Carpet weaving is one of the oldest and most popular forms of art in Azerbaijan, and is so highly developed that the usual Western distinctions between the fine arts and the decorative arts simply do not apply. The traditional skills of this art have been handed down from one generation of weavers to another for many centuries, and the visual language they employ in their carpets--the motifs and the colors--forms an essential part of the culture of Azerbaijan, and seems able to speak to Azeris of every background, whether simple or sophisticated.
Weavers of earlier centuries, whose names have been forgotten, produced magnificent carpets and textiles that are now in the collections of the world's greatest museums: the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Louvre in Paris, Topkapi Sarayi in Istanbul, and many others. Baku also has a museum of textile art, located in the center of the city.
Early geographers and historians have left valuab]e accounts of the sophistication of carpet weaving in Azerbaijan, and of the esteem in which Azeri carpets were held by neighboring peoples. The famous 10th-century Arab historians al-Tabari and al-Muqaddasi both remarked that splendid carpets were made in the Azeri town of Barda. The folk epic Dada Gorgud, created during the 11th and 12th centuries, gave special praise to the purple carpets of Azerbaijan, while in the 13th century, Azeri carpets were admired by the Flemish traveler and missionary Guillaume de Ruysbroeck as well as by the Venetian merchant and explorer Marco Polo. Two centuries later, Azeri carpets appear in the paintings of European artists including Hans Holbein the Younger and Hans Memling. Records of luxurious Azeri carpets are also found in the journals of the English traveler Anthony Jenkills in the 16th century, and of the Dutch seafarer Jan Struys in the 17th century.