Warp: wool, natural, ivory, red end dip, Z2S
Weft: wool, dyed red, Z1, 2 shoots, alternating, first straight, second wavy
Pile: wool Z2, symmetric knots, horizontal 12 x vertical 11. Alternating warps depressed 50 degrees-60 degrees.
Sides: not original
Rich in both color and symbolism, this double-niche medallion Ushak rug represents one of the finest forms of classical Western Anatolian weaving traditions. Rugs of this type are recognizable by their saturated brick-red fields and by their double niche composition, having one at both the top and bottom of the field. Prayer rugs generally employ a single niche or mihrab directing the worshipper towards Mecca, replicating traditional mosque architecture. In this example, the double niche is boldly defined by the spandrels which encompass lively cloudbands and could conceivably represent the four quadrants of a medallion, each relegated to its own corner. The linear, hexagonal central medallion draws the entire visual arrangement together, while the outline of the mihrab at each end of the field mirrors the arcade-like elements of vinery in the main border.
The small singular device located in the top niche is of particular interest. Some scholars argue that these elements, found in variations on other carpets of this type, represent the lamp that is found in the mihrab of a mosque. It is conceivable that this distinctive element does indeed represent a prayer lamp, with its serrated edges indicating the glow of the lamp. Others define this device as an amulet, used to alter the "perfection" of the carpet and to ward off the evil eye (W.B. Denny, The Classical Tradition in Anatolian Carpets, Washington, D.C., 2002, p. 83.). Amulets were also commonly found in mosques and served the same purpose.
There are a considerable number of these "small medallion" Ushak rugs which have survived from the sixteenth century; Kurt Erdmann in 1957 knew of over 100 (Erdmann, Kurt: The History of the Early Turkish Carpet, London, 1977). Yet within the group there are considerable differences. All the different elements are variable; the medallion, the spandrels, the border and the guard stripes, although some versions tend to be found combined with particular versions of other motifs.
A very small group of rugs share all the elements found in the present example. One was found in the Sheikh Baba Yusuf mosque in Sivrihisar-Eskisehir and is now in the Museum of Turkish and Applied Arts, Istanbul (Ölçer, Nazan et al.: Turkish Carpets from the 13th-18th Centuries, Istanbul, 1966, pl.142); a second is in the Textile Museum, Washington (Hali 48, December 1989, p.43), while a third is in the Metropolitan Museum (Dimand, M.S. and Mailey, Jean: Oriental Rugs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1983, no.83, fig.169). Even the form of the small serrated lozenge pendant is identical in all of these. They are also typified by a finesse of weave that is finer than most of the others in the group and by particularly tight drawing. It is probable that they are all from the same workshop.