Two different embroidery techniques were employed in Caucasian and Azerbijan embroideries, the cross-stitch and a diagonal long stitch; ours uses the latter (Jennifer Wearden, "A Synthesis of Contrasts", Hali, vol.59, pp.102-111). Due to the nature of cross-stitch, the designs using that method often followed a geometric pattern of angular form, (Christie's, London, Battilossi Tappeti d'antiquariato, 11 February 1998, lot 81). With long-stitch however, softer and more fluid forms can be created as seen in the naturalistic representation of the birds, animals and flowers in this rug. The same fluidity can be seen in an early 18th century example in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, (inv. no.192-1989).
Wearden discusses the various techniques how the designs were transferred and employed. Often the design was imprinted onto the cotton foundation with the aid of a resin or non-fast dye but here the use of a black and white checked ground has been used. This particular ground material is not discussed by Wearden and can only be found in a small number of other published examples (E. Heinrich Kirchheim et al., Orient Stars, A Carpet Collection, Stuttgart and London, 1993, pp. 68-69, pl.42; Ulrich Schurmann, Caucasian Rugs, Braunschweig, 1961, pp.350-1, pl.138, and one sold recently in these Rooms, 6 April 2006, lot 107). It would seem likely that the reasoning behind this was to serve as an alternative source of guidance. The weaver frequently worked from a squared chart upon which the design was drawn, against which they would have been able to match their work.
This prayer panel is one of those with the most curvilinear designs of very clear Safavid inspiration if not actual instruction. Wearden publishes three examples whose designs very clearly derive from Safavid textiles (op.cit, pls. 8, 9, ands 10). She dates those to the first quarter of the eighteenth century, although without giving strong rationale. Our panel, both in terms of drawing and in terms of the iconography, is one stage further removed from the high period Safavid textile designs than those. In style it certainly differs from most of the others woven in the technique, although it has features that it shares with them, particularly the example sold in these Rooms. The drawing and in particular the proportions of the prayer arch are however very close to those of cuerda seca tile panels in Julfa, notably those in the Church of St. George, dating from 1619 (John Carswell, New Julfa - The Armenian Churches and other Buildings, Oxford, 1968, pl.20). The Church of the Holy Mother of God dated to 1613 also contains tile panels containing vases springing from cusped arabesques, and flanked by a variety of animal combat groups as well as floral sprays (John Carswell, op.cit, pl.26). The present embroidery appears to have been made very much following the same style, although how long it took these designs to filter through to the Caucasus is hard to say.