Azerbaijan Art of Carpet-Making
Have a glance over Azerbaijan Republic, situated in the south-eastern part of the Caucasus, on the western shore of the Caspian Sea. Eternal spaciousness and meadows, snowy tops of mountains and sandy seashores stretch before our eyes.
Fertile soil, mild climate and warm sun rays have determined favourable conditions for flora. Almost each out of 6000 species of plants found on the territory of Azerbaijan has medical properties. For centuries Azerbaijan had been a country of various handicrafts, particularly carpet-making.
Carpet-making is one of the ancient fields of the decorative-applied art of Azerbaijan. According to archaeological excavations in the territory of Azerbaijan and to literature sources, carpet-making had been conceived in ancient times.
Carpets and carpet-ware made in Azerbaijan had repeatedly been glorified in historical books, classic and folk literature.
Magically playing, the colours of carpets absorbed ruby brightness of pome-granate, golden brilliance of quince, copper of saffron and lilac tints of grapes.) Inexhaustible richness of colours, inimitable in its beauty interlacement of patterns, flight of artistic fantasy and consummate skill- that is Azerbaijan carpet.
According to the historical sources, Azerbaijan was one of the most important centres of pile and flat-woven carpets production in the East in Middle Ages.
Facts confirm, that north-eastern part of Azerbaijan was a centre of high quality carpets production in the VI-VII centuries.
Famous Chinese traveller Khuan-Tesank, who visited Iran in the VII century, wrote in his memoirs: "Azerbaijan is one of the largest centres of the carpet-making".
Historian (VII c.) Moisey Kalan-kaituksky noted in "Agvan tarikhi", that silk textiles and multicoloured carpets were manufactured in the northern part of Azerbaijan.
In the manuscript "Khudud-Al-Alem" (X century) is marked, that Azerbaijan town of Mugan was famous for its Chuvals and Palases; towns of Nakhichevan, Khoi and Salmas-for Zili, Khali and sashes; Ardabil and Shirvan for coloured silk and woollen textiles. Well-known historiographer Abu Jafar Mohammed Tabari (X century) speaking of Azerbaijan seizure of Azerbaijan, mentioned that in the north-eastern part of Azerbaijan carpets of high quality were manufactured.
Historian and traveller Al Mukaddasi (X century) describing Azerbaijan town of Barda and its market, noted: "...silk and clothes are sold at this market... and carpets have no equals in the world".
Descriptions of the carpets are met in Azerbaijan classical literature as well, especially in the masterpieces of great Azerbaijan poets as Gatran Tabrizi (XI century), Nizami Ganjevi, Khagani Shirvani (XII century) and others. In the XIII century Venicean traveller Marko Polo wrote: "there are many skilful masters, producing textile, carpet and sabres widespread all over the world in Azerbaijan". In the second half of the XV centuries Azerbaijan carpet-makers began to use golden and silver threads, precious stones in silk carpets. In the XIII-XIV centuries Azerbaijan jewellery and carpets attracted European, especially Venicean merchants.
Having visited Azerbaijan dealers, travellers, ambassadors from different countries, exported picturesque carpets and carpet-ware as commodities and presents. And it's not casually, that we can find Azerbaijan carpets on the canvases of the famous European artist.
We can observe them on the picture " Ambassadors" of Hans Golbein; well-known Dutch artist Yan Van Eik painted his picture " Madonna of the Canon Van der Pale" with the Azerbaijan carpet "Kuba" on its background.
In the XVI-XVII centuries, in the epoch of Safavids Azerbaijan art of carpet-making went through the stage of rapid development.
In this period Tabriz, Ardabil, Shemakha, Baku, Gyanja and Barda were considered to be the centres of carpet-making.
Being of fine quality and techniques of fulfilment, ornamental carpets woven centuries ago in Shirvan, Garabakh, Absheron, Kuba, Kazakh, Gyanja, Mugan, Talysh decorate now great museums of the Soviet Union, Western Europe, the United States of America. 90% of the carpets, especially flat-woven, known in the world by the name of "Caucasus" are primordial Azerbaijan carpets.
Four volumes monograph "Azerbaijan carpet" has been written by the head of this department, the author of the present work.
In 1967 the first State Museum of the Art of carpet-making was established. Here the best examples of Azerbaijan carpets and carpet-ware were displayed.
The exposition of this unique Museum is decorated with the ancient carpets, woven in the XVIII-XIX centuries and ornamental carpets of the Soviet period.
The organization of abovementioned establishments by the Soviet State has created the necessary prerequisites for more thorough study of the artistic, theoretical and technological aspects of the art of carpet-making. According to the technology and artistic decision Azerbaijan carpets can be divided into two types: flat-woven and pile carpets.
There are 7 methods of technique of flat-woven carpet-weaving, which resemble tapestry, at the same time there are only two methods of pile carpet-weaving.
Each Azerbaijan district is famous for its own original carpets and carpet-ware peculiar for the given zone. Palas, Jejim, shadda, Kilim, Zili, Varni and others are considered to be Azerbaijan flat-woven carpets.
Since ancient times Azerbaijan flat-woven carpet-ware were widespread as unten sils: khurjun (travelling bag), mafrash (similar to trunk), chul (popone), etc.
Since ancient times carpet-making in Azerbaijan was women's business, who cautiously shared their experience from generation to generation. Composition, ornamentation and artistic methods were close and clear to every carpet-maker, no matter how complicated they were.
It is evidently, that in ancient times there was no woman, who didn't weave carpets in Garabakh, Barda, and later in Shusha.
One of the main articles of girl's dowry was a carpets complete-set ("Dast-khali-gabe") consisting of 3 or 4 carpets. A bride had to take first hand part in weaving of such a complete-set.
It is interesting to know, that women, who came to seek in marriage a girl, usually inquired about her skill at weaving carpets.
In 1917 in 222 villages of Gyanja district more than 33069 persons were engaged in carpet-making, that constitute 49% of the population and 56% of the all handcraftsmen of the district.
In the same year 39979 persons from 97 out of 111 villages of Kuba district were carpet-makers, that constitute 81% of district handcraftsmen.
Such figures may be met in the villages of Shirvan, Garabakh and Absheron. These facts confirmed that carpetry gained expansion and was one of the main spheres of applied arts.