Azerbaijani carpet from the 18th century
The rich history
Carpets are one of the most ancient artisanal handicraft in Azerbaijan and, according to scholars, the beginnings of this unique art go back as far as the Bronze Age. Many famous historians, including Herodotus, Claudius Elian or Xenofontus, mentioned Azerbaijani carpets in their writings. The art of carpet weaving had blossomed during the times of the Sasanian Dynasty (III-VII Century), a powerful Iranian empire that ruled parts of today’s Azerbaijan before the rise of Islam, when carpets began to be woven from silk. Sometime around the XIV-XVII centuries carpets began to be made with incorporated gold and silk threads and adorned with precious stones. Such carpets were produced in Tabriz, Shamakhy and Barda, and due to their high cost were usually purchased by rich feudals. Around the XIII-XIV Century local carpets became famous abroad for their high quality and beauty, and began to be exported worldwide in great numbers. The uniqueness of the carpets and weaving tradition was recently appreciated by the UN’s cultural body that included it in the UNESCO’s list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Carpets in art
Azerbaijani carpets were praised in the writings of Persian poets, Khagani (1121-1190) and Nizami (1141-1209). They were also captured in paintings by famous XV Century artists, including: Hans Memling ( “Mariam with baby”, Shirvan carpet), Van Eyck (“Saint Mariam”, Zeyva carpet), and Hans Holbein (”Ambassadors’’, Gazakh carpet).
Ambassadors by Hans Holbein
Latif Karimov (1906-1991), a renowned Azerbaijani scholar and carpet maker, researched the history of Azerbaijani carpets and systematized 144 styles based on geographical regions (cities, towns, villages). These were in turn subgrouped under 4 major regional groups, which include: 1. Guba-Shirvan (includes Baku); 2. Ganja-Kazakh; 3. Karabakh (includes Shusha and Jabrayil); 4. Tabriz (southern Azerbaijan in Iran, includes carpet styles of Ardebil). Information by Azerbaijan International. Click here for images of carpets from different regions of Azerbaijan.
The Carpet Museum
The visitors to Azerbaijan Carpet Museum have the chance to admire ancient and modern local carpets, and can learn how to distinguish different styles of local weaving art. The museum was established in 1967 and has changed its location a few times since then. It first opened in Friday’s Mosque in Icheri Sheher but in 1992, after the fall of the Soviet Union, it was moved to the Lenin Museum, while the mosque was returned to its original purpose of worship. However, over the last years a new, modern museum has been constructed on the Boulevard, close to the Four Seasons Hotel, and the whole exposition is gradually being moved there.
The old Carpet Museum still located in the former Lenin Museum.
Where to buy Azerbaijani carpet
All over the country, and especially in the regions famous for carpet weaving, you will be able to buy beautiful local carpets. Arguably, the easiest thing is to head to one of the little shops in Icheri Sheher in Baku, which offer a wide choice of artwork together with an explanation regarding the origin of the item. Avoid buying old, expensive carpets as you’ll have to obtain a special export permission from the Carpet Museum. If the Museum will reject your request, the carpet will be confiscated by the customs guards.
A carpet selling shop in Icheri Sheher. Source: mustafazade.blogspot
Carpets made to last. A walk through Baku’s National Carpet Museum. Azerbaijan International
Azerbaijan. Travel tips. click on the last icon on the bottom of the page for information regarding export of artwork etc.
Azerbaijan. About carpet.
But does it fly? Azerbaijani carpets. By Travbuddy.
Azerbaijani Carpets. UNESCO.
Azerbaijani carpet included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. Azernews.