Uşak Prayer Rugs
The prayer rugs of Uşak are as renowned as the 16th century carpets which were produced there. Also noteworthy is the fact that they have the longest history of all prayer rugs, since they were produced as late as the end of the 19th century. They are generally large in size and nearly square; red wool yarn is used in both the warp and weft; they are tied with the Turkish knot; the selvages are long; and, occasionally, they are made of silk. The features of these rugs that distinguish them from other types of prayer rugs are their thick wool, strong knots, long pile and radiant colors.
The earliest example of prayer rugs from the Uşak region is the group with two prayer niches, o ne inside the other. They are dated to the first quarter of the 16th century and predate the famous Medallion and Star Uşak carpets. The famous Uşak prayer rug with the motif of large clouds which is in the Museum of Islamic Art, Berlin, is related in principle to this group. The scheme of this rug is a red niche surrounded by an immense cloud motif in light blue which fills the space in the whole lower half, while on the top of the rug is a second niche formed by the field of the rug. İt is rimmed by an enormous schematized palmette motif finely outlined in white. The red spandrels are filled with large schematic rumis while the space left in between is filled with medallions and stylized flowers on a field of blue.
The next group of Uşak prayer rugs which are seen most frequently are the ones which have opposed double niches with a medallion in the center. The best examples of these are in the possession of museums and private collections. This group of prayer rugs is most frequently represented by Italian, Flemish, and other European artists in their paintings dating from the mid 16th century until the 1620s. İn these rugs the plain niche ground was sometimes decorated with either a medallion or a hanging lamp, and at other times enriched by fillings of spiral branches, flowers, leaves or the motif of an ewer. The niche and the border may be in different colors.
Siebenbürger rugs, also called “Transylvanian” rugs, are mostly included in this Uşak group in spite of the fact that some were produced in various other centers in Anatolia. These rugs were gathered in large quantities in the small Protestant churches of a mountainous region in Hungary (now a part of Rumania), but since have been dispersed to various museums and collections ali around the world. They do not predate the 17th century and production seems to have stopped by the end of the 18th century. The field of these prayer rugs is red, yellow and blue.
The typical design for most of the late 17th and 18th century prayer rugs in the so-called “Transylvanian” group is an adaptation of a classical 16th century design. A double niche prayer rug from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London is one of the typical examples of this. The field is filled with floral designs, and two large double handled vase shaped mosque lamps hang from the center ofeach arch. The main border shows an alternating succession of elongated cartouches and star medallions and both guard stripes conta in powerful trefoil designs.
Some of the Uşak prayer rugs resemble the famous white ground Uşak carpets. One of these is in the possession of the Institute of Art, Chicago, in this rug the field is filled by a “Çintamani” design, and triple leopard dots are repeated on the upper part (alınlık). The Uşak type of border, where the cloud designs are lined alternately on a multicolored field is also characteristic. İn another example, this time from the National Museum, Munich, the niche is lobed and finely outlined in zigzag on a white ground. The place on the lower part of the rug where one stands when praying is defined by decorated clog designs. The border is ornamented by opposing palmettes and the spandrels by curved twigs, rumis and motifs of stylized flowers.
Beginning with the 17th century, multiniched (saf) Uşak prayer rugs in various pat-terns and inspired by Ottoman palace carpets were produced in great quantities. The outlined niches of these prayer rugs express a continuous innovative search for interesting compositions through the use of various colors and decorations. The prayer niche is always monochrome but often is filled with various motifs such as a hanging lamp at the top or ornamented clogs at the bottom. All of these rugs are completely dominated by the natura Iistic floral decorations so common in all of Ottoman art in this period. The plum blossoms, carnations, tulips, roses and hyacinths are intended to suggest the feeling of praying in a garden full of flowers. Some severely damaged but very attractive examples of this type of rug are kept in the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, istanbul.
Palace Prayer Rugs
We now turn our attention to prayer rugs in the style of the Ottoman palace carpets. These began to be produced beginning in the decorative art. Just as in the case of some of the Ottoman palace carpets, these luxurious prayer rugs were produced at the end of the 16th and in the 17th centuries on the looms of İstanbul, Bursa and Edirne.
The most attractive examples are the ones with a mono colored niche. The palace prayer rugs generally have a warp and weft of silk and the knots are in wool and cotton. The prayer rugs of Uşak and then Gördes carry on the compositions of the palace prayer rugs in later years. The similarity is especially apparent in the mihrab columns, the floral fillings inside the niche, the hanging lamps and the naturalistic floral motifs on the borders. Sections from the main field of the palace carpets are employed as interior fillings in these prayer rugs.
A prayer rug of this type with a green niche and designated as having been made in İstanbul was donated to the Sultanahmet Mosque and then later transferred to the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art, İstanbul, where it is recorded under the same name in the inventory. The warp and weftare silk and it is tied with a very soft and shiny wool in colors of green, red, yellow and brown, but when white and light blue are needed cotton yarn is used. This prayer rug is in a very worn condition and the section missing in the center is sewn together in a careless manner. Another example of the same pattern dated 1610 and kept in the Museum of Islamic Art, Berlin is in very good condition.
The one in İstanbul was probably donated to be placed in front of the mihrab of the Sultanahmet Mosque at the time of its completion in 1617. Another prayer rug belonging to Sultan Ahmet I, which was probably made to be put in the Sultan’s apartment (Hünkâr Mahfili) in the mosque, is kept in the treasury reserves of the Topkapı Palace Museum, İstanbul. This prayer rug has a pistachio green niche filled with a deep red, pointed and egg shaped medallion in the center. The corner fillings consist of curved branches and rumis in turquoise blue against a cream field. The traditional borders of other rugs of the same type a re found in this example too.
The wool of these two prayer rugs is so fine that it gives the impression of silk at first glance. A brown prayer rug with the representation of the Kaaba on it which is preserved in the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, İstanbul, is clear evidence that the Ottoman palace carpets continued to be manufactured until the middle of the 18th century. The prayer niche in this one is divided into three sections by triple arches and four columns of which two are cut at the edges by the border. The representation of the Kaaba filIs the dark green ground in the middle of the central arch. Silver thread is used in some parts such as in the lamps hanging from the mihrab arch, in the motif of the Kaaba, and in the stars and capitals of the columns. Since the thread is corroded the warp and weft have become visible under neat.
İt is quite probable that carpets and prayer rugs of high quality were woven on special looms in İstanbul and Bursa routinely or when specially commissioned. İt is unreasonable to believe that new designs were sent to Cairo every time a new carpet was to be manufactured. Even more important, if they were woven for so many years at the same place why has there been no trace of this art in Cairo? On the other hand, we know that the tradition of Ottoman palace carpets has continued to exist both in İstanbul and in Anatolia up to the present day. The designs are ever changing and being enriched as exemplified in the so called Izmir made prayer rugs and the Hereke carpets woven on the looms which were established there in 1844.
Gördes Prayer Rugs
The prayer rugs of Gördes are noted not only for giving their name to the Turkish knot but also for being the group of rugs most influenced by the Ottoman palace carpets.
İn general these rugs can be distinguished by the following characteristics; the high arch of the prayer niche is finely stepped and has undulating contours, they exhibit an extremely high quality of weaving, using shıiny wool in tight knots (3600 knots, 60×60, per 10 cm2); and they have a short pile. The warp is double-ply wool and the weft is single ply wool or cotton. The field of the niche can be in deepblue, blue, red, or green; a few are in white. The rugs with a deep blue ground in the niche are valuable, and the ones with a white niche are rare. Two decorative bands, which may symbolize mihrab candles, appear like columns on both sides of the mihrab and are filled with stylized floral motifs. The rugs almost always have an upper horizontal panel (ayetlik) above the niche and outlines of feet at the bottom (tabanlık) which are separated from the central field by a narrow band. Vivid red with various shades of green, yellow, blue and cream are the colors most frequently used. The floral motifs are geometrically ordered.
There are special types of Gördes prayer rugs. The “Marpuçlu Gördes” rugs with two decorative columns on either side of the niche are based in style on the Ottoman palace carpets. The arch of the prayer niche is high and round, lobed or in the form of a finely stepped triangle. The niche is outlined with fine lines and is rimmed by notched thin zigzags while hyacinths or small flowers hang from the niche point. The charaeteristic crescent motif (alem) at the top is rare. The two decorative bands (marpuç from which they get their name) on both sides of the niche are filled with lozenge motifs in straight bands which themselves are filled with lotus designs or stylized flowers terminating in ewer motifs.
The Gördes prayer rugs with a mihrab at both ends are another special type. These rugs are called the Maiden Gördes (Kız
Gördes); they received that name, probably, because they were intended for the dowry of young maidens. The prominent colors found in these rugs are cream, red or blue and the wool is short and dull in texture.