This fine Afshan rug is from the Shirvan district in the Kuba region of the northern Caucasus. The term 'Afshan' refers to a particular design which is derived from Persian and Indian floral and arabesque sources of the 1600s and 1700s, rather than a group of people or a geographical area. The Afshan pattern was a favourite of workshop weavers in the northern Caucasus in the 1700s, when carpets of this size were probably made on commission for palaces and other wealthy households.
Carpet weaving in the Caucasus has a long history, the earliest known group being the so called 'dragon' rugs which date back to the 17th century. The Afshan design is related in structure and colour to dragon rugs, and is in turn an obvious design source for many later Shirvan rugs. Caucasian weavers continued to produce rugs with this complex and popular pattern throughout most of the 1800s; they sit within the broader category of Shirvan rugs.
The rug belongs to a collection of five rugs and three nomadic trappings, carefully selected by the donor as representative of the main carpet making regions of Asia, from Turkey in the west, across Iran (Persia) and into Central Asia. The collection includes floor coverings and tent partitions, horse decorations and saddle bags, thus documenting different types of rugs and trappings as well as highlighting their varying functions.
Christina Sumner, Curator, Decorative Arts & Design