Monday 1 December 2014

Doors of Jannah-Turkey and the Mediterranean


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

3-MET 1994.232.4

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

4-Kuwait,12th century

5-Al-Hariri,Maqamat,13th century

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

7-Field Museum,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


12-TIEM 744

The more elegant of the two incorporates all pious accessories found in later carpets,as well as introducing the "re-entrant" theme

13-TIEM 720

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

15-TIEM 474

16-TIEM 776

17-TIEM 804

18-TIEM 196

19-TIEM 479

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

21-TIEM 22

22-TIEM 54

23-TIEM 127

24-TIEM 139(4 panels)

25-TIEM 543

26-TIEM 774

27-TIEM 774

28-TIEM 777

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

30-Sothebys 1993

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.

34-TIEM 465

35-TIEM 555-975

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

38-Hali 168-91

A third item is in Chicago

39-Chicago,Finnerud Bequest

A related,perhaps earlier group from Edirne with feet and lamps has a more elegant spandrel decoration

40-TIEM 88

41-TIEM 337

42-TIEM 115

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.

44-Sothebys 1977

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


46-TMJ 1973

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

51-Linden Museum

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)

57-Christies 2013

Three further items from the Ushak zone segue into the 19th century

58-AAA 1914-109

59-AAA 1914-295


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

64-Hali 168-92

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

71-Erol Kazanci

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

73-Udo Langauer

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"

79-Berlin,purchased 1919

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