Rug or runner, wool / cotton, Kuba region, northern Caucasus, 1850-1860
The botanical theme of this yellow-ground runner from Kuba is typical of many rugs from the northern Caucasus, as is the border of sharp rosettes with four leaves on either side. The abundant use of yellow in the field is unusual and probably reflects the local availability of good fast yellow dyes. With their high knot density, rugs from Kuba are considered by many to be the finest of the Caucasian weaves. As is characteristic of rugs from Kuba or the surrounding area, the warps and wefts are of wool, with cotton side cords, and a symmetrically-knotted wool pile.
The term 'Kuba' refers to both the town and the surrounding district, both of which have a long tradition of carpet weaving. The area includes numerous small villages, many of which give their names to their rugs. The large number of designs borrowed and adapted within the area has made the sourcing of carpets to particular villages problematic. The design of this Kuba runner, for example, strongly resembles that of some Shirvan prayer rugs which were formerly ascribed to Daghestan.
The runner belongs to a collection of five rugs and three nomadic trappings 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, Principal Curator Design & Society
The botanical theme of the design is typical of many rugs from the northern Caucasus, as is the border of sharp rosettes with four leaves on either side. The abundant use of yellow in the field is unusual and probably reflects the local availability of good fast yellow dyes.
Typically for a rug from the town of Kuba or surrounding area, the warps and wefts of this example are of wool, with cotton side cords, and the pile is symmetrically knotted. Rugs from Kuba, which have a high knot density, are considered by many to be the finest of the Caucasian weaves. Kuba rugs are easily identifiable by their rigid feel, due to the practice of substantially depressing alternate warps. Because of the almost exclusive use of wool, they are usually quite heavy.
This rug has been in the collection of the donor, Dr George Soutter, for over 10 years and is part of a collection given to the Powerhouse Museum by Dr Soutter to acknowledge the achievements of the Oriental Rug Society of NSW (ORS), an affiliated society of the Museum, to emphasise the significance of the Museum's rug collection and to encourage its growth.
The runner was exhibited in 'Flowers of the loom', an exhibition curated by the Oriental Rug Society of NSW at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney in 1990. The rug is published in the accompanying catalogue of the same name on page 15. In March 2010, the runner was installed in a Level 1 Circulation location alongside the recently purchased 2009/64/1, a Khamseh chicken rug, sponsored by the ORS.