ISSN: 1301-255X
e-ISSN: 2687-4016

Ferenc Batari̇

In 1914 the Hungarian Museum of Applied Arts has organised a large scale exhibition of Ottoman Turkish carpets mainly from Transylvanian collections in Budapest. It was the fourth original rug exhibition, contained mostly rugs, after the Vienna, Stuttgart and New York ones, in the history of oriental carpets. But it was the first such exhibition, which included only one group of oriental carpets and at the same time it was the very first independent Ottoman Turkish carpet exhibition as well. It was not accedental, that such an exhibition was organised in Hungary. Hungary played an important role in the continental importation of oriental carpets into Europe from the 15th to the 17th century.

At the begining of the 20th century it was only the activities of the Transylvanian merchants in Brassö (Kronstadt, Braşov), which was known in the carpet literature. This im port however, was much mor widespread and was not restricted to Brassö or even to Transylvania (in Turkish Erdel, in German Siebenbürgen) as it is clearly known from recent research.[1] But it is fact, that Turkish carpets are preserved in the largest number in Transylvania, having a less vicissitudinous history as other parts of Hungary.

The large number and the quality of the Ottoman Turkish carpets in Hungary has called the experts' attention on them, already in the late 19th century. Special types of 17th century Turkish carpets were found in such a large number, that they became known as "Transylvanian" carpets in the literature. The name "Transylvanian" was and is still well-known in literature, but the geographical and political position of it is practically unknown, that is why I believe it is important to take notice of this topic too.

Transylvania used to be eastern part of Hungary surrounded with the Carpathian Mountains. Its namein Hungarian is Erdely which means "beyond the forest". This was translated into Latin (which was the language of the Catholic Church and the state offices in mediaval Hungary) and became known as Transylvania. Most of the terytory of Transylvania belonged to the Crown. During a labour shortage there, in the 12th century, the Hungarian King Geza II (1114-1162) let in several groups of Rhine Franks, who were seaking for a new homeland and later called themselves "Saxons". In 1526 the "Cognac Ligue", an alliance of the Papacy, the French King, Venice, Milan and the Ottoman Sultan fought against the Habsburg Emperor Charles V. That year Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent attacked Hungary, as an ally of the Habsburgs. At the battle of Mohâcs in 1526 the King of Hungary Louis II, who was the brother-in-low of Charles V, lost not only the battle, but also his life. As a consequence of this tragic events two separate election for a new king were held in Hungary. The Hungarians elected Janos Szapolyai, who was one of the richest noblemen and also held highest office in Transylvania. The other elected king Ferdinand, who was the younger brother of Charles V. Later the Pope and the Sultan recognized both Hungarian kings. Meanwhile the Turks maintanied the occopation of the Middle Hungary, circa the teritories of present day Hungary and when Buda and Pest fell to the Turks in 1541, Hungary was practically divided into three parts : Ferdinand ruled the northern and western part of Hungary, while King Janos ruled the eastern teritories, from which the Transylvanian Principality was soon formed. While the north and western parts of Hungary remained in conflict with the Turks, Transylvania entered on an agreement with them, which consolidated its economic position and preserved for prosperity the Hungarian Culture. At the end of the 17th century, when the Turkish occupied territories were liberated and again Buda became the Hungarian capital, the Principality of Transylvania lost its political significance. After World War I, in the peace treate of Trianon, Transylvania was annexed to Romania.

Of the 352 carpets which were collected for the 1914 Budapest exhibition, more, than half, to be exact 181, belonged to Transylvanian protestant, namely Lutheran, Calvinist and Unitarian churches. The carpets were worn by the every day use in secular propriety, where their number were much more and in the catholical churches too, where they were generally used on the steps of the altars. The carpets had more possibility to be better preserved when hanging on the walls or as a communion table or pulpit cover belonging to the community treasures of the less decorated or even puritan protestant churches. Carpets as church decorations were not limited to Transylvanian protestant churches in Hungary. There are published date from the 17-18th centuries Calvinist Church Visitations Protocoils of present Hungary in the County of Borsod, which are containing the conscriptions of the goods of the com m unities.[2] Almost each conscription contains references to 1-2 pieces of Turkish rugs, belonging to the church. Even 4 rugs were lent from a Calvinist church of town Miskolc, seat of this county to the 1914 Exhibition.[3] But the sole protestant characteristic of these carpets in church decoration as mentioned above, are disputable. The 17th and 18th centuries protocolls of Canonica Visitation of Catholic Churches in Upper Hungary reveal several references to Turkish carpets as well.[4]

Oriental carpets used to be one of the main decorations of Hungarian homes in the 16-17th centuries. These were less favouired in the age of rococo and classicism. The oriental rugs were discovered again by the men of romanticism of the 19th century. It was at that time that the large public and private carpet collections were formed; it was also at the same time when methodical scholarly research began into the historical and technical aspects of oriental carpets.

The attention of the western trade turned to Hungary after the recent report on richness of Transylvanian protestant churches in Turkish carpets at early 20th century, when the cheap acquisition possibilities has begun to be exhausted in the Orient. I am sorry to say, but many of classical Turkish carpets migrated to abroad in that time. It was the Transylvanian aristocrat, Dr. Domokos Teleki (1880-1955), Count of Szék and of the Holy Empire, himself a carpet collector, who called attention for the first time to the danger of the disapearing of Turkish carpets from the poorer protestant churches. Dr. Teleki took the edition of a book on Turkish carpets in Transylvania upon himself at his own expens mainly for the sake of the saving of these carpets, all of them of museum quality from the exportation from Hungary. He aimed by this book to call the art historians' attention to these carpets and to stimulate their proprietors to value them and to prevent their exportation. Dr. Teleki animated and helped Emil Schmutzler too, who was a carpet co llecto r in Brassô to edit his book :

Altorientalische Teppiche in Siebenbürgen[5] later. Jeno Radisics de Kutas (1856-1917) Director General of the Hungarian Museum of Applied Arts in Budapest, adapted Dr. Teleki's programme. After the proposal made by Teleki the Museum collected together the best pieces of churches, museums and private collections to prepare the book within the framework of an exhibition in Budapest. In the Preface of the exhibition catalogue Radisics de Kutas wrote : "The preliminery analyses, classification and the comparison of these carpets were more simple and efficient in the Museum. In addition to the prepation of the planned book an opportunity was offered by this wonderful collection of carpets to organise an uncommon and pioneering exhibition. It must have a significant educational and scientific importance over an aestetical experience given to the exhibition visitors".[6]

The 1914 exhibition was not the first opportunity of the Hungarian public to visit a rug exhibition in the Hungarian Museum of Applied Arts in Budapest. The Museum has organised the exhibition of Arnold Ipolyi's collections in 1886. Twenty four old oriental carpets belonged to the Collectons too, which were exhibited in extra room. The collection consisted of 18 Turkish rugs-among them were 9 prayer rugs, two with sixs colum ns, six with two colum ns, 13 signed as Transylvanian aquisition-furthermore there were other 4 Persian carpets and one Indian rug.[7] I don't know of any such earlier exhibition any where. There is a study on history of rug exhibition written by Kurt Erdmann.[8] He pointed out that the "Exhibition of Oriental Carpets" of the K.u.K. Trade Museum in Vienna, in 1981 was the first rug exhibition. Indeed it was the first exhibition where mostly oriental rugs were shown. It was followed by a smaller rug exhibition in Stuttgart in 1909, and then by another more significant one in New York in 1910. We have to regard the Budapest 1914 exhibition as the fourth one, dedicated solely to oriental rugs. The famous large exhibitions of Paris 1903 and Münih 1910 one were devoted to Islamic Art, dealing with every aspect of it, rather than to oriental rugs only. Erdmann has wrongly pointed out the "Special Loan Exhibition of Carpets and Other Textiles from Asia Minor" of Pensylvania Museum, Philadelphia in 1919 as the first exhibition, which contained only one group of oriental carpets. It was the Budapest 1914 exhibition, which was the first in fact of this kind.

Dr. Kâroly Csanyi (1873-1955) curator of the Hungarian Museum of Applied Arts was entrusted to gether carpets, to carry out research on them and to organise an exhibition in the Museum. The rugs of the larger churches, private collections and museums were already known to the experts. The Museum tried to bring new, unknown material for the book and to the exhibition, that is why Dr. Csanyi spent 6 weeks in 1912 and 3 weeks in 1913 with Dr. Teleki travelling by horse carriage, autocar and train all over Transylvania looking for carpets. Dr. Csanyi took notes of 600 old Turkish carpets during their field trips in Transylvania as the mentioned in one of their reports on the 1914 exhibition.[9] This observation gave an opportunity to a mistaken on the number of old carpets in Hungary for the later experts, pointing out this number of old carpets existing there.

Among the carpets collected in the Museum ca 50% belonged to protestant churches, 30% to private collections and 20% to museums. The more significent lenders were : "Black Church" of Brassö (Kronstadt, Braşov) 38 : "Friar's" Church of Segesvâr (Schâssburg, Sighişoara) 30; Museum of Applied Arts of Budapest 30; Brukenthal Museum of Nagyszeben (Herrmannstadt, Sibiu) 25; Dr. Domokos Teleki collection 18; Lutheran Church of Szâszsebes (M ühlbach, Sebeş Alba) 17; Lutheran Church of Medgyes (Mediasch, Mediaş) 13; Mrs. Jozsef Keszler collection, Budapest 11 carpets.

The exhibition in Budapest organised the carpets according to their chronology, dividing them into 13 different groups. Painting were also exhibited, which represented Turkish carpets and which were revelant carpets on show. The exhibition was accompanied by a catalogue with 92 pages of text and 21 black and white photographs. There were the descriptions of 312 rugs of the 352 pieces collected in the Museum and this were written by Dr. Csanyi with the assistence of Sândor Csermelyi Curator and Kâroly Layer Assistent Keeper of the Museum. The technical descriptions were made by Miss Vilma Kele Warden of the textile collection with Mrs. Herman Mulder. The Preface was written by Jeno Radisics, the introductions to the special groups were the works of Dr. Csanyi. The descriptins contained the catalogue number, denomination, descriptions of pattern and colours, signes, number of knots, measurement, dating, origin, and the propietor of the carpets.

The catalogue was written according to the 13 groups of the exhibition. The 13 groups with the number of the exhibits were the following : I. Holbein 4; II. Lotto 31; III. Bird Uşak 23; IV. Large Uşak 7 (within 6 Star and 1 Medallion ones); V. Small Medallion Uşak 7; VI. "Transylvanian Uşak with opposed arch mihrab 106; VII. Two columns prayer rugs (Gördes, Court Manofactory) 53; VIII. Prayer rugs without columns 53; IX. Six columns prayer rugs (Ladik) 20 (within 1 with four, 1 with eight columns); X. Late Ladik rugs 2; XI. Kula prayer rugs 4; XII. Three ball rugs (chintemani) 5; XIII. Different rugs 5 (within 2 dragon patterned carpets, 3 large Pattern Holbeins).

The grouping of the carpets is mostly valid until our days. Western literature uses the name "Transylvanian for all type of prayer rugs,(which were on the exhibition with the exception of carpets, which have an ever-all pattern. The "Transylvanian" name is limited only to one type by Dr. Csanyi and by the Hungarian literature generallay. It is group No. VI., the richest with 106 items, containing such an Uşak carpets, which have usually double, opposed arch mihrabs within two mosque lamps in the earlier pieces and angular floral scrolls, or one smaller medallion and the border is decorated by rows of cartouches containing an arabesque and floral scroll, and their variations.

Dr. Csanyi has found 28 such carpets, which have inscriptions in Hungarian, Latin and German language, connected to the proprietor, or to the donation to the church and date. 10 of them were written in the 17th century, 15 in the 18th century, and 2 in the 19th century. Dr. Csânyi was able to make some corrections on the dating of the carpets by the help of these documents. There were in the exhibition 230 rugs identified as 17th century works; further 31 pieces as 17-18th century works; 13 pieces were earlier, then the 17th century and 30 belonged to the 18th century and 7 pieces belonged to the 19th century in the exhibition.

The exhibition had a great succès with the public and with the experts too in Hungary and abroad. The First World War paralised further reserch work on these carpets. In 1917 Radisics died. Dr. Teleki's position in Transylvania, which was anexed to the new Romanian Im perium , became critical. Dr. Csânyi received employment as professor in the University of Polytechnik. Dr. Gyula Végh, the new Director of the Museum decided again edit a book on "Transylvanian" Turkish carpets in view of the great succès of the 1914 exhibition. In 1925 Dr. Végh with Kâroly Layer published the well known portfolio album "Tapis Turcs Provenant des Églises et Co llectio n s de Transylvanie" with 30 coloured reproductions of selected carpets at the Pahs Publishing House Émile Levy. It was compilled on the basis of Csânyi's 1914 catalogue. In the Preface of the Album Dr. Végh refers to the important role of the protestant churches in the preservation of the carpets, but the wrongly brings the existence of the carpets in connection of Ottoman occupation and he thinks, that the usage of the carpets in churches is an imitation of an Moslem religious practice. But Transylvania was never occupied by Ottomans; the Turkish carpets were very popular as part of the interior decoration in the homes of the Hungarian nobility and patricians, from where they then found their way to the churches as pious donations before the "Turkish period" as well. Sorry to say this Album was not the originally planed scientific work. But it gave information on a highly important and rich group of oriental carpets earlier not well known in an international language : in French. However its significance in the carpet literature is verified by its new English Edition prepared by Dr. Marino and Clara Dall'Oglio. They added a new preface to the book and each plate has a study like review with literature and sometime wits technical data too.[10]

A good many of the carpets which were at the Budapest exhibition of 1914, are still preserved in the churches of Transylvania and in the museums. But most of the carpets which were in private collections, has now disapeared or are dispersedd. All of the items of the 1914 exhibition were photographed on glass negatives and belonged to the Archiv of the Budapest Museum of Applied Arts. However half of these were destroyed during World War II. There is an incomplet series of their original photos belonged earlier to Dr. Csânyi's doughter in Budapest. We were unable to find a single photograph of the 1914 exhibition.

Also a lot has been acheaved and discovered during the past few years concerning the so called Transylvanian carpets,[11] yet the work is far from complete. More extensive research is required on the spot in Turkiye and in particular in Turkish Archives. The Ottoman Empire was well organised and the documents dealt with every aspects of life, including the arts and course carpet weaving as well.

*Carpet section Curator of the Museum of Applied Arts in Hungary.


  1. Ferenc Batari, "Turkish Rugs in Hungary", Halı, Vol. B. No. 2, London, 1980, pp. 82-90. / Ferenc Batari, Régi tôrôk szônyegek Kecskeméten - Old Turkish Rugs in Kecskemét, Kesckemét, 1981. (Exhibition catalogue with an essay). / Ferenc Batari, Ottoman Turkish Carpets - The Collections of the Museum of Applied Arts, Budapest, I. Budapest-Keszthely, 1994.
  2. Béla Takâcs, Borsodi reformâtus templomok régi szönyegei, (Old rugs of Calvinist churches in County Borsod), In : Herman Otto Muzeum Évkönyve (Year a book of the O. Herman Museum) VII. Miskolc 1968, pp. 127-137.
  3. Ferenc Batâri, Az avasi reformâtus templom török szönyegeiDie türkischen Teppiche der Reformierten Kirche auf dem Miskolcer Avasberg, In : Herman Otto Muzeum Évkönyve (Yearbook of the O. Herman Museum) XVII-XVIII. Miskolc, 1979, pp. 115¬ 130.
  4. Batâri, op. cit., see note 3, p. 116.
  5. Emil Schmutzler, , Alt orientalischen Teppiche in Siebenbürgen, Hirschmann, Leipzig, 1933.
  6. Kâroly Csanyi, (with S.Csermelyi and K. Layer), Erdélyi török szönyegek kiâllitâsânak leirô lajstroma, (Catalogue of the exhibition of the Turkish carpets from Transylvania), Budapest, 1914
  7. jenö Radisics, Képes kalauz néhai Ipolyi Arnold nagyvâradi püspök gyüjteményeihez, (Illustrated catalogue of the collections of the late Rev.y A. Ipolyi, Bishop of Nagyvârad), Budapest, 1886.
  8. Kurt Erdmann, Teppich Ausstellungen seit 1890. In : E.K. : Siebenhundert Jahre Orientteppich, zu seiner Geschichte und Erforschung. Busseschung. Bussesche Verlag, Herford, 1966. pp. 23-26.
  9. Erdélyi török szönyegek (Turkish Carpets from Transylvania). In : Magyar Iparmüvészet (Hungarian Applied Art (Journal of the Hungarian Society of Applied Arts), XVII. Budapest, 1914. Nr. 2, pp. 63-67.
  10. Gyula Vegh, and Käroly Layer, , Turkish Rugs in Transylvania, A new edition by Marino and Clara DaN'Oglio. The Crosby Press, Fishguard, 1977.
  11. Ferenc Batari, Transilvani a doppia nicchia - Un gruppo molto particolare di tappeti a prighiera. In Chereh-Rivista di tapped e tessili, Torino, 1994, 4. Pp. 39-47. / Ferenc Batari, Az "erdelyi" szönyeg-The "Transylvanian" Carpet. In : Keletkutatäs (Orient-research) Budapest, 1995, tavaszi sz. pp. 127-135. / Ferenc Batari, The Double-Niche "Transylvanian" Prayer Rugs. In : Papers, Presentations - 7th International Conference on Oriental Carpets. Düsseldorf, 1996. Pp. 39-48.

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