Prayer rug with a row of niches
Sultanahmet, Istanbul, Turkey
Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts
Hegira 9th century / AD 15th century
Wool on wool, woven with the Turkish double knot also known as the Gördes knot.
430 cm x 133 cm
Central Anatolia (possibly Konya), Turkey.
This is one of three 'row' carpets of an early date in the collection of the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts which have survived from the 9th / 15th century to the present day. The composition has been organised into mihrab niches which provide a distinct space for worshippers in the mosque to pray in well-defined rows. It has survived as a fragment; the original dimensions of the complete rug are not known. The ground is white (cream). Within the sections outlined by dark-blue borders are five mihrab niches, two of them green and three dark-blue. The influence of the monumental kufic borders of AH 7th- / AD 13th-century Konya rugs of the Anatolian Seljuq period can be seen in the design of the rug's mihrabs. Each of the mihrab niches are crowned with a stylised ram's-head motif, while their corners have corner-pieces with dark-blue chequer patterns and red 'stalactites' hanging off them. In each mihrab there are three mosque-lamp motifs, one in the centre and two at the sides, hanging downwards. Four of the mihrab niches have diamond-motifs in their lower section, ornamented with motifs like arrowheads pointing in four directions. In contrast, the central niche has a diamond-motif in its lower section which is plain, as if the element of symmetry is meant to show the centre of the prayer rug.
The pattern reminiscent of a double ram's-head in blue on a red ground, while it makes up the main border, is at the same time used to separate the rows from each other.
The motifs on the narrow yellow-ground border which surrounds the main border resemble a chain of plaited yellow and blue rosettes. The geometric motifs carry on Seljuq tradition, especially their arrowhead-like corners which resemble kufic script. These, as well as the mosque-lamp and eight-pointed star motifs, prepare the way for the transition to Ottoman prayer rugs.
The earliest Ottoman prayer rugs with multiple niches are dated to the AH 9th / AD 15th century. They were produced for use in the mosque to help the congregation to pray in straight lines. The prayer rugs (seccade) of this period with their geometric compositions and kufic borders are a transition to classical Ottoman prayer rugs.
Chemical analysis carried out on the original dyes used for this rug, together with analysis of the motifs and composition, point to a date of production in the 9th / 15th century.
The rug was transferred from the Sheikh Baba Yusuf Mosque in 1911 as a result of a countrywide initiative to collect up artworks in order to prevent theft and plunder. The aforementioned mosque was built in 903 / 1498 in Sivrihisar, one of the first large sites settled by the Turcomans (Türkmen). Sheikh Baba Yusuf (d. 918 / 1512) was a religious scholar descended from Haci Bayram Veli (753–834 / 1352–1430), founder of the Bayramiyya branch of Sufism.
Rug-making is not widespread in the Eskişehir-Sivrihisar region. Moreover, in this period Konya was the most important centre for rug production, and since this example continues the Seljuq tradition, it is thought that it was woven in the Konya region.
Aslanapa, O., Türk Halı Sanatının Bin Yılı, Istanbul, 1987, p.163, Pl. 115.
Ölçer, N., et al, Turkish Carpets of the 13th-18th Centuries, Istanbul 1996, pp.158–9.
Ölçer, N., et al, Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art, Istanbul, 2002, p.168.
Gönül Tekeli "Prayer rug with a row of niches" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2019. http://islamicart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=object;ISL;tr;Mus01;17;en
Prepared by: Gönül Tekeli
Translation by: Barry WoodBarry Wood
Barry Wood is Curator (Islamic Gallery Project) in the Asian Department of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. He studied history of art at Johns Hopkins University and history of Islamic art and architecture at Harvard University, from where he obtained his Ph.D. in 2002. He has taught at Harvard, Eastern Mediterranean University, the School of Oriental and African Studies, and the Courtauld Institute of Art. He has also worked at the Harvard University Art Museums and the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore. He has published on topics ranging from Persian manuscripts to the history of exhibitions., İnci Türkoğluİnci Türkoğlu
İnci Türkoğlu has been working as a tourist guide and freelance consultant in tourism and publishing since 1993. She was born in Alaşehir, Turkey, in 1967. She graduated from the English Department of Bornova Anatolian High School in 1985 and lived in the USA for a year as an exchange student. She graduated from the Department of Electronic Engineering of the Faculty of Architecture and Engineering, Dokuz Eylül University, Izmir, and the professional tourist guide courses of the Ministry of Tourism in 1991. She worked as an engineer for a while. She graduated from the Department of Art History, Faculty of Letters, Ege University, Izmir, in 1997 with an undergraduate thesis entitled “Byzantine House Architecture in Western Anatolia”. She completed her Master's at the Byzantine Art branch of the same department in 2001 with a thesis entitled “Synagogue Architecture in Turkey from Antiquity to the Present”. She has published on art history and tourism.
Translation copyedited by: Mandi Gomez
MWNF Working Number: TR 32
Islamic Dynasties / Period
On display in
Discover Islamic Art Exhibition(s)The Ottomans | Art in the Spaces of Prayer
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