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Antique Karabagh "Trees & Birds" prayer rug / namazlyg, late 19th century, Azerbaijan. 83 x 122 cm.


Whether or not this charming Tree of Life rug was intended for prayer is open to question: directional rugs often serve a dual purpose, employed both for prayer and as decorative pieces. A large green cypress tree dominates the madder field, and is flanked by a pair of fabulous birds and pairs of animals. Two related examples are more overtly for prayer use: one, belonging to Gerard BoŽly of Aix-en-Provence, has a red mihrab surrounding the central cypress tree; the other, with an even more dearly defined mihrab, is shown in plate 26 (Ralph Kaffel's Caucasian Prayer rug). An example that may have been a Kazak copy of this rug was offered at Christie's, London on 16 April 1984, lot 39. As BoŽly indicates in his discussion of the rug cited above (in Hali 54), these Tree of Life designs were probably inspired by eighteenth-century silk ikats (resist-dyed textiles) or velvets from Central Asia and Persia. Hali published a silk ikat velvet of identical size and virtually identical design to BoŽly 's rug, even down to the borders, and wrote that such pieces have been made as wide apart as Bukhara and Kashan.

 

The south Caucasian attribution of Karabag seems correct for this example, while BoŽly prefers Shirvan for his. The narrow border of this is very similar to the borders of Karabagh animal prayer rugs, while the colous and technical features are also consistent with that attribution. A comparison between this rug and BoŽly's is discussed in the "Auction Price Guide" section of Hali 61.

 

published Ralph Kaffel's Caucasian Prayer rug, plate 25
Lit: Ralph Kaffel's Caucasian Prayer rug, plate 25