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"The Best Workmanship, the Finest Materials: Prayer Carpets from the Islamic World"
2002-08-03 until 2002-12-15
Harvard University Art Museums, Arthur M. Sackler Museum
Cambridge, MA, USA United States of America

With a distinctive design and relatively uniform size, the prayer carpet (sajj„da in Arabic) ranks as one of the most recognizable and popular forms of weaving from Muslim lands.

This exhibition brings together prayer carpets from the eastern Islamic world and considers them from two perspectives: the structural design dictated by the weaver's technique, and the decorative design governed by iconographic and aesthetic traditions.

From documentary evidence stretching back to the 11th century, it is clear that artisans used only their best workmanship and finest materials to create prayer carpets. These carpets fulfilled not only the need for a clean space to pray, but also represented proximity to God, where "his faithful servant has set foot to worship." A prayer carpet could also serve as a seat of honor or a spiritual throne, used by a leader to emphasize his legitimacy to rule.

Drawn mainly from the Harvard Art Museums collection, the rugs in the exhibition date to the 18th and 19th century and represent a fine range of both technique and design. Together, they suggest the variety of aesthetic experiences possible within a single medium


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