nice Lady. Milton Sonday’s section dealing with structure and the like is excellent. I am not totally comfortable with his timeline of color usage.
Harold Keshishian’s Textile Rug Morning The Mediterranean Collection
This is a Syrian Cope. Note the square star pattern which is typical of a Syrian provenance.
(N.B. Normally the celebrant in a Syriac Christian service wears a cope, which they call a Phayno, over the shoulders and fastened in the front. The exception being when the celebrant is also the Prelate then an oversized cope is worn over the head as a hood that drapes over the shoulders, this then would be called a masnaphto. This cope is of the size to be worn by a normal celebrant.)
HK with Christopher’s assistance shows us the construction of the original type of Turkish Towel.
HK explaining a Bursa silk towel. This one was interesting for the inscriptions at each end.
I thought this one was towel ends but it is actually the ends of an embroidered Bursa silk waist surround.
This is am embroidered panel of a woman’s undergarment from Epirus.
HK and Kirk hold a mounted Venetian towel fragment. The ends of the towel were worth preserving even when the rest was not. Christopher is holding a fragment of a Venetian bed curtain seen directly below.
The fragment of a Venetian bed curtain seen here would of draped over a frame acting as sort of an old-fashion mesquite net. They were woven in 8 foot strips which were wider at the bottom and then would taper in as they went along. This was caused by the tightening of the wefts as it was woven.
This mihrab is actually a piecework of fragments from 75 to 200 years or more old. These were tatted together for the tourist trade.
Embroidery from the Greek Island of Spyros.
This piece is a Syrian silk sash.
HK demonstrates how this would have been worn.
Harold Keshishian’s Textile Rug Morning The Red Collection
The highlight of Harold Keshishian’s rug morning was the veritable explosion of brilliant red textiles that he closed with. The one directly behind Harold is about 400 years old. The one all the way to the right is new from a company in Los Angeles California.
Harold was fortunate to be joined by his two sons Christopher (left) and Kirk on the right.
Harold showed us that this magnificent piece that appears to be one piece at first glance is actually nine pieces.
One or nine made no difference to me as I found this one of the most visually striking pieces in the show.
Here we have two surprises at least to me. On the left Christopher is holding up a Venetian Yastik and on the right Kirk is holding up a Yastik that is either Venetian or Ottoman. I never equated Venice with Yastiks.
Often we think of Venice as a city in Italy which it is. However at the peak of it’s military prowess Venice controlled islands in the Aegean Sea and contended with first the Byzantine and then the Ottoman empire for control of Mediterranean Sea trading routes. Venice at various times maintained a Black Sea trading station.
Here Harold demonstrates a fragment that was the sleeve of and Ottoman jacket. In the background is a Caucasian silk Jajim. Harold mentioned that when he first collected it he thought it was Italian because of the fineness but he later determined that it was Caucasian.
Harold is showing us a servants jacket. Ottoman dignitaries would often have a young servant often Albanian who would attend to them. This is what they would have worn.
Harold Keshishian’s Textile Rug Morning a few last shots
An excellent example of a Shakhrisabz Suzani. It is unusual for it’s small size
An Alter Cloth
The back of the Alter Cloth is Russian trade cloth.
The Austin Doyle Kurdish Mafrash
First of all my apologies for a using an out of focus image but this one is important enough that I wanted to use it in this article. HK is always interesting but it is in the small side comments where he is truly a treasure. Just as they were finishing with this Mafrash panel owned by Professor L. Austin Doyle, M.D. the noted Cancer researcher HK commented that Kurds were far more likely than Turks to use the cross in the center of a medallion. The temptation is to just label all of these as Shahsavan because we know so little about them as a group.
HK with Michael Seidman the noted Sumac Bag collector and TM Trustee. Seidman is Investigative Chief of the Laboratory of Molecular Gerontology, NIA/NIH.
A little Baluch bag that was collected from my dear friend Wade Shehady in Pittsburgh Pa. The pile part of the bag is nice but not remarkable but look at the ends of the bag that is the special part.
The Forgotten Rug
Harold was going to close with his Kerman Bunny Rug but with the wealth of items in his talk this one got left out.