"In Search of Early Kilims," the beautiful exhibit of rare, and often tattered, 18th- and 19th-century Turkish flatweave rugs -- now on view at Trocadero, 1501 Connecticut Ave. NW -- is the first show of its sort to be offered in this city.
A strange scissoring of time, a sense of something old made somehow new, haunts this lovely show.
Until very recently, Westerners were blind to the subtle beauties of these tribal tapestries. The taste for them is new, yet the rugs reach back 10,000 years. Their motifs are ancient. Their seated goddesses, their bulls and birds, look just like those discovered on Turkish wall paintings and pots from 6000, 7000, or even 8000 B.C.
Collectors of knotted carpets once looked on flatweave rugs as rough and unimportant things of no real value. It was not until abstract painting triumphed that the West began to see their complex, patterned beauty. Until half a dozen years ago, the most expensive kilims were still relatively new, hard and tightly woven. The best rugs at Trocadero are considerably older. Made long before synthetic dyes were introduced into Turkey in the 1880s, they have an open airy radiance that new carpets cannot match.
They were collected by German dealer Bertram Frauenknecht and by Bill Seward of Trocadero. Most of those in fine condition were preserved as family dowry wares. The tattered rugs on view survived, for a century or two or longer, under piles of newer carpets in rural Turkish mosques.
There are 30 rugs on view, most of which are reproduced in Frauenknecht's handsome book, "Early Turkish Tapestries." The corner design of a Karpinar kilim here is also found on a piece of Hacilar pottery, circa 4000 B.C. A well-preserved Konya kilim here, catalogue No. 29, is embellished by elegant brocading. A Ku tahya rug nearby (No. 20) is notable for its extraordinary colors, soft purples, softer yellows. It is still difficult to date these textiles. They may be much older than generally suspected. One here has the year "1230" (1815) woven into it. It seems one of the newest objects in the Trocadero show, which closes Nov. 25.