KARABAKH CARPETS

Carpet weaving is a traditional art in Azerbaijan that is rooted in history.  In 2010, it was registered as part of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO. Azerbaijani carpets are mostly made from wool (lamb or sheep). 

 There are seven carpet producing regions in Azerbaijan: Karabakh is one of them. The Karabakh carpet school has traditionally developed in two areas: in lowland and mountainous parts of Karabakh.  The latter is also called “the Shusha carpet brand.”  Besides Shusha, Dashbulag, Dovshanly, Girov, Terniviz, Malibayli, Chanakcha, Tun, Tuglar, Hadrut, Muradkhanly, Gasimushagi, Gubatly, Gozag, Mirseid, Bagirbeyli, Khanlig, Tutmas were also known for their rugs. Karabakh carpets made in these villages were named after them and contained specific characteristics that belong to the area.  In the lowlands, carpet manufacturing was based in Jabrayil, Horadiz, Barda, and Agdam.  

Let’s take a closer look at the Goja carpet woven in Karabakh.  The former name of the Goja carpet was Khojavend (Khojan), after the village.  Initially, the design was developed from the so-called legendary Safavid’ Shah Abbas’ design (or ‘Afshan’ design) of Tabriz’s orientalists’ painters in the 16th century.  During the 18th and 19th centuries, Karabakh’s carpet masters cultivated a unique Goja carpet composition and gradually began to change the shape of the floral elements placed on the carpet.  Carpet masters enlarged the curvilinear components and depicted geometrical edges via notches and hooks.  Goja carpet was usually woven in the form of a carpet set called dast khali gabe.  The houses in Karabakh were large and spacious, and people used carpet sets to design their interior.  The central carpet, called Khali, is about 4-7 meters long.  The side pieces, kenare, are the same in length but narrower.

Carpet Goja, Karabakh, Azerbaijan. 19th century. Warp, pile - wool; weft - wool, cotton. Azerbaijan National Carpet Museum collection.

The Karabakh carpet Khanlig of Jabrail group comes from the same name village of Gubadli. Since the 19th century, Khanlig carpets had also been woven in the towns of Mirzajanli, Efendilar, Dashkesan, and Suleymanli of Jabrail district.  These carpets are woven based on the Lachak-Turunj composition consisting of a large medallion in the center and a quarter of the medallion in the central field’s corners.  Notably, Khanlig carpets are preserved in world-famous museums.  Rugs with this name have several varieties.  In the first version, two domes decorate the upper and lower parts of the medallion.

Carpet Khanlig, Karabakh, Azerbaijan. Late 19th - early 20th century. Warp, weft, pile - wool. Louvre Museum collection
Carpet Khanlig, Karabakh, Azerbaijan. Late 19th - early 20th century. Warp, weft, pile - wool. Azerbaijan National Carpet Museum collection. In this version, the domes are replaced with white flowers in ceramic vases. Therefore, carpet weavers also call it Agh Chichaklar (White Flowers).

Khatai composition is one of the varieties of Ajdahaly (Dragon) carpets. Dragon motifs, characteristic of the Turkic peoples, belong to the most ancient images adorning many art monuments of Azerbaijan.  In Azerbaijani carpet weaving, these motifs gained fame in Khatai composition, which got its name from one of the tribes that are at the origins of the Azerbaijani people’s ethnogenesis. 

Intersecting toothed sleeves or branches running from bottom to top are the main elements of this composition.  They represent an image of a dragon.  These carpets are a rarity and preserved in the best world museums.  This carpet’s design, imbued with the spirit of palace carpets of the Safavid era, includes stylized floral and zoomorphic ornaments characteristic of the Karabakh carpet group.  The central field is filled with images of dragons, simurgs (phoenixes), ducks, the tree of life, fantastic creatures, and palmettes.

Khatai carpet. Karabakh, Azerbaijan. 17th century. Warp, weft, pile - wool. 228x464 cm. Inv. No 9486
Chalabi or Barda carpet composition was woven in Karabakh's surrounding villages, including Chalabi village, located 10 km east of the town of Barda. According to the prominent carpet researcher Latif Karimov, the word Chalabi in the Turkic peoples was an honorary title given to a gentleman and high-ranking officials.

The carpet is based on a single lake composition.  In the middle field center, a lake element of the same structure, characteristic of Chalabi carpets, is given.  The lake element called Gunesh or Chalabi, which is widespread in Karabakh carpet weaving, symbolizes the sun shining in all directions and a sign of divine light.

This lake element, consisting of twelve-petalled, indented, and protruding forms, imitates medallions created by professional artists of the XIV-XVI centuries and was used among other groups of Karabakh carpets.

Carpet Chalabi, Karabakh, Azerbaijan. XIX century. Nest, juniper, pile - wool. Collection of Azerbaijan National Carpet Museum