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Stars and Octagons
Possibly Karabagh region, south-west Caucasus, circa 1700
72 x 84 cm (28 x 33 in), silk embroidery in cross stitch on cotton

The examples in the third of our five groups of Caucasian embroideries have a number of designs, ranging from purely geometric tile-like schemes composed of eight-pointed stars, cartouches and octagons to abstract floral designs that can be compared to the so-called `Dragon' and `Blossom' carpets from the Karabagh region of the southern Caucasus with several permutations in between. All of these designs can appear in each of the three techniques by which we have sub-divided this group: (a) fully embroidered in a long stitch, often known as stem stitch; (b) fully embroidered in a tent stitch, often called `cross stitch'; (c) fully embroidered in a counted stitch, which is used in a far more regular manner than the other two techniques.

This beautiful and finely embroidered example from our group 3b has a classical geometric design. Two primary ornaments, an eight-pointed star and an octagon, are aligned in vertical and horizontal rows, separated by a large hooked lozenge, and alternating diagonally. The patterns within the primary ornaments are symmetrical both vertically and horizontally. The complex geometry of the design allows many of the patterns to be read in both the `positive' and the `negative', the latter being where the background becomes the design. The eight-pointed stars are surrounded by stylised hooked creatures in ivory against a typical black background. The use of brilliant colours set against the dark background gives the composition great power and visual appeal.

Published: Hali, issue 80, p. 147 (in colour); Wiesbaden, Rippon Boswell, Textile Art of the Caucasus, brochure to accompany an exhibition organised by The Textile Gallery, 6 to 18 October 1996, text by Michael Franses, London, 1996, fig. 5 (in colour).
Exhibited: L'Institute du Monde Arabe, Paris, 1989-1994; Wiesbaden, Rippon Boswell, Textile Art of the Caucasus, exhibition organised by The Textile Gallery, 6 to 18 October 1996.

ref. 14400