Search

A Selection of Rugs Made in Artsakh, From the Collection of the Armenian Museum of America

At the Armenian Museum of America we celebrate a shared Armenian heritage, but we also try to point out the diversity within Armenians. Regionality plays a role in how Armenians have developed based on the non-Armenian people with whom they have interacted, the flora and fauna by which they are surrounded, and the shared experiences of their neighbors. Dress, food, worship, music, and so much more are impacted by these experiences, and yet they are all Armenian.


Recently, the Armenian region of Artsakh has been attacked and the aggressors are threatening to wipe out any evidence of the Armenian culture and history. As part of our mission to preserve and promote Armenian history and culture, we are launching a series of virtual exhibitions to fight against this intended erasure.


We have elected to highlight a facet of this particular region’s contribution to Armenian culture: the Artsakh Rug.

At the Armenian Museum of America we celebrate a shared Armenian heritage, but we also try to point out the diversity within Armenians. Regionality plays a role in how Armenians have developed based on the non-Armenian people with whom they have interacted, the flora and fauna by which they are surrounded, and the shared experiences of their neighbors. Dress, food, worship, music, and so much more are impacted by these experiences, and yet they are all Armenian.

Recently, the Armenian region of Artsakh has been attacked and the aggressors are threatening to wipe out any evidence of the Armenian culture and history. As part of our mission to preserve and promote Armenian history and culture, we are launching a series of virtual exhibitions to fight against this intended erasure, even as we are unable to welcome the public to the Museum itself.

Since Artsakh is in the most imminent danger, we have elected to highlight a facet of this particular region’s contribution to Armenian culture: the Artsakh rug.

Armenians of many regions are known for their rug making, but Artsakh stands out among the rest, with rug making going back many centuries. Armenian carpets are categorized as follows: homemade carpets for their own use, Cottage Industry rugs, and factory-made commercial rugs. The ones on “display” here, all donated to the Armenian Museum over the years, fall into one of the first two categories.

The primary patterns in Armenian rugs are:

  • The sun, a symbol of life

  • “The wheel of eternity,” most commonly four-winged and representing the four essential elements of life (earth, wind, water, fire), the four weeks of the moon cycle, and/or the four cardinal directions

  • The Tree of Life, which represents family, clan, or nation

  • A crown to represent royalty

  • A nest to represent the home

  • Bees to represent a loyal worker

  • A beehive to represent a well-organized and prosperous home

  • A dove to represent spirit

  • A bull, bull hide, or bull head to represent a strong and loyal assistant of a household

  • An octagon to represent eternity

  • Highly stylized zoomorphic figures such as insects

While you will find many of the above in Artsakh rugs, one can identify a rug specifically from Artsakh by the carpet weaving technique, the local wool, and the colors and patterns woven into them. Common motifs in Artsakh rugs include stylized dragons and eagles, like many Armenian rugs, but also feature other animals and even humanoid figures. In some cases Armenian rugs, including those from Artsakh, were named for the animals depicted: artsvagorg (eagle-carpet), vishapagorg (dragon-carpet), and otsagorg (serpent-carpet).

Another motif often found in Artsakh rugs is the medallion, usually featured in a repeating or alternating pattern down the center of the rug. Some may have derived from the crests of prominent clans and meliks (princes) who presided over the principalities of Artsakh until the 19th century. Some of the medallions in these and other Armenian rugs have the suffix “-berd” (fortress) in their names, which might suggest that each fortress had its own crest. These include Jraberd (Water fortress), Arevaberd (Sun fortress), and Otsaberd (Snake fortress).

To view just a few examples of the Armenian Museum’s collections of Artsakh rugs and learn more about each individual style, please click through to the slide show.

Curated by the Armenian Museum of America with contributions from Hratch Kozibeyokian, President of the Armenian Rugs Society.


To learn more about Artsakh Rugs, please visit: https://www.armenianmuseum.org/rugs-from-artsakh


Proshaberd, Sunburst Design

Inscribed: March 10, 1898

The Gregorian Rug Collection, Armenian Museum of America

75" x 45"

1992.341

This is a "commemorative" carpet, and the foundation (warp and weft) and the pile are of hand spun wool. The colors are vegetal derivatives and the central repeated medallion represents "Sun" (symbolizing life) surrounded by highly stylized emulative, zoomorphic, and humanoid figures.

Vishapagorg (Dragon-carpet)

Inscribed- 1877“Օ”

The Gregorian Rug Collection, Armenian Museum of America

93" x 49"

1992.340

This type of carpet, which is known as Khnzoresk (Syunik), originated from early dragon carpets. Dragon carpets are one of the earliest groups and occupy a special place in Armenian carpet art. Different variations of dragon carpets were developed in Syunik and Artsakh. The field designs are formed by a combination of human and zoomorphic patterns. The two medallions are hexagons with geometric, sun-disk, and cruciform designs in the centers. The eight serpents (folk dragons) woven around the sun-disk and cross, protect them from evil.

Arev Tsil carpet

Inscribed: Tiataen Safarean YO 1888 A[pril] 6 in+T.SI+SITBA

The Gregorian Rug Collection, Armenian Museum of America

165" x 44"

1992.324

The type called “Arev Tsil” initially spread within the Gyulistan melikdom, and later in Shushi and neighboring areas. The Arev Tsil carpets had elements of sun worship in its symbolic composition, and also motifs characteristic of the Christian faith. The central field has successive medallions representing the sun as the source of life surrounded by heavenly birds, as its heralds.

The fact that the lighter reds on this rug is of aniline the woven date of “1858” is highly questionable; it does not coincide with the actual woven time period of this rug, undoubtedly, the woven time period is more fitting to the last quarter of 19th century.

It is common to see a miss-spelled or miss-dated inscriptions on the 19th-early 20th century Armenian carpets, distortions and abbreviations are recurrent.

It should be noted that many village women weavers of 19 and early 20th century were illiterate. Therefore handwritten inscriptions or dates were reproduced by the weaver as an image, so a small mistake could alter the intended value.

Artsvagorg or Jraberd (Eagle rug) named for the carpet-weaving of the Artsakh district Jraberd.

Gift from an anonymous donor, Armenian Museum of America

118" x 58"

2006.031.121

The origin of this type is connected with the carpet-weaving of the Artsakh district Jraberd. Artsvagorg or Jraberd (Eagle rug) is a subtype of the carpet group Vishapagorg. The typical characteristic of Jrabed carpets is a sunburst with arrow-like juts along the axis. The rosettes were also called “Eagles” for the winged compositions and monumental structure.

Jagged band design runner

Inscribed: Ays [ga]bas gortsʿveta[v] [1]858 A[pril] 14

(This carpet was woven in the year 1858, April 14)

The Gregorian Rug Collection, Armenian Museum of America

45" x 169"

1992.361

“Jagged band design” is a descriptive nomenclature by Western carpet dealers. This archaic pattern originated in Kedashen, and various copies of the same design were latere reproduced throughout Armenia. The origin of this jagged band design has a reference to Shushi. The carpet displays five medallions and splendid floral, zoomorphic, and geometrical motifs.

The slight purplish hue of the field of the carpet suggests that the dyestuff source is the Armenian cochineal or Ararat scale (Porphyrophora Hamelii) known in Armenia as Vordan Karmir (Armenian: որդան կարմիր, literally "worm's red"). Interestingly, the fact that the lighter reds on this rug are aniline dyes makes the woven date of “1858” highly questionable; it does not coincide with the actual woven time period of this rug, which is more likely some time in the last quarter of 19th century.

Հեռ.՝ (010) 599 629
Հասցե՝ 0010, Երևան Վազգեն Սարգսյան 3, Կառավարական տուն 2
Էլ-փոստ՝ info@escs.amsecretariat@escs.am