By Aygul Salmanova
Since ancient times, embroidery, fragments of clothing, decorated with patterns, made with gold threads, has been one of the most common and favorite occupations in Azerbaijan.
To get acquaint foreigners and local population with the beauty and colorfulness of these embroideries, Azerbaijan National Museum of Art hosts the exhibition ‘Silk Treasures: Azerbaijani Patterns of the 16th-18th centuries’, presented in the framework of the 5th International Symposium on Azerbaijani carpet.
The curators of the exposition the Chairman of the Academic Committee of the ICOC (International Conference on Oriental Carpets) Alberto Boralevi and the independent expert of the Culture and Tourism Ministry Asli Samadova noted that holding such an exhibition is an important fact not only for Azerbaijan but also for international museum practice.
The exhibition was the first opportunity to collect and show less-studied embroidery to the wide international public, which in foreign literature is called ‘early Azerbaijani embroidery’ referring to the period between the years 1600 and 1850.
It is noteworthy that the Azerbaijani craftsmen are still working on gold embroidering gyulyabatin, which is the type of embroidery made of gold or silver handles, as well as the fibers, which are admixed with materials similar to them.
The skill of embroidery “takelduz”, the art of tambourine embroidery with silk threads on black and red velvet or a thin woolen bosom, is also transferred from generation to generation in Shaki.
Despite the fact that the technique of early Azerbaijani embroidery is a very painstaking process, it is these embroideries that are most valued by Western experts and collectors.
Many elements of the early Azerbaijani embroidery are closely related to the patterns of the Azerbaijani carpets of the dragon group of the 16th-18th centuries, which a number of pro-Armenian foreign scientists attribute to Armenians, as well as the carpets with the image of palmettes and central medallions typical of the carpets of the Safavid period.
It is noteworthy that unlike carpets, which are given the general name of "Caucasian", these are the only items of decorative and applied art of Azerbaijan, which in foreign literature are known as ‘Azerbaijani’.
Cases of falsification have recently become more frequent, when at the French auctions the consultants of Armenian origin, in the descriptions of the antiquarian exhibits, indicate them as ‘Artsakh’ told Samadova to Day.az. However, every time, even before the intervention of Azerbaijani representatives, foreign experts express written protests and openly criticize this policy of ‘armenization’ of Azerbaijani embroidery.
In order to prevent such claims on the cultural heritage of Azerbaijan, the Culture and Tourism Ministry together with the American NGO ICOC (International Conference of Oriental Carpets) in 2016 supported the proposal of the London publishing house Hali Publications Ltd. to publish the first book dedicated to Azerbaijani embroideries of the period 1600-1850.
The book represents a collection of works by ten foreign authors from the U.S., Britain, Italy and Georgia. Separate chapters are devoted to the largest collections of embroideries in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and the Textile Museum in Washington.
Significant was the fact that in the process of working on the book one of its authors, an expert from England Michael Frances, found errors in attribution in several leading museums in the world. So, more than 60 embroideries instead of officially indicated 22 are stored in the Victoria and Albert Museum.
This is explained by the fact that in many museum funds, work on studying and reclassifying collections is very rarely carried out. Therefore, the projects of such publications or exhibitions give an external impetus and motivation for museum curators to go down from their offices to museum stores for working with funds.
Within the framework of the two-year research activity of the curators of the exhibition about 400 similar embroideries were found and an electronic database was compiled.
Until November 2015, in international circles it was believed that such embroideries in Azerbaijan did not survive. However, thanks to the preparatory work for ISAC 2017, it was a pleasant surprise to find a collection of such rare embroideries in the ANMI museum storage.
After long analysis and arrival of groups of foreign experts at the personal invitation of the Minister of Culture and Tourism Abulfas Garayev in December 2015 and November 2016, two of them were identified as early Azerbaijani embroidery and attributed to the middle of the 18th century.
At the exhibition ‘Silk Treasures: Azerbaijani Patterns of the 16th-18th centuries’, exhibits from the fund of the Azerbaijan National Museum of Art are shown for the first time in comparison with specially brought foreign exhibits from the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Berlin Museum of Islamic Art, as well as private collections in Europe.
Thanks to the support of the Goethe Institute the participation of the Berlin Museum of Islamic Art became possible and will this be the first initiative of this organization in Baku on the eve of the opening of the representation in Azerbaijan.
The exhibition, a successful result of international cultural and scientific activity, will last until January 15, 2018.
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