Throughout its centuries-old history the Armenian applied art has created steady values in which the innate talent of anonymous masters and their sense of beauty, the artistic reflection of the depth of the people’s thinking have been concentrated. Colour, line and design — in Armenian ornamental art they have been expressed by various devices, always closely interlaced with other kinds of creative work, such as architecture and fine arts.
There is an unwritten law of inner unity in the works of different fields of the Armenian applied art. The fine patterns of lace and embroidery are connected with the extremely canonical vignettes of khatchkars (cross-stones). The colour-range of the carpets, and their clean and clear compositions reflect the design system of illustrated manuscripts. Although small in size the jewellery has maintained the monumentality of the medieval architectural decor and so on.
However, after a short pause, in new places and under different conditions Armenian craftsmen continued the production of articles based on national art imparting them a new quality.
Ani — the “crowded” capital of medieval Armenia, in the 10th and 11th centuries a city of “one thousand and one church” — exported copper, ceramic and textile goods, glass adornments, etc.
Dvin — Armenia’s “great capital” of the 11th—13th centuries — exported silk cloths, mutakas (oblong cushions), kirmiz (re\ dye), lace, glass and ceramic goods to Mesopotamia, Byzantium, the land of Aghvan (Caucasian Albania) and Persia.
Cilici an towns exported exquisite jewellery and cloths to the Mediterranean world.
Women’s adornments, men’s decorative and utilitarian accessories, home and church appurtenances made by the artisans of Karin (also of its Akhaltsi- kha and Shirak branches, the 19th century) witness the skill and inexhaustible creative imagination.
The town of Yerznka (Yerzindjan, Turkey) was famous for its fine cotton and silk textiles and for brass wares which competed with the similar goods from Yevdokia (Tokhat, Turkey). The works of Armenian jewellers from Konya (Turkey) along with the embroidery and jewellery of Constantinople evoked great interest on the world market. In Poland Armenian craftsmen introduced the special art of goat- and sheepskin dressing — morocco and ‘kordeban’. They established silk and morocco leather industries also in Russia.
The town of Kemakh (Turkey) was famous for its fine fabric for tents, Kutahya (Kutina, Turkey) — for various kinds of pottery. In Trebizond Armenian artisans made bridles, censers and vessels for rose water. The Cilician towns of Marash and Aintap were world- famous centres of needlework. Yerznka, Yevdokia, Madras and Nor-Djugha were well-known centres of cloth-printing.
Greatly contributed to the blossoming forth of crafts Armenian professional groups — hamkarutiun—which reminded by their scheme of organization the European guilds which lasted till the end of the 19th century. The groups were khown under various names: hamkarutiun (from Persian hamkar — meaning collaborator) in the towns of Transcaucasia and Eastern Armenia; asnafutiun (from Arab asnaf — craftsman, home-worker) in Western Armenia, yeghbairutiun (fraternity) in Ani and Dvin in the 10th—12th cc., in Karin—in the 13th century.
The numerous articles created by Armenian craftsmen spread all over the world and took a marked place in various nations’ everyday life. Often losing their national affiliation they were called oriental.
The works of Armenian craftsmen entered the world market including all the eastern and European countries owing to the activities of Armenian traders.
The local raw materials necessary for carpet weaving have become the qualitative base of Armenian carpets, and the variety of patterns earned them fame not only in the world market, but in the entire system of eastern carpet-making art.
Carpets, the wealth of the medieval Armenian culture, have retained their value to our days.
The rebirth of carpet weaving took place after the establishment of Soviet power in Armenia (1920), when in 1921 “Haigorg” (“Armenian Carpet”) association was founded with branches in various regions, when the government look this field of applied art under control and gave a spur to weavers’ work. The fame of the carpets produced by the branches of “Haigorg” in the world market comes to prove the fact.
A carpet is a rectangular piled fabric.
In the everyday life of the Armenian people the carpet was used for various purposes. It was more than floor covering. It was hung over the walls, used as coverlid for beds and ottomans, spread over the kursi (a dug-in stove). It was hung over the doors of houses and in vestries, etc.
The utilitarian purpose of the carpets, their role and function in everyday life determined their size, choice of thread, colour-range, patterns, etc.
Carpet weaving, like other kinds of decorative art, is associated with workmanship which means that it involves a number of related crafts, such as dyeing, carding, loom-making and others.
However it furnishes no evidence that the provenance of Armenian carpets must be assigned to that particular period. Carpets wear out, but the historic and political events too played an active part in their destruction. It is no mere chance that the rare specimens of Armenian carpets go no further back that the 13th century.
In the classic inscription (Paris, Louvre) of the palace of the Assyrian city Dur-Sharukin king Sargon II (722—705 B.C.) mentions the loot captured in the temple of Mussasir (an Urartian construction to the south of (he Lake Van), specially noting 100,225 heads of sheep.
In Middle Ages the Armenian wool was well-known in the world market. Arab geographer As-Saalibi ranked the Armenian wool very high, comparing it with Egyptian only, the Persian wool came next. Wool was so valued by Armenians and had such a variety of shades that it went under several names such as gueghm (fleece), asser (pure snow-white combed wool, from here assrakerp — foamlike, assra-pail — white, shiny, and so on); gzat, from gzel (to card), kazti, i.e. bright white wool; choor — Angora’s fine hair which was widely used in carpet-weaving of Western Armenian provinces. Goat hair was called diftik or kork. So were called also the small rugs or kapcrts made of it. Idrisi, an Arabic geographer, wrote that especially valued were small colourful rugs. In one of Georgian historical documents they were referred to as “Armenian tapasta”. The tapastas can be found in 13th century Armenian miniatures.
Treating wool for carpets was a very arduous process, its means and ways depending on local habits.
The wool was washed (seven times in flowing water), then carded (with a comb or a special bow-like device serving the same purpose) and spun (with a spindleor a spinning-wheel). A spindle made in the 3rd millennium B.C. has been found on the territory of Armenia. The threads were dyed (a most complicated process) and fixed in alum. The most well-known mines of alum were in Spain, Egypt, Armenia and Macedonia (according to Pliny the Elder).
То fix colours the threads were kept in mortar and to impart them lustre they were soaked in whey.
Dyes were particularly important as they were the base of the carpet’s colour-structure. Among the numerous animal, vegetable and mineral dyes Armenia possessed dyes which were used not only for local needs, but were exported into other countries.
One of the most important Armenian red dyes was the madder (Rubia, mentioned by Greek historian Herodotus, in the 5th century B.C.).
The Greek geographer Strabo (63 B.C. — 20 AD) mentions sandik (candyx), a red dye which Roman painters would call “horobitis”. Pliny the Elder, Roman naturalist and writer (1 st century), describes the “Blue Armenium” — ladjvard. He also wrote that highly rated in the world market was the Armenian chrysokolla (ochre). Armenians used numerous plants for dyes, such as buttercup, mint, spurge, saffron, root of licorice and barberry, onion peels, walnut leaves and others.
The most exceptional of all Armenian dyes was the world-famous Vortan Karmir (worm’s red) — “Armenian purple” — (Vortan is derived from “vort” which in Armenian means “worm”).
The worm which produced the red dye dwelt in Ararat valley. Much was written about it by both Armenian historians and foreign travellers. Carmine, the red dye produced by that worm, was widely used in Armenia and exported into various countries of the world. The red dye — carmine — produced by that worm was exported from Armenia into various countries of the world. There was such a lot of dyers in the town and villages of Ararat valley that Balathory, an Arabic historian, called the town of Artashat Kariat-al-Kirmiz (Red Town).
“Kerm” is the Persian word for “worm”, from here the Turkish “Kirmiz” meaning red, for the best red dye was produced in Armenia from the worm.
Every region had its local means and ways of dyeing which gave innumerable shades of colour. Of paramount importance was the fastness of colours, as well as their resistance to light, air, water, dust, friction, etc.
The next very important stage in carpet weaving is connected with the loom.
The loom (tork, vostan, dazgah) was either vertical (especially in Eastern Armenia) or horizontal (in some provinces of Western Armenia). The knots of Oriental carpets were made in two ways: a) on the two threads of the warp (straight knot), a technique used in carpet weaving centres of Asia Minor, for Armenian carpets as well.
This type of knot went under the name of “Ghiordes”; b) a knot made on one and a half thread, a technique applied for Persian, Caucasian and Central-Asian carpets. The weaving process is the most arduous, ancient and conservative of all crafts. The weaving must be smooth, without any twists. Special attention was paid to the narrow sides, their smoothness and tightness. Sometimes there were folds on the narrow sides of the carpet.
Armenian carpets were at times more than six metres long.
There were several ways for the weavers to adopt the prototype patterns. In the old days most common was the way when a special master would sit by the weavers and tell them the colours and the numbers of knots. Sometimes placed by the loom was the model carpet and sometimes it was woven from memory, in which cases the weaver was free to introduce his creative modifications. Later pattern sketches were made (spec, in 1913 the Caucasian home-industry committee published an album with patterns for weavers), and in 1920-ies the first painters for Armenian carpets appeared (H. Keshishyan, D. Gharanfilyan, Taragros). The artists who continued their work are now members of the Armenian Artists’ Union (M. Mnatsakanyan, M. Vardanyan and others).
There are linguistic factors which come to prove the ancient origin of the Armenian carpet.
The Armenian language has several words which subtly differentiate between the various types of weavings.
The Armenians used also the words “khali” and “khalitcha”. Abu Avin, a 9th century Arabic geographer, was of an opinion that the word khali derived from kalikala (kalikhali), the Arabic name of Karin (an Armenian town in Eastern Armenia, now Erzerum). There is also a supposition that the Arabic- Turkish khali comes from the Armenian khav (pile): khav To our opinion, long ago for piled weavings carpets, the word bazmakan was used (bazmel— to sit) which was mentioned both in historical documents and belles-lettres (Pavstos of Biuzand, Stcpanos of Taron, Thomas Artsruni, Stepanos Orbelian, Grigor of Narek and others).
Piled carpets have been woven in the East since olden days.
The most ancient carpet was found in the Altai, in the Pazirik burial ground. The pattern is based on the successive combination of geometric ornaments and rhythmic rows of horsemen and deer. It dates from the 5th—4th centuries B.C. (Leningrad, State Hermitage). S. Rudenko w’ho has discovered the carpet, ascribes it to Midianites, Parthians or Persians. It should be noted that Armenians had been in constant political and economic contacts with Persians and Parthians. Herodotus writes: “The traditions of Midianites were mainly the same as those of Armenians.”
As is well known Sardis (the capital of Lydia) was very proud of his pile carpets imported from Persia (only the king had the right to thread on them). In the palace of Alexander the Great there were red deep piled carpets, as well as short-piled ones, brought from Persia, ornamented with zoomorphic patterns. Roman emperor Nero had paid 4,000,000 and Roman general Scipio 800,000 sestertia for carpets brought from the Near East. To prove the popularity of the eastern carpet with ancient Greeks and Romans come the lines from Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, Theocritus’ poetry, from the works of Horace and Catullus. Aeschylus alludes to Persian carpets in his tragedy called The Persians.
During the excavations of Ani at the basement of the basilica hall in the palace of the fortress a burnt shred of carpet was discovered, which was similar in its weaving technique to the fragment of a carpet found in a rock mausoleum at Tsaghkadzor in the vicinity of the city. It was woven of red, black and beige threads.
There is ample evidence of the fame of medieval Armenian carpets in the notes of contemporaries.
Among woollen carpets Arabic historiographers of the 8th — 12th centuries distinguished Persian, Armenian and Bokhara ones. In the palace of Omayyad calif the floor and the walls were covered with Armenian carpets. The senior wife of Calif Harun al-Rashid would sit on an Armenian carpet, the others on Armenian cushions. In the house of the richest jeweller of Baghdad in 912 only Armenian and Tabaristan (Mazandaran — M.Gh.) carpets were extolled. In 911 a certain vassal sent calif al-Mukhtadir seven Armenian carpets, one of them 60 cubits long and wide (in those days an Egyptian cubit was 0.532 m, it means the size of the carpet over 10 m2).
Armenian carpets graced the life of noblemen, they were criterion of wealth and loot. Arabs taxed Armenians twenty rugs a year (ibn-Khaldun). Sultan Muhammed ofGhaznavi (10th century) sent an Armenian carpet to Kashgarian khan Kadir, and Abu-Fazn Suri Maraghi to sultan Massoudi of the Ghazna-vids. In Kama theBulgar king’s large tent was covered with Armenian carpets (ibn-Fadlan).
There are numerous references to the carpets produced in Armenia’s capital Dvin that such carpets were not to be found in any other country of the world (al-Istakhri, ibn-Hau-kal, al-Mukadasi). Large carpets were woven in Van (Yagut). Well known is Venetian traveller Marco Polo’s (13th century) opinion about Armenian weaving centres and the carpets produced there: “The other two classes that live here (Asia Minor — M.Gh.) are Armenians and Greeks. The chief cities here are Como, Sevasto and Cassaria.”
Marco Polo means Konya, Caesarea Mazaca and Sebasteia which had long been Armenian centres of crafts. It should be noted that the 12th—13th century wras the period of Rumi-Seljuk reign. The stars and crosses in the ornaments of remaining Seljuk carpets are Asian in their basis (H. Orbeli). The Armenians took in their hands metalwork, cottage industry, weaving, armour-making and pottery (D. Yeremeev). There are also Armenian letters on Seljuk carpets (New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art; Istanbul, Museum of Turkish and Islam Art).
It is natural for Asia Minor had long had developed crafts. And the Seljuk conquerors preserved the artisan structure of the town (V. Gordlevski) and through the local Christian population they participated in various spheres of the cultural life. “Nomadic newcomers could bring with them neither stone architecture nor creative tension necessary for the new forms of constructive and decorative stone art” (H. Orbeli). No doubt, in the group of Seljuk carpets there are a number of weavings which may be produced by Armenians.
It is no mere chance that the “bird-ornamented carpet” (15th century) in Stockholm Museum of History and the carpet representing the struggle between a dragon and phoenix in the Islamic art department of Berlin StaatlicheMuseen (collection of W. von Bode) are both regarded by experts as Armenian ones. To the same group belong the shreds of bird-ornamented carpets in Mevlena Museum, Konya, and in the Museum of Decorative Art and Crafts in Gote- borg (Sweden). In the composition of some Seljuk carpets that are also known as Cappadocian ones (A. Saggizian) very common are the eagle (a widespread zoomorphic pattern in Armenian art) — “talking arms” as H. Orbeli calls it — and the cross which is an element characterizing the peculiar pattern system of the medieval Armenian art. In the works of the so-called Seljuk art “the subject-matter of the ornaments is closely related to the pre-Moslem people’s art” (D. Yeremeev).
Goods of Armenian make were sold in the square of St Donat’s in Belgian town of Bruges and in the piazza St Mark’s in Venice as long ago as 11th century. Polish kings granted Armenian merchants commercial privileges. By king Stephan Bathory’s Decree of 24 May 1585 Murad Yakubovich, an Armenian from Kaffa, who lived in Zamostje was entitled to the production of eastern couch-carpets. By the same decree he got the right to choose weavers and deal in carpets in Poland for twenty years. Ample material on Armenian crafts, specif, carpet weaving, is reported by Evlia Chelabi, a traveller (the beginning of the 17th century) who specially noted the splendour of Armenian carpets of Van, Karin, Baberd which were mainly of silk and gold-threads. Fine valuable carpets were woven in Gokhten, Artsagh, Zanguezur. The representatives of Isfahan’s Armenian trade company often brought splendid carpets to Moscow. Carpets woven by Armenian masters of New Djugha reached Holland, Marseilles, Venice and by the place they were imported from, they were often called Persian. In Austria the development of carpet making was connected with the migration of Armenian weavers from Ani. Levon VI Lussinian, the last of Cilician kings, having escaped Egyptian captivity (1382) settled in France. He brought a good number of craftsmen with him, weavers among them. And in 1514 sultan Selim IV transplanted a lot of Armenian artisans from Tebriz to Asia Minor, there were expert weavers among them, too.
The carpet-trade monopoly the Armenian merchants possessed in the world market did not concern only Armenian carpets. There were weavings of other peoples as well, but predominant were Armenian carpets which penetrated in Europe and Russia. Armenian carpets became integral part of other people’s life. No wonder that in many paintings of European masters Armenian carpets are represented side by side with Persian, Egyptian and Anatolian ones. They can be found in the works of Italian painters — Giotto, Mantegna, Pin- turicchio, Bellini, Jakopo Bassano, Caravaggio, Netherlandish painters Jan Van Eyck, Memling, Flemish painters Rubens and Van Dyck, Dutch painters Rembrandt, Jan Vermeer van Delft, Terborch, Spanish painter Velazques, English engraver Hogarth, French painter Delacroix, etc. The bright red, warm yellow and fresh green of eastern carpets served the purpose greatly. Very important were the colour scheme of the carpet and its place in the arrangement of the artistic pattern as a whole. Of special value were the carpets represented in the works of German painters Hans Holbein, especially the gorgeous carpet depicted in his Madonna of Burgomaster Mayer (1526, Darmstadt, Palace Museum). By this piece a certain group carpets were labelled the name “Holbein” rugs.
Medieval Armenian carpets are represented in the works of Armenian artists as well. We shall refer only to some of them: miniature-paintings of queen Mike’s Gospels (862, Venice, depository of Mkhitarian community), Gospels of Gaguik of Kars (11th century), in queen Keran’s Gospels (1273, both in Jerusalem depository of St. Hagop), in Mughni Gospels (11th century), Narek’s Gospel of 1173, Gospels of 1166, 1251 and 1249; Hctum IPs lectionary (1286, all of them in Matenadaran, Yerevan) and also in some other manuscripts. There is certain resemblance between the rules of composition of the above miniatures (as well as khorans — canons of concordance) and colour and linear structure of carpets. These references can be enlarged by adding the works of Armenian painters of 17th and 18th centuries, and the works of V. Surenyants (1860—1921), a well- known Armenian artist.
Before the 19th century carpets were woven both in towns, villages and monasteries but later the village monopolized the privilege which fact accounts for the presence of professional and national elements in carpet-weaving.
When speaking of Armenian carpet-weaving centers it is important to mention also the historical periods.
Thus, the conventional carpet-weaving centres of the 11th—13th centuries were Dvin, Ani, Karin, of the 10th — 18th centuries — Karin, Sebasteia, Artsin, Caesaria, Mush, Van, of the towns of the Cilician Kingdom; in the 16th and 18th centuries, the villages of Ararat Valley, Sourmali, Artsagh; of the 17th and 18th centuries — Artsagh, Nakhichevan, New Djugha and Utik; in the 19th century, all the regions of Armenia; in the beginning of the 20th century — Eastern Armenia, and after 1920, Soviet Armenia.
As a result of migrations of Western Armenians to Russia* in 1895—96 and 1915, the carpets produced in Eastern Armenia settled anew in some regions of Western Armenia. The “migrated” carpets served as model for numerous new ones which, in their turn, mixing with local variants, formed new groups and types. For example, in the 19th century the people of Karin migrated to Akhaltsikha and settled down there. The survived carpets and those which were woven later are of Karin group with its subtypes. The mass of people that had migrated from Vaspurakan brought with them their artistic thinking which greatly influenced the carpet weaving (and not only carpet weaving) of Nor Bayazet. The crafts of Nor Bayazet (now Kamo), of Shirak plateau and Ararat valley were greatly influenced by the immigrants from taron (also Mush), and people from Sasun produced considerable changes in the carpet weaving of Thalin and Ashtarak regions and of Yerevan.
They had created cultural values since olden days, but in the course of the time they couldn’t but undergo influences of neighbouring peoples. Armenians had lived not only in Eastern Armenia, but on the whole area of the Caucasus: Tiflis, Gori, the villages of Kakheti region, Daghestan, Shirvan, Kuba, Kazak, etc. We should also add the territory of Anatolia where Armenians took an active part in the life of towns.
It is clear that in the culture of peoples who live and work together mutual influences are unavoidable. It can easily be discerned in the carpet-weaving of Artsagh (Karabagh) where quite obvious are not only interrelations of Armenian and Azerbaijan carpet weaving, but borrowings as well, still the peculiarities of Armenian Siunik carpet weaving are much stronger.
The age-old cultural values of the historical provinces of Eastern Armenia perished, and those which survived scattered all over the world during the mass genocides and migrations at the end of the 19th century and the first decades of the 20th century. Armenian carpets too were either appropriated by the local Turk population (remain in the museum and mosques of Tokhat, Erzerum, Devrijie, Smirna, Balat, Bursa, Istanbul or in private collections) or “migrated” to European countries. They found their place in the biggest museums of the world (New York, London, Vienna, Budapest, Esztergom, Munich, Washington, Berlin, Stockholm, Lisbon) and in private collections. Of course, it is vital to discriminate between an Armenian carpet and a carpet woven by an Armenian.
The Armenian carpet has quite a special place in the culture of the people and is closely related to other fields of the national art. The carpets woven by Armenians often entered the applied art of those peoples with whom the Armenians, as the fate willed it, came into contact. Armenians wove plenty of carpets in Kuba, Nukha (Sheki, Azerbaijan SSR), Konya, Trebizond, Constantinople, Ankara, Sparta, in carpet- weaving centres of Persia and many other places. Great in their contribution to the famous carpets known as Shah Abbas and Polish.
In oriental carpets we sec the age-old development of the same type. For centuries Armenian carpets have undergone constant changes; new compositional devices, artistic arrangements, symbols of patterns have been introduced.
Armenian carpets are also famous for their inscriptions, especially if we take into account that very few peoples have carpets with inscriptions.
Noteworthy are the inscriptions of three ancient carpets.
The earliest oriental carpet with an inscription is the so-called Yerakhoran. It was woven in the village of Banants, Ciandzak region (Artsakh).
The inscription runs: “This arkaneli (old Arm. for coverlet — M.Gh.) is from Kirakos of Banants in memory of tikin (madam) Hripsime, in the year 1051. I have woven it”. The inscription shows that the carpet was woven in 1602 (1051+551 = 1602). Inscriptions on carpets are generally woven and read from bottom to lop. But this carpet presents a perfect example of the weaver’s consummate mastery for the inscription is placed around the whole inner circle of the band. On the right and left the letters look like an ornament.
At first sight this Yerakhoran is extremely reminiscent of Muslim prayer- rugs: sedjadeh (Persia) and namazlik (Arab countries, Turkey). The idea was proposed by the first publisher of the carpet Dr. Alois Riegel who mistook it for a prayer rug and failed to decipher the date (1202). The respected scientist was not acquainted with the illustrations of medieval Armenian manuscripts where khorans were of paramount importance. The whole compositional structure of the carpet is modelled after that of khorans. The peculiarity of the border of the carpet, the upward direction of the central columns suggest the idea that it was intended as an apse curtain (in Armenian churches apse curtains were embroidered and printed).
In Jerusalem, in St. Hagop’s Armenian monastery there is another Armenian carpet with an inscription. It is the donation of Aghvan catholicos Nerses. The inscription is as follows: “Pray for the grace of sinful Nerses, Aghvan catholicos, creator of this. To St. Ana- pat of resplendent Charek. In the year of 1180 (1731).” Part of the carpet is burnt. Long narrow stripes, pointed at the ends, make the general composition of the carpet. The crosses below, which end in marked halves, are unique in the group of Armenian carpets. Such pattern structure can be found among carpets of Ladik (near Konya) make.
The third classical carpet with an inscription is the so-called Gohar carpet. In the late 19th century it was stolen by Turks from Armenian church in Eastern Armenian and sold to Englishmen. In 1899 it was kept in Kensington Museum, and then in the Museum of Victoria and Albert in London. After the 1977 London auction it went to Johannesburg, and further to the USA. The Gohar carpet was first published by Swedish scholar doctor F. Martin.
The inscription reads: “I, Gohar, full of sin and feeble of soul have knotted this with my own hands. May he who reads pray for my soul. In the year 1129 (1680).” The carpet is remarkable not only for the romantic nature of the inscription showing the date and name of the woman weaver, but also for its ornamental scheme, artistic arrangement which branches off from famous Visha-pagorgs and forms a basis for new types of carpets of the 14th—17th centuries.
There are Armenian carpets with inscriptions of a later period, e.g. the Otsagorg (Serpent carpet) completed on March 10, 1815 (The State Museum of People’s Art, Yerevan), the Artsvagorg (Eaglecarpet) of 1850 (MuseumofModern Art, Richmond, Virginia), carpets with splendid inscriptions of 1885 (Collection of Malcolm Topalyan), of 1905 (Collection of Harold Bedukyan), of 1896 (Collection of V. Sassuni), of 1898 (Collection of Grigoryan), of 1903 and 1904 (Collection of M. Keshishyan), of 1876 (Collection of Richard R. Marga- ryan), of 1902, 1911 and 1914 (State Museum of People’s Art, Yerevan), the great many carpets in the Armenian State Historical Museum and State Ethnographic Museum of Armenia. The weavers sometimes knotted their names and surnames and sometimes inscribed their good wishes to on-lookers.
The presence of an inscription is no evidence of the national affiliation of the carpet, e.g. in the namazlik, belonging to Sherenyan Collection (USA), with an Arabic inscription, there is an Armenian surname; the Kazak carpet, belonging to L. Amiryan Collection (USA), on May 5, 1905 was completed by an Armenian, Varsenik by name, etc. Of course, it is very important, as these are cases of copying other people’s carpets by Armenians, but what matters more is the decorative and plastic image, the artistic expression of the national spirit, the ideological and philosophic essence of the Caucasian and Asia Minor region — factors which make it possible to mark out the Armenian art of carpet weaving.
For the study of the Armenian carpets, and especially for their classification very important is the origin of the problem.
The Armenian art of carpet weaving became a subject of intensive studies in 1880.
The European countries and Russia have always showed a particular interest to Oriental countries.
In the middle of the 19th century that interest grew more active and acquired а new nature. In earlier periods the eastern countries, the life and traditions of their peoples would be described, the inscriptions and literary monuments, especially those of Ancient East, would be translated and published, but from the mid-19th century the all-over scientific studies began. Since 1873 international congresses of orientalists have periodically been organized, associations have been founded, periodicals have been published and so on. At the same time there was special interest to the Oriental art. European painters admired the aesthetic principles of eastern miniaturists, museums gave up special department for the manuscripts and the applied arts of eastern countries. At the turn of the century the first exhibitions of Oriental arts open which go under the names of Moslem or Mohammedan. Carpets too are brought to the forefront.
The study of oriental carpet-weaving began by special exhibitions. The first one opened in 1891 in Vienna, in the Osterreichische Museum fur ange-wandte Kunst, which displayed the oriental applied art by a rich section of carpets. A year later the same museum exhibited the resplendent oriental carpets from the Kaiser-Friedrich-Muscum, Berlin, predominantly the weavings from Persia and Asia Minor main sections. If at these exhibitions all the carpets were displayed under the name of Oriental, in 1910, in Munich, at the “Exhibitions of Masterpieces of Moslem Art”, there was a special section of Armenian carpets, and the presented pieces were dated 16th, 17th and 18th centuries.
For years the Armenian carpet has drawn the attention of such experts as W. von Bode, A. Riegel, H. Jacoby, Z. Hofrichter, H. Kiurdyan, A. Saggi-zyan, R. de Calatchi, A. Ashjyan, К. Gombos, W. Hawley, and many others. In the estimation of the Armenian carpet great contributions were made by W. von Bode, A. Riegel, F. Martin and F. Sarre.
F. Martin and F. Sarre were the first who at the Munich exhibition of 1910 took note of a group of carpets which they thought to be Armenian and called them Vishapagorgs or Dragon carpets.
Superb pieces of this group are kept in the biggest museums of the world.
At first sight the structure of Vishapagorgs looks confused. However here, as in all classic carpets there are certain canons of composition. Vishapagorgs were intended as decorative fragments for adorning palace halls and sleeping chambers, to which testify their impressive size (most of them are 6 m high and 2 m wide) and principles of ornamentation. The fields of Vishapagorgs have upward direction and developing design, their looking-glass reflection repeating in the vertical halves and dividing the carpet’ into two similar parts. Another peculiar feature of Vishapagorgs is the complicated composition of their field which is the result of a variety of elements making that field. The richness of those elements and their numerous variants make it possible to distinguish definite types and subtypes in the group of Vishapagorgs.
The field designs of Vishapagorgs are formed by splendid combinations of floral and zoomorphic patterns which reflect the harmony of the nature so peaceful and pleasant to the eye.
An important, but not only central element of the field composition in Vi-hapagorgs is the vishap (dragon). It has interesting embodiments in Armenian legends, fairy-tales, literature and art.
Armenia is a developed agricultural country, so water meant life, harvest and wealth for the Armenian people. Hence the image of the dragon who takes away water, lives at the source of rivers and demands a tax from the people. (H. Orbeli identifies such dragons with feudal lords who live in high-built fortresses and patronize sources of rivers.)
The heroes of the Armenian national epic Sasna Tsrer (Daredevils of Sasun) Sanasar and Baghdasar, then Sanasar’s son Mgher the Elder killed a dragon and saved the people. This is the wicked kind of dragon against whom struggled also legendary Vahagn called the ‘ii/s/mp-conqueror’, one of the noblest and most attractive images of the Armenian heathen Pantheon.
The second image of dragon is that of a water guard symbolizing kindness and wisdom.
In the material culture of Armenia this image originated in olden days in the form of a dragon-like column. These columns were basalt-made and were wide-spread in the Armenian land. Later this image of the dragon became a decorative element of Armenian architecture: the churches and palaces of Avan (6th century), Mren (7th century), Tatev (10th century), Akhtamar (10th century), Ani (10th century). There are numerous representations of dragons in medieval miniatures and applied art (in religous croziers oneheaded or two-headed dragons embody power and wisdom and are supposed to protect against injury or evil).
The threads are knotted in such a way that light colours change gradually into dark ones, then again the light colours and their combinations form an illusion of rosettes. Sometimes the “layers’’ forming the rosettes develop into feather-like compositions with stylized wings.These wings resembling a Phoenix made a new subtype of carpets.
In the rosettes of Vishapagorgs we find representations of various animals — camels, lions, deer, horses, and others. In the field ornaments of the carpet the vegetable kingdom is represented as a kind of fairyland in all its splendour and richness. The guards of that heavenly garden are the dragons, hence the name of this group of carpets.
In classic — the earliest and most typical — carpets the dragons are depicted in special rosettes in the four corners of the field while other animals have no concrete place and repeat successively.
We think it possible to single out in the group of Vishapagorgs one common — floral-zoomorphic — type with several subtypes.
One of them is the subtype of trees of life with upward compositions of trees in the structure of the field.
An excellent example of this subtype of carpets is the specimen in the department of Islamic art of Berlin Staatliche Museen. It had been in a Damascus mosque, then became possession of Theodor Graf, later it was presented to Wilhelm von Bode and finally setted down in the Berlin Museum.This carpet has become a subject of numerous studies. It was first published by Wilhelmvon Bode under the name of the Graf carpet. Wilhelm von Bode dated it 15th century and considered it “an Armenian carpet with animal patterns”. At the exhibitions of Islamic art in Vienna, 1891, and Munich, 1910, it was one of the most remarkable exhibits.
The Graf carpet is large (678X230). Its field is sky-blue; other colours used in it are red, yellow, green and so on. Placed in the centre of the vertical ornamental stripe are rosettes formed by flowers. One of the rosettes has a jut which will later develop into an important and typical element of another Armenian group — Artsvagorg (Eagle carpet). The other parts of the carpet are covered with floral patterns rendered rather realistically. On the both sides of the carpet there are branchy trees with nests and small lozenges on the branches.
They are woven against a blue background which looks like a lake, as on the either sides of the nest there are two ducks, two confronted kneeling camels, a couple of deer and lions. The dragons are four in number, in the corners of the carpet. They have S-form body of certain width, cloven hoofs at their tail and two horns on their heads. In the mouths of the dragons there are leaves of vinegrape, with bunches of fruit or without them. The decorative design of the dragon’s bodies is rather expressive. The other animals are rendered as natural images, as elements emphasizing reality while the dragons are from the world of fancy and have a symbolic meaning. They guard the paradise, the fairyland, protect against evil or injury.
The border of the Graf Vishapagorg has a wide single band which is another proof of the carpet’s ancient origin. The rapport (the fragment including the beginning and the end of the pattern) of the border consists of three oblong and oblique leaves which enclose buds with petals and cruciform patterns reminding of open flowers. The rich elements of this border pattern are represented in the borders of later Armenian carpets.
Carpets of this Vishapagorg group, floral and animal type, tree-of-life sub- type can also be found in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London (17th cen in a private collection in Genoa (16th century, 457X213 cm), in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, in the famous collection of J. V. McMullan (1600, 325X171 cm).
This subtype of carpets has a wider artistic range and a more original line and colour design. In these carpets, too, the dragons arc arranged in two rows, in the upper and lower parts of the Held, two or four of them facing one another. He we sec also branches of Trces-of-Life, knotted in dots, and a realistic execution of dragon’s bodies. Shreds of carpets of the same subtype arc kept in the Budapest Museum of Decorative Art (16th—17th cc., 205X575 cm), in the Ashkenazi’s collection in Milan (215X210 cm). The borders of these three carpets are alike and identical with the border of the earliest Berlin Vishapagorg. The carpets of the Phoenix subtype are very attractive for their nobleness, perfect execution and rich colour range. Superb examples of such carpets can be found in the Textile Museum, London (474X 195), in the Staatlichc Museen, Berlin (240X475 cm, at the 1910 exhibition in Munich the latter was displayed as a 16th or 17th century Armenian carpet).
The most skilfully and clearly executed specimen with the images of a dragon-and-phoenix combat is housed in the Museum ‘fur Islamische Kunst, Berlin-Dahlem (16thcentury, 160X286cm). It is one of the earliest carpets with images of people, men and women, represented in the ornaments (to the left, by the wings of the phoenix); instead of dragon’s tails again there are people’s heads (another similar carpet is kept in the Textile Museum, Washington, 249X160 cm). These carpets seem to be woven in the 17th century in a rural milieu, obviously in the villages of Artsagh region, as we find similar simplifications of reality in the Artsagh (Karabagh) carpets of later periods.
F. R. Martin is quite right when he concludes that the classical Vishapagorgs have originated in the eastern mountainous regions of Asia Minor. Those regions might be Vaspurakan (let’s recall that Evlia Chelabi, a 17th century Turkish traveller, noted that the biggest carpets were woven in Van), Mush, Karin, i.e. the most active provinces of Armenia’s applied art of the 17th—19th centuries. The decorative variety of the dragons, their arrangement in the general composition (carpets kept in Ulu-Jami mosque, Devrejie, Turkey: 505X244 cm; the Museum of Christian Art, Esztergom, Hungary, 15th 16th
ec.: 535X248 cm; in the Textile Museum, Washington; 17th c„ 544X239 cm, a.o.) testify to the existence of numerous weaving-shops in various Armenian provinces.
One of the most important peculiarities of Vishapagorgs is the realistic accentuation of their artistic arrangement.
Very important changes take place in the middle of the 17th century. In some Vishapagorgs the old variants repeat, but lost is the actual meaning of the patterns and images, which turn into decorative elements. Such are the carpets in the Turkish and Islamic Art Museum, Istanbul (No 104, 470X224 cm; No739, 386X190 cm), in the Staatlichc Museen, Berlin (452X202 cm), in the Textile Museum, London (in 1977 it was put up at auction, 277X109 cm), also the carpet which used to be the possession of E. M. Remarque (419X198 cm).
In the 17th century we also come across carpets with simplified or highly stylized images of dragons. Such are the specimen of the Budapest Museum of Applied Art (202X285 cm), in the Textile Museum, Washington, the Dumbarton Oaks Collection (202X285 cm), in the Kaestner Museum in Hanover (No 5472), also the carpet which was the possession of E. M. Remarque (167X304 cm) and others.
A number of carpets of other sub- types originate from Vishapagorgs. The rosettes are altered, the patterns arc rearranged, the colour scheme is changed. as the modifications require a new colour accentuation of the decorative design. In special literature they arc still called Vishapagorgs, but it is necessary to differentiate their subtypes.
Woven against the yellow or yellowish-white ground of those juts are dark red, brown or brown- black arrows which emphasize the central disc of the “sun”.
There are several extant carpets in termediate between classic Vishapagorgs and this subtype which clearly show the evolution of the subtype. Most important in these weavings are the rosettes with arrow-like juts along the axis, their points are directed to the central medallion ornamented with flowers.
Pictured in the corners of the field are again dragons, with red bodies and highly emphasized coiled silhouttes: Vishapagorg N 882 from Amassia in the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art, Istanbul: 252X433 cm; carpet in the Budapest Museum of Applied Art: 157X213 cm; Vishapagorg from Bernheimer Collection, Munich: 250X305 cm, and others. Sometimes the field of the carpet combines “phoenix wings”, rosettes like the disc of the sun and indented trees of life accentuated by dark red or brown threads: Vishapagorg of the Charles F. Gibson’s Collection, Williamsburg, Virginia, USA: 188X424cm; the carpet from the Orthodox church of Streisingcorgiu, Roumania: 127X175 cm, and others.
The origin of the carpets of this sub- type is obviously connected with the carpet-weaving of Artsagh, spec. Shusha and the neighbouring villages, notably a Chalaberd. Their rosettes were also called Eagle for the winged compositions and monumental structure.
This subtype of carpets, which appeared at the turn of the 17th century and was wide-spread in the 18th and 19th century, still exists in our days. Later Zanguezur area with its towns of Goris, Sisian, Khnjoresk, Meghri, etc. became another centre of production of such carpets.
At the same priod another type of carpets appeared with the same name of “Sunburst”, but considerably different in its composition. In the centre of these carpets is a similar sunburst rosette with a splendid floral ornamentation. Woven on the either side of the rosette (narrow sides) are big half-octagons, their open projections directed to the border. The half-octagons have generally a yellow-whitish background, the sides of the projections are indented, and woven inside them are floral-geometrical half-medallions.
All these carpets are similar in composition, as for the borders they repeat in all the classic examples known. (They are three- striped, the wide central band is woven in white with a garland of stylized crablike patterns. The narrow bands are ornamented with interwoven red and brown triangles.) These carpets are not very big. Pictured in the field are swimming ducks, as well as horses, birds with folded wings which are small is size, but they have accented forms outlined in various colours and give the carpet a certain direction for hanging it on the wall (the carpet of 1879 from the Franz Bausback Collection, Mannheim).
Simultaneously another subtype of floral-geometric type appeared from Gohar subtype (1680), first published by Dr. F. Martin, as we have mentioned above.
The central medallion of this carpet is a cruciform sunburst composition enclosed by pink-red wavy bands. The principle of the composition structure is based on the rosettes of Artsvagorgs. The whole of the field is covered with dusters of flowers, which make stepped chains, reminding of Persian Vase carpets. The flowers are separated by cruciform compositions accented by light yellow squares.
Directed to the narrow bands of the carpct are downcast compositions which arc centralized variants of the half-octagons of the previous subtype and have accented dragon form silhouettes. The border of the Gohar carpet is a single wide band with triangular rows of jutting fiower-bushes, and their yellow-white and green-red colouring imparts the weaving an active colour rhythm.
There is another subtype of carpets— “Octagons” which also originated from Artsvagorgs. The composition of their fields is made by several octagons, and the halves at the sides remind of the downcast dragon-shape patterns of the Gohar carpet. These carpets are of the intermediate type between Vishapagorgs and the floral type (a classical example is the carpet from the R. de Calatchi Collection, Paris, the beginning of the 18th century, 234X152 cm).
In the carpets of this subtype the compositional structure, colour scheme also the way of introducing new patterns (indented leaves, flowers in jugs) are closely related to the carpets of Artsagh, one of the most important weaving centres of the Caucasus.
In the intermediate subtype, floral- geometrical type Vishapagorg group of carpets we find various elements: a disc of the sun, rosettes composed of a pair of two-headed dragons and halves of truncated octagons; the edges of the rosettes are graphically outlined. The predominant elements of their ornamentation are compositions of many leaves, many flowers and many juts with accented geometric crossings, e.g. the carpet from the private collection in Frankfort-on-Main (224X485 cm), a number of carpets in the Turkish and Islamic Art Museum, Istanbul (Nos 123, 174, 184, 891, 905, 937).
In Armenian carpet-weaving we also come across carpets ornamented by coiled serpents which belong to the flower subtype of the floral zoomorphic type. The remarkable peculiarity of these carpets is their resplendent floral design— open flowers, bunches of flowers, the smaller of them surrounding the larger ones, star-like flowers, leaves, petals, also animals and so on. They are all linked and connected by serpent-shaped coiled projections: their horizontal and vertical bands are arranged in pairs all about the field. Their three-coil bodies are graphically outlined and are connected by cruciform compositions.
The borders of these carpets are also adorned with rich floral patterns (fragment of carpet from the Bernheimer Collection, Munich: 240X210 cm; carpet No 197 in the Turkish and Islamic Art Museum, Istanbul, etc.). The carpets of this subtype undoubtedly appeared under the influence of Chinese serpent-patterned weavings, if we take into account that their classic examples were widespread in north-western Iran.
The cruciform group, flcral-geometrical type, flower subtype of carpets are known in spccial literature also under the name of “Cartouche”. Their extant examples date as far back as the 17th century. Later their ornamental decor decomposed and interwove with carpets of pure floral design.
The field of Cartouche carpets generally has a red background, where multi-form and multi-colour floral patterns surround quadrangles with jutting or truncated sides. Woven inside them are crosscs (which have juts, arrow-like fragments etc.) composed of superb floral elements. The main ornament of these carpets is the cross which is placed in different parts of the field. Every cartouche is separated from the other by long pointed branches of fine colours: clustered around the branches are small floral patterns. A superb example of such a carpet is in the possession of C. F. Williams, Washington (16th c., 330X230 cm), another one is in the Collection of C. F. Lamm in the National Museum, Stockholm (17th c., 520X220 cm).
The publishers of the latter, F. Sarre and F. Martin, called it an Armenian carpet produced in the east of Asia Minor. The similar carpet in the McMullan Collection (the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York: 272X490 cm) is supposed to have been woven in the Caucasus or northwestern Iran. In the 16th—18th centuries on that particular area there were big Armenian settlements with gifted artisans — Khoy, Maku, Marand, and others. It is no mere chance that the carpets of this subtype originated on that very area as they are closely related to the famous Persian flower carpets. A most important center where those flower carpets were produced was also Tabriz, one of the largest cities with an Armenian population.
The similarity and common style oi the several extant examples of this sub- type suggest the idea, that they were produced in the same place, most probably for palace donations, as later we don’t find any repeated variants.
Caucasian are called a number of carpets ascribed to the same north-western provinces of Iran. They make as intermediate group between Vishapagorgs and flower carpets.
They are called flower carpets as their whole field is covered with various stylized flowers and leaves in the form of big brackets making the central composition. Splendid examples can be found in the department of the Islamic Art in the Staatliche Museen, Berlin; in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London; and in the Turkish and Islamic Art Museum, Istanbul; in the mosques of the towrn of Yevdokia (Tokhat, Turkey), etc. They all date from the 18th century. Their borders are single wide strips (in later pieces two narrow bands are added) with an intricate floral design.
Earlier subtypes of flower carpets, belonging to the 18th century, are kept in the museums of Berlin, Vienna and Istanbul. They are described in the special literature as Armenian carpets (W.von Bode, F. Martin, F. Sarre, A. Sag-gizyan). These carpels are large in size, they have a resplendent flower-ornamented decor. Specially accented in colour arc the lilies resembling birds with spread wings. Woven inside the flowers are crosses. The patterns repeat evenly in the four parts of the carpet.
The wide band of the border is ornamented by a pattern peculiar of the ‘Holbein’ carpet. Classical examples are also kept in the Armenian State Museum of History (dated from the 17th and 18th centuries) and in the Museum of Armenia’s Ethnography, Hoktemberyan (dated from the 18th century).
The considerable part of the flower carpets with lilies was knotted in the town of Yevdokia (Tokhat) with an Armenian population. Till 1915 the town lived a very active cultural life. The Armenians of Yevdokia were famous artisans — coppersmiths, jewellers, silkworm breeders, carpet weavers. Such carpets were woven also in Sebasteia (Sivaz, Turkey), whose high weaving skill was mentioned by Marco Polo.
At the turn of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century great changes took place in Armenian car- pet-weaving. As a result of migrations and genocides part of the Armenian people moved to Arab and European countries, to America. Many of the preserved Armenian carpets and rugs are almost all now in museums and private collections of Europe and the USA, and appear in auctions. Whereas the carpets brought with those Armenians who moved into Eastern Armenia served as models for modern types of weavings produced in the Armenian SSR.
The mass of material and the museum examples enable us to classify the carpets woven in the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century- according to ethnographic provinces, differentiating also their types and subtypes. Besides they are not equal in their artistic value, therefore we give preference to the alphabetical order.
The Aghdznik group. Aghdznik was one of the provinces of Mets (Great) Haik. The most remarkable of its 11 gavars (gavar — an administrative division) was Sasun. Tigranakert was a royal town. Armenians were engaged in mining, gardening and stock-raising. Here the national epos David of Sasun was born (10th century). Important centres were Mogk, Kortshek and Baghesh (Bitlis, Turkey).
In the Aghdznik group noteworthy are the carpets of the geometrical type. In their elongate subtypes the general ground is red, adorned with cruciform squares forming rosettes, there are also jutting and crab-like patterns. The variety of colours—yellow, orange, violet, grey, red, green, black — imparts the carpets a special grandeur.
Widely used in Aghdznik were runners, which were mainly floral type and small-pattern — white, pink, orange, yellow and red elements against the black of the ground.
The Ararat group. Ararat, the principal province of Mets Haik, in all times was the political, economic and cultural centre of Armenia.
A great number of carpets of the Ararat group have come down to us, they were woven in Alashkert, Igdir, Yerevan, Surmalu region, and other towns.
In the carpets of the Ararat group, geometrical type and elongate subtype the general ground of the field is blue or red; the composition is formed by rhombs with squeezed tops, different in size and number. Woven inside them are patterns composed of geometrical elements or, very often, crosses. The influence of kapert ornaments can easily be discerned in the carpets of this group. Their general background is light red or dark brown ornamented with various small floral and geometrical patterns.
In the decorative design of these carpets widely used are almond-shaped patterns with pointed juts knotted in sky-blue, green and red. The almond- shaped patterns often look like stylized cypresses and their outlines are accented by brown cruciform elements. The cypress adopted from the Persian system of decorative design has always been widely used in Armenian art (the 17th and 18th century paintings in the Echmiadzin Cathedral, in the churches of Agulis, Aprakunis, and others). Similar carpets were made in the Lori and Artsagh areas.
The most important and well-known centre of the Armenian carpet-weaving of the 18th and 19th centuries was Artsagh (now Karabagh autonomous region of Azerbaijan SSR).
The Artsagh group. Artsagh, the tenth province of Mets Haik, has had a very complicated historical fate. Complexes of ancient Armenian monasteries have survived here. Artsagh had manuscript centres, highly developed crafts and arts.
In the Middle Ages Artsagh had a developed carpet weaving, but it reached its summit in the late Middle Ages and in the 19th century. The carpets produced in Artsagh are various in type and nature. They were woven in the village of Banants, in Shusha, Hankendy (now Stepanakert) and in many other places. The Armenian carpets of Artsagh belonging to various types and subtypes share common features not only with the Armenian weavings of neighbouring regions but also with Azerbaijan and Daghestani weavings. It proves natural if we take into account the high quality of the carpets knotted by Azerbaijan weavers in Shirak and Kuba, as well as on the area of the same Artsagh.
The most remarkable representative of the Artsagh group of carpets is the Artsvagorg (Eagle carpet), which belongs to the floral-animal type.
Their prototype originated in the 17th century in the same Artsagh and continued the traditions of the Vishapagorg group of weavings with sunburst medallions. They were produced in Chala- berd (Djraberd) and neighbouring villages.
In later variants cf Artsvagorgs, like in early ones, the composition is formed by arrow-like juts and two or three intricate medallions where the predominant element is the cross (with white, light-pink, red and dark-brown sections). The cross gives the carpet a definite direction and ends in other cruciform patterns (yellow-brown, pink, orange, etc.).
The open space of the field is covered with silhouettes of birds, flowers with stylized petals in the form of a wreath and so on. The borders of this subtype of carpets are adorned with rich floral-geometrical patterns. The numerous carpets, still existing, date from the 18th — 19th centuries. The classic specimen of such carpets in the Ethnographic Museum, Munich, is known in the special literature as Kazak carpet of the Caucasian weaving school.
Swastikas developed into stems with star-like lilies symbolizing the Tree-ot-life.
Very important arc also the eight serpents woven around the square which encloses the swastika. Thus symbolized in condensed form are the Tree-of-life and the swastika, and the serpents which protect them against evil. The open spaces are filled with people, animals and birds, with objects reminding of various tools, with crosses, horsemen, etc. The predominant colours in these carpets are red, dark-blue, red-violet, light-yellow and yellow-brown. The main patterns of the borders are triangles composed of indented leaves, and chains of crab-like elements. There are also later Otsagorgs with a simple linear design and modified swastikas.
In the Artsagh group the considerable part of carpets is of the geometrical type, medallion subtype. The central design is formed by octagons surrounded by small patterns almonds, starlets, envelopes, etc. Most remarkable are the envelopes which are artistic symbols of pilgrims and pilgrimage, relatives in foreign lands and news from them. Such carpets were produced in Shusha and some weaving centres of the Caucasus and Asia Minor.
In Artsagh widely used were also zigzag runners with border designs formed by splendid floral elements. Such patterns can be found on the printed cloths and covers of medieval manuscripts.
The Artsagh group includes also carpets of the small-pattern subtype, in which the skill of the weavers manifests itself in the resplendent colour range, in the great importance attached to small elements (octagons, almond-like patterns, fir-trees, flowers, crosses, etc.). They were produced in Shusha, in the village of Banants, in Hadrut, Gari- dzak, and other places.
The Caesarean group. Caesarea, one of the important towns of Cappadocia (now the administrative centre of the villayet of Kayseri, Turkey), was inhabited by Armenians since olden days. The Armenian artisans were famous tanners, jewellers and weavers. Carpet- weaving was the monopoly of the Armenians, their weavings were exported to the markets of Near East.
The considerable part of the people who survived after the genocide of 1915 settled down in Soviet Armenia, in the village of Nor (New) Caesarea.
The basis of the carpet-weaving art of Caesarean Armenians can be found in the articles dating from the 10th—
13th centuries and called Seljuk. The experts in Armenian carpet-weaving call these carpets also Cappadocian (A. Saggizian). The Caesarean carpets have been mentioned by Marco Polo.
Most remarkable in this group of carpets is the floral type. In the specimens, which came down to us from the 19th century, widely used elements are trees- of-life, envelopes and blooming pomegranates. Their borders have preserved the decorative design of “Holbein” carpets.
The Cilician group. Carpets of the Cilician group is a phenomenon lost irretrievably for the Armenian art, for with the fall of the Armenian Cilician Kingdom (1375) fell into decay its highly developed culture. Its carpet-weaving centres were Sis, Tarson, Adana, Lambron, Korikos, Aintap, Marash,
Zeitun, Hatchin, Urfa and others. The carpets woven in each of the above towns might make a separate subtype, but unfortunately they haven’t survived. Cilician carpets spread all over the world — there are interesting historical records about it. The few specimens that have survived in some families of the inhabitants of Aintap belong to the geometrical type, with medallions and lilylike flowers.
The Gegharkunik group includes medallion, elongate, small-pattern carpets of the geometrical type with the decorative design peculiar of Armenian carpets. It spread in Martuni and the basin of Lake Sevan. The monasteries Havuts-Tar, Makeniats and Shoghvagi churches of Gegharkunik and the Sevan church used to be great manuscript centres. Perfect specimens of decorative wood- and stone-carving have also been preserved here.
In the Sevan basin, where after 1915 the inhabitants of Western Armenian towns Alashkert and Khlat resettled, very original school of local carpet- Х1Хв weaving sprang up. Preference was Artsvagorg given to the elongate-geometrical type fgth Mury (an early 17th century variant is kept in one of the churches of Streisingeorgiu, Roumania, the flower-pattern variants belong to later periods (they were knotted also in Kars).
The Gnghten group. A big centre of small-pattern carpets was the gavar of Goghten (now Nakhichevan Autonomous Region of the Azerbaijan SSR). The gavar of Goghten in Vaspurakan province of Mets Haik was famous for its singers who transmitted orally the epic poems of the heathen period. People were engaged in wine-making, gardening and silkworm breeding. Small-pattern carpets with a clear colour range were produced in Nakhichevan, in the villages of Agulis, Shorot, Apra-kunis, Guznut, Paraka, Jahri and others. The field of the carpets is decorated with fine small multi-coloured (yellow, pink, light-brown, dark-blue) patterns of geometrical and floral elements which impart a restless rhythm to (he decorative structure of the carpet.
In some cases the small patterns arc grouped around the several diamonds which form the basis of the composition. In the upper part of the field, placed in triangles are birds symbolizing safety and security. In the geometrical type of small-pattern carpets predominate diamonds with indented sides (black, red, blue), they enclose crosses outlined in black or yellow. The variety of patterns and the clear colouring show the peculiar features of both Persian and Western Armenian weavings and those of Siunik and Artsagh. These examples come to prove a most important peculiarity of the carpet-weaving art — the wide geographic spread of similar motives, as well as the traditional character of the people’s concept of art.
The Ijevan-Tavush group carpets are numerous in type. They were produced in Shamshadin region, as well as Tovuz and Kazak regions (Azerbaijan SSR). They were and are highly esteemed in the world market.
The Otsagorgs of this group have the same structure with a slight difference in details and colour scheme. The floral type carpets with medallions resemble the weavings of Artsagh, the elongate carpets resemble the weavings of Siunik and Kuba. It is here that the “Deghnakunj” (Deghnankiun — Yellow-cornered) type of carpets originated. Its perfect specimens have been woven in Dilijan since the beginning of the 20th century. Wide-spread were also the carpets with swastika-like patterns where the main decorative elements are combined with crosses and flying birds. Important centres were Ijevan, Shamsha-din, Shavarshavan and the villages with Armenian population in the now Kazak region (the Azerbaijan SSR).
The Karin group. At the beginning of the 19th century the considerable part of the people of Karin (Erzerum) migrated and settled down in Akhaltsikha, Akhalkalak, Tsalka and Lori-Pambak. Having rich historical and cultural traditions and past — Karin was one of the centres of Bardzer (High) Haik, a province in Mets Haik, and the people of Karin were skilled artisans — they continued their work in the new places. In carpet-weaving they showed preference for the small-pattern subtype, in which the field of the carpet is ornamented with trees-of-life motifs, star-like flowers, crosses, squares and stylized animals.
Violet knots are very common in the carpet of Karin make.
The Lori group. One of the largest group is the Lori group of carpets which have had various stages of development at the same period of lime — from carpets with superb medallions to one ornamented with simple flower bunches. This can be explained by the geographic position of the region and its economic conditions.
Lori, one of the regions of the Gughark province in AAets Haik, took an active part in the historic events of the Armenian people. It was one of the important centres of medieval science and culture (here are situated the monasteries of Odzun, Sanahin, Haghpat, Kobairi and Dsegh) and was inhabited by people of various nationalities including Russians and Greeks. As for the processing of copper mines, it became possible through the links with Caucasian centres.
Carpet-weaving was spread in all the villages of Lori, in every single house.
Numerous types of carpets have been produced here: animal type with medallions (simplified variants of Vishapagorgs with cruciform medallions), small-pattern carpets of the geometrical type with medallions (rhombs with squeezed tops and envelopes surrounded by star-like flowers), elongate (rhombs with hook-like projections), floral type garden subtype (eclectic, branches and garlands of flowers in vases), small-pattern (almonds, Trees- of-Life, crosses, half-open buds), also carpets ornamented by images of numerous animals. The carpets of this group are closely related to the weavings of the neighbouring regions (Gughark, Borchalu, etc.).
The Nor Djugha group of carpets is mainly of floral type, small-pattern (almonds, pinks, etc), influenced by the carpet-weaving of Isfahan. At the initial period the carpets of New Djugha entered the Goghten group of weavings. After the forcible migration of 1603 the new settlement on the bank of Zahandurat near Isfahan was called Nor (New) Djugha in contradistinction to old Djugha, the Persian influence on the carpet-weaving of New Djugha is normal and natural. There are numerous official documents and travellers’ notes referring to the carpets which decorated the interiors of churches and houses of New Djugha and which were exported to other countries.
The Sebasteian group. Sebasteia (now the centre of Sivaz villayet in Turkey), one of the most important towns of Poker (Minor) Haik, greatly flourished in the 11th century when a great many artisans moved there from Vaspourakan. Sebasteia was on very important trade roads and the tradesmen took the articlesmanufacturedby the Sebasteian artisans to the different parts of the world. Marco Polo in his travel notes mentioned the Sebasteian carpets, their weavers were mainly the Armenians.
The Sebasteian group includes also the weavings of Malatia, Kharberd, Amassia, Arabkir and neighbouring villages. The Sebasteian carpets were large in size. Part of the migrated population settled down in Soviet Armenia bringing with them not only woven carpets, but also their weaving traditions.
The carpets of the Sebasteian group arc mainly of the small-pattern subtype. An important element in their ornamentation is the slender Tree-ol-Life woven against the red or blue background. The most active colour is the yellow.
The borders of the carpets of the Sebasteian group are like those of other Armenian carpets where widely used arc the chains of S-like elements. The first variants of this pattern can be found in early Vishapagorgs.
The Shirak group. One of the most important carpet-weaving centres was Shirak. Beginning from the 9th century ancient Shirak became the political, economic and cultural centre of Armenia, with its capital of Ani.
There were more than 40 crafts here, carpet-weaving among them. Carpets were produced also in Giumri (now Le- ninakan) and all the neighbouring villages.
The animal type Vishapagorgs of the Shirak group look like Gohar carpets, but very important in them are the combinations of lines, hooks and Trees-of-Life. The medallion carpets of the geometrical type have a red background ornamented by white, yellow and blue diamonds outlined with hook-like elements, by swan-shaped patterns; sometimes the compositions of the carpets have a confusing graphic rhythm. Quite remarkable in the Shirak group of carpets are the weaving of Kars (Turkey), in which the predominant colours are the white, pink, sky-blue and yellow. Kars produced also superb runners.
The Siunik group. The carpets of Siunik make the wealth of the Armenian carpet-weaving art.
Siunik was the north-eastern gavar of ancient Armenia. In 970 — 1170 there was a separate feudal kingdom here, with the capital of Kapan. In those days Siunik had 43 fortresses, 48 monasteries and 1400 villages. It was a mountainous land and had a developed stock-breeding. Trade roads connected Siunik with Dvin, Nakhichevan and Tebriz. One of the main crafts of Siunik was carpet-weaving which influenced greatly the carpet-weaving art of the adjoining regions. Superb carpets of the Siunik group were woven in Meghri, Kartshevan, Voroten (Urut), Tatev, Sissian, Tegh, Shinuhair, Yerenjak, Tshahuk, Goris, Khnjoresk, and other places.
Among Siunik carpets of particular interest are the Artsvagorgs which preserve the composition of classic carpets — two or three medallions with projections. Both Artsvagorgs and Otsagorgs differ from other groups of carpets in colour variations and small details. Widely used in the medallion carpets are flake-like starlets, intricate swastikas, stylized goats and deer, Trees-of-Life. The elongate carpets, as well as runners, have a clean and clear graphic outline which testifies to the perfect sense of colour of the weaving master and the importance he attached to every single knot. The weavers of Siunik preferred turquoise, red, yellow, and light-green colours. The swastikalike medallions, octagons, images of people and animals, peculiarities of the colour-scheme — all these like the carpets of Siunik to those of Artsagh.
The Vayots Dzor group. The Vavots Dzor carpets make a separate group among the Siunik weavings.
Vayots Dzor was one of the most important gavars of medieval Armenia. In the 9th century here was the royal residence of Siunik princes. It played an important role in the construction of monastery complexes and other architectural structures. Vayots Dzor is also famous for its Gladzor university, its original school of miniature-painting and various masterpieces of the applied art.
The carpet-weaving centres of Vayots Dzor were the villages of Yeghegna- dzor, Martiros, Malishka, Areni, Gndevaz and Arpa.
The Otsagorgs knotted in the villages of Vayots Dzor have hexagonal medallions with a swastika in the centre. In special literature carpets with swastikas are attributed to the Caucasus, but the Otsagorgs of Siunik, Vayots Dzor in particular, have a unique splendour of knot. In the elongate carpets of the same group predominate cruciform medallions outlined in alternating black, blue and green colours. In the geometrical type of carpets the decorative elements— triangles, squares, crosses, hooks — attain graphic distinction through the use of white threads.
The variety of colour combinations creating the effect of the successive games of the triangles imparts the carpets a unique grandeur.
The Turuberan group. The carpets of Turuberan group share common features with those of the Vaspurakan group. Taron (the more popular name of Turuberan, now in Turkey) was one of the most important gavars of Mets Haik. Here were the well-known temples of heathen Armenia (Ashtishat, Glaka-vank). Taron was a densely populated country with a developed culture (here Mesrcp AAashtots, the founder of the Armenian alphabet was born 4th c.). One of the most important crafts was carpet- weaving, its main centres were Mush, Artske, Artshesh and others.
A most widely used patterns of Taron carpets is the diamond which has a very intricate composition. Very important elements are triangles (white, gray, orange, and black) and hooks (white, yellow, red). The field of the carpet is set with envelopes (orange, green, brown, blue), elements called “hearth” (white) and crab-like components (grey-brown). Taron was one of the largest ancient centres of carpet-weaving. Here were produced carpets that have become classic, and in the 19th century new types appeared which were typical of other carpet-weaving centers too, but with a local coloring.
The Vaspurakan group. The geographical position of Vaspurakan (means noble, princely), its location in the center of trade roads, its developed agriculture, abundant mineral resources favoured also the flourishing of carpet industry.
According to the historical records (in the days of Vaspurakan Kingdom), in the 10th century there were 72 forts and fortresses, 10 towns, 4,000 villages and 115 monasteries in Vaspurakan. The roots of the Vaspurakan culture reach the Van Kingdom whose capital Tushpa became later one of the most important towns of the gavar — Van. Vaspurakan was rich in fortresses and architectural complexes (Narek, Aghtamar, Lem, Varag, and others). There was an original school of miniature painting here.
The people of Vaspurakan were builders and skilled artisans. World famous were their carpets and jewellery. According to the records of the contemporaries (Evlia Chelabi, 17th century) the largest carpets were woven in Vaspurakan. Most likely, it was the birthplace of Vishapagorgs and also of the Gohar carpet. In the 19th century carpets were produced in Van, Aljevaz, Berkri, Shataqh, Kharberd, and other places. The cultural life of Vaspurakan came to an end after the genocide of 1915.
In Vaspurakan carpets we see late variants of Vishapagorgs in which the decorative image of the central medallion seems to be preserved, but the use of quiet elements changed them into a local subtype.
Very important in the design of Vaspurakan carpets are diamonds which very in form and combinations of colours even within the same carpet. The open spaces are ornamented with animal components. The small-patterned carpets have a perfect knot structure. The peculiar features of the Vaspurakan carpets are their scrip and clear drawing and soft colours which impart unique grandeur to these noble weavings. The moderate height of their pile and the chiaroscuro effect are also of great importance.
The Yerznka group. Yerznka (now the centre of the villayct of the same name in Turkey) was one of the largest towns of the Yekeghiats gavar in Western Armenia. According to the records from the 8th century B.C. The temple of goddess Anahit with her gold-cast statue was in Yerznka. The trade road Tebriz — Karin — Sebasteia — Aleppo passed through Yerznka. The people were skilled copper-smiths, canvas- makers, jewellers and weavers. Well known are Yerznka miniature manuscripts.
Part of the people that survived after the woeful tragedy of 1915 came to Soviet Armenia, where they founded the village of New Yerznka. They brought with them the traditions of their crafts.
The Yerznka group of carpets, floral- animal type, small-pattern subtype, differ from the similar weavings of the Gcghten group in their composition where the field of the carpet has a definite geometric centre. The remaining part of the field is ornamented with crabike elements and animals of various silhouettes knotted in pink, blue, red, green and black threads. At the junction of the field and border white, pink, red, green and blue interlocked triangles are woven. In special literature such carpets are attributed to Asia Minor. The earliest of these carpets has an inscription dating 1768 (the McMul- lan Collection, the Metropolitan Museum of Art).
The traditions of all the Armenian carpet-weaving groups are nowadays applied not only to carpet-weaving, but to painting as well. They are used creatively often receiving new names (Anahit, Yerevan, Artashat, etc.) and are highly appreciated in the world market. It comes to prove the fact that like other fields of the national art carpet-weaving too continues the incessant process of its development.
Having originated in olden days and acquiring original national features the Armenian carpet has taken its merited place not only among the Caucasian carpets, but in the entire system of the Oriental carpet-weaving art.