A Practical Seminar on Caucasian Rugs
By James M. Keshishian A.S.A.
Senior - Oriental Rugs
Excerpts taken from "Rug Notes"
We start with the Caucasus. This area is located between the Black Sea, the Caspian Sea and lakes Van and Urmia. The northern tier of this mountainous place is Russia; the southwest is Turkey and Iran to the southeast. The inhabitants have produced rugs for centuries during a period of constant ebb and flow of invaders and combatants. The Armenians are the best-known inhabitants but the Georgians also live here, Christian, Moslem, and heathen are all of the area. There are the remnants of over a hundred tribes and three hundred recorded dialects. Perhaps the one great attraction of the Caucasian rug is color. Design can always be duplicated but color is the soul of the rug. All of the products of manufacture are local, rugged, angular, vivid, yet charming.
The material used is mostly wool, although some cotton, when available, has been used. Silk is unheard of generally. The knot used is Turkish.
1. The warp is usually in shades; of brown, natural or may be dyed.
2. The weft is usually two threads after each row of knots. The Kazaks will employ red weft and use three or' four at times; this usually accompanies high pile construction.
3. The woof or pile is the result of knotting, is invariably wool. The finer the wool the finer the knot. Shirvan and Kuba are fine-knotted and low pile. Medium pile is from the Talish and Daghestan area. High-pile rugs are typically found in the Kazak, Karabagh, and Moghan regions. (See map.)
4. The selvedge and fringe ends need more study, for in many cases, the learned rug person can, decipher the rug from the edges. Suffice to say they differ greatly.
Sewan Kazak Rug
5 ft. 10 in. by 6 ft. 8 in.
Schurmann Plate 14.
Reprinted with permission of publisher.
Caucasian Rugs - Construction
Caucasian Rugs - Color
So often one hears the expression, "vegetable dyes." This is a misnomer. "Natural dyes" is more appropriate for with nature's gifts for dyers one synthesize and create color. colors are:
White: either bleached or natural.
Madder Red: from the root of the madder plant, can vary in shade of selected roots from light-orange red to deep rich reds or even to purple reds.
Cochineal: The female of the cochineal beetle produces a red dye processed by roasting and grinding.
Brown: Walnut husks are used to produce brown and enhanced by redying in indigo.
Indigo: By fermenting the blossoms of the indigo plant, liquor is produced that can be varied to give every shade of blue. The length of immersion is the key.
Black: Brown wool dyed with indigo blue produces a lustrous black. A brittle and somewhat corrosive result is had when iron pyrites is used with the bark of the mountain ash.
Yellow: Pear leaves, buckhorn berries, almonds and saffron with pomegranate are used to produce shades of yellow.
Green: Use of copper filings is another example of "corrosive" or brittle dye. Saffron and indigo are safer but fade easier.
Caucasian Rugs - Design
The designs of Caucasian rugs are both in the simple and refined classification.
The simple is the box, the rosette, the cruciform (almost always attributed to the Christian Armenians), camels, goats, lions, lilies, tulips, shears, houses, People, waves, scorpions, even peacocks. These are laid out in visibly rectilinear and geometric design. The refined may be the same simple objects more intricately combined. Repeat or all-over designs have been stylized and perfected to machine-like precision. The influence of the Persian botehs (paisleys), palmettos and combatant animals is reflected the Caucasian rugs of the south. To the north the Russian influence was present in their desire for a "French look," therefore foliated French style of light pastel colors.
3 ft. 9 in. by 4 ft. 8 in.
Warp: wool, 2 strands Z spun, S plied, natural.
Weft: wool, 2 strands Z spun, S plied, natural.
Pile: wool, 2 strands Z spun, S plied.
Knot: symmetrical, h 7, v 9. 63/sq. in.
Ends: some small fringe remains.
Colors: (10) red, 2 shades of blue, brown, black, green, yellow, ivory, pink and tan.
Inscribed Armenian Rugs of Yesteryear Plate A-193.
Reprinted with permission of Author.
Caucasian Rugs - Additional Data
Many books have been written on the subject of Oriental rugs, and specifically Caucasian rugs. The best-illustrated one is, without a doubt, "Caucasian Rugs," by Ulrich Schurmann.
Future articles will contain information on specific areas and add to previous articles. The idea is to introduce you to Oriental rugs. Education is never complete. Questions need answering. Yours are always welcome.
JAMES M. KESHISHIAN A.S.A.
4507 Stanford ST.
Chevy Chase, MD 20815
Editors Note: This article was originally written by Mr. Keshishian several years ago when he was National Vice President of NIRC (National Institute of Rug Cleaning Inc.). He was latter Senior Vice-President, Treasurer, and President of NIRC Originally written to help professional carpet cleaners to understand Oriental Carpets I feel it still has value to all of us still learning about rugs.: J. Barry O'Connell Jr.