Rare and Collectible Antique Azerbaijan Embroideries from the Southern Caucuses
Azerbaijan Embroideries – Since at least the 17th century — and quite possibly well before that time — the historical Azerbaijan region of the southern Caucasus has been one of the most prolific and important rug-producing regions in the world. Located immediately north of modern Iran — the Persian Empire of antiquity that had such an out-sized influence on the the world of rugs — Azerbaijan has been responsible for the design and manufacturing of a great many of the various types of the antique rugs that fall under the umbrella description of Caucasian Rugs Kuba, Shirvan, and a great many other styles of Caucasian rugs have all been historically made in the Azerbaijan region. So important is the tradition of rug-weaving to Azerbaijan that in November 2010 UNESCO proclaimed that the “Azerbaijani Carpet is a Masterpiece of Intangible Heritage.”
In modern times, the specific areas of rug production in historical Azerbaijan are largely unknown to experts and scholars. As such, when used as an umbrella descriptor term for certain antique rugs, “Azerbaijan” specifically refers to Azerbaijan embroideries related to classical antique Persian rugs and textiles. Over time, the styles of rug making throughout Azerbaijan would go on to influence — and in many case serve as the model for — rug making throughout the Caucuses. Thus, antique Azerbaijan rugs are important and culturally significant not only because of their level of artistry and craftsmanship, but also because of the wide-ranging impact that they had on rug trends in one of the most important rug producing regions in the world.
The Azerbaijan Carpet Reflects a Traditional Way of Life
Azerbaijani carpets are some of the most beautiful carpets in the world, with their tribal patterns and brilliant colors. The rugs are beautiful, but they are also a reflection of a way of life that is quickly disappearing, making them a world heritage and representation of one of the world’s last remaining tribal cultures. Let’s take a closer look at the lives of those who have brought these captivating pieces to the world for many centuries.
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The Life of a Tribal Azerbaijan Carpet Weaver
The art of weaving carpets is woven into the lives of the people in a way that is closely connected to a way of life and customs. The carpets from this area come in various sizes and are of a dense pile. Some kilims are produced, too. Carpet making is a family affair. The men shear the sheep in the spring and fall. The women collect the materials to dye the wool, spin the yarn, and prepare it for weaving. The weaving takes place in winter and is a family undertaking for the entire extended family.
The younger girls in the tribe learn the art by helping their mothers, grandmothers, and in-laws. The carpet is created on both horizontal and vertical looms. They are simple looms that have a warp that can be rolled up and moved, if necessary. However, they try to finish a carpet before it is time to travel. They use either cotton, wool, or silk. Each knot is hand-tied, and the warp is packed densely using a special comb. This creates a carpet that is dense and warm.
The traditional patterns are passed down through memorization using songs and poems to learn them. Only recently have Azerbaijani weavers begun using patterns. For the most part, these carpets are still created using traditional patterns and symbols. Even when a carpet is created using a pattern, you will often find that the weaver took liberties to include a few of the traditional motifs and symbols. Each one is a unique creation and artistic expression of the many hands that helped to create it.
Azerbaijan Embroideries and Rugs are a Celebration
Many hours of work go into creating a carpet using traditional methods and techniques. The families spend the long winter months weaving the carpets as they prepare their meals, care for children, and tend their herds. When a carpet is finished, cutting it from the loom is a solemn time, and it is done with reverence.
The designs in the carpets are closely connected to the people and the meaning that they hold for their community. Girls will tell fortunes and sing traditional songs during the Novruz celebration while seated on the carpets. Novruz is the New Year that is celebrated in the region.
The carpets are used as home furnishing and decoration, but sometimes, carpets are woven for special purposes. A carpet might be used to help cure a person who is ill. They are woven to celebrate the birth of a child, for weddings, and as part of funerary service. Special rugs are woven for prayer.
When you look at the beautiful patterns and colors of Azerbaijani tribal carpets, you are looking at a piece of tribal culture that goes beyond the tangible. They are a part of the traditions of the people and an expression of their joys and sorrows that go beyond the artistry. Carpet weaving is integrally woven into the land and its people. The carpets of traditional tribal people are a creation of the heart that goes beyond their beauty and soft pile.
History of Azerbaijan Embroideries and Carpets
Azerbaijan lies on the southern fringe of the Caucasus Mountains. It is bounded by the Caspian Sea to the east, and its capital is the ancient city of Baku. The people are a mix of traditional tribal culture and the remnants of the various cultures that have invaded the area over the centuries. People first came to the area during the Bronze Age.
Many different forces would occupy the area now known as Azerbaijan over the centuries, but throughout these changes, the traditional tribal groups would continue to move their sheep between summer and winter grazing lands as they carried out their traditional way of life and wove their carpets.
The tribal groups in the area include the Ayrums, Bayat, Quaradaghs, Qizilbash, Karapapak, Padar, Terekeme, Shahsavan, Karabagh, and Qajars. Each of these tribes developed an artistic style that was unique to them. The carpets used local sheep’s wool and the dye plants that were found in the areas as they moved from place to place. The carpets of these tribes are more than a piece of furniture; they are the culmination of traditions passed down through the generations.
As you can see, the beautiful tribal carpets that we have today are more than something beautiful for our homes. They are an artistic creation that reflects centuries of customs and traditions. As the women sat around and gathered to stave off the cold of the winter months, they continued a tradition of community and the passing of the traditions from one generation to the next. They wove to celebrate, they wove their sorrows, and they wove their joys into every knot.
Please enjoy our selection of Azerbaijani embroideries and tribal carpets. The stories behind them have been lost, but it is easy to imagine the stories that they would tell if they could talk. In a way, they do talk through their symbols, beautiful colors, and patterns that all have a special story to tell and connection to a people carving out a living in a harsh landscape.
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