On Friday, December 5, 2008, opened the Armenian Carpets Exhibition at the Haigazian University Art Center, Matossian Gallery, in the presence of University President, Rev. Paul Haidostian, British Ambassador, Francis Mary Guy, and a host of community dignitaries, artists, media representatives, and art appreciators.
The collection included 24 antique carpets, dating from the 19th century till the late 20th century, from different regions of Armenia and Garabagh, like Shoushi, Gohar, Sevan, Lori Pambak, Chaili, Konakend and etc...
Dr. Haroutioun Nicolian presented the audience with an introductory short lecture on the history of Armenian carpets, quoting international scholar and expert Wolfgang Gantzhorn: "Carpets, along with other textiles, constitute what may well be the most important Armenian contribution to the history of world art... Their unique collection of patterns and designs, characteristic of oriental carpets, is a part of the Armenian heritage and identity."
Below is the full presentation:
Scholars of the history of carpets are crystal clear about one thing: the roots of Caucasian carpets lie in Armenia.
Carpet weaving is an art, and art itself is certainly the result of a people with a deep cultural understanding of their five thousand year old heritage.
Caucasian carpet styles most often bear the names of Armenian towns or regions, such as Lori Pambak, Sevan, Akstafa, Khndzoresk, Kazak, Itchevan, Yerevan and Genje or Kantzak. The very word Khali, which means carpet in many languages, is the name of the once capital of Armenia, Dvin, which was renamed Khalikali during the thousand year Seljuk and Turkish occupation.
The designs and forms decorating Caucasian carpets often represent the power of the Almighty. During different periods of Armenian history, birds, flowers, dragons, holy symbols, and geometric forms have graced these carpets, relying on eleven basic colors and their shades.
According to Alexander Fokker, all Konakend carpets bear the Armenian Hallmark representing; "The ground plan of the St. Hripsime Church, one of the Armenians' holiest, and one of their 7th century architectural masterpieces."
Without going into scientific details, let us remind ourselves of the evidence that documents the long, long history of Armenian carpet weaving:
1.The "Pazyryk" carpet, the oldest known in history was found in ALTAI mountains in 1949. It dates from the 5th century B.C. Its origin in Urartu, the land of Armenia today, is confirmed by respected authorities such as Shurmann. Commissioned by a Scythian king, worked out by Armenian weavers, Pazyryk is regarded as one of the first and finest testimonies of early Armenian craftsmanship.
2.Herodotus, Strabo, Pliny and Marco Polo all made reference in their reports about their travels through Armenia to carpets unlike any they had previously seen.
3.There are three thousand year old fragments of carpets, jejims and Zillies found in Armenian excavations in Artic and the Red Hill (Garmir Plour).
4.Fifth century A.D. Armenian historians Parbetzi and Shiragatzi described an already very strong national pride in carpet weaving.
5.Armenian miniatures of the 11th and 12th centuries A.D. reveal close organic resemblance in form and composition with carpets woven today.
6.The writings of the 9th century A.D. Arab historian Ibn Hawkal praised the silk carpets made in Dvin, the capital of Armenia.
7.The beauty of the tombstones of Armenian cemeteries in Persia reveal patterns like those found in Armenian carpets. This is a result of the deportation of Armenians from their homeland to the mountainous regions of Garabagh, as well as to other locales such as Istanbul, Bulgaria, Hungary, Italy, Egypt, Persia, Syria and Lebanon, where they always brought their crafts with them, such as embroidery, needlework, gold filigree and carpet weaving. Even today these crafts occupy places of pride in many countries.
Each Armenian carpet is a masterpiece of imagination, form, originality, composition and color. One might even compare every single carpet with any artistic creation of the last two centuries, such as the works of Picasso, Braque, Monet, Manet, Van Gogh. One finds the same power and the beauty in each Khndzoresk, Akstafa or Lori Pambak, or Star Kazak. Imagine a young Armenian woman artfully weaving for months and months, and years and years and you begin to understand the richness of the Armenian carpet-weaving heritage.
We conclude with a remark by Wolfgang Gantzhorn: "Carpets, along with other textiles, constitute what may well be the most important Armenian contribution to the history of world art... Their unique collection of patterns and designs, characteristic of oriental carpets, is a part of the Armenian heritage and identity."
Dr. Haroutioun Nicolian