Apigian-Kessel: The Pazyryk Rug
It was just the four of us experiencing another serene and pleasant late November afternoon sharing friendship, refreshments, and cordial conversation. Expansive glass windows offered views of a beautifully landscaped garden that made you feel at total peace with the world.
Our hosts were Sara and Edgar Hagopian in their lovely contemporary home nestled on a private, nature-filled property in Bloomfield Hills, where deer, fox, black squirrels, birds, and other gifts of nature have found a safe sanctuary, romping freely to the delight of owners and visitors alike. It’s their paradise. As on other occasions, a doe safely wanders into the yard adding to our pleasure.
Soon the man who built a dynasty in the Oriental and broadloom rug industry proved his mettle in a manner that a seasoned boy scout would envy. The logs Edgar Hagopian placed in the fireplace took on a roaring blaze filling the room with bright light and warmth.
Sara refilled our teacups as we sat around a beautiful antique Chinese coffee table telling us of their early years, she coming originally from New York and he from Detroit.
Soon she brought out a book titled The Pazyryk Rug Its Use and Origin, which came to fruition from a paper written by Ulrich Schurmann, read during the Symposium of the Armenian Rugs Society on Sept. 26, 1982 in New York. It was a fascinating topic totally unfamiliar to me.
Little did I know the book would become a gift to my husband Bob and I, something we will treasure for the magnificent history it represents and more so for those that gave it to us, Sara and Edgar Hagopian.
It is safe to say that no one exceeds this husband and wife team of over 50 years when it comes to possessing pride and dedication to their Armenian ethnic origin. That is why the Pazyryk book holds so much significance.
Picture an ice grave in the Altai Mountains of Russia, where it is said the multitude of burial mounds evolved over the centuries from Scythians in the Pazyryk valley. Grave robbers opened the gravesite soon after burial, leaving a hole. Water entered and quickly turned to ice thereby preserving the contents in pristine condition.
Among the perfectly preserved items found buried by archaeologist Sergei Rudenko in 1949 was a 2,500-year-old carpet knotted in such fineness of weave and imagination of design that the idea that the best carpets came to us beginning in the 16th century was quickly discarded.
Remember, this timeline is from the fifth century before Christ and is the oldest known rug in existence.
The rug is presently in the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia. It measures 6’ x 6’7 and was knotted with 278 knots per square inch, using hand-carded and hand-spun wool.
The book’s author is emphatic in explaining that the rug “is not nomadic or peasant, but of a highly sophisticated extraordinary piece of art.” Further, “Turkomen tribes would never have the imagination to invent such a carpet design nor to use the small but important nuances.” He says that hundreds of years of development had passed before such a rug of such outstanding design could be produced.
The rug consists of an inner field and a number of borders, with horizontal and vertical rows. The field color is red. (Edgar used the word “madder,” which is a Eurasian herb. The root of the Eurasian madder was used in dying, and produced a moderate to strong red.)
Bucks, griffins, leaves, flowers, and riders are part of the design motif. The Scythians were excellent horsemen, and horses appear prominently on the Pazyryk rug representing power, nobility, and valor.
It is believed the rug was part of the funeral and ceremonial object for Scythian royalty because bucks and griffins were mystical expressions of life passing over to death.
Now comes the interesting part: The author says that after the Kingdom of Urartu dissolved around 590 B.C., the various existing tribes mixed with Scythians, from which emerged the nation of the Armenians.
In 1971, 2,000 bronze plaques were discovered in the area surrounding Lake Van, leading to the conclusion that because of the beauty of these pieces the Pazyryk could only have been made in this same area.
Ulrich Schurmann is convinced that the Pazyryk rug was a funeral accessory and most likely a masterpiece of Armenian workmanship.
Lengthy research, including comparisons of the artistic development of various ethnic groups and cultures of the time, and the author’s conclusion can only add to our immense gratitude to him.
How proud I am to possess this book and with it the knowledge of the creative beauty of the Armenians from as far back as hundreds of years before Christ. Wear this knowledge with pride, knowing that you and I share the blood of these artistic people.
Thank you, Sara and Edgar Hagopian, for your friendship and this very important gift to me, which I share here it with my readers. That is Armenian pride to the fullest extent.