Cochineal Dye and the Dating of Turkish Rugs
Since the publication of Bruggemann and Bohmer’s Teppiche der Bauern und Nomaden in Anatolien, the presence of the dye cochineal has been used as an aid in dating Turkish rugs.
Based on the writing and research of Bruggemann/Bohmer, its presence in Turkish rugs has been taken to mean that the weaving could not predate the second quarter of the 19th century.
There are, however, a series of references to trade in cochineal and its use in the Ottoman Empire before the date given by Bruggemann/Bohmer.
The earliest instance, at present, is that by Saint-Priest who wrote in 1750 that French trade in cochineal to Smyrna and Aleppo had a value of ‘more than 550,000 livers’ (sic) and mentioned its considerable consumption in Constantinople and other towns.
Other import documents establish that cochineal was used during this period in Erdine, Aleppo and other trade centers.
Additionally, documents show that in 1846 cochineal dye was used in carpet production in Kayseri and Erzurum.
Given its expense, it is probable that cochineal was first used in workshops producing made-to- order rugs for wealthy clients.
In principle the use of cochineal in tribal and village rugs may have also occurred during the 18th century, however, this proposition cannot be clearly established by current documentation.
It would therefore be unwise to give a late date to a rug merely because of the presence of cochineal dye.
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