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Sheep Breeds of Azerbaijan

Sorting, Washing, Carding, Spinning

"The advantages of handspun yarn to machine spun yarn"

Rediscovery of Ancient Natural Dyes
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Difference between synthetically and naturally dyed rugs

Weaving and Finishing Steps

Galleries of ARFP Caucasian Azerbaijani Rugs

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Antique Derbend rug, 2nd half 19th century, 123 x 145 cm, 4'1" x 4'9"

Rugs with a mihrab in the shape of a keyhole or a stylized 'head and shoulders' figure were woven throughout east Caucasia, with published examples from Baku, Kuba, Shirvan, Daghestan and Chichi. Unlike most Caucasian prayer rugs those in the 'keyhole' and 'head and shoulders' group do not have a separate gabled or squared prayer arch; instead, the mihrab floats on the field. This design principle is more closely related to the style of prayer rugs from Anatolia. The 'head' or prayer arch in these rugs is virtually identical in shape to the re-entrant arches of Anatolian 'Bellini-type' rugs of the fifteenth to eighteenth century. (These rugs are so called because of the paintings of Gentile Bellini, c. 1429-1507, who depicted rugs with keyhole or re-entrant motifs.) The more immediate influences are the later keyhole rugs from Bergama and Konya. A wide variety of borders is employed in this group of rugs, varying primarily by origin. Border patterns include a polychromatic slanted 'barber pole' (Baku), slanted bars-and-rosettes (Chichi), geometric guls with "c" motifs (Kuba) and 'crab' borders (usually Shirvan or Daghestan) as in the pieces shown here.

The common thread connecting all the rugs in this group is the use of polygonal medallions inside the mihrab (rugs with this medallion design have been designated Ordutch-Konaghend by Latif Kerimov). An article published in Oriental Rug Review proposes that these medallions resemble Kerbala stones (grey prayer stones, usually octagonal in shape), an observation consistent with the predominately Shia persuasion of the population. Other common characteristics of this group are hand prints flanking the prayer arch, and stepped flower heads within the field. Both elements feature in the examples shown here. The mihrab itself is divided into two or three compartments beneath the 'bead', each containing a typical medallion.

A very intriguing rug from this family was formerly in the Jerome and Mary Jane Straka Collection. It has adjacent double mihrabs, each containing four compartments, and a border of stepped square forms. This 'side-by-side' arrangement is extremely unusual, possibly unique, and the only such example in the 'keyhole' group. This rug was published in Eiland, Oriental Rags, and exhibited at Mills College. Oakland. California in 1990.


published Ralph Kaffel's Caucasian Prayer Rugs, plate 69
lit: Ralph Kaffel's Caucasian Prayer Rugs, plate 69