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Anatomy of an Object: Boteh Khila Prayer Rug


Boteh Khila prayer rug, Baku region, east Caucasus, probably 19th century, dated either 1205 or 1305 AH (1790 or 1887 CE). All wool, 1.04 x 1.41 m (3′ 5″ x 4′ 7½”). Johannes and Christine Kinzl collection, Austria


The inwoven date of this rug is subject to several different interpretations. It appears to read 1205 AH (1790 CE), but this seems implausibly early, while the most obvious alternative, 1305 (1887 CE) is perhaps a little late. Its owners feel that it could have been made prior to the export boom, around the middle of the 19th century: the black wool is heavily corroded, there are deviations of symmetry in the colour scheme of the Kufic border, and a great variety in the liberally spread secondary motifs, particularly below the central medallion, as well as in the colour and form of the various botehs.

The published example most similar in composition is plate 89 in Rudolf Neugebauer and Julius Orendi’s Handbuch der orientalischen Teppichkunde (Leipzig, 1909). Another rug with a similar boteh and medallion arrangement, and the only one with a red ground, was advertised in HALI 57, 1991, p.156 by Woven Treasures (Parviz Yathrebi) in Philadelphia. The most recent addition to the published group is plate 130 in Abel Trybiarz’s Rugs & Art: Tribal Bird Rugs & Others: A Buenos Aires Collection (London, 2017).

Johannes and Christine Kinzl’s rug is, to date, a unique prayer format example from the Baku district in Azerbaijan. Its red ground and Kufic border are rare. In all other respects, such as its rayed stepped medallion and the design of its botehs and spandrels, it is typical of the genre.

Read more of Ralph Kaffel’s ‘Anatomy of an object’ article in HALI 195.

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