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Prayer carpet

Prayer carpet

  • Place of origin:

    Central Asia (made)
    Baluchistan (made)

  • Date:

    1850-1880 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Hand knotted woollen pile, on woollen warp and weft; asymmetrical knot, open to the left; 75 knots per sq. in (1,134 per sq. dm)

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Small carpets with a single arch or niche in the design are sometimes referred to as 'prayer carpets'. Carpets or embroidered cloths [which are easier to carry around] are often used to define a person's space during Muslim prayer rituals. The arch is usually understood to represent the mihrab or decorative panel in the wall of a mosque which indicates the direction of Mecca. This carpet has an arch, but only a subtle border divides the field of octagons from the arch, which in this example is rectangular, and the spandrels. The row of white octagons above and below the field are worked in single soumak with the coloured weft encircling each warp thread.

Physical description

Single niche carpet; Turkoman, Belouch; 19th century

WARP: white wool; Z2S; 15 threads per inch (54 per dm). NB: bottom left on reverse there are 3 white warp loops creating 3 extra warps for right-hand border.

WEFT: dark brown wool; Z spun, unplied, 2 parallel threads per shoot; 2 shoots after each row of knots; 10 knots per inch (42 per dm).

PILE: wool; 7 colours: red, very light red, dark blue, blue, light purple (faded) within the niche, dark brown, white; asymmetrical knot, open to the left and tied around 2 threads; 75 knots per sq. inch (1134 per sq. dm).

SIDE FINISH: both sides have one cord oversewn with short blocks of red and blue.

END FINISH: Lower: missing; 62" (17 cms) max of a) soumak, b) plain weave, and c) weft-float:
a) 2" (4.5 cms) band of 15 red, dark blue or brown stars with white triangles between the points and each star separated by 4 vertical lines; the stars are worked in countered soumak, the outlines in double warp wrapping.
b) 4" (9.5 cms) max of plain weave in dark brown, red, brown, blue, brown, red, dark brown, red, blue and red wool weft.
c) narrow band with dark brown ground with weft float line in white, of lozenges linked by a pair of horns, the lozenges infilled with brown, the band bordered by red and blue stitching over 2 threads.
b) narrow band of plain weave with dark brown weft.
d) 32" (9 cms) maximum of loose warp ends.
Upper end: complete; 42" (12 cms) of a) soumak, b) plain weave, c) weft float:
a) as lower end but no red stars, most are brown.
b) 2" (5 cms) max plain weave with bands of dark brown wool, brown, blue, brown, dark brown, red and blue weft.
c) very narrow band as lower end but without stitched borders.
b) 1" (2 cms) plain weave with dark brown weft.
d) 82" (21 cms) max of knotted fringe, 4 warps to each knot, 2 knots knotted together towards the right and 3 knots plaited together towards the left.

DESIGN: Field and spandrels: dark blue ground; 10 and three half bands of four-sided, open brackets created by four slim hexagonals lying on alternating diagonals, and within each is an 'S' motif. The hexagons are mostly red but also blue and dark brown except within the niche where there is no dark brown. Each bracket holds a cluster of flowerheads in red or blue. The niche is right-angled; the whole field has a reciprocal trefoil around the edge; this and all other borders come between the field and the two spandrels.
Main border: red ground with angular floral meander in blue, dark blue and brown.
Inner border: reciprocal intruding V motif in red and blue.
Guard stripes: inner: dark brown ground with small blue triangles. Outer: reciprocal diagonals and triangles in red and blue.

Date catalogued: 14.3.95

Place of Origin

Central Asia (made)
Baluchistan (made)


1850-1880 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Hand knotted woollen pile, on woollen warp and weft; asymmetrical knot, open to the left; 75 knots per sq. in (1,134 per sq. dm)


Width: 1190 mm Top edge, Width: 1240 mm Bottom edge, Length: 2060 mm Proper left, Length: 2050 mm Proper left, Weight: 14 kg

Descriptive line

1800s, Beluchi

Production Note


Mentioned and illustrated in "Turkoman Rugs in the V & A", by M. Franses and R. Pinner (intro. by Donald King). Analysis by L. Pinner. Hali 1994, Vol. 2, No. 3, p.76,78,79,80

cf: Parsons (1983) ill. 951a "An old Beluch rug from Farah... dating from circa 1930".
Also illus. 95a and 98a, both described as Baluch.

Subjects depicted

Octagons; Arch; Geometric patterns; Niche


Textiles; Floor coverings


Middle East Section

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