“I Gohar, full of sin and weak of soul, with my newly learned hands, wove this rug. Whoever reads this, say a word of mercy to God for me. In the year 1149.” (1700 A.D.)
I have always thought that this is perhaps the greatest inscription ever woven into a rug, save the famous Ardebil Carpet. Such a look into the soul of the weaver!
Karabagh rugs and carpets were woven in the Russian Caucasus; a neck of southern Russia bounded on the west by the Black Sea, on the east by the Caspian Sea, and on the south by Turkey and Persia. It was land inhabited by Christian Armenians, the weavers of most Karabagh rugs. Some of the world’s most interesting geometric village carpets came from the Caucasus. The “Gohar Carpet” may be the most famous of the rugs of the Caucasus.
The Gohar is an important historical document that also has a colorful history. It first appeared in London in 1899, where it was photographed at the Victoria and Albert Museum. It was purchased in 1908 by noted rug scholar F.R. Martin. But it then disappeared, dropping from sight until 1977, when it was sold at auction by LeFevre and Partners. But even when the carpets whereabouts were unknown, it continued to elicit comment from rug historians, particularly about its date.
The date is not as straightforward as one would hope. Martin put the date at 1129, which would be 1679-80. The date has also been interpreted as 1149. There is also an argument as to whether the date refers to the Armenian calendar or the Islamic calendar. I think most historians fall on the side of the Armenian calendar, hence 1700 A.D.
The design of the carpet, with large, elaborate palmettes and medallions places it in the Kasim Ushag design format, which, in turn, places it with an extensive series of Caucasian rugs made between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries. Although the rug does not seem to be a mainstream type, there is no convincing evidence that it is not as old as the date would suggest. But there is no questioning its importance as a work of art. Coupled with its Armenian provenance – which cannot be questioned given the inscription – the Gohar remains one of the most famous rugs in the world.