Rugs of Caucasus
If a scatter rug is geometric ,abstract and colourful ,it is likely to be Caucasian. This is one of the received truisms of the antique trade. But what are we really talking about ? Geographically, the Caucasus is a pair of parallel mountain ranges running west to east from the Black to the Caspian seas. Politically it comprises Armenia and Georgia to the south-west , Azerbaijan to the east, and parts of Russia to the north.On the south is Iran, across the Aras river. History has mixed tribes , languages and art/crafts. There are more than one hundred distinct ethnic units , each weaving rugs for domestic use and for sale. For the better part of the last two centuries, Caucasian rugs have been incredibly popular, and it is easy to see why. Their small size allows them to be used anywhere . The bright colours are unavoidably eyecatching . Their geometric designs go with almost any type of furnishing, and , even for good antique pieces , prices remain reasonable. As one moves from west to east , the rugs become thinner of pile, more closely knotted and with more elaborate and smaller scale patterns . kazak rugs of Armenia and Georgia are the most striking and direct in design, with large areas of primary colour and thick, even shaggy pile. This gives them a primitive look.Directly to the east lies the Karabagh district which produces rugs varying from high to medium pile and bold to more complex , repeating patterns.kazaks tend to be squarish formats ( 5’x7’ to 6’x8’ are popular ) while Karabaghs are elongated ( 4’2”x7’8” ). Still further east , in the south-central region lies Genje, famous for long rugs in striped field patterns. In the far south-east , actually protruding into Iran is the Moghan- Talish area with short pile pieces often with desirable plain open blue fields , again in 3’x10’ to 4’x8’ formats. To the north along the Caspian it gets complicated. Shirvan and Baku are the southernmost regions . Then lies Kuba , all of which are in Azerbaijan, Daghestan and Lesghi at the farthest north end in Russia. Because of both population movements and commercial pressure, the vast variety of designs have mixed and elaborated. White ground, lattice pattern pieces may be made in almost any area and even experts disagree on attributions. “Prayer” ( niche ) layouts are popular everywhere , although these rugs have never seen a mosque. They are a type , not a use. Patterns tend to be overall , with flowers,boteh( paisleys), palmettes,hooked diamonds or octagons, or other geometric devices. Kazaks half inch pile are common. Shirvan and Kuba rugs make do with less than quarter inch, in order to display the clever detailing. Knot counts run to 200 per square inch on the best East Caucasian rugs , but on western pieces , 60 is about right. Most antique Caucasian rugs employ all wool foundations and a locally sourced wool pile.The Turkish ( symmetric) knot is universal. Value of antique Caucasians is based on colour quality, so look for rich variegated greens; touches of aubergine ; glowing reds ; and good yellows . Earth tones are not original . Bleeding reds or bright , synthetic oranges are to be avoided. The end finishes of many types are elaborate and it is a plus if they are fully intact . Although decorating styles change, antique Caucasian rugs are still the accent rugs of choice in Europe and America.