Prayer and Transcendence

Italiano (Italian)

George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum
701 21st St. NW
Washington, DC 20052
Through July 1, 2023

In the Muslim faith, carpets create physically and spiritually “clean” spaces during the daily ritual of prayer. Drawn from five collections, this exhibition introduces the purpose and iconography of classical prayer rugs from across the Islamic world, as well as design comparisons from the Jewish tradition.

About the Exhibition

Prayer carpets share a distinctive iconography recognized by Muslims around the world. Developed over centuries and circulated through trade and religious pilgrimage (hajj), this set of images – including flowers, an arch, lamp and water pitcher – transforms each carpet into a sacred space where the worshipper can commune with God. Prayer and Transcendence explores this iconography and its interpretation across time and artistic traditions, from Ottoman Türkiye to Safavid Iran to Mughal India.Examples on display from western Anatolia, the Caucasus and Iran all share a central motif: an elegant arch surrounded by vegetation and flowers. One of the most iconic images in a prayer carpet, the arch often symbolizes the gateway to paradise, conceived in the Koran as a lush, walled garden. The exhibition also explores the spiritual meaning of the lamp and water pitcher motifs that recur throughout prayer carpet design.Spanning the 16th through 19th centuries, the works on display are drawn from five collections – The Textile Museum Collection, Harvard Art Museums, Cincinnati Art Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Markarian Collection – and also include related examples from outside the Islamic tradition.

Prayer and Transcendence is accompanied by a gallery guide.


Support for this exhibition and related programming is provided by Aramco Americas, the Bruce P. and Olive W. Baganz Fund for The Textile Museum Exhibitions and Publications, the David Berg Foundation, E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation, and the Markarian Foundation. Additional support is provided by Tina M. deVries, Helen K. King, Mary Jo Otsea and Richard H. Brown, Roger and Claire Pratt, and David M. Sloan.