Wonderfully rare, this formerly unpublished Yomut main carpet is a prize example of the weavings produced by this particular Turkmen tribe. Many of the Yomud nomads remained isolated within the harsh environment of the Karakum desert where vegetation was sparse. This isolation enforced a very particular but varied design and colour repertoire upon them, helping to distinguish their weavings from other Turkmen groups.
The openly-spaced composition of this khali (main carpet), consists of four columns of ten chuval guls, which is a particularly rare form to find on a carpet of these proportions. In his monumental study on the weavings of the Turkmen tribes, Jürg Rageth discusses the few Yomud khali that display the chuval gul and suggests that the design concept stems from much earlier 7th-9th Sogdian silk textiles, (J. Rageth, Turkmen Carpets, A New Perspective, Vol 2, 2016, p.668). Within this same publication, Rageth notes a very close comparable to the present lot which is part of an anonymous private collection and has a Radiocarbon date that suggests it was woven pre 1800 (Rageth, ibid., Vol I, pp.222-3, pl.104). The only difference in their appearance is the more unusual serrated, stemmed floral motif within the elems on the present lot for which we can find no exact comparable. The weaver of our rug includes four pekwesh motifs in the far corner of the elem at one end, that ascend in proportion and appear almost to have been an afterthought as they interrupt the otherwise ordered decorative arrangement. The combination of colouring, weave and design of the present lot would also suggest that it was woven in the 18th century.
Alternating with the chuval gul are columns of delicate ara cruciform minor-guls, each centred with a small circular fleck of yellow. According to Rageth the clarity of the border, with its stylised lotus-palmette and serrated vine, is a pattern that is first seen in the late 16th century but which grows increasingly simplified with time.
There are only three published examples of this group that display the same design format. The first, was formerly in the Robert Upfold collection and is now in the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney, ("From the Karakum to Botany Bay", Christian Sumner, Hali, 177, 2013, pp.72-79, fig.3; the second is published by Rageth and discussed earlier, (Rageth ibid., pl.104). A third, which is more unusual still is in that it displays all of the same features but only three columns of chuval gul, is published by Herrmann (Asiatische Teppich-und Textilkunst, Band 4, Munich 1992, pp.196-7, pl.92).
The fact that Turkoman main carpets were not subject to constant use and were only laid on the floor of the tent on ceremonial occasions would explain the surprisingly good condition of the present lot. With an incredibly deep pile of lustrous wool that is rich with colour, this is certainly an early and rare survivor from the fascinating world of the Turkmen nomad.