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Antique Caucasian Shirvan "Akstafa" prayer rug, Southern Shirvan Region, Salyan (Saliani) District, Azerbaijan.

1st half 19th century
101 x 161cm (3'4" x 5'3")

This rug is unusual for its striped field. No other such Akstafa example is known. A number of characteristic Akstafa features are also included, however: the hooked border, the dotted arch, the 'hand prints' in the spandrels, the comb beneath the arch and the light blue selvedge. This rug is a good illustration of the talent of Caucasian weavers to freely borrow major design elements from other districts, whilst still producing pieces with a strong indigenous character and integrity.
Writing about a similar example, which he assigned to Karabagh. Eberhart Herrmann explained that the five fingers in the hand prints symbolize five important religious personages of Shi'ite Islam: Mohammed, Ali, Fatima, Hassan and Hossein. His example, dated AH 1293 (1876 AD), has a very similar vertically striped field but is decorated with boteh instead of the geometric motifs of this example, and also differs in the shape of the arch (The rug has a triangular cartouche enclosing the date beneath it. An example related to Hermann's, also with a striped field and boteh, was offered at Skinner's, 5 Dec. 1988, lot 155).

published at Ralph Kaffel's Caucasian Prayer Rugs as plate 87