Traditional Azerbaijani carpet weaving art

By Heydar Aliyev Center

According
to archaeological research and written sources, carpet weaving in Azerbaijan
dates back to the Bronze Age; Herodotus, Claudius Aelianus, Xenophon and other
historians wrote about it.

Traditional Azerbaijani carpet weaving artHeydar Aliyev Center

The Azerbaijani carpet is one of the richest in the world due to its various sizes, the number of characters and patterns used and the colour tones. The art of carpet weaving, as one of the most important expressions of Azerbaijani folk art transmitted from generation to generation, guards its traditions and secrets with special care. Carpets made in Azerbaijan are repeatedly praised in many historical books, classical literature and folklore writings. By reading the symbols and patterns used on these carpets as alphabet, often a remarkable history and culture are uncovered. By decision of the 5th Session of UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Committee on Intangible Cultural Heritage held in Nairobi, Kenya, from November 15 to 19, 2010, “The traditional art of Azerbaijani carpet weaving art” was added to UNESCO`s Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage.

History of carpet weaving in AzerbaijanHeydar Aliyev Center

According to archaeological research and written sources, carpet weaving in Azerbaijan dates back to the Bronze Age; Herodotus, Claudius Aelianus, Xenophon and other historians wrote about it. Silk carpets of Azerbaijan were especially praised in the epic Kitabi Dada Gorgud.

Export from AzerbaijanHeydar Aliyev Center

In the 13th-14th centuries, many carpets and carpet products were exported from Azerbaijan to foreign countries. Fine ornaments and decorations attracted the attention of famous European artists and were depicted in their works. In the 15th century Dutch artist Hans Memling immortalised the “Shirvan” carpet in his painting “The Virgin Mary Nursing Her Child,” Jan Van Eyck painted the “Zeyve” carpet in his work “Holy Mary,” and German artist Hans Holbein included the “Gazakh” carpet in the “Ambassadors”.

Khanates eraHeydar Aliyev Center

In the second half of the 18th century, during the Khanates era, carpet production expanded further. Each khanate's own carpet production led to the development of various carpet schools. Baku, Guba, Gazakh, Shaki and other Azerbaijani carpets were exhibited at the “Moscow-Polytechnic” exhibition in Moscow in 1872, and in 1882, at the All-Russian Production and Art Exhibition, the best exhibits were awarded gold and silver medals. Most of the exhibits displayed at the international exhibitions held in Vienna in 1872, in Turin in 1911, and in London and Berlin in 1913 were carpets produced in Azerbaijan. The next period of carpet art development in Azerbaijan dates from the 20th century.

Pile and pileless carpetsHeydar Aliyev Center

Azerbaijani carpets are divided into pile and pileless carpets in weaving technology. Pileless carpets are older and distinguished by different motifs and colourful tones. Pileless carpets are also called household carpets relating to the daily life and activities of the people. Carpets, such as palaz, jejim, kilim, shadda, verni, zili and sumakh are representative of the early period of carpet weaving.

Carpet weaving is a family traditionHeydar Aliyev Center

Carpet weaving is a family tradition handed down verbally and by training. Men are engaged in sheep shearing and collecting wool, while women gather different herbs for natural dyes in the spring and autumn. The weaving is carried out by female family members during the winter months, daughters learning from their mothers and grandmothers. A carpet is made in horizontal or vertical looms using many colours of wool, cotton or silk rods painted in natural dyes. Special techniques are used to create pile carpets. Cutting off the woven carpet from the loom is a special celebration.

TraditionsHeydar Aliyev Center

Carpet weaving is closely linked to the daily life and traditions of this society, and these traditions are reflected in the design of the carpets. Girls sitting on the carpet sing traditional songs in Novruz (regional New Year). The carpet is widely used for home furnishings and decorations, laid down or hanging on the wall. Every Azerbaijanian has different carpets in his or her home. Special carpets are woven for every significant event such as medical treatments, wedding ceremonies, birthdays, childbirth, and various other rituals and worshipping.

Azerbaijan Carpet Museum (1967)Heydar Aliyev Center

The Azerbaijan Carpet Museum was created under the Decree No. 130 dated March 13, 1967 of the Council of Ministers of the Azerbaijan SSR. From 1967 to 1993, the museum was called the Azerbaijan State Museum of Carpet and Folk Applied Arts, from 1993 to 2014 - State Museum of Carpet and Applied Arts named after Latif Karimov, from 2014 to the present time the Azerbaijan Carpet Museum.

Expositions of Azerbaijan Carpet MuseumHeydar Aliyev Center

The 1st floor of the exposition concentrates on the development of Azerbaijani Carpet Weaving. Beginning with the simplest type of carpet hasir (woven mat from reeds or cane), it leads to the more technologically complex and perfect forms (palas, jejim, kilim, shadda, ladi, varni, zili, sumakh). Multimedia files help trace the evolution of carpet weaving. Monitors demonstrate the technique of creating each type of flat woven carpet. Displays include horizontal and vertical looms; weaving tools for shearing, washing, and combing wool; and implements for spinning and dyeing yarn. The exposition presents archaeological finds from different regions of Azerbaijan, confirming the ancient roots of the national craft of carpet making.

Flat-woven carpetsHeydar Aliyev Center

There are 657 objects in the “Flat-woven carpets” collection. It features such products as palas, chiyi-palas, kilim, gadirga, jejim, shadda, ladi, varni, zili, and sumakh. The collection mainly covers the 18th-20th centuries.

Flat-woven carpets differ from each other through their weaving techniques, compositional structure, ornamentation, and color schemes. Palas and jejim, the compositions of which characterized by colored stripes of different widths, are woven with the simple interweaving technique.

Kilim, decorated with a variety of geometric patterns, consisting of four- and six-pointed shapes, with medallion “kilimgulu” and so on, is woven with complex interweaving techniques. Flat-woven carpets like varni, shadda, zili and sumakh are woven by wrapping of third weft around warp, which gives the ability to create complex patterns: stylized dragon in the shape of letter S or Z, anthropomorphic and zoomorphic motifs, plant ornaments, composition “Khatai”, etc.
Flat-woven carpets were common in everyday life, and were used for such things as flooring, covering of alachig (tent), curtains, clothes, tablecloths and etc. But by producing of these essentials were fully showed genius of people, the originality of their thoughts.

Pile carpetsHeydar Aliyev Center

The “Pile carpets” collection, which is the main component of the museum’s foundation, has 2323 exhibits dating from the 17th century to the early 20th century, and from the modern period. It presents the four types of carpet weaving in Azerbaijan: Guba-Shirvan, Ganja-Gazakh, Karabakh, and Tabriz.

Carpets were widely used in the daily life of people. Azerbaijan carpets are distinguished with a vast variety of decorative compositions that number over 600 designs. The museum collection also stores carpets produced by Azerkhalcha OJSC. It was founded in 1927 and continues the ancient traditions of carpet art.

Professional modern artists have played a major role in the development of carpet art. Among them is the master and scientist Latif Karimov, whose sketches Lachakturunj, Bahar (“Spring”), Heyvanlar alami (“World of animals”), Shabi-Hijran (“Night of separation”), and Safiaddin Urmavi were translated into woven carpets. The museum also presents the works of Kamil Aliyev – Nizami, Nasimi, Heydar Aliyev; Eldar Mikayilzadeh – Shabi-Hijran and Nagillar alami (“World of fairytales”); Jafar Mudjiri – Saib Tabrizi and others.

The oldest exhibit is the 17th century carpet Ajdahali (“The Dragon”), an example of the Karabakh type. The carpet was bequeathed to the museum by the American collector Grover Schiltz and was donated by his wife Beverly Schiltz in 2013.

Credits: Story

Mahabbat Mehdiyeva
The Director of Museum Department, Heydar Aliyev Center

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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