Magnificent Antique Caucasian Soumak Rug, Country of Origin: Caucasus, Circa date: 1920 – The history of antique tribal Caucasian flat handwoven Soumak area rugs reaches back beyond memory. Some of the oldest remaining fragments in this style date to the seventh century BCE. The Soumak weaving technique utilizes a thick flat weave, similar to kilim rugs but characterized by a rough back instead of being smooth on both sides. Unclipped loose ends on the reverse side provide padding, making such flat weave rugs ideal for packing onto animals including donkeys and two-humped Bactrian camels. Traditionally they were also used for bedding, sturdy bags, as well as floor covering area rugs.
The ancient and mysterious Caucasus comprises the mountainous region south of Russia and north of Turkey and Persia. Rising to snowy heights between the Black and Caspian Seas, for millennia the area has been a crossroads linking Europe to Asia for travelers. Even Neanderthals settled in its hidden vales and forests.
The region’s rich past is a mixture of diverse cultures with isolation from the rest of the world. Consequently, the unique weaving style features a variety of design elements. The weft, or horizontal cross threads of yarn, were interwoven and embroidered into the longitudinal supporting warp threads to allow the creation of intricate and delicate patterns. Usually crafted by a single weaver, these captivating tribal antique Caucasian rugs expressed the richness of the individual artisan’s imagination and personality.
Designed for utilitarian purposes by the semi-nomadic tribespeople, these antique rugs were nevertheless exuberantly decorative by reflecting local motifs conveying symbolic meanings. Patterns frequently included intricate medallions with star-like configurations. Geometric and abstract designs were popular but many textiles depicted garden themes as well as birds and other animals.
This particular Soumak rug is notable for its intense deep blues and rich brick red background color. Characteristic of the style, the guard borders contain exquisitely detailed and precisely outlined forms. Hooklike shapes appear frequently in Soumak design, differentiating it from the common closed motifs observed in many Oriental rug styles. The outermost guard border presents a row of what appears to be angular predatory birds. The adjacent guard border strip offers complex scarab-like insects interspersed with diamond eye motifs. The inner field is composed of geometric medallions adorned with florals, crosses, and hooks. Some motifs are repeating, some are mirror images, and some include surprising individual variations. Initially, you assume symmetry but upon closer examination, you discover some of the rug’s secrets.
You will never tire of owning a piece of art like this Soumak carpet, whether it resides on the wall, the bed, or the floor. While it blends unobtrusively with many home decor styles, it also beckons the onlooker to explore and ponder its complexities. It will continue the spirit of its heritage for many generations to come.