Prayer design, other uses
Hi Davut and Erhardt,
First, let me thank you for this wonderful essay. The historical background information is especially interesting. We don't see such detailed scholarship very often on the web.
Your section on the uses to which the Manastir kilims were put was particularly informative. Most collectors (including myself) have long understood that the majority - probably the vast majority - of rugs with prayer designs were neither intended for nor used in Moslem prayer, but were woven for sale to Europe and the USA. You note that although Manastir kilims were made for local use, few of the specimens with the prayer format (that is, the "prayer size" and the presence of an arch in the design) were likely to have been used as places to pray. You mention their use as wall decorations, and you note that some have stains left by pots (cooking pots, I assume). Does this imply that they were used as table covers or, perhaps, that some served the functions of the south Persian sofreh?
Steve, you said that most rugs with prayer designs were not made for Moslem prayer, but for export sales. I suspect that you're right, but I've also seen claims to the contrary. What are the grounds for your position?
It seems likely, although I'm not aware of any documentation, that a substantial percentage (perhaps most) of the prayer design rugs made prior to, say, 1850, were woven for use in Moslem prayer. By 1875 or so, surely by the end of the 19th century, most western and central Asian rugs were woven for export.
Prayer designs carried fairly exotic connotations in the west, which was fascinated with things oriental, and the overwhelming majority of prayer design rugs woven from then on were made for export. Since the number of extant prayer design rugs woven after 1875 dwarfs the number woven prior to 1850, it follows that the vast majority were woven for export, not for prayer.
This subject came up before, in Salon 93 , where it was treated in somewhat more detail. One of the things that came up in the discussion accompanying it was that even some of the prayer design rugs that were owned by Moslems were used for purposes other than prayer.