Under the General Editorship of Academican of the Academy of Scinencesmof Azerbaijan Republic P.A.Azizbekova
The Museum of History of Azerbaijan under the Academy of Sciences of Azerbaijan SSR is a prominent scientific and educational institution popularizing the centuries-old history of the Azerbaijanian people. The Museum’s vast collections give it a leading place among Soviet museums.
In 1957 there was established in the Museum of History of Azerbaijan a fund of precious metals comprising nearly 500 objects, the work of the most talented jewelers dating from the XI century B.C. to our times. The collection consists chiefly of national women’s and men’s jewelry of gold and silver, and different objects of every-day use (caskets, decanters, trays, etc.) made of silver. In those far-off times the Azerbaijanian jewelers already cmployed stamping. chasing, granulation and other metalworking technology.
In the millenia of its existence the art of Azerbaijanian jewelry-making traversed a long road from the simplest techniques to the most sophisticated methods of workmanship.
The numerous ornaments and objects of precious metals dating from the 11th century B.C. to the 12th century A.D. testify to the high level of Azerbaijanian material culture. The analysis of the discovered items shows the mastership of the ancient jewelers and the successive character of this art: many of these ornaments “survived” till our time, having preserved their form fully or in different elements which had partially lost their initial significance.
Most of the items preserved in the museum date to the 19th century. At the time the chief centres of jewelry-making in Azerbaijan were Baku, Gyandzha (present Kirovabad). Shemaha, Shusha, Sheki and Nakhichevan and the main types of jewelry work were stamping, chasing, wire-drawing, granulation and enamel work, all of which are represented in the museum pieces.
Among the most popular jewelry-making techniques of the 19th century was stamp-chasing, which fell into three types: poincon. flat and repousse.
Stamping was used to produce ornaments for garments, bracelets, head and neck pieces, sections of certain men’s belts, etc.
Stamped plates with a poincon or floral ornament were sewn onto women’s, especially bridal, clothes. The form of these plates varies from round, square and rectangular to those stamped in the shape of petals, fishes, flowers, etc. Such plates were also widely used to decorate different objects of every-day use. like watch-covers, combs, the Koran and the holy seal.
The museum contains a rare collection of women’s ornaments. The extensive number of multi-tiered necklaces and pectoral ornaments are made up of stamped details having the shape of flowers, petals, crescents and stars joined by rings. This type of neck and pectoral ornaments is typical of the Nakhichevan-Ordubad historical and ethnographic zone in our times.
Stamping is employed in producing multi-tiered head-dresses made up of narrow rectangular plates soldered together, with almond-shaped pendants having suspended leaf ornaments. Tiny pearls arc also suspended between the pendants on fine twisted wire.
In present-day Azerbaijan there are still quite popular hollow gold beads, round (“pil”) and oval (“ar-pa” – barley seed). Stamped beads of the “arpa” type arc covered with a poincon and linear ornament. They were worn separately or in combination with different stamped and engraved pendants.
Of the pectoral ornaments sewn onto women’s outer garments, highly popular in the 19th century-were large-sized stamped hollow buttons having the shape of a flower-bud – “ghoza duimya” or “katibi duimya”. Another type of button, “gushpara duimya”, had the shape of a bell with pendants in the form of leaves surrounding a corral bead.
Among items obtained by the stamping technique highly interesting are hollow earrings in the form of “bud” (closed flower-bud) which was widespread in the Orient, with a diamond inset and pearl pendants; and bracelets made of two soldered bands with a poincon ornament, whose separate elements were strung on a string.
The museum presents a large collection of filigree work, a technique in which Azerbaijanian jewelers attained superb mastery. They produced filigree works of three types: flat, imposed and superimposed, which was often combined with granulation – tiny gold balls soldered onto the filigree ornament.
Filigree items arc extremely diverse in form, boasting a multitude of details and a complex composition. Details were added in the form of medallions, multipctalcd flowers (solar symbol), fishes, stars, leaves and crescents, “buta”, concshaped protrusions – “gubbe”. The elements of filigree items (fishes, solar symbol, etc.) which had once
served as amulets, talismans and charms, gradually lost their initial meaning and have reached our times as decorative elements of ornamental jewelry.
The items were also ornamented with gems and semi-precious stones set in a raised cast – “juva”. The most popular gems were the ruby, emerald and turquoise, although coloured minerals were also used.
Filigree neck and pectoral ornaments usually had many tiers. The collection has several unique multi-tiered articles of this type known as “bogazalty”.
“Bogazalty” is made up of trapezoid medallions with pendants in the shape of fishes and almonds. The eight-petaled flower suspended from the central medallion holds in its turn a crescent and the solar symbol. The crescent also suspends almond-shaped pendants in the shape of fishes. All the elements are joined by rings and a fine wire strung with tiny pearls.
Filigree work was employed in making gold women’s buckles and belts. These belts were made of several rectangular plates covered with filigree work and joined by pins. The figured buckle was also ornamented with filigree.
The museum has a rich collection of filigree earrings and bracelets. In Azerbaijan it was very popular to wear twin filigree bracelets in the shape of flowers,”gul golbag”. and “pakhlava golbag”, consisting of diamond-shaped elements joined by rings, with three filigree pendants suspended on a chain. Filigree bracelets were also made of two rectangular elements joined by a locking pin with three filigree pendants. Such bracelets were often decorated with imposed flowers.
Highly popular were three-tiered earrings, “shar syrga”, incorporating a crescent with a flower in the centre, from wich another flower was suspended, and from this detail there was suspended a filigree ball. All the elements are hung with tiny pearls. Another type of filigree earrings – “badamy syrga” (almond-shaped), consists of a flower hung with an almond-shaped clement. Tiny pearls arc also an integral part of the decor.
Still another type of earrings is the “uch duimya” (three buttons), made up of a hoop with a filigree-and-granulation element in its lower part hung with three or four lily-shaped pendants.
Among the head ornaments attention is drawn to the collection of filigree diadems – “chutgugabagy”. usually consisting of three parts linked by pins. An indicative feature of this collection is that each of the diadems has its own distinctive shape and ornament.
In the 19th century painted enamel held a prominent place among Azerbaijan jewelry with its centre in Baku. Ciold jewelry was usually coated with red, blue and green enamel with hues ranging from the light to the darkest. The background was chiefly of white enamel and the ornament exclusively floral.
The “piala-zeng”, “irani” and “shar” earrings arc coated with painted enamel.
“Piala-zeng”is made up of two different-sized bells hung one under the other, with stamped pendants in the form of leaves and liny pearls strung on a twisted wire.
The “irani” earrings comprise a hoop with a gold plate attached to its lower part and coated with painted enamel.
The enamel “shar” earrings consist of an eight-petaled flower coated with enamel of a single colour, with pearl pendants. A gold ball also coated with painted enamel is suspended from the flower.
The museum’s collection displays a gold pendant of unique workmanship covered with painted enamel. Virtuoso technique had been used to incorporate elements typical of filigree ornamentation in this type of work. The pendant represents an eight-petaled flower with suspended pearls. The jeweler had trimmed each petal with a cone-shaped projection topped by a gem.
19th century jewelry was made of gold and silver. Silver jewelry is identical to that of gold in terms of form and technique. The silver items, depending on their purpose, were gilded or engraved and covered with niello.
The large collection of plate belts of the general Caucasian type is made up of stamped niello elements strung on a narrow leather belt, and a buckle, also covered with niello. Their distinctive feature is the diversity of their ornamentation and the shape of their buckles.
In the collection of leather belts decorated with large silver buckles and silver coins each buckle is a unique work of its own. Most of the buckles arc ornamented with semiprecious stones.
The centuries’ old traditions of Azerbaijan jcwelrymaking are transmitted from generation to generation, displaying an ever more perfect technique and becoming imbibed with a new content, seeking eternal perfection in their everlasting development.
The object of this catalogue is to popularize the cultural wealth of the Azerbaijanian people as it is presented in the Section of Precious Metals at the Museum of History of Azerbaijan.
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