History of this Ottoman Antique Double Niche Prayer Rug from the 17th Century
Double Niche Prayer Rug – The coupled-column “Double Niche prayer rug” group represents provincial Turkish Anatolian interpretations of sixteenth and seventeenth-century Ottoman court prayer rugs with triple-niche and coupled-column designs, such as the renowned Ballard prayer rug now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, see M. S. Dimand, Rugs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1973, p. 158, fig. 188.
Although previously thought to be of Turkish Ladik production, May Beattie, in her 1968 article entitled “Coupled-Column Prayer Rugs,” Oriental Art, vol. XIV, no. 4, pp. 243-258, convincingly identifies separate sources of origin for the coupled-column group and the Ladik rugs because of different structural characteristics.
It is now generally agreed that weaving from the couple-column group are products of Western Anatolian looms, most likely those of Oushak. This group can be dated to at least the early seventeenth century by their European paintings, such as a 1664 still life by Nicolaas van Gelder, see Bailey, op. cit., pp. 24-25, fig. 8.
The antique prayer rug is different from most coupled-column double niche prayer rugs in its coloration: whereas the majority of examples from this group are dominated by madder red as a primary color, here the entire rug is worked in a golden straw yellow.
This pale and delicate dye does appear in other antique prayer rugs of this type but it is almost always delegated as a secondary color in the borders that is complemented by a strong madder red in the field. Here, the border is a slightly contrasting butterscotch color, making this antique rug appear particularly delicate, subtle, and restrained. This quality is further emphasized by the limited number of secondary colors.
Comparable coupled-column double niche prayer rugs where the border and the field are similarly colored are in the collection of the Museum of Applied Arts, Budapest, and the Dumbarton Oaks Collection, Washington, D.C., see Ferenc Bátari, Ottoman Turkish Rugs, Budapest-Keszthely, 1994, p. 165, fig.76, and Richard Ettinghausen, et. al., Prayer Rugs, Washington, D.C., 1974, pp. 56-57, pl. XIII, respectively.
Another unusual feature of the rare carpet offered here is the use of secondary design elements in the arches. It seems that other coupled-columns examples’ side arches are hung with stylized flowers only when the central mihrab is decorated with a bouquet. In other examples, these side arches are left empty while the central arch is adorned with flowers. Here, the central arch was left empty while those flanking it were woven with stylized floral elements.
The small-patterned interlocking tulip, carnation and vine border also renders this lot unlike most coupled-column prayer rugs, which are most often framed with borders decorated with either medallions, multi-faceted medallions or large-scale floral designs.