Senneh Prayer Rug – Find it at the Met

This week’s blog dives into the history and magnificent design of an 18th century Senneh Prayer Rug currently housed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Continue reading to learn more about the tradition woven into this special piece.

Senneh Prayer Rug with floral pattern in field and multibanded geometric border

This antique Senneh prayer rug is part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s extensive and well-preserved Islamic wing. It was woven in the late 18th century in Sanandaj – the Kurdish town in northwestern Iran where the Senneh weave originated. There, the tradition of weaving a Persian carpet was integral to the way of life. As such, Senneh carpets are held in the highest regard among Kurdish carpets for both their supple long-lasting composition and their well-balanced patterned aesthetic. 

Senneh Prayer Rug with floral pattern in field and multibanded geometric border

This particular Senneh is referred to as a kilim, which is a flat tapestry-woven carpet. Its cotton warp and wool weft bind together in this light and pliable fabric-like rug. This type of fabrication was, and is, often used non-exclusively as a floor but also as a decorative wall piece. Its weave also lends itself well to more elaborate decoration in the carpet’s design. In this case, the weaver fills her canvas with a “cheshmeh gol” or well of flowers. This describes the metaphor represented by the indigo-dyed water-like niche that is filled with flowers. The detail, scale, and volume of the flowers in the field as well as the geometric patterns in the borders are only possible because of the Senneh kilim’s fine weave.

The floral pattern in the field of this Senneh prayer rug shows red, yellow, blue, and pink flowers on soft green stems

The Met’s Senneh prayer rug employs what is commonly referred to as an “arched mihrab” or “niche” layout. The rectangular base with an arched niche is a two-dimensional representation of the mosque’s architectural feature called a mihrab. The carpet is placed on the ground and prayed upon with the arched end pointing in the direction of Mecca. 

geometric, multi-banded border of Senneh prayer rug

If you love the look of this antique handwoven Senneh, visit Orley Shabahang’s website to find its companions of yore. Orley Shabahang is proud to offer the most extensive and well-preserved collection of antique Persian carpets outside of world-renowned museums. Add a historical treasure to your home today!