This fragment comes from an extremely rare, almost unique, Ersari multiple prayer rug of which one other fragment is published (Sotheby's, London, 29 April 1998, lot 96). Like the present example, that one has two rows of arches, although in that case there are four in each row. Like here also, the Sotheby fragment has some large splits, although it is not as obviously composite as the present piece. Ours however has more information in that part of the original selvage exists both above and below, showing how the original was finished (the selvage noted in the structural analysis of the other piece was not original). We have part of the outer right hand stripe where Sotheby's had a part of the left hand.
The only other published comparable carpet is similar in concept but has notable differences (Moshkova, V.G.: Carpets of the Peoples of Central Asia, Tucson, 1996, fig.129, pp.292-3). Like the present carpet it is known from two fragments, one of which is similar in composition to these, containing all or part of five prayer panels. The other fragment has a remarkable plain ivory central panel which it has been suggested was for the Imam. There are various small differences between the two weavings, more of detail than overall concept, the most obvious being that the dividing bars on the other are formed of further chevron designs while here a continuation of the design used for the slightly larger inner border is used. Even the outer border is formed of guls as here, but of a different stepped panelled form.
Moshkova presents the full details about the commissioning of the other carpet. It was ordered in 1874 by Muzaffar al-Din, emir of Bokhara, intended for use in the Bala Hauz mosque. Whether that was the only carpet intended to cover the entire floor or whether, as Moshkova suggests, there was a second, is not clear. Nor is it clear whether the design was original or whether it was woven to match or replace an existing carpet. Bearing in mind however the paucity of information from the last century available in the countries of origin on specific carpets, the information we do have is considerably more than one might expect.