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Early Turkish saf prayer rug, 15th century, Central Anatolia, Turkey. Turk ve Islam Eserleri Muzesi, Istanbul, inventory no: 720.

Name of Object: Prayer rug with a row of niches
Holding Museum: Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, Sultanahmet, Istanbul, Turkey
Museum Inventory Number: 720
Dimensions: 430 cm x 133 cm
Material(s) / Technique(s): Wool on wool, woven with the Turkish double knot also known as the Gördes knot.
Date of the object: Hegira 9th century / AD 15th century
Period / Dynasty: Karamanogullari, Early Ottoman
Provenance: Central Anatolia (possibly Konya), Turkey.

Description: 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.
How object was obtained:
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.

How date and origin were established:
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.
How provenance was established:
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.
Selected bibliography:
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.
Citation of this web page:
Gönül Tekeli "Prayer rug with a row of niches" in Discover Islamic Art. Place: Museum With No Frontiers, 2014. http://www.discoverislamicart.org/database_item.php?id=object;ISL;tr;Mus01;17;en
Prepared by: Gönül Tekeli
Translation by: Barry Wood, İnci Türkoğlu
Translation copyedited by: Mandi Gomez

warp: wool, two strands twisted undyed light
weft: wool, Z-spun, single, dyed red, 3 shoots, alternating, sinuous
pile: wool, Z-spun, 2 strands untwisted, knots 23 x 23=529 sq.dm. worked from left to right