Azerbaijan, south Caucasus, early 18th century
46 x 97 cm (1' 6" x 3' 2"), incomplete, silk embroidery in counted stitch on cotton
This embroidery is one of the finest and most beautifully drawn examples of the type generally attributed to Azerbaijan. This attribution, which there is little evidence to substantiate, probably arose because these embroideries share design features of both Persian and Caucasian art, and Azerbaijan separates the Caucasus from Persia as we know it today. They are mostly thought to date from the late 18th century. Fortunately, two examples have precise dates associated with them. It is also possible, however, that the tradition goes back one or two centuries earlier.
The present textile represents approximately one half of the original. The design is composed of an endlessly repeating pattern made up of large diagonally-placed hexagonal cartouches, which interlock at the interstices with four-pointed crosses. In the space between the large cartouches, a design of yellow-ground diamond-like stars is formed. Each star has eight points and is filled with a salmon-ground floral medallion, inside which is a diagonally-set four-pointed cross with stylised cloudbands, containing an eight-pointed star with split leaves. The overall grid-like structure of the design is similar to that of Safavid ceramic tiles, but the individual ornaments belong to the repertoire of textile design. The field is enclosed now on three sides only by a wide ivory-ground border, which includes pointed medallions with large protrusions in the shape of split leaves.
As with the other examples we attribute to this group, it is fully embroidered in a counted stitch in a regular manner. This gives the effect of diagonal lines which can be seen on the surface. On several examples, while the borders and pattern are worked in a counted stitch, the background to the field is often worked in a `drawn' technique; thus these areas are left un-embroidered, and the warps and wefts of the backing cloth are gathered and wrapped in silk, creating a net-like effect.
Published and exhibited: 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. 7 (in colour).