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This article will appear entirely in French in the catalogue of an exhibition entitled "Trames de mémoire d'Arménie : broderies et tapis sur les chemins de l'exil de 1900-1940" on Armenian refugees in the textile industry in southern France after the 1915 genocide to be held at the Museon Arlaten in Arles, France from June through December 2007 as part of the Year of Armenia in France.

Armenia Textiles: An Overview


Dickran Kouymjian

          The serious study of Armenian textiles is still in its infancy.[1] There are scattered monographs and catalogues on Armenian carpets,[2] lace and embroidery, [3]cloth fragments preserved in manuscript bindings, ecclesiastical vestments, altar curtains,[4] and costumes. However, not one of the rich textile collections in the Armenian monasteries in Etchmiadzin, Antelias, Jerusalem, Venice, Vienna, and elsewhere is graced by a catalogue or complete inventory.

          The complex history of Armenian weaving and needlework was acted out in the Near East, a vast, ancient, and ethnically diverse region. Few are the people who, like the Armenians, can boast of a continuous and consistent record of fine textile production from the first millenium B.C. to the present. Armenians today are blessed by the diversity and richness of a textile heritage passed on by thirty centuries of diligent practice; yet they are burdened by the pressure to keep alive a tradition nearly destroyed in 1915, and subverted by a technology that condemns handmade fabrics to museums and lets machines produce perfect, but lifeless cloth.

Carpets

          The oldest existing tufted carpet, dating from the fifth to the third century B.C., was excavated from the frozen Scythian burial mounds at Pasyryk northeast of the Caucasus in the Soviet Union. Called the Pasyryk carpet and preserved in the Hermitage Museum in Leningrad, this extraordinary rug predates other whole examples by more than 1500 years. [5] The rug is in a near perfect state of preservation; it is roughly 2 x 2 metre and the predominate color is red-brown. The central design is made of geometric star patterns enclosed in five successive borders, the second of which contains a continuous line of large antlered animals and the fourth from the center, a procession of men mounted on caparisoned horses. Recent scholarship inclines toward Armenia as the place where it was woven, because of the similarity of motifs in late Urartian and some early Armenian artifacts, and the long history of tufted carpet weaving in Armenia. The Scythians, according to this theory, acquired the rug when passing through the Caucasus.

          Whether or not the oldest carpet in the world was made in Armenia, early historical sources repeatedly speak about the fine rugs and other textiles woven there. Among the Greek and Roman historian who speak about weaving in Armenia are Herodotus, Xenophon, Strabo and Tacitus. Among Arab historians one can mention al-Tabari, Abu al-Faradj, al-Masudi, Ali al-Isfahani, ibn Miskawayh, al-Muqaddisi, ibn Fadlan, ibn Khaldun.[6] According to the Arab geographer Yaqut, the origin of the word kali/khali/hali, a knotted carpet, is from one of the early and important Armenian carpet centers, Theodosiopolis, Karin in Armenian, Qaliqala in Arabic, modern Erzerum. He says, "À Qaliqala on fabrique des tapis qu'on nomme qali du nom abrégé de la ville." [7] are mentioned as part of the annual Armenian tribute to the Caliph of Baghdad in the late eighth century. In the later medieval period, Marco Polo praises the rugs woven by Armenians. The characteristic red Armenian dye (vordn karmir) was prized throughout the Mediterranean world. Unfortunately, no rugs have survived from these early centuries. There are a few fragments from the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, uncovered in mosques in Eastern Anatolia, but no convincing origin has been established for any of them, though Armenia has been proposed for several. However, renaissance artists in the West painted rugs imported from the Near East in precise detail allowing scholars to establish some of the basic designs of the fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth centuries.[8]

          Until very recently, scholars have dismissed the possible Armenian origin of these carpets. Though there has been much debate during this century on the source of the famous "dragon" carpets, A. Sakisian and others after him propose an Armenian origin for them.[9] The Armenian province of Artsakh (Karabagh) has retained the dragon design into modern times, reinforcing the Armenian origin of seventeenth and eighteenth century examples. A number of these dragon rugs have Armenian inscriptions.

          During the dislocation of the First World War, the production of Armenian hand loomed rugs nearly ended as did that of so many other crafts. Some survivors, however, continued to weave Armenian rugs until World War II. Furthermore, the wholesale destruction of Armenian life and property in Anatolia and western Armenia from 1915 to 1922 resulted in the loss of heirloom Armenian rugs passed down in families. In the last two decades a new interest in Armenian weaving and rug making has resulted in the re-establishment of the identity of Armenian carpets, which in this century have been, unfortunately, gradually subsumed under the heading of Islamic or Turkish carpets. What has helped in the scientific study of the rugs produced by Armenians has been the habit, already remarked upon in other arts, of weavers leaving a written memorial by way of Armenian inscriptions woven directly into the rugs with names and dates. Hundreds of these inscribed Armenian rugs have now been recorded and several major exhibitions organized around them. Though of varying design and fabrique, even coming from different regions, they are all called "Armenian rugs", because of the Armenian letters and words woven on them. These same inscriptions have been the cause of controversy among specialists about the origin of the rugs and especially whether they were or were not woven by Armenians themselves.[10]

          Only a fraction of oriental rugs bear inscriptions, but by comparing the designs and techniques of production of those that have Armenian inscriptions with similar carpets without inscriptions, it will be possible to reattribute thousands of rugs as Armenian. Murray Eiland, a major authority on oriental rugs, has rightly remarked: "But why must we require that Armenian rugs be inscribed before we accept their identity? It should be noted that this has not been necessary for any other type of oriental rug."[11] There exists no type of oriental rug, other than the Armenian, for which certain experts insist on an inscription before they are willing to attribute them to Armenian craftsmen

          The earliest dated Armenian rug is also one of the largest and most exquisite, made in the Karabagh (the Armenian district of Artsakh) with an inscription identifying the weaver, Gouhar.[12] Nous comptons des centaines de tapis à inscriptions arméniennes, mais le "Gouhar" est exceptionnel car il est le premier, daté et inscrit, qui ait été étudié par des spécialistes du tapis. Le Suédois F. R. Martin parla en détail des tapis typiquement arméniens et il attribua en particulier aux Arméniens les anciennes et célèbres variétés dites à dragons.[13] Il publia pour la première fois un tapis d'une rare beauté connu sous le nom de Gouhar et ayant une longue inscription arménienne datée. Certaines décorations de ce chef-d'œuvre rappellent les motifs trouvés dans les tapis à dragons; c'est ce qui incita Martin à assigner ces derniers aux Arméniens. Mais H. Jacoby et particulièrement Arthur Udham Pope, l'auteur du volumineux Survey of Persian Art, rejetèrent cette attribution.[14] Celui-ci écrivit que le seul fait de trouver une inscription arménienne sur un tapis ne prouvait pas qu'il était de fabrication arménienne. Il pensait que les Arméniens, venant d'un milieu bourgeois, n'étaient pas des artisans mais des marchands de tapis. Selon Pope et ses adeptes, les Arméniens commandèrent simplement des tapis, demandant l'inclusion d'une dédicace dans leur langue. Malgré l'abondance des arguments allant à l'encontre de cette théorie, un grand nombre de professionnels y adhèrent, les Turcs, spécialement Serare Yetkin, et les Azerbaïdjanais étant, pour d'évidentes raisons, les plus tenaces.

          Ce ne sont pas seulement la taille et la beauté de ce remarquable tapis qui le rendent si important mais c'est surtout son inscription arménienne qui est capitale car elle spécifie clairement qu'il fut tissé par Gouhar elle-même. On lit ainsi l'inscription suivante : "Moi, Gouhar, pleine de péchés (et) faible d'âme, avec mes mains malhabiles, ai fait (ce tapis). Celui (celle) qui lira (ceci) aura pitié de moi. En l'an 114?". Seule la dernière lettre est difficile à déchiffrer, mais les possibilités se limitent aux nombres allant d'un à neuf, pour donner une variation entre 1141 (=1692) et 1149 (=1700); personnellement, je lis 1148 (=1699). L'orthographe Gouhar au lieu de Gohar, traditionnellement utilisée pour ce tapis, est rare, mais apparaît au moins dix fois parmi une centaine de "Gohars" citées dans des colophons du XVIIIe siècle.

          Les arguments lancés notamment par Pope, il y a quatre-vingt ans, consistant à dire que les inscriptions arméniennes des tapis avaient été faites pour des Arméniens mais non par eux ont malheureusement aujourd'hui encore quelques adeptes. N'est-il cependant pas clair que les tapis signés uniquement d'initiales arméniennes -- représentant environ un quart des tapis à inscriptions -- furent fabriqués dans la famille même du propriétaire de ce tapis? Quant aux nombreux tapis mal datés (avec un chiffre en plus ou en moins) et parsemés de fautes d'orthographe, ils témoignent davantage de la création artisanale au sein des foyers villageois que du travail exécuté sur commande dans un atelier professionnel.

          Scholars must use innovative comparative analyses based on information furnished by the inscribed rugs to penetrate deeper into the origin of the creators of pre-nineteenth century floor coverings. Earlier prejudices against the reality of a major weaving industry among Armenians must be abandoned in order to reexamine older rugs using the available iconographic, stylistic and textual sources to determine the precise connections between older Armenian rugs like the dragon carpets and those of clearly Armenian origin.

          Another important carpet woven in 1731 for Catholicos Nersés of Aghuank', probably in Artsakh, is preserved in the monastery of St. James in Jerusalem. The rest of the dated and inscribed Armenian rugs are from the nineteenth and the first quarter of the twentieth centuries.

          Armenian rugs, though woven in various regions and in divers styles, are predominantly of the Caucasian type with vivid colors and broad geometric designs; often small figures or animals are placed randomly in the border or field. The most frequently encountered types among the inscribed rugs are Karabagh (Artsakh), Kazak, and Gendje or Ganja. The earlier Karabagh rugs with sunburst or eagle designs seem to have affinities with the famous dragon carpets of an earlier period. Other Karabagh types are popular: Kasim Ushak design, cloudband design, jagged red band design, lempe/lampa design, Lesghi star design, etc. Armenian Kazak rugs are classified by the following types: three medallion design, Lori-Pambak design, Sevan-Kazak design, Karachoph design, etc. Among the most famous Karabagh carpets are a large number produced at the turn of the twentieth century with designs copied from western models, which were in great vogue in the Caucasus and Iran. These fall in two large categories, the rose design rugs and the pictorial rugs. There are also a large number of Karabagh, Kazak and village rugs with unique patterns as well as saddle bags or twin bags from Artsakh.

          Another type of pictorial rug was also woven by Armenians in the various parts of the world they settled in after the first great massacres of 1894-6. These rugs, usually one of a kind, were woven by individuals to commemorate an event or to honor a person. Many of these have portraits of Soviet leaders -- Marx, Lenin, Stalin -- or western statesmen or historic symbols. Others portrait dignitaries of the countriesw where Armenians took refuge, like the Krikor Ananson (Ananian) carpet in this exhibit with the portrait of U.S. President William McKinley (1900-1). Orphan rugs produced by young Armenian women, parentless survivors of the massacres of 1896 or 1915, under the guidance of American missionaries, are also numerous; two of the finest examples are known as the Campell rug woven in Aintab and the orphan rug from Agin.[15]

          The rug weaving and designing tradition among the Armenians in the Middle East continued into this century with the development of the famous Koum Kapi silk carpet. These were named after one of the Armenian quarters of Constantinople, where until today the Armenian Patriarch has his residence and cathedral. These prized carpets of very fine silk weave, often embroidered with gold and silver thread, were produced right through the genocide. They were woven often in the style of 16-17th century Persian rugs; some speculate based on designs of rugs kept in the Ottoman Imperial Treasury at the Top Kapi palace. The most famous names among the designer-weavers were Hagop Kapoudjian,[16] Zareh Penyamin,[17] Garabed Apelian, and Abraham Toussounian, Armenians from the important weaving centers of Sivas and Kayseri. Today many carry on the work, but among them Avak Shirinian is the most famous, using weavers in the traditional silk and weaving cities of Hereke and Boursa.

          The rug industry remains an important part of the organized crafts in Armenia. A revised rug weaving industry in the Armenian Republic concentrates on traditional designs, natural dyes, and careful handknotting. Among the largest developers of this industry are Megerian Brothers Oriental Rugs, House of Davidian, Inc., and Tufenkian Carpets.

Woven and Stamped Textiles

          Cloth weaving and textile manufacture is universal. Nearly all cultures engaged in this craft to satisfy need for clothes and coverings. Carbonized fragments of woven textiles have been found in very early excavations in Armenia, but they offer little information about the design and style of early textiles. The fragility of cloth is the major cause for our lack of early examples. The dry desert climate of Egypt or the frozen environment of the Scythian tombs of Pasyryk lacking in Armenia offers the very rare conditions by which early textiles have survived in quantity.

          Our knowledge of pre-seventeenth century woven textiles stems mainly from their representation in art, sculptured reliefs such as those of Aght'amar and especially Armenian miniature painting, but also from actual fragments preserved on the insides of the covers of manuscript bindings. These textile fragments are made of various types of cotton, silk, linen and other fabrics and have both woven and stamped patterns. A large number of them are from cloth fashioned outside Armenia: Iran, India, even Byzantium and the west. Because nearly every manuscript up through the seventeenth century used such cloth pieces to hide the unattractive exposed wood on the inside of bindings, there are thousands of these textile samples preserved. Fewer than a hundred have been published. Once available, they will serve as the major resource in reconstructing the history of textiles used in Armenia from the thirteenth to the seventeenth centuries.

Altar Curtains

          From the late seventeenth and especially the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries there is preserved a comparatively large quantity of brocades, embroidery and other textiles almost all used as church decor or priestly vestments. The most important of these in size are the altar curtains, both stamped and embroidered, preserved in the collections of the Catholicossate in Etchmiadzin and the Armenian Patriarchate in Jerusalem.[18]

          L'emploi de ces rideaux dans l'Église arménienne remonte aux origins et perp´tue un usage qui avait cours aux temps bibliques. Alors que la plupart des autres Églises abandonnèrent progressive ment l'usage de ces tentures, y substituat parfois, comme dans l'Église greque et autre Églises orthodoxes, l'iconostase, une cloison décorée d'icônes, pour fermer le sanctuaire, seules certains Églises orthodoxies orinetales, en particulier les Églises arméniennes et syriennes, ont conserve cette coutume jusqu'à l'époque moderne.

          La tenture était utilisée à l'époque biblique dans les temples juifs à des fins diverses, mais joua aussi un role important dans le monde classique. Le rideau utilisé dans l'Église arménienne est fait d'un seul morceau d'étoffe : il terme lateralement le devant de l'absire où se trouve l'autel, du sol jusqu'en haut du mur qui donne naissance à l'arroundi de l'abside.

          L'une des premières mentions, is ce n'est la première, faits au sujet des tentures de chœur se trouve dans le traité sur la Défense des images par Vrtanes Kertogh, vers 600 : "... car Moïse ... fit modele des images pour 'autel ... c'est l'image du grand myst``ere. De meme le rideaux que Dieu dit de fabriquer avec des soies multicolores, des images, et d'embellir de diverses manieres, (ce voile) qui est de lin fin et de pourpre, rouge et azur ; les couleurs des fils du rideau n'étaient-elles pas des pigments, et les chérubins du rideau n'étaient-ils pas des image?"[19]

          Une reference s'appliquant plus particulièrement aux tentures de chœur dans les églises arm´niennes nous ext parvenue par l'intermédiaire de l'historien arménien du XIIIe siècle Kirakos de Gandzak, qui décrit la consecration d'une église au monastère de Nor Getik, aujourd'hui connu sous le nom de Goshavank', où il fait l'éloge du rideau tissé pour l'église par sa protectrice royale et ses sœurs : "... Un magnifique rideau qu'elle (la princesse Arzu-Khat'un) à tissée ... une couverture pour l'abside sainte, merveilleuse à regarder, (tissée) de laine de chèvre très fine, teinte de couleurs variées .. rappelant la sculpture, avec des représentations 'peintes' ... de Notre Sauveur et d'autre saints, qui étonnent les visiteurs. Et quiconque la voyait glorifiait Dieu d'avoir donné aux femmes la connaissance du tissage et le don de faire des portraits ... et non seulement a-t-elle tissé une tenture pour cette église mais pour d'autres comme celle d'Haghbat, Makara[vank'] et Dadi Vank'."[20]

          Les plus anciennes tentures de chœur arméniennes qui ont survécu datent du début du XVIIe siècle ; un petit rideau de 1613[21] àErzerum, deux tentures richement brodées fabriquées à Constantinople in 1619 et 1620, toutes deux du patriacat arménien de Jérusalem.[22] On a répertorié des rideaux de chœur arméniens provenant de la Roumanie jusqu'en Inde, dont plusieurs sont réalisés à partir d'étoffes chinoises. Toutes sortes de techniques furent utilisées : tissage, broderie, impression à la planche, peinture sur tissus, appliqué et appliqué de feutre. On utilisa aussi bien le doton, le lin et la soie.

          Most of the eighteenth century examples are rich in color and form and were produced in Madras, India, a major center of stamped fabrics, where Armenians were well established. These were made by stamping prepared cotton fabrics with carved wooden blocks. This technique was also known in Armenia and used in earlier centuries, but in the later times Madras seemed to control the market.[23] Though these large altar curtains had purely Armenian designs, often the life of St. Gregory or the conversion of Armenian to Christianity, with long Armenian inscriptional bands, they were probably manufactured by Indian workers after designs supplied by Armenian artists.[24]

          Among printed or painted altar curtains, other than those produced in Madras, several are of a particular splendor: a stamped curtain from Souchava in Romania dated 1663 with a central motif of the Crucifixion and an upper band devoted to the life of Christ (Etchmiadzin Treasury); two others on dark blue cloth, probably made in Tokat, dated 1756 and the late eighteenth century with the Crucifixion as the most important representation (Etchmiadzin Treasury); others from Karin-Erzerum, Tiflis, Lim at Lake Van (felt appliqué), Constantinople (mostly embroidered), and Europe. Armenian churchs everywhere still use the altar curtain, but few display any motifs, but are rather made of plain modern satin or velvet cloth, often gold in color, purchased as by the meter like house drapes.

Needlework: Embroidery and Lace

          Richly embroidered Armenian textiles have survived in much greater number than plain or printed fabrics. These embroideries are mostly church related: clerical robes and accessories, altar curtains, chalice covers, and miscellany. Among the vestments are miters, crowns, copes, stoles, collars, belts, sleeve bands, chasubles, and slippers. Major collections with pieces dating from the seventeenth to the twentieth centuries are kept in the monasteries of Etchmiadzin, Jerusalem, the Mekhitarists in Venice and Vienna, Bzoummar in Lebanon and other lesser centers. Rich figural designs on silk, velvet, satins and more modest materials are sewn in vivid colors, the most lavish employ gold and silver thread, pearls and other precious and semi-precious stones. The variety of designs and styles are as astounding as they are beautiful. The perfection of execution, the rendering of figures, garments and faces is as magnificent as the best embroidery work of any period and any nation.

Embroidery

          The earliest surviving embroidery is a large thirteenth century fragment from Ani showing confronted, asymmetrical lions, now in the Armenian State Historical Museum in Erevan.[25] The most famous embroidery is the ceremonial banner of 1448, still kept at Etchmiadzin, with full-length portraits of Gregory the Illuminator flanked by King Trdat and St. Hrip'simé, the major figures responsible for the Armenia conversion to Christianity on one side and, on the other, Christ enthroned with the symbols of the four Evangelists.[26]

          Among other outstanding embroideries one should note the following; the cope of 1601 in the State Historical Museum, Erevan, showing Christ enthroned with the Evangelists' symbols; a crown of 1651; a stole of 1736 and another on blue ground of 1685; a series of shirt collars in the form of short stoles dated 1734 all of embroidered silver and gold thread on a red ground, the most elaborate of which depicts the Last Supper on the back and John the Baptist, Gregory the Illuminator and St. Hakob on the front; embroidered altar cloths of 1613 from Karin-Erzerum with St. Gregory, of 1619 from Constantinople on a rich emerald colored ground with silver and gold thread showing the Virgin being presented with the martyred head of St. James (Hakob) with scenes from the Life of Christ in the borders (Jerusalem, Armenian Patriarchate), of 1620 from Constantinople with a monumental scene of the Last Supper bordered by Christological episodes (Jerusalem, Armenian Patriarchate), of 1704-1714 from Constantinople with Christ, the Apostles, St. Gregory and King Trdat, and of 1741 with St. Gregory's vision of Holy Etchmiadzin; the so-called eagle carpet of Catholicos Philippos dated 1651 using silver thread embroidery on silk; and the chalice cloth of 1688 with a central floral motif on a yellow ground with crosses and seraphim in the border. Except where noted, all the examples are in the Treasury at Holy Etchmiadzin.

          Embroidery was commonly used to decorate towels, bags, stockings, kerchiefs, table clothes and various textiles. Among the most famous was the work of Marash characterized by polychrome geometric and floral designs on dark or colored backgrounds. The stitching was done following various grid patterns, designs being built up from star, cross and braided motifs. This embroidery work, whether of the luxurious variety or the more modest type, was done in all Armenian families, often during the isolation of the cold winter months. Many of the richly decorated elements of clerical garb were votive offerings donated by the pious on pilgrimage.

          Two of best known regional embroidery types among the Armenians are named after the north Cilician (southeastern Anatolian) towns, which before the genocide had very dense Armenian populations: Marash and Aintab (today Gaziantep). Often monochromatic, Aintab embroidery was rather delicate used in the making of bed linens, tablecloths, curtains, baby outfits, towels, collars, blouses, aprons, lingerie, handkerchiefs, andpuses. The emroidery is executed on white or biege silk or very fine cotton with matching thread, It has no right or wrong side; most Armenian embroideries are double sided, both looking alike and pefectly finished. At the beginning of the process, threads are drawn out of the fabric both lengthwise and widthwise, making opengs that ouline part of the pattern to be embroidered. Open spaces are then stitched into cobweb motifs or embroidered by sophisticated needlelace stitches. traditional patters were geometric, often with crosses and eight pointed stars.[27]

          Marash embroidery is both more colorful and sturdy. The woven Marash stitch is also much more complicated and must be learned from an expert. It includes several types of stitches, which are woven on top of the fabric with only tiny ones going through to the back. The designs are either geometrical or floral, often in an overall pattern. Overlapping stitches are sometimes worked over four times. The design is outlined on a thick cloth of velvet, cotton, satin or wool either by a preliminary stitch or by a drawing with soap or sometimes by wooden block printing. The designs include stylied flowers, tree of life, crosses, birds, and stars.

Lace

          Armenian lace, called janyak or oya, is executed with a single needle and has an extremely ancient history. Its technique was known by all women and passed on from generation to generation. There are different styles and stitches from the various regions of Armenian; among the best known are the Aintab stitch, the Vaspurakan stitch, the Baghesh (Bitlis) stitch and the Kharpert stitch. The delicacy and intricacy of Armenian lace have long been recognized and in recent years specialized studies and exhibits have been devoted to it. Early laces of silk and gold thread or decorated with pearls and jewels were made into chalice covers, and cross and Gospel holders. Lace borders were also often added to embroidered articles. Scarves and kerchiefs were often fringed with a variety of miniature lace flowers.

          Few pre-nineteenth century laces have survived. The tradition, however, is very ancient in Armenia. Lace making in Europe was a craft that arrived in the late Middle Ages from Asia Minor. Many scholars believe that the origin of Venetian lace, one of the oldest and most developed lace making centers, should be sought in Armenia. Others suggest that the Crusaders brought back the lace and lacemaking tradition that they had learned from the Armenians.[28] The merchant cities of Italy were in close touch with Armenians during those centuries, so there was ample opportunity to import laces and the technique of making them.

          From the Armenian massacres of 1894-96 carried out by the Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid II resulting in the deaths of 200 to 300,000 Armenians and the genocide initated by the Young Turks in 1915, ethnically cleansing Western Armenia, American missionaries in Aintab and Marash and other cities sought ways of emplying the thousands of orphans and widows. Alice Riggs, the wife of he well known missionary Dr. Fred Shepard up the Aintab Cottage Industries making embroidery and lace for an active American market. Several thousand people were employed in Aintab and other Armenian towns in the area. In near by Urfa handkerchiefs became the specialty, while in other towns collar and cuff sets were crocheted.

Costumes

          The oldest existing Armenian costume is a rather plain thirteenth century child's dress found at Ani, but it is the unique piece we have until the seventeenth century. Liturgical garments are preserved from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, but almost no secular examples exist. Nineteenth century garments are, however, plentiful and from them scholars have been able to establish the daily as well as special costumes of Armenian men and women from every region of Armenia. This material has been published in special albums and exhibited in museums in Armenia and the diaspora. Our notion of earlier costumes of the ancient and medieval Armenian periods is based entirely on representations in Armenian art, especially manuscript illustrations, in which one finds hundreds of donor portraits of clergy, royalty and middleclass merchants.[29] Large numbers of Western engravings and drawings of Armenians with their apparel mostly taken from travel accounts have been collected in varius volumes.[30] In recent years various Armenian women's organization have recreated Armenian costumes using as their sources miniature paintings, engravings, and relief sculptures. These have been published in albums and have be displayed through special "fashion shows."[31]

          Armenian textile production including the craft of needlework and embroidery continue in the 21st century, though the skills are being lost in such diapsora communities as France and the United States, but more slowly in Near Eastern centers of Armenian population, Lebanon, Syria, and Iran. In Armenia itself, in the Moutainous Karabagh, in Javakheti, an Armenian region in the Georgian Republic, traditional crats are still practiced in the villages, often remote. In Armenia as elsewhere, there is a vast movement to record and perpetuate traditional arts as they are being replaced by industrial production.[32] This is particularly true for textiles, which for nearly two centuries has been threatened by mechanical and now electronic looms. The old one of a kind alces and embroidery rich in color and expression has given was to perfectly manufactured, but lifeless cloth.




[1] Ideas and data in the following test is liberally borrowed from Dickran Kouymjian, The Arts of Armenia (Accompanied by a Collection of 300 Slides in Color), Lisbon: Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, 1992, part VI, Textiles. The entire text and accompanying illustrations are available online at http://armenianstudies.csufresno.edu/arts_of_armenia/index.htm

[2] Most recently, Murray L. Eiland, Jr., editor, Passages. Celebrating Rites of Passage in Inscribed Armenian Rugs, San Francisco: Armenian Rugs Society, 2002.

[3] For a recent overview, Levon Abrahamian and Nancy Sweezy, editors, Armenian Folk Arts, Culture, and Identity, Bloomington and Indianapolis, 2001, chapter on "Needle Arts" by Anush Sharambeyan and on "Carpets" by Ashghunj Poghosyan.

[4] For the first time fifteenteen altar curtains were exhibited at the Musée des Tissus, Lyon with detailed discussion of their use in articles and notices by Marielle Martiniani-Reber, Georgette Cornu and Dickran Kouymjian, Ors et Trésors d'Arménie, catalogue of an exhibit, Lyon: Musée du Tissus et Musée de Fourvière, 2007. The catalogue and the exhibit also featured dozens of embroidered liturgical vestments; see in addition the Musée du Louvre exhibition catalogue Armenia sacra. Mémoire chrétienne des Arméniens (IVe-XVIIIe siècle), sous la direction de Jannic Durand, Ioanna Rapti, Dorota Giovannoni, Paris : Somogy, 2007, which included many liturgical textiles.

[5] Ulrich Schurmann, The Pazyryk, Its Use and Origin, New york: Armenians rugs Society, 1982; voir aussi R. H. Kévorkian et Berdj Achdjian, Tapis et textiles arméniens, Marseille, 1991, pp. 19-21, et Volkmar Gantzhorn, The Christian Oriental Carpet, Cologne, 1990, German, French, and English editions, pp. 48-53.

[6] Details in Ghazaryan, Armenian Carpet (text in English and Armenian) Erevan, 1988, p. v ; Abrahamyan and Sweezy, Armenian Folk Arts, p. 150; Kévorkian et Achdjian, Tapis et textiles arméniens, p. 22.

[7] Kévorkian et Achdjian, Tapis et textiles arméniens, p. 21.

[8] Discussion and illustrations of the most famous in Ghazaryan, Armenian Carpet, pp. vi-vii, and Gantzhorn, The Christian Oriental Carpet, pp. 100-125.

[9] Armenag Sarkisian, "Les tapis à dragon et leur origine arménienne", Syria, vol. IX (1928), pp. 238-256; Richard Ettinghuasen, "Kali", Supplément de l'Encyclopédia de l'Islam, 1938, p. 115; Murray L. Eiland, "Handwoven Rugs of the Armenians", in Lucy Der Manuelian and M. L. Eiland, Weavers, Merchants and Kings: The Inscribed Ruges of Armenia, Fort Worth: Kimbell Art Museum, 1984, pp. 54-59.

[10] Der Manuelian and Eiland, passim; Dickran Kouymjian, "Les tapis à inscriptions arméniennes," in Kévorkian et Achdjian, Tapis et textiles arméniens, pp. 247-253.

[11] Murray Eiland, "Handwoven Rugs of the Armenians," p. 52

[12] Dickran Kouymjian, notice "Tapis dit de Gouhar," in Claude Mutafian, directeur de publication, L'Arménie : la magie de l'écrit, catalogue of an exposition April-June 2007, La Vielle Charité, Marseille, Paris: Somogy, 2007; voir aussi, Kouymjian, Arts of Armenia, no. 222.

[13] F. R. Martin, History of Oriental Carpets before 1800, Vienne, 1908, pp. 40-42.

[14] H. Jacoby, Eine Sammlung orientalischer Teppiche, Berlin, 1923, pp. 39-43; A. U. Pope, "The Myth of the Armenian Dragon Carpets", Jahrbuch der asiatischen Kunst, II, Leipzig (1926), p.147-158

[15] Der Manuelian and Eiland, Inscribed Rugs of Armenia, pp. 184-87, nos. 59-60; Kévorkian et Achdjian, Tapis et textiles arméiens, pp. 60-62, nos. 43, 45.

[16] George F. Farrow, Hagop Kapoudjian, London, 1993.

[17] Arto Keshishian and Duncan R. Miller, Kum Kapi Silk Rugs, Zareh Penyamine 1890-1949, London, 1985.

[18] Kouymjian, Arts of Armenia, p. 58, figs. 245-47; and now Dickran Kouymjian, "L'art des tentures de chœur arméniennes", pp. 30-35, Marielle Martiniani-Reber, "Les rideaux de chœur," pp. 37-41, Martiniani-Reber 'Fonctions et symboles dans la liturgie arménienne," pp. 42-46, in Ors et Trésors d'Arménie, Lyon, 2007.

[19] Sirapie Der Nersessian, "Un apologie des images de septième siècle", Études Byzantines et arméniennes, Louvian, 1973, p. 380

[20] Der Manuelian and Eiland, The Inscribed Rugs of Armenia, p. 20, quoting Kirakos Gandzakec'i, History, edition arménienne, Erevan, 1961, p. 268; cf. Dickran Kouymjian, "L'art des tentures de chœur arméniennes", Ors et Trésors d'Arménie, 2007, pp. 32-3.

[21] Treasures of Etchmiadzin, Etchmiadzin, 1984, unnumbered pages, reproduction; the date of 1713 given in Kévorkian and Achdjian, Tapis et textiles arméniens, p. 118, no. 107, is a typographical error.

[22] Bezalel Narkiss, Michael Stone, and Avedis Sanjian, Armenian Art Treasures of Jerusalem, Jérusalem, 1979, pls. 179 and 180 ; cf. Kouymjian, "L'art des tentures de chœur arméniennes", p. 33.

[23] Marie-Hélène Guelton, "De l'Inde à l'Arménie : la fabrication des rideaux de chœur peints et imprimés", Ors et Trésor de l'Arménie, pp. 48-61.

[24] Illustrated in Treasures of Etchmiadzin; Kouymjian, Arts of Armenia, nos. 46-7 ; Durand et al, Armenia Sacra, no. 210, pp. 449-51 (notice by Martiniani-Reber) ; Ors et Trésors de l'Arménie, no. 11. Martiniani-Reber, Armenia Sacra, attributes the iconography to an engraving of 1786 executed in Rome, but an earlier and more convincing Italian engraving of 1628 may be the ultimate source of this iconography, for which see Encyclopédie de l'Arménie chrétienne (in Armenian), Erevan, 2002, pl. 4.3, fig. 1; cf. Ors et Trésors, p. 71, note 12.

[25] Kouymjian, Arts of Armenia, illus. no. 249, voir http://armenianstudies.csufresno.edu/arts_of_armenia/highres/249.jpg.

[26] Kouymjian, Arts of Armenia, no. 250, http://armenianstudies.csufresno.edu/arts_of_armenia/highres/250.jpg; Durand et el, Armenia sacra. Mémoire chrétienne des Arméniens (IVe-XVIIIe siècle), , no. 157, pp. 364-5

[27] Technical details have been gathered from Alice Odian Kasparian, Armenian Needlelace and Embroidery, forward by Dickran Kouymjian, McLean, Virginia, 1983, pp. 80-1; through illustrations the book shows the step-by-step method of executing various types of Armenian embroidery and lace. More recently, Anush Sharambeyan, "Needle Arts", in Abrahamian and Sweezy, Armenian Folk Arts, pp. 165-67.

[28] Odian Kasparian, Armenian Needlelace and Embroidery, pp. 25-7.

[29] Astghik Guevorkian, Miniature arménienne : Portrait (en arm., fran., russ.), Erevan, 1982.

[30] Sarkis Boghossian, Iconographie arménienne, Armenian Iconography, 2 vols., Paris, 1987, 1998; see also the following earlier work Patrik A. Badrig, Armenian Costumes from Ancient Times to the Present (in Armenian), Erevan, 1967; and now the chapter "Costume" by Svetlana Poghosyan in Abrahamian and Sweezy, Armenian Folk Arts, pp. 177-193.

[31] The Costumes of Armenian Women, Hai Guin Society, Teheran, no date (1976); Armenian Costumes through the Centuries, Armenian Relief Society, Fresno, no date (1985), text in Armenian, English and French.

[32] This was the major motive or inspiration of Nancy Sweezy and her photographer son Sam in preparing and publishing the wonderfully illustrated compendium, Armenian Folk Arts.


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