Georgian Documents

The Georgian historical documents preserved in Georgian depositories of antiquities over a long time reflected the social-political and cultural changes of the historical course of Georgia and its neighboring countries. Conformably to these relations, at various stages of history, in parallel to Georgian documents in local jurisdiction both bilingual and Greek, Persian, Arabic, Ottoman and Russian documents become established.

In the Byzantine and post-Byzantine period, the content, structure and appearance of artistic design reflected the Christian Orthodox diplomatic and cultural trends. The outward appearance of a Georgian document of the 11th-13th centuries was determined by the material, form, calligraphy and decorative signatures. The illumination of Georgian documents with miniatures began from the 14th-15th centuries, being linked to their design with portraits of historical figures and Christian subjects. Following The fall of Byzantium and Islamic encirclement of the South Caucasus, this tradition preserved the original and independent appearance of Georgian documents in a different political and cultural setting, distinguishing them from principles of the artistic design of Islamic documents.

Among the important documents of the 14th to the early 19th century Georgian sigelions adorned with portrait images of local kings, catholicos-patriarchs, church and secular figures stand out. On blood money and donation deeds of the 14th-16th centuries the following persons are depicted: Giorgi VIII, the last king of united Georgia (king of Georgia, 1446-66; king of Kakheti, 1466-76), the kings of Imereti: Aleksandre II (1484-1510) and Bagrat III (1510-65), the eristavi of Ksani Shalva Kvenipneveli (1470), the eristavi Vameq Shaburishvili and his spouse Dulardukht (1494), catholicos-Patriarch Doroteos III (1584-95). The acts of donations and grants issued by the kings of Kartli, Kakheti, Imereti and ecclesiastics, dating from the 17th – early 19th century are especially distinguished for multiplicity of donors images; these are represented by: the row of the kings of Kakheti  –  Levan (1518-74), Aleksandre II (1574-1605), Prince Davit (I, king of Kakheti, 1601-1602), Teimuraz I (Kakheti, 1606-48; Kartli and Kakheti, 1625-32), Prince Teimuraz (II, ruler of Kakheti, 1709-1715; King 1733-44; king of Kartli, 1744-62), Davit II Imamquli-Khan (viceroy of Khakheti, 1703-09; king, 1709-1722), Erekle I Nazarali-Khan (king of Kartli, 1688-1703), Konstantine II Mahmadquli-Khan (king of Kakheti, 1722-32), Archil II (king of Kakheti, 1664-75; king of Imereti, 1661-63, 1678-79, 1690-91, 1695-96), Catholicos-Patriarch Domenti III (1660-75), Shahnavaz-Khan (viceroy of Khaketi, 1713-23) Prince Giorgi (1712), Russia’s Emperor Peter I the Great and Empress Catherine I (1725), Giorgi XII (king of Kartli and Kakheti, 1728-1800), Solomon II (king of Imereti, 1789-1810).

In the 16th-18th centuries, in conditions of the incorporation of separate regions of Georgia by Safavid Iran and Ottoman Turkey, the impact of Islamic culture, prevalent in everyday life and all spheres of culture was reflected both in Georgian secular manuscripts and documents – in design of Georgian and Georgian-Persian legal documents imbued with Iranian impacts.

From the 18th century, conformably to the new political situation – Georgia’s incorporation in the Russian Empire, Georgian art came into the area of influence of West European and Russian culture; the character of artistic design of Georgian documents also changed. In this period documents adorned with geometric, floral, anthropomorphic and zoomorphic motifs, embellished with initials, as well as heraldic images, corresponding to European and Russian miniature, became widespread.