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Identification and Creation
Object Number
Prayer Mat
Textile Arts
Work Type
19th century
Creation Place: Middle East, Iran
Persistent Link
Physical Descriptions
Cotton in plain weave embroidered with silk in straight stitch and pulled thread work; lined with white fabric; backed with silk; and edged with woolen twill
58.7 x 92.5 cm (23 1/8 x 36 7/16 in.)
Mark and Ruth Irwin, Wooster, Ohio (by 1965 - 1998), by descent; to Beth Irwin Lewis, Oberlin, Ohio (1998 - 2015), gift; to the Harvard Art Museums, 2015.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift of Beth Irwin Lewis in memory of J. Mark and Ruth Irwin
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art
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This prayer mat is an example of whitework, a subtle form of needlework in which white embroidery thread is used to create a design on a white fabric ground. Here the design is based on a central field with multiple borders, both of which are dominated by inscriptions in Arabic. The central field is organized as a pointed arch (echoing the shape of a mihrab), enclosing floral and geometric motifs and inscription panels. The widest border holds inscription panels alternating with flower-filled triangles. The narrower borders are decorated with geometric designs within lozenges and reciprocal patterns. The Arabic inscriptions consist of pious expressions, e.g., the basmala, prayers for the Prophet Muhammad, and entreaties to God, as well as verses from the Qur’an. The Qur’anic verses include Suras 2:255; 2:257; and 97:1-4.

This record was created from historic documentation and may not have been reviewed by a curator; it may be inaccurate or incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at