Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



From Textiles in Trade: Proceedings of the Textile Society of America Biennial Symposium, September 14–16, 1990, Washington, DC


Copyright © 1990 by the author(s).


At the turn of the 20th century, Caucasian carpets were in great demand among burgeoning European and American middle-class markets. With a history of carpet production going back at least three hundred years, rug-weaving in the Caucasus soared at the turn of the 20th century, first with economic incentives and the encouragement of czarist regimes, later as part of the Soviet economic system. Today, in an age of perestroika and glasnost. rug-weaving in the Caucasus for commerce and export lends itself readily to individual initiatives and private enterprise. Commercial production of carpets continues to be recognized as a means of generating both income and hard currency.

Drawing upon inferential, internal, and external sources of information, this paper seeks to identify and analyze three categories of carpets produced in the Caucasus for commerce. What distinguishes these categories is the nature of the evidence for their identification and interpretation.

"Dragon carpets" comprise the first and earliest known group of Caucasian carpets. Physical features of the carpet suggest commercialized production. "Dragon" carpets, so-called because of the representation of pairs of dragons as one element in a complex composition of design and pattern, may have been directly influenced by the economic policies of the Safavid ruler Shah Abbas in the 17th century. The interpretation of "dragon" carpets as commercial products relies upon inference.

A second category of carpets are those for which evidence for identification is internal, based upon the relationship of structure and technology upon design. Carpets in this category exhibit designs which betray a stylistic influence that derives from other textile technologies. This group may be subdivided, based upon the identification of influence of indigenous traditions of embroidery, slit-tapestry, dove-tailed tapestry, and supplementary weft-wrapping (soumak) . Many of the commercial rugs from the Caucasus, produced in the 19th century, seem to fit within this category.