Kilim from Pirot – Šestak with Turtle Motive (No 1)
Dimensions: 140 cm x 210 cm („šestak“)
Technique: weaving technique tapestry technique
Origin: Pirot, town on the bank of river Nišava, in South-Eastern Serbia
Period: early 20th century
Pirot is a small town in the South-East of Serbia where the tradition of making kilims was present for more than 500 years. Turkish name for Pirot was Sarkoy, thence the kilims from Pirot are also known as Sarkoy Kilims.
Kilims from Pirot were made on vertical loom with tapestry technique, which provided the manufacture of a fabric with even, smooth and compact sides, and of any desired length. So, beside the several standard sizes, kilims could be of various dimensions.
This is a type of kilim is known as „šestak“ (140 cm x 210 cm). Originally it could have been used as a bed cover or a wall tapestry. There was a custom that a kilim hanged on the wall served as a background for pictures or armour collection. Today this type of kilim is used as a carpet, too.
The surface of kilim from Pirot is usually divided in these areas: outside border (spoljni ćenar), central border (ploča), inner border (unutrašnji ćenar) and the largest - central area (polje).
The main decorative motive on
this kilim is the turtle motive. It was the favourite motive of weavers from
Pirot. It had a symbolical meaning of long-life, immortality and regeneration,
but it was also connected to the role of a woman in a household, and as such it
was a symbol of modesty in marriage and fertility. On this kilim, the central
border, which is always the widest one, has a white background with a rows of turtle
motives in various colours disposed alongside all four sides of the kilim. Various other traditional motives mostly of characteristic rhomb form are horizontally arranged on the central part
of the kilim . They are disposed with harmony and rhythm in many rows of different height on red, white and black background.
Red was the favourite colour, abundantly used on kilims from Pirot, in various shades. Red colour also had important symbolical meanings. It is a universal symbol of love, joy, health and strength, but in Pirot there was also present its Christian symbolism connected to the Christ’s sacrifice, religious ardour and grace.
Vivid and bright shade of red is predominant on this particular kilim.
Densely woven and thin kilims are characteristic for the 18th , 19th and early 20th century. This structure of a kilim was conditioned by the exclusive use of the wool of typical local sheep breed. After the Second World War, when new breeds were introduced in the local environment, the quality of kilims changed, and they become thicker and of less refined structure.
In the past the dyes used for colouring the wool were natural. But from the second half of the 19th century aniline dyes were introduced, too. In that way it was enabled the use of a wider palette of colours. On kilims from the second half of the 19th century and onwards accents in various vivid colours could be seen.
According to the structure and the wide range of colours, with accents in turquoise-blue, this particular kilim can be dated at the early 20th century.
For further reading about kilims from Pirot please see the article Kilims from Pirot - from Pirot via Royal Residences to Modern Interiors