Saph carpets are furnishings for the House of God.
Perhaps the Saph form is older than the single niche prayer rug,having often been used in war and ceremonial tents.But the earliest representations are of single niche prayer rugs
|2-Freer Art Gallery|
The above,from a 14th century il-Khanid illustrated work,shows the Prophet seated upon a prayer rug.The word"Allah"can be made out in the niche.
The earliest depiction of a Saph can be seen in a 15th century Khamsa of Nizami
This index unfolds from the Middle East to the borders of China.
Most Saphs were woven sideways,on normal sized looms.Exceptions have been noted.The original number of panels cannot always be ascertained,as the fate of a Saph is to be cut into fragments and used for solitary prayer.
The Middle East.
Depictions of arcades appear in early Arab literature and painting
Only one Mamluke prayer rug has survived
|6-Museum of Islamic Art,Berlin|
Two Saphs attributed to Cairo include a rough-hewn example now in Chicago
A related fragment was sold at Christies London in 2011 for $58,500
|8-Christies 4 October 2011,lot 101|
A prayer rug fragment from the Wher collection might once have formed part of an arcaded example
The oldest known Saphs are two fragments now in the Turk ve Islam Museum in Istanbul.A Holbein style carpet on blue-green ground features two rows of niches,thus effectively creating the first tiered-style.The niches are so schematic that they could also depict rows of tents
The more elegant of the two incorporates all pious accessories found in later carpets,as well as introducing the "re-entrant" theme
The lamps appear in another fragment from the Textile Museum,along with rosettes from the "Chessboard" group
|14-Textile Museum R 34.00.2|
Many fragments of genuine mosque fittings have survived.Three design types are said to have been made for the Selimiye mosque in Edirne.Whether contemporary or not cannot be confirmed,but they may well be late 16th or early 17th century
Group 1,Hatayi style
Many fragments exist with the floral arabesque design.They appear to be from one carpet featuring a niche-lamp and a medallion not unlike that seen on some Cairene prayer rugs
A fragment once in the Michaelian Collection later passed to Harold Keshishian,and was auctioned twice,at Sothebys on December 13 1986 for $16,500;and again at Sothebys on 7 December 2010 for $62,500.It relates directly to the TIEM`s 196,sharing the same elongated Medallion
Group 2,White Rosettes style.
Distinguished by strewn white rosettes,a device borrowed from Iznik tile-work
|24-TIEM 139(4 panels)|
Two very similar fragments were with Eskenazi and Thompson respectively
The Jon Thompson fragment sold at his sale on 16 December 1993 for $43,700
An impressive double-decker variant was once with Campana
|31-Textile Museum Journal II-4-17|
The Textile Museum also owns a "piece"
And a last part of the puzzle was published by Ledacs in 1977
Group 3 Chintamani style
At least three examples are known,presumably from the same ensemble,featuring symbolic position-markers at the base of the mihrab.Probably more are stored in Istanbul.
A third example was published by Ledacs in 1977.It is not clear where it belongs in the scheme of things
A coarser,more "industrial" quality is said to have lain in Istanbul`s Süleymaniye Mosque.Less courtly,it paves the way for a larger group of "Ushak" Saph carpets
An imposing two-tier item,sold twice at Lefevre`s in the 1970`s(the last on 5 October 1979,Lot 29,for 7500 pounds)eventually reached the Al-Sabah Collection in Kuwait
A second large piece is now in the Vakflar carpet Museum
A third item is in Chicago
A related,perhaps earlier group from Edirne with feet and lamps has a more elegant spandrel decoration
A two-tier piece in the possession of the Istanbul dealer S.Haim was published by C.G Ellis(Antique Rugs of the Near East,Bode-Kühnel,plate 28)
Offered three times in the London auction market"the property of a lady"first appeared at Christies on 9 June 1977,selling for £5000;it was offered,curiously,against a reserve of £ 600/1200 at Sothebys on 25 April 1979;before sinking at Sothebys on 23 April 1980 against an estimate of
£ 4000/6000.A seven panel model with elegant borders.
Another example with lamps,pendants and Hatayi field was published by Stanley Reed,and what is possibly a closeup from the same carpet,in the Textile Museum Journal
A further three examples with lamps and feet have been published
|47-Sülemaniye Mosque,Hali 168-90|
|49-Sothebys June 1989,Lot 116|
A group of green ground Ushak saphs appeared on the market in the 1980`s, realistically dated to the 18th century.A piece from the Chris Alexander collection was auctioned at Christies in 2008 for $83,850
|50-Christies 10 April 2008(106)|
It seems to match up nicely to the two-tiered item in the Linden Museum Stuttgart
Two large fragments were also acquired by the Swedish dealer J.P Willborg.The draughtsmanship of the niches and spandrels appear to originate from different sets
David Sorgato also published a similar item,probably from the same unidentified mosque
|53-David Sorgato,Hali |
His colleague Alberto Levi featured another fragment on his website
|54-Alberto Levi"as found"|
Many fragments of the same have appeared down through the years
In a similar style,but with different treatment to mihrab and spandrels was a piece sold twice at Rippon Boswells,first on 17 November 2001 for $5,330;and again on 1 December 2007 for $28,225.A second very similar piece in two-tier
form was offered by the Indigo Gallery
|56-Rippon Boswell;Indigo Gallery|
One last item,for a special space (or minbar) features a stacked mihrab style and went unsold at Christies on 23 April 2013(80)
Three further items from the Ushak zone segue into the 19th century
The 19th Century.
Multi-tiered examples are more common from this time.These fulfilled a less functional,more decorative purpose
|61-Sothebys 14 December 1995(211)|
|62-Nagels 9 November 1999(67)|
|63-Nagels 20 October 2006(24b)|
Representative for a whole group of Ghiordes Saphs,often of mediocre quality,is a double-decker from the Sulimanye Mosque
A carpet from the collection of H.Keshishian is interesting for its inscription
Pieces attributed to the Ushak zone include a carpet sold at Sothebys on 11 June 2008(29) for $11,250,although this may well be from the Mujur-Kirshehir triangle
Two fragments from Alberto Boralevi display an interesting colour change from row to row
As mentioned,Mudjur seems to have taken the lead in the 19th century and produced some beautifully coloured examples
|70-Vakflar Museum-Hali 178-11|
Long rugs with up to 12 panels are known
|72-Phillips 25.April 1995|
One group features a square in the Mihrab made up of multi-coloured triangles
|74-Christies 8 October 2009-84|
|75-Christies 8 October 2019-81|
|76-Sothebys October 1990(654)|
Very few carpets emanate the numinous quality of the Turkish Saph now lodged in the Museum of Islamic Art,Berlin.A skeleton of well-ordered lazy-lines reveals the weaver`s perpendicular technique
The carpet has all the simple refinement of an Indian Dhurrie,and does in fact recall the Kilim style of old Karapinar,from whence it may hail
|78-Berlin,ex Bernheimer,impossible to date|
Conventional wisdom attributes it to Ushak(red wefts),but it is unlike any of the Ushak productions shown here.A second fragment,from the Haim Collection,is known only from photo,and features 6 full and two half niches.The Berlin museum also possesses a wonderful Karapinar kilim,the "Seven Sleepers"
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