Saturday, September 18, 2010

Afshar 'horseman' double bag

It is always difficult to decide when a chanteh becomes a khorjin (saddlebag). This is probably more of the latter than the former, but it is small and intimate (which makes me think, perhaps fancifully, that it may have been a gift to a husband or betrothed) so I think it deserves a place here. It was acquired recently from a collector in the US, and it measures 13" by 14" per bag, not including the beautifully patterned kilim joining panel. Figures on bags are comparatively rare. Note the wonderful small animals!

Ed Stott, having seen this posting, drew my attention to a a rug with a comparable motif that is illustrated in Jenny Housego's 'Tribal Rugs'. The horseman, it seems, carrying a bunch of burning twigs, is part of the entourage of a groom on his way to fetch his bride.

Qashqa'i Tree of Life

An unusual chanteh, probably Qashqa'i, featuring an abbreviated tree of life and a mass of flowers. It was purchased from a dealer in the US. Misshapen, and having had a lot of use in the field, the bag gives the impression of being quite old. 11" by 12", it is very densely woven.

Another flatweave purse

Judging by its open simplicity and limited weaving skills, I'm inclined to believe that this may have been made by a child, possibly helped out by her mother. Open at the sides, it has a curious asymmetry to the composition on the front (which I like). The motif in the field, like that in the previous post, stems from a very old birth symbol. I bought the bag from an American dealer on eBay, and it is difficult to assign it to a specific South Persian tribe - although there is a 'Qashqa'i frieze' border on the reverse. 7" by 7".

Small flatweave purse

A small flatweave purse, possibly Qashqa'i, purchased from an American dealer on eBay. The pink highlights may be synthetic, although it is hard to be sure. The main design turns up in various sizes and configurations on many South Persian chanteh. It is a derivation of an archaic birth motif.  The back is gently irregular, which is very appealing. 5" by 6".

Luri wagireh chanteh

A recent purchase, from a dealer in England. It is probably Luri, although this is debatable, particularly as it is more finely woven than most Luri pieces. It looks like a wagireh sampler, as it includes several motifs, including a Memling gul, a shrub branch or tree of life, and an endless knot, as well as scattered flowers and fillers. The zig-zag elements along the top closure panel are also unusual. Good colours, with a striped back, and in great condition. 12" by 12".

'Bird Head' Luri flatweave

More birds, but in a different form, and in flatweave. A strong and intense composition, with a field made of classic Luri 'bird head' border motifs (which accounts for the attribution). It has an unexpected and beautiful checkered back, and was bought at auction in Germany. 10" by 10".

Khamseh or Qashqa'i 'murgi' bag

I bought this as a Qashqa'i at an auction in England, but the classic 'four chicken and endless knot' design is often attributed to the Khamseh. The rows of boteh at top and bottom are unusual. It has a red kilim back in the Qashqa'i style, is in very good condition, and - because it is comparatively coarsely 'drawn' - I suspect that it may have been made at a date well into the 20th century. 13" x 13". There is gentle abrash in the madder field.

Luri Dowry Bag

This is the first bag I bought, over a decade ago, and it came from a dealer in Ireland. It was expensive, but it has given me much pleasure and is still probably the best piece in my collection. It is double-sided, with almost identical designs on both faces, but the one illustrated here has some silk knots in the centre of the cross. It was described to me as a 'dowry bag' when I purchased it, and this is probably true, as the weave quality is high and it has never been used. Almost certainly made by a Luri weaver, it measures 11" by 15".

Khamseh chanteh

This bag may be a Khamseh, judging by the vernacular use of the Herati pattern, which is typical of the tribes in that confederation. Like two of the Luri bags posted here, it has a cruciform shape at the centre, and in this case there are some knots of silk scattered across the field. The piece is slightly battered, open at the sides, but it is has good deep colours. It measures 10" by 11" and has a striped kilim back. I bought it from a dealer in England.

Sheshboluki chanteh

This is a Qashqa'i chanteh with a classic four-armed medallion. According to the American dealer from whom I bought it on eBay, it was made by a Sheshboluki weaver. Coarsely woven, with thick wool and good colours; plain red kilim back. 11" by 12".

Luri chanteh with Memling gul

Another Luri - this time with a Memling gul as its focus and some scattered flowers around it. Good shiny wool and colours, open at the sides, with a striped kilim back. It is half of a pair, was purchased from a dealer in Germany, and measures 10" x 12".

Luri gabbeh chanteh

The medallion in the Luri chanteh below has degenerated into an inchoate shape. It is impossible to determine, of course, if this was intentional, due to a lack of skill, or perhaps the result of haste. In any event, I like its casual self-assurance. The piece has long shiny wool, is open at the sides, and has a striped kilim back that is visible in the image. There is a faded purple in several of the stripes, which suggests that dye may be fuchsine. It came from a dealer in Belgium and measures 9" by 10".

Luri or Qashqa'i purse

I bought this small bag from a dealer in England, and it is probably one of the best bags in my collection - it has good wool, colours, design, and a lot of charm. The cruciform motif in the centre suggests that it may be Luri, but it was sold to me as Qashqa'i. It is in fine condition and has a plain kilim back. Probably intended as a purse, it measures 8" by 9".

Friday, September 17, 2010

Chanteh - a description

   ‘Chanteh’ are small bags made by nomadic weavers in Iran. They are unpretentious and modest, full of charm and character. In the past they were never made for sale, because ‘chanteh’ are the most personal of tribal weavings. Some, known as ‘dokhtarbaf’ or ‘nashibaf’, were bags made by girls learning skills from their mothers. Such ‘chanteh’ are tiny and as na├»ve as a child’s drawing. Some, called ‘bibibaf’ or ‘ostadbaf’, were dowry pieces, designed to show a young woman’s skill or mastery of the craft, and thus to demonstrate that she would be an asset to her future husband’s family. Others were made as wedding gifts or to celebrate special occasions, but most commonly they served to carry small objects for personal use. They were private things.

    Rugs and carpets, although often made for utilitarian purposes, were also commodities, for  ever since the 19th  century nomadic Persian womenfolk have contributed substantially to the tribal economy by selling them to dealers and middlemen. Even ‘khorjin’, saddlebags for camels, horses, and donkeys, were often made for sale. ‘Chanteh’ were not, partly because they were personal possessions and  also because they had no value in the marketplace.

    Their weavers didn’t have business interests in mind when ‘chanteh’ were made; the women were not thinking of profit when they wove these modest bags, nor were they bound by aesthetic rules. They could make what they wanted. As always, they spun sheep’s wool, dyed it with materials such as madder root, pomegranate rind, walnut husks, and vine leaves; they drew on design traditions that were based on ancient motifs and symbols, but they were nonetheless free to create exactly what came to their hands and imagination. Old ‘chanteh’ were the expression of informality and freedom from the expectations of others; it is not insignificant, therefore, that they were very often intended as gifts.

Friday, September 10, 2010

The beginning

After I bought my first chanteh, over a decade ago, I developed a passion for small South Persian bags. I've tried, since I started to collect them, to steer a course between 'quality' and comprehensiveness, so the pieces you will see here are sometimes beautiful, occasionally rare, and more often representative of a particular style or motif. Most of them, I believe, embody something special, interesting, or unusual, and almost all are intimate and personal.

There is very little written on chanteh, and as far as I'm aware there is only one book devoted to them. This is 'Jayran - Tribal Woman and the Chanteh in Iran' by Parviz Homayounpour, which is now one of the most consulted books in my small rug library. I have learned much by studying its photographs, and I wholeheartedly recommend it.