Azerbaijan art is known in many spheres of art and has made a generous contribution to world culture. Undoubtedly, metalwork also plays its role among these kinds of art. Ancient ore and mining remains discovered on the territory of Azerbaijan prove that as far back as the era of the late Stone Age rich deposits of iron ore were extracted there by hand and simple drilling. Metal artworks from Nakhchivan, Mingachevir, Gadabey, Qadabay, Qazakh, Ganja and other places have been found dating back 5000 years.
One of the important stages of metalwork development came when copper was discovered, because this enabled people to make various tools that they could use in farming. Several big cities in the Middle Ages became copper manufacturing centres and copper manufacture itself started to also become an art.
A number of travellers and historians have written about the rich metal deposits of Azerbaijan and their use. One of them was Albanian historian, Moisey Kalankatuyski, who lived in the seventh century. He wrote: “In the mountains of this beautiful country are extracted gold, silver, copper and yellow paint…” In 1474 Venetian traveller, Kontarini, stayed at the palace of the ruler of the Aghqoyunlu state in Uzun Khasan and noted that everyday about 400 people in the palace of governor were served a meal on copper tableware of various types.
At the beginning of nineteenth and twentieth centuries copper tableware, made by Azerbaijani craftsmen, was often exhibited and remarked upon by appreciative audiences. In particular the craft was seen at both the 1850 exhibition, “Works of
The Trans-Caucasian land”, and the 1873 “World-wide Vienna” exhibition.
Copper-smiths often engraved their signatures and dates according to the Moslem (Hijri) and Christian calendars, as well as lines from the literary works of great poets Sadi, Hafiz, Nizami and other classics, religious words, prayers, names of imams and edifying words. They each made their mark on history as unique pearls of Azerbaijan culture preserved nowadays in world museums. Such types of things can easily be seen among the exhibits at the Azerbaijan National Museum of Art.
Throughout the history of Azerbaijan many have devoted themselves to copper work. There are more than 40 types of handmade copper works, including dinnerware, tableware, water jars, milk jugs and home things. Since ancient times the main copper production centres were Ganja, Nakhchivan, Shamakhi, Baku, Ardabil, Tabriz and Lahij. From the nineteenth century Lahij became the main copper production centre, made by craftsmen who decorated their work with complicated and delicate patterns. Articles made in Lahij were considered to be leading examples of the quality of work among the central cities of that period. In the eighteenth century in Azerbaijan the metal was decorated using 5 technical methods: smithery, engraving, molding, tracery and enamel.
Recently the Lahij craftsmen received the news that “Lahij copper production art” had been included into the list of representatives of non-material cultural heritage by UNESCO, which underlies the significance of this type of art in the region.
Deputy Director for scientific work, Dr. Khadıja Asadova