Guide to Akstafa Rugs & Carpets
What is an Akstafa rug?
A rather basic question but now that I have collected a few examples I started looking at how best to describe them. In particular I was looking at a magnificent example from J. C. Oliveira of Macau.The Oliveira Three Medallion Akstafa
Jorge wrote in reference to a magnificent Akstafa:
“There aren’t many ‘Akstafa’ rugs without the traditional large birds on the field. This is one of those few. Also it is uncommon to find those ‘T’-shaped motifs. The same is valid for the small cruciform hooked motif at the medallions’ centre. But the most unlikely depiction is the profusion of Talish rosettes, so typical of Talish rug borders. We find it in this rug’s borders and inside the medallions. This feature confirms Ian Bennett, Murray Eiland and Harold M. Keshishian’s opinion that most of the denominated ‘Akstafa’ rugs were actually not woven on the large town in the Kazak weaving district (near Lambalo and Shulaver) but rather on the Shirvan weaving area, probably on south Shirvan. The magnificent colours of this rug also suggest a southern Shirvan attribution.”
So obviously when Jorge Oliveira, Ian Bennett, Murray Eiland and Harold M. Keshishian agree on something it is a pretty safe bet. I can not think of anyone who I respect more in the field of Caucasian Pile rugs although there are a few fellows at that level.
So then why not follow the leaders and attribute Akstafa Rugs to South Shirvan and be done with it? Well as I was looking for background information and local color I stumbled across an important find. In the Council of Europe Minister’s Deputies CM Documents I found CM(2002)10 Addendum 4 (unclassified) 14 February 2002. The document gives clear and compelling proof that in the Akstafa region there is an Azeri enclave that includes the villages of Sadykhly and Boyuk (Boyuk Kazak) in Azerbaijan and the villages of Nazarly, Voyovka and Jandar in the Gardabani region of Georgia.
The people in South Shirvan who weave colorful rugs like this were Azeri. Now I differ with men such as Eiland in some respects. Murray places far more importance on geographic considerations than I do. I take an ethno-linguistic approach. I expect Azeri rugs to look like Azeri rugs no matter where in Azerbaijan they were woven. So Azeri who live near the Kazak region are still Azeri so the rugs they weave should be more like their kinsmen in South Azerbaijan than their unrelated neighbors.
To put it simply I feel that it is reasonable to attribute the Azeri rugs that we call Akstafa to the Azeri of the Akstafa region.
Typical Rug Akstafa Structure
Structure: Symmetrical. averages 107 KPSI and average size of 34 square feet. Oriental Rug Lexicon. Flat back
Yarn: Spin: Z.
Warp: Warps are flat or mildly depressed. 2 ply warps often barber-poled the lighter ply may be cotton.
Weft: 2 shots of 2 ply wool or cotton.
Pile: 2 Wool singles.
Ends: Upper – fringe. Lower loops. Loops often woven into band
Selvages: two warp unit reinforced white cotton selvage sometimes blue. Wool in very old examples, cotton in newer.
- Bennett, Ian et al. Oriental Rugs Volume 1 Caucasian.
- E. Gans-Ruedin, Caucasian Carpets, Thames and Hudson, London, 1986, pp. 216-217
- Ulrich Schurmann Caucasian Rugs.
- Stone, P.F. Rugs of the Caucasus: Structure and Design.
Akstafa Rugs are part of the broader category of Caucasian Rugs and Caucasian Carpets
Manoyan Akstafa Prayer Rug Southwest Caucasus circa 1880 92cm x 153cm
The Oliveira Three Medallion Akstafa Rug
Size: 207 x 118 cm
Region: West Asia > Caucasus > Northeast Caucasus > Akstafa
Type: Rugs and Carpets
Date/Period: 19th century : last quarter
Structure: Knots: 54 (v) x 24 (h) = 1,296 / dm2
Condition: Excellent, with good pile all over, multi-coloured wool warp, cotton and wool wefting, natural dyes. It still keeps the original hard cotton edges on both sides as well as some of the selvedges on both sides of the fringes. Apart from a very slight oxidation in browns, this rug has excellent supple, soft wool with no problems whatsoever.
Full Description: A very beautiful ‘Akstafa’ rug with three large medallions. The medallions are typical ‘Akstafa’ large, squarish eight-pointed with the traditional cruciform interior design. This rug is unusual in many ways. There aren’t many ‘Akstafa’ rugs without the traditional large birds on the field. This is one of those few. Also it is uncommon to find those ‘T’-shaped motifs. The same is valid for the small cruciform hooked motif at the medallions’ centre. But the most unlikely depiction is the profusion of Talish rosettes, so typical of Talish rug borders. We find it in this rug’s borders and inside the medallions. This feature confirms Ian Bennett, Murray Eiland and Harold M. Keshishian’s opinion that most of the denominated ‘Akstafa’ rugs were actually not woven on the large town in the Kazak weaving district (near Lambalo and Shulaver) but rather on the Shirvan weaving area, probably on south Shirvan. The magnificent colours of this rug also suggest a southern Shirvan attribution.
Akstafa Rug 19th century with Animals
This is a very pretty antique Caucasian rug. Please note the wonderful fantastic animals in the scan.
Structure: Symmetrical knot. 6 knots per horizontal inch and 10 knots per vertical inch. 60 per square inch (930 per square decimeter)
Yarn Spin: Z.
Warp: 2 ply brown, tan wool.
Weft: 2 shots brown cotton.
Pile: 2 wool singles.
Ends: Post-Hitch wharf binding with 1 inch warp fringe.
Selvages: 1 cord overcastting old ivory wool.
Handle: Light, soft, pliable, durable.
Further Notes: Antique, historical small repairs repairs no larger than a half dollar, low pile.
Antique Caucasian Akstafa Rug
Structure: Symmetrical. 8 knots per horizontal inch and 9 knots per vertical inch. 72 per square inch (1116 per square decimeter).
Yarn Spin: Z.
Warp: 3 ply cotton ivory.
Weft: 2 shots brown wool.
Pile: 2 Wool singles.
Ends: 1/2 inch balanced plainweave shirt with warp fringe.
Selvages: 3 cord red wool.Partially original.
Further Notes: This rug is in good to very good condition. There are some minor repairs and the pile is low.
An Akstafa long rug, circa 1875
An Akstafa long rug, East Caucasus, circa 1875, oxidized browns, partially rewoven outer guard stripes, foldwear, approximately 9 ft. 1 in. by 3 ft. 8 in. (2.77 by 1.12 m.)
An Akstafa long rug, circa 1880
An Akstafa long rug, East Caucasus, circa 1880, oxidized browns, reselvaged, scattered repiling, partially rewoven sides, approximately 10 ft. 6 in. by 4 ft. 2 in. (3.2 by 1.27 m.)
In this 19th century Caucasian weaving, the influence of Kurdish ‘Garden’ carpets of the 18th century can be clearly seen. In particular, the ‘grid’ arrangements of stylised flowerheads flanking the column of medallions is clearly derived from this earlier group, and the colours have much in common with the Kurdish palette of North West Persia. These elements make it probable that this rug pre-dates the main corpus of Akstafa runners.
Last quarter 19th century original end finishes with some losses, oxidized browns, minor moth damage
An Akstafa rug, South East Caucasus, circa 1880
circa 1890 remnants of original kilim ends and macramé fringes, oxidized browns, minor repiling and reweaving along edges
circa 1880 top end with original flatweave, oxidized charcoals, one partial end guard stripe, losses to selvages, foldwear, restoration webbing to edges
Antique Akstafa Rugs: Akstafa Main Carpet from Dennis Dodds circa 1860
Shirvan “Akstafa” Long Rug
Size: 121.9cm(W) x 274.3cm(L) / 4’0(W) x 9’0(L)
Region: West Asia Caucasus Northeast Caucasus Akstafa
Item Type: Rugs and Carpets
Period / Date: 1860
Comments On Condition: There are a few small reweaves. The outer guard border is missing from both ends. There is a “tuck” in the midpoint of both ends where a fold was removed. The selvages have been replaced.
Full Description: This “Akstafa” type large rug is a riot of glowing, spectacular color and displays a myriad of motifs in the interstices between five, beautifully balanced medallions. It is finely woven with superbly executed drawing.