Exhibition of Newly Conserved Carpets in Istanbul
In HALI 204, Alberto Boralevi warmly welcomed an important exhibition of newly conserved carpets which opened at the Istanbul Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art (TIEM) on 13 March. An abridged version of Alberto Boralevi’s article follows:
This exhibition is a product of the cooperation between the Azerbaijan National Carpet Museum (ANCM) and the TIEM, and in particular the two directors and curators of the exhibition, Shirin Melikova and Seracettin Şahin. The Baku Carpet Museum was founded more than fifty years ago. In recent times, after the opening of its new dedicated building and the arrival of a young and determined director, Shirin Melikova, it has developed a new vision.
(1) Carpet fragment, Azerbaijan, 17th/18th century. Warp: wool, Z2S; bottom weft: wool, light brown, Z2S; top weft: wool, light brown, Z2S; pile: wool, 2Z, h. 2-3 mm; symmetric knot, density: 34 x 36 sq.dm; 1.35 x 2.60 m (4′ 5″ x 8′ 6″). TIEM, Istanbul, inv. no. 887-75
It is well known that not many early Azerbaijani carpets have survived and that almost all are nowadays out of the Azerbaijani territory, mainly in western museums and collections. Possibly the largest number and some of the most interesting examples are today preserved in Turkey. We can also assume that also most of those in western museums were originally purchased in Turkey. In Istanbul the TIEM collection is particularly important for the great number of specimens acquired since the beginning of the 20th century, having been rescued from mosques all over the country, but particularly from various centres in eastern Anatolia. These carpets are noteworthy for their age and for the large dimensions, although their condition is sometimes precarious. Because of their unusual size and very strong weaving quality, it is arguable that they were originally acquired to furnish mosques. They were probably easier to find than the expensive carpets woven in Ottoman court workshops in western Anatolia, or those intended for export to Europe, like various types of the Ushak group.
(2) ‘Afshan’ carpet, Azerbaijan, 18th century or earlier. Warp: wool, Z2S; bottom weft: wool, red, Z2S; top weft: wool, red, Z2S; pile: wool, 2Z, h. 2-3 mm ivory; symmetric knot, density: 24 x 40 sq.dm, 1.50 x 3.08 m (4′ 11″ x 10 1″). TIEM, Istanbul, inv. no. 860
All together there are more than 100 early Caucasian carpets preserved in the TIEM in Istanbul, plus a smaller group belonging to the Vakıflar Museum. Over two years, the Azerbaijan National Carpet Museum together with the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts digitised the entire collection of Azerbaijani carpets preserved in the Turkish museum. They prepared the catalogue and selected the examples to display in the exhibition after careful conservation. At the end of this preparatory work, unfortunately only twelve carpets were physically exhibited—their dimensions and conservation costs probably limited the number—but they are enough to give the visitor an impression of grandeur and beauty.
(3) ‘Dragon’ carpet, Azerbaijan, 17th century. Warp: wool, Z2S; bottom weft: wool, light red, 2Z; top weft: wool, light red, 2Z; pile: wool, 2Z, h. 2-3 mm; symmetric knot, density: 32 x 32 sq.dm; 2.20 x 4.70 m (7′ 3″ x 15′ 5″). TIEM, Istanbul, inv. no. 904
The captions of the exhibits and the catalogue entries can sometimes be surprising for a western reader and carpet expert. All the catalogue entries have been written by a group of carpet experts from the Baku Carpet Museum. They are renowned authorities—Dr Kubra Aliyeva, Dr Telman Ibrahimov, Aytan Ahmadova and Mammadhuseyn Huseynov—but their approach to early carpets is different from that we are used to. All of them were directly or indirectly students of Latif Karimov and base their knowledge exclusively on his writings and on his classification of Azerbaijani carpets of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
(5) ‘Dragon’ carpet, Azerbaijan, 18th century. Warp: wool, Z2S; bottom weft: wool, red, 2Z; top weft: wool, red, 2Z; pile: wool, 2Z, h. 2-3 mm; symmetric knot, density: 34 x 34 sq.dm; 2.01 x 3.84 m (6′ 7″ x 12′ 7″). TIEM, Istanbul, inv. no. 97
Register for ICW here to view more pieces from the show, 21-23 October.
Azerbaijan National Carpet Museum, Istanbul Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art, TIEM