RUGS FROM CHIPROVTZI

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Carpet-weaving in the Bulgarian lands was brought along from the East together with its typical Anatolian and Caucasian ornaments. In the period of the Bulgarian Revival (18-19th cc) it developed into an intensively growing trade that had its markets all over the lands of the Ottoman Empire. Rugs were fabricated using the flat (double-faced) weaving technique. Their production was concentrated mainly in Chiprovtzi and Samokov, in Pirot (Western Bulgaria) and Kotel (Eastern Bulgaria). It was in these particular locations that the two most typical patterns of Bulgarian carpets developed. The ornamental and composition variety of the motifs of the rugs from Chiprovtzi contrasted with the austere geometric design of the Kotel carpets.

Chiprovtzi  is a small town situated in the Northwest of Bulgaria. Its history, like that of most of the Bulgarian settlements, dates back to the preliterate epoch. Since then ore-mining and iron extraction have become the main occupations in this neighbourhood. Working silver and gold also flourished in these parts. There was a local ceramics school. Minted were coins.

Chiprovtzi is famous for its rug industry. There is no evidence so far of carpet-weaving before the 17th century, but the perfection of the design, composition and colour schemes of the oldest rugs is indicative of an earlier tradition. From Chiprovtzi the carpet industry spread to the near by villages, where women have been engaged in rug-weaving for centuries ever since. It is typical of the rug industry in these quarters that, more or less, production has always been market-oriented. This contributed to the fame of the Chiprovtzi rugs  - both in Bulgaria, and on the Asian and Central European markets.

The design of earlier Chiprovtzi rugs is of ancient origin. It is geometrically styled. -  composed of triangles, rhombi and other geometric figures that the flat carpet texture allowed to be loomed. Under the influence of the higher market demands, in the decoration of the 19th century carpets there appeared beautiful stylised flowers, plants, bird and animal figures, all arranged in perfect compositions. The colour harmony of the Chiprovtzi rugs is based on the juxtaposition of warm and cold colours. The prevailing shades are beige, brown, olive-green, light and dark blue, scarlet and crimson. The blue and black colours came later only as accents. The whole range of nuances was obtained by applying vegetable pigment dyes prepared by the Chiprovtzi women themselves. To build up the fabric of the carpet they used to choose a single, predominant tone, adding the rest of the hues only to make the composition look finer, while relying on their own faultless feeling for the balance and harmony of colours.

After the Liberation (1878), the changed way of life of the urban population and the rivalry of imported rugs gave an impetus to the application of richer colour schemes and more varied decorative motifs in the Chiprovtzi rugs. They won gold medals from the expositions in Anvers, Brussels, Liege, London, and became part of the collections of most of the European museums. Carpets from Chiprovtzi were sold in Paris, London, Vienna, Berlin, Rome, Milan, New York, Los Angeles...

These rugs are hand-woven - it has always been like that, up to the present day. Moreover, they have ever been fabricated in Chiprovtzi and its neighbouring villages alone.

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To compile this text we have used as reference the publication of the National Institute of Ethnography at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, Sofia, 1994, Traditional Bulgarian Costumes and Folk Art, and materials from The History Museum in the town of Chiprovtzi.



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