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Ballard Ottoman Prayer Carpet with Triple-arch Design, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Date: ca. 1575–90
Geography: Turkey, probably Istanbul
Culture: Islamic Medium: Silk (warp and weft), wool (pile), cotton (pile); asymmetrically knotted pile
Dimensions: Rug: L. 68 in. (172.7 cm) W. 50 in. (127 cm) Mount: L. 71 in. (180.3 cm) W. 53 3/4 in. (136.5 cm) D. 3 5/8 in. (9.2 cm) Wt. 120 lbs. (54.4 kg)
Credit Line: The James F. Ballard Collection, Gift of James F. Ballard, 1922 Accession Number: 22.100.51
This artwork is not on display

This carefully drawn, subtly colored carpet is among the finest of all Ottoman weavings. One of the earliest carpets to include a triple-arched gateway, its design probably originated in the Ottoman imperial workshop. The combination of this carpet’s imagery, high quality, and relatively small size suggest that it was used as a prayer rug by a member of the Ottoman courtly elite.

Edouard Chappey, Paris (until 1907; sale, Galerie GeorgesPetit, Paris, June 5–7, 1907, no. 1909); Félix Doistau, Paris (from 1907); James F. Ballard, St. Louis, MO (until 1922; gifted to MMA)

More description: wool and cotton pile on silk foundation, 288 asymmetrical knots per square inch. This rare rug is one of a small group of Ottoman court prayer rugs featuring a prayer niche, or mihrab, with architectural elements such as columns and capitals. It is one of the earliest examples of the triple-arched prayer niche. With its paired or coupled columns, undecorated field, split palmettes in the spandrels, and horizontal panel containing crenelated forms, it is also the classical prototype for later rugs. Characteristically Ottoman are the carnations and tulips at the base of the arches as well as the feathery lanceolate leaves, hyacinths, and other flowers in the curvilinear border pattern. The harmonious design, skillful weaving, and luxury materials reflect court taste.