Is This A Prayer Rug?

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Posted by Irwin Kirsch on December 03, 1998 at 09:44:30:

Dear Turkotekees:

In Ralph Kaffel's outstanding book, "Caucasian Prayer Rugs", plate 52, (see also Hali, Vol. 100, pg. 139, bottom left picture) is shown as a Kuba Karagashli, with a double niche (both facing in the same direction). It is in the V&A collection.

Ralph states, "This rare Karagashli is one of the very few of this type that can be designated as a prayer rug with any degree of confidence".

In his footnotes he points out "the characteristic Karagashli bracket motiffs form two unmistakable, stepped prayer niches, while in other pieces the motiffs are employed primarily as non directional decorative elements".

Furthermore he cites Robert Pinner and Michael Franses as describing the rug, "This beautiful prayer rug, unusual in having two niches......".

I have a problem calling this a prayer rug. As Steve points out, not all rugs having arches are prayer rugs. The bracketed arches in this rug are typical design motiffs for Karagashli. The typical prayer niche from a Kuba rug is pentagonal in shape. Ralph deems this a prayer rug because the typical Karagashli rug brackets are facing upwards. In the current Hali (Vol. 101, p.134, upper right picture) is a Kuba detail of a Karagashli recently sold at SLO. Notice that in the detail portion alone are 7, count 'em 7, bracketed "arches". The commentary does not say that this is a prayer rug, let alone a saff. In my opinion it is a typical Karagashli designed rug. I saw a single bracketed (yes the arch was in the middle and facing upwards) last weekend in St. Louis. The dealer agreed it was a standard Karagashli with no mention of prayer rug.

This double niched commentary of Pinner and Frances is bothersome. I've seen some stepped multiple niche Anatolian prayer rugs but they look like prayer rugs since the field is empty save the multiple niches. The Karagashli has the typical medallians around the brackets.

Am I missing something by questioning such notables as Kaffel, Pinner, and Franses? I would appreciate your input.


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