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rug no longer available Exceptionally rare antique Baluch rug, mina khani - prayer?

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full view of old Baluch rug

Design and origin

An exceptionally rare and beautiful 'Baluch group' rug of considerable age (about mid 19th century or earlier?). A beautifully improvised pattern of (abstracted) flowers with 8 petals and excellent dyes, such as two shades of a brilliant turquoise blue rarely seen but in the oldest of Baluch work. Field with camel ground (actual camel hair, judging by its softness), and pretty wide striped and brocaded kilim skirts on both sides.

Baluch collectors will know just how rarely you even see, let alone have a chance to buy, rugs of this type and age.

Given this rug's obvious age it will be guesswork at best to ascribe it to any particular tribe, though suggestions are welcome and will be appended to the description (if you make any). Eiland and Eiland in Oriental rugs - A complete guide have a somewhat similar camel-ground rug with a like transition from a denser repeat pattern (though a different one) to a more spread out arrangement towards the top (see fig. 101 on page 133), but their rug has no kilims and is attributed to Kurds, based on the palette and the symmetrical knotting. Otherwise, in the rest of relatively limited literature I have (the standards of Opie, Housego, Ford, Thompson, Hubel) and by looking through the Baluch sections of the Spongobongo and Jozan web sites, I cannot spot anything similar, in particular regarding the type of flower pattern and the secondary motive of a flat diamond stepped at its inside and enclosing a smaller diamond. I believe the pattern may be an early version (or perhaps instead, a trival derivative) of what later became formalised as Mina Khani design, a pattern often used in the 'Baluch group' of weavings. This may serve as a limited justification for my description of this rug as 'rare'. (I am usually not prone to salesmen tricks, but this one I will not let go at a ridiculous price because I know it is something special - therefore the reserve price)

It is a real shame that the centre of this rug has an area of considerable wear (see images); one would have wished previous owners has recognised its beauty and spared it its grinding down on the floor. Fortunately, the drawing comes out very clearly and beautifully on its backside (see backside view) which displays its glorious colours hardly muted by the thin brown wefts. I had this rug on the wall for over a year now, sometimes showing the front, other times (and more often) showing the back side).

Looking just at the format, this could well be a prayer rug; since there is no mirhab, I am not sure whether it should be called a prayer rug even if it was used for that purpose (which is of course possilbe). What is really charming designwise is the move from the dense row of four flowers horizontally to rows of just three flowers further up. I also like the relaxed way the flowers themselves and diamond filler motives are drawn, which are in places rendered smaller, or halved betwee nthe row where the transition from 4 to 3 motives happens. There is no exact repeat of anything here. This is quite clearly a playful rug that stems from a nomadic life style, with no thought of a commercial use. (Perhaps perversely, such rugs make the best commercial case today.)

Structure and condition

The rug measures 4ft.6in. x 2ft.8in. approx. (width varies) that is 136cm x 82cm. Warps off-white wool, wefts three (sometimes two) shots of thin medium brown wool. Knot density is about 7 1/2 vertical knots x 6 1/2 horizontal knots per inch (ca. 49 kpsi), so it is quite coarse compared with many later Baluchs, especially prayer rugs. No warp depression, asymmetric knots open to the left (but leaning to the right). The pile is short, up to 5 mm near the edges and progressively shorter towards the centre. Down to the knot heads in some areas, with foundation showing and some loss of definition of pattern in some central areas (pleas compare images). Wide striped kilim skirts in multiple colours, each with two bands of weft-float brocading. Selvages are missing, in some areas slight unravelling which should be stopped unless you opt for wall display. Firm and but very flexible, leathery handle. Lower kilim with damage and partly unravelling. Otherwise stucturally sound, no holes or tears. Care must be taken not to lose pile where it is very short on the from (but still intact on the back) - so I would strongly advise against floor use.

This rug was very dirty when I got it; I have then carefully hand-washed it ant kept it at a wall, so it is now nice and clean.

More images

flower baluch - detail of backside

flower baluch - full view of front

flower baluch - front detail left side

flower baluch - backside detail

flower baluch - back right side middle detail

flower baluch - front side lower kilim detail

flower baluch - fron side middle right detail

flower baluch - front side top right corner

flower baluch - front side upper kilim detail

flower baluch -  front side wear detail

Last update: 17 November 2006 | Impressum—Imprint