Prayer Carpet
© President and Fellows of Harvard College
Identification and Creation
Object Number
1977.166
People
Unknown Artist
Title
Prayer Carpet
Classification
Textile Arts
Work Type
rug
Date
1890-1910
Places
Creation Place: Central Asia, Caucasus, South Caucasus
Culture
Caucasian
Physical Descriptions
Medium
Wool
Technique
Woven with pile
Dimensions
133 x 113 cm (52 3/8 x 44 1/2 in.)
Aquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift of Elizabeth Gowing, Harborne W. Stuart, Peggy Coolidge, and the Estate of W.I. Stuart in memory of Mr. and Mrs. Willoughby H. Stuart, Jr.
Accession Year
1977
Object Number
1977.166
Division
Asian and Mediterranean Art
Contact
am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu
Descriptions
Description
Marasali Prayer Rug. Deep blue field with horizontal rows of variously colored botehs forming diagonals by type and ornament, surrounded by reciprocal palisade in red and blue. Three guard borders of five petaled flowers, white ground outer main border with bunches of grapes; yellow ground inner main border with fruits. Around the niche area, an incomplete human form, 2 ewers (ibrik), a piece of jewelry or a comb, and a date,1908, repeated 3 times.

Warp: 2 S plied Z spun white undyed wool on one level. Weft: 1 Z spun yarn in 2 shoots, or occasionally in 2 parallel + 1 construction. Pile: 3, or occasionally 2 (depending on color), S plied Z spun. Pile color: 2 + 3 ply red, 3 ply green, 3 ply yellow, 2 ply green; all 3 ply: dark crimson red, dull medium red, very dark purple red, dark navy blue, medium blue, medium green, light green, dark yellow, very pale yellow, slightly corrosive brown, white, light brown wool; small areas of undyed and dark red silk. Both selvedges: 2 warps wrapped in magenta silk or shiny (mercerized?) cotton. Top: 1/2 cm. blue countered soumak brocade, 2 cm. tapestry weave, stripped, 1 1/2 cm. knot lace. Bottom: 1 cm. knot lace based on 4 warps, 1 cm. left to right countered soumak in brown, dark yellow, and red.

Label Text: The Best Workmanship, the Finest Materials: Prayer Carpets of the Islamic World, written 2002
Prayer Rug
Republic of Azerbaijan, Shirvan region, Marasali area, c. 1910
Wool pile and small areas of silk pile (symmetrical knots for both) on wool warps and wefts. 4,466 knots per square decimeter
Gift of Elizabeth Gowing Harborne W. Stuart, Peggy Coolidge, and the Estate of W. I. Stuart in memory of Mr. and Mrs. Willoughby H. Stuart. Jr.
1977.166

The refined decorative motif, regularity, and use of high -quality materials in this carpet testify to the skill of the weaver. The design conveys a surprising sense of whimsy as well: inserted into the pattern are two small hands, one on either side of the niche, and a date, most likely A.H. 1326 (A.D. 1908), repeated three times. The weaver has also represented two ibrik, the pitchers that may be used in the ritual cleansing necessary before praying The small toothed object to the right of the niche is probably a comb. an implement of purification used to clean and tidy the beard. The abstracted floral motif set with in orderly diagonals and a pictorial interest in ritually important, if familiar, objects typify the individual contribution of weavers, especially when seen against the imperatives of a culture that often discourages figural imagery.
Though this type of carpet is traditionally attributed to an area now in the modern nation-state of the Republic of Azerbaijan, it is more reliably designated as Caucasian, as the ethnic diversity of this region does not follow political boundaries.

Label Text: Objects from the Islamic World, written 1986
Prayer Rug
Eastern Caucasus, Marasali
19th century
Wool pile with silk highlights
Gift of Elizabeth Gowing, Harborne W. Stuart, Peggy Coolidge, and the Estate of W.I. Stuart in memory of Mr. and Mrs. Willoughby H. Stuart Jr. 1977.166

Label Text: Enter Ye the Garden: Prayer Rugs of Islam, written 1989
Prayer rug
Eastern central Caucasus, Marasali, 19th century
Knotted wool pile with knotted silk highlights
Gift of Elizabeth Gowing, Harborne W. Stuart, Peggy Coolidge, and the estate of W. I. Stuart in memory of Mr. and Mrs. Willoughby H. Stuart, Jr.
1977.166

Label Text: Colors of the Caucasus, written 1990
Prayer rug
Eastern central Caucasus, Shirvan region, Marasali
19th century
Wool knotted pile with silk highlights
Gift of Elizabeth Gowing, Harborne W. Stuart, Peggy Coolidge, and the estate of W.I. Stuart in memory of Mr. and Mrs. Willoughby H. Stuart, Jr.
1977.166

The boteh (shrub) field pattern and the grapelike motifs of the border are typical of rugs attributed to the village of Marasali. Both designs are seen in earlier and more curvilinear form on twill tapestry shawls from Kashmir.

The use of silk in this rug and its extraordinary fineness set it apart from its cruder and more robust Caucasian village cousins.

Label Text: Woven, Hammered, and Thrown: Textiles and Objects from the Islamic World, written 1991
Prayer rug
Eastern Caucasus, Shirvan area, Marasali, 19th century
Wool knotted pile
Gift of Elizabeth Gowing, Harborne W. Stuart, Peggy Coolidge, and the estate of W. I. Stuart in memory of Mr. and Mrs. Willoughby H. Stuart, Jr.
1977.166

Publication History

Walter B. Denny, Oriental Rugs, Smithsonian Institution (Washington, D.C, 1979), page 58-59/colorplate 11

Kristin A. Mortimer, Harvard University Art Museums: A Guide to the Collections, Harvard University Art Museums/Abbeville Press (Cambridge, MA; New York, NY, 1985), page 87/figure 93

Mr. Raoul Tschebull, "To Praise and Pray", HALI, ed. Daniel Shaffer (London, England, November 2002 - December 2002), vol.24, no.6, issue 125, pp.108-109, p.108

Exhibition History

Enter Ye the Garden: Prayer Rugs of Islam, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 05/26/1989 - 08/20/1989

Colors of the Caucasus, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 06/16/1990 - 09/09/1990

Woven, Hammered, and Thrown: Textiles and Objects from the Islamic World, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 06/22/1991 - 08/18/1991

The Best Workmanship, the Finest Materials: Prayer Carpets of the Islamic World, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 08/03/2002 - 12/15/2002

Subjects and Contexts

Collection Highlights

Verification Level

2 - Adequate. Object is adequately described but information may not be vetted