Students of art history are certainly aware of the western fascination and appreciation of the hand-made carpets of this and other regions of western Asia by their presence in paintings of the Renaissance and Dutch still life and interior scenes of the 16th and 17th centuries. Their saturated colors and intricate patterns have long captivated collectors around the world who showed them off as prize possessions in a variety of ways, including as wall hangings and table coverings.
Over the centuries, the Caucasus region (the area that, as the exhibition title suggests, lies between the Black and the Caspian Seas) became a mixture of numerous cultures and ideas that reflect the comings and goings of both interlopers and natives. Because of this diverse and rich history, the influences and customs of Byzantium, Islam, Central Asian Turks, as well as the Ottoman Empire and Europeanized Imperial Russia, are all part of traditional Caucasus weaving.
This exhibition focuses on the Caucasus textile tradition, specifically hand-woven carpets. For the most part, self-employed women weavers working out of their homes and villages sustained this craft. These rugs were prized by the weavers’ families and soon found their way into mosques and became available for purchase or barter by way of the caravan trade. As international demand grew, rugs merchants recognized the foreign appetite for these ethnic pieces and in some cases dictated which motifs and patterns were more popular and therefore should be focused upon. Perhaps in an attempt to devise a means to supplement meager agricultural incomes and supply this growing market in the late 19th and early 20th century, the home craft textile industry of this area of the world saw a dynamic revival.
The antique carpets in this exhibition are from the collection of Larry Gerber and all date from this exceptional late period of productivity referencing many traditional motifs as well as cross ancestral references and designs. We are grateful to Dr. Gerber for making this selection available to our Auburn audiences. A publication featuring a scholarly essay by Sumru Belger Krody, Senior Curator at The George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum will be available to our visitors.