Beautiful Collection of Antique Turkish Tribal Milas Rugs

Milas Rugs (also spelled Melas) – Turkish rugs produced in the district of Milas are unique in their style and composition. The area around Mugla Province was a holdout for Turkmen enclaves. These people followed a semi-nomadic lifestyle, used natural dye-stuffs and incorporated a stunning variety of angular botanical motifs and symbols into the carpets they wove. Antique Milas rugs feature a unique composition that includes broad, prominent borders that result in a comparatively narrow field. Multiple borders rendered in contrasting colors are often featured in these classical Turkish rugs. The color palette tends toward warm, earthy hues that are produced with vegetable dyes.

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Early Milas rugs created in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries featured an angular, geometric style that was full of ancient symbols and abstract botanical motifs. By the late 19th century, a second style evolved. This change was spurred largely by outside influences. Imperial powers in Hereke affected the Turkish style profoundly as did European demand for fine exports. Later baroque rugs incorporated curvilinear arabesques and delicate floral motifs that were more recognizable to the western eye. The colors also became more saturated and varied compared to the soft, warm hues featured in earlier Milas rugs. The classic antique Milas prayer rugs with their long, narrow fields and angular mirhabs are the most iconic Turkish carpets from the area. These formal carpets are traditional, rustic and beautifully styled. The classical Turkmen appearance of antique Milas rugs works equally well in contemporary and old-world interiors.

Antique Milas rugs from southwestern Turkey are exceedingly beautiful in the finesse of their weave and drawing, and in the subtlety of their coloration. Famed particularly for their classic red- ground prayer rugs with simple niches or mihrabs, Milas weavers also produced long rugs with geometric patterns. The Milas repertoire is mostly floral, although it is often so abstracted that this aspect is no longer immediately apparent. Read More about Milas and Karaova Turkish Village Rugs.

Guide to Turkish Village Rugs

Milas / Melas rugs are among the most collectible Turkish village rugs and weaving. Long a staple of antique Turkish rugs, Milas / Melas pieces are prized for their rich yet delicate palette and for the finesse and sureness of their drawing.

The most well-known type of Milas / Melas is the prayer rug format, characterized by a relatively simple red niche with a diamond mihrab or arch at the top, often with a wide main border of floral or geometric rug type. Less familiar is another type of small or scatter sized Melas that has been attributed more specifically to the village rugs of Karaova to the south of Melas itself.

These are not generally prayer rugs, but like the more familiar Melas type, they tend to have a small field with the rest of the surface occupied by one large or several smaller borders. The above piece, is an outstanding and unusual example of these Karaova-Melas antique rugs, while another from the Nazmiyal Collection, below, is more representative of the type.

Antique Turkish Village Rugs by Nazmiyal
Antique Bergama Turkish Village Rugs

Karaova-Melas rugs are distinguished most of all by a sinuous, dynamic form of vine scroll with pointed indentations, used primarily as a border, but also as field filler. On this antique Milas village rug it is used twice, in two different borders with varied coloration.

This type of border has a distinguished lineage traceable to the finest classical Turkish carpets of the sixteenth and 17th Centuries, like the well-known Medallion- and Star-Oushak rugs.

The rug below here, comes particularly close to such classical forerunners, but the recognizably of the vine-scroll is obscured somewhat by the use of different ground colors on either side of the vine. The feathery palmettes adjacent to the vine are related to the vine-scroll borders on rugs from the nearby Makri area.

Antique Turkish Village Prayer Rug by Nazmiyal
Antique Turkish Village Prayer Rug

Interestingly, Karaova is about halfway between Milas / Melas and Makri. Thus it is not surprising that Karaova rugs should relate to the weaving traditions of the areas immediately to the North and South.

The inner border on this rug is also a distinctive feature of antique Karaova pieces. It too comes from classical Turkish forerunners, although not those of Ushak, but rather from the so-called Holbein group.

The main element in this border is a form that seems to be one half of a cruciform hooked motif with serrated leafy arms, a type attested in early Turkish Ghirlandaio carpets as a border design. On rugs of the so-called Large-Pattern Holbein group it already appears cut in half and repeated in a staggered arrangement.

Antique Village Rugs From Turkey
Antique Village Rugs From Turkey

The field of Nazmiyal 41963 is quite unusual within the Milas / Melas or Karaova productions, which usually have field designs of loosely strewn floral sprays. Instead it consists of an excerpt of an allover reciprocal design made up of adjacent quatrefoils and eight-pointed stars.

Because of the small field size typical on Milas / Melas and Karaova carpets, we only see limited portion of this design three quatrefoils in soft green and red, and portions of the stars as the blue ground. This is one of the oldest designs in the Oriental rug repertory.

It is already attested in the representations of rugs in Timurid manuscript painting of the fifteenth century. Among early Turkish carpets it was a fairly standard field pattern in the large Pattern Holbein group, although there the eight-pointer stars are the main motif with portions of quatrefoils making up the ground. Quatrefoils were also an important component in the field designs of another offshoot of the Holbein group, the so-called Lotto carpets, especially the Kilim Pattern Lotto pieces.

The quatrefoils on the latter have internal elements like those on Nazmiyal 41963. It is also possible that the feathery leaves in the Karaova and Makri vine scroll borders also come from Kilim Pattern Lotto forerunners, where such feathery leaves constitute and important detail of the quatrefoils.

Antique Turkish Village Rugs by Nazmiyal
Antique Turkish Village Rugs

Therefore, this rug emerges as an important piece, not only for the unusual aspects of its design within the Milas / Melas Karaova production, but also because of the range of classical Turkish forerunners that it seems to draw upon, and the possible relevance of this to the origins of the various Southwestern Turkish rug types.

Milas / Melas, Karaova, and Makri are all on the extreme Southwest coast of Turkey. Yet various aspects of the design repertory of the rugs woven there – the pointed vine scroll, the feathery leaves of the vinescroll, the border made up of dissected hooked cruciform motifs, the reciprocal field pattern of quatrefoils and eight-pointed stars, and even their filler motifs – all come from Ushak and Ghirlandaio carpets, or from rugs belonging to the Holbein group, which have sometimes been attributed to Ushak.

All these types were made in the more northerly areas of Western Anatolia. So it would seem that at some point in the seventeenth or eighteenth centuries, this Northwest Anatolian production began to influence rug weaving in the region to the Southwest, which eventually developed into the familiar nineteenth-century types of this region.

More than any other Southwestern type, Karaova Melas rugs still bear the evident impact of this influence. As such the provide an opportunity to recognize the close connections among the various Southwest types and to understand more clearly how nineteenth century Turkish village weaving may have grown from the traditions established earlier in Turkish rugs of the classical era.

Everything You Want to Know About Rugs from Turkey

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