The Caucasus is a region of the world located between the Caspian and the Black Sea. Its distinctive and mountainous terrain separates Europe from Asia Minor. Over the centuries the Caucasus had been inhabited by nomadic peoples with the capability of producing beautifully-patterned carpets, desired and recognized by connoisseurs of antiques all over the world.
The Caucasus is a region of the world located between the Caspian and the Black Sea. Its distinctive and mountainous terrain separates Europe from Asia Minor. Over the centuries the Caucasus had been inhabited by nomadic peoples with the capability of producing beautifully-patterned carpets, desired and recognized by connoisseurs of antiques all over the world. The oldest antique Caucasus carpets are from the sixteenth century, but the most famous dragon carpets come from the nineteenth century. The majority of patterns, however, consists of floral and bold geometric compositions (especially with hooked medallions).
Masters of weaving from the Caucasus used to produce carpets entirely with hand spun wool and vegetable dyes. These carpets are decorated in intense, contrasting colors and a medium-high, densely woven hair. Most of the older Caucasian knotted-pile rugs are really all wool – not only the knotted pile, but also the warp and weft threads, are usually made of hand spun woolen yarn or goat hair. However, one can sometimes find older carpets (and more frequently some newer ones) with cotton warps and wefts.
Traditional Caucasian rug has a border and a narrow center, filled with geometric medallions and simplified motifs of swastikas. There are also animal motifs – always characterized by definitively bold colorations and daring designs.
There are several divisions of antique carpets of the Caucasus, but the most significant is the following one, that distinguishes their characteristics due to the area, from which the actual carpet comes from:
Kazak rugs – the type characterized by designs laid out in a distinctive line of three medallions or a singularly large central medallion, these rugs are also known as Shulaver, Lambalo, Karaklis, Karachov and Bordjalou Caucasus rugs.
Karabagh rugs –They were woven after the 1900s and have the design colorations in combinations of green, pink, violet and yellow. Carpets of Karabakh have patterns just like those from Persian rugs, which catered to European tastes.
Shirvan rugs – silk and cotton warp threads are used in the making of Shirvan rugs, making it an impossibility to find any of them coarse. They have earned the reputation of being the finest of the Caucasian woven rugs
Baku rugs – recognizable by fields of carnations or Boteh (paisley) that surround several octagons in steppes with blue and ivory as the main colorations, the Baku rugs also include Chila, Sirahani and Kuba rugs.
Chelebend – The most typically constructed antique carpet of Chelebend type is often referred to as a “sun Kazak”. In fact, it is a burning cross – it reminds us the Christian history of the Armenians, who manufactured carpets using this motif. Faded red dye is made from madder root, in the past possible to find only in the area of Karabakh. Fishbone theme and garlands crab border are typical. Long carpets of this type are more rare. They often picture small animals and human figures working in the field and contain the date of making. These carpets were often given as a bridal gifts.
Akstafa rugs – made in Azerbaijan, these rugs employ bird patterns, that show peacock tails, a pair of wide feet and a long neck. Akstafa rugs are very similar to Shirvan rugs, with the unique peacock elements, which are geometricized. This motif can be rarely found in some Anatolian rugs.
In addition, there are also: Gendje, Sile and Verni carpets characterized by their geometric designs, extremely varied and imaginative. Sometimes, there are curvilinear designs with some animal motifs.
Older Caucasian carpets were made of hand-spun wool, used both in the pile, weft and warp. Natural dyes gave clear and intense colors. An excellent quality of wool, in conjunction with Turkish way of knotting carpets, made them resistant, which resulted in good reputation and fame. In case of subsequent carpets, woven after 1925, the warp is made of cotton, dyes are synthetic, what makes them fade easily, and the design is much more simplified. These carpets are fairly durable, but much less interesting, from an artistic point of view.
Carpets once produced in the Caucasus, today adorn the most important interiors of the world, such as the White House itself. What has been created in this unique melting pot of cultures and religions, still pleases the eye of connoisseurs and lovers of antique carpets till today.