Not currently on display at the V&A

Prayer Mat

1800-1860 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

Two types of small embroidered and quilted covers were made in Iran in the 19th century: one for kneeling on in prayer and one for sitting on in the outer or dressing room of the bath.
Major Murdoch Smith, in 1877 wrote: 'The former is always distinguished by a small embroidered mark or panel near one end, meant to mark the spot on which to place the little piece of holy earth from Kerbala [a holy city] to be touched by the forehead during the prescribed prostrations. The groundwork of both kinds is generally of common cotton cloth, although sometimes of silk, the needlework being in silk thread of various brilliant colours, representing flowers, bouquets etc. ...'


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Silk and cotton satin, embroidered with silk in split stitch, quilted and backed with roller-printed cotton and faced with black cotton
Brief Description
embroidered & quilted, 1800-1860, Persian
Physical Description
Prayer mat, of silk and cotton satin embroidered with silk in split stitch, quilted and backed with roller-printed cotton and faced with black cotton.

Silk and cotton satin embroidered with silk in straight and running [or back?] stitches with couching, padded and quilted, backed with roller printed plain weave cotton and faced with woven silk.

Pieced yellow satin ground, there is a seam down the right hand side made before the fabric was embroidered. There is an outer border on four sides with a leafy green meander with red flowers and 3-petalled blue flowers. To either side is a line of laid faded purple silk couched with white silk. There is a square in the upper corners with an outward pointing diagonal vase, 2 circular blossoms plus bud, with many small red carnation heads filling the square which is quilted with green silk in a scale design. The pattern of the outer border is repeated around these squares and also forms a border on the inside of the main border. The main border is not quilted. There is an undulating stem linking a blue outlined carnation, 2 red berries and a purple and white flower, a blue carnation in profile with a large pink and red segmented blossom behind it, 2 blue pointed flowers and a large flower in bands of blues, pink/red and yellow, white and purple. The border is identical on the left and right hand sides [ie. It is not a mirror image].

The central panel is divided into a flattened lobed arch with laid purple silk couched with white silk. The spandrels contain a diamond lattice formed by pairs of leaves, each diamond contains a red or a blue carnation head with the colours arranged in diagonal lines which meet along the central vertical axis to form chevrons. In each of the upper corners is an inward pointing diagonal vase like the ones in the corner squares. There is a roundel at the top of the niche which contains and embroidered green inscription on a yellow ground. The roundel is edged with plain red and green threads and a diagonally coloured pink and green band and laid and couched purple thread. The niche is quilted with green silk in a scale design. It is also embroidered with a straight repeat of upright pink flowers outlined in red alternating with smaller pink and purple flowers bending slightly to the left.

Backing: pieced; brown ground with coral-like stems in dark brown outlined in green with dark brown, pink, green and white stylized leaves. The ground is stippled with short blocks of diagonal lines in pink and white.

Facing: bias cut black silk.
Dimensions
  • Length: 130cm
  • Width: 36in
  • Width: 90cm
Marks and Inscriptions
(Embroidered inscription in the roundel: part of the daily prayer.)
Gallery Label
Prayer mat, of silk and cotton satin embroidered with silk in split stitch, quilted and backed with roller-printed cotton and faced with black cotton. Two types of small embroidered and quilted covers were made in Iran in the 19th century: one for kneeling on in prayer and one for sitting on in the outer or dressing room of the bath. 'The former is always distinguished by a small embroidered mark or panel near one end, meant to mark the spot on which to place the little piece of holy earth from Kerbala [a holy city in Iran] to be touched by the forehead during the prescribed prostrations. The groundwork of both kinds is generally of common cotton cloth, although sometimes of silk, the needlework being in silk thread of various brilliant colours, representing flowers, bouquests etc.. In a carpeted room the difficulty of obeying literally the commandment of The Koran, to bow the head to the ground in prayer, is got over by thus placing on the carpet a small disc of clay or stone and touching it with the forehead'. Quoted from 'Persian Art' by Major Murdoch Smith [London, 1877, pp. 52-3].(2002)
Subject depicted
Association
Summary
Two types of small embroidered and quilted covers were made in Iran in the 19th century: one for kneeling on in prayer and one for sitting on in the outer or dressing room of the bath.

Major Murdoch Smith, in 1877 wrote: 'The former is always distinguished by a small embroidered mark or panel near one end, meant to mark the spot on which to place the little piece of holy earth from Kerbala [a holy city] to be touched by the forehead during the prescribed prostrations. The groundwork of both kinds is generally of common cotton cloth, although sometimes of silk, the needlework being in silk thread of various brilliant colours, representing flowers, bouquets etc. ...'
Bibliographic Reference
Published in 'Iranian Textiles' by Jennifer Wearden and Patricia L Baker (V&A Publishing, 2010) Plate 57.
Collection
Accession Number
15-1877

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record createdJanuary 7, 2004
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