Art/ Collection/ Collection/ Art Object

Mihrab (Prayer Niche)

Object Name:
A.H. 755/A.D. 1354–55
Iran, Isfahan
Mosaic of polychrome-glazed cut tiles on stonepaste body; set into mortar
135 1/16 x 113 11/16in. (343.1 x 288.7cm) Storage box: 99 x 41 1/2 in. (251.5 x 105.4 cm) Wt. 4,500 lbs. (2041.2 kg)
Credit Line:
Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1939
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 455
This prayer niche, or mihrab, was originally set into the qibla wall of a theological school in Isfahan, now known as the Madrasa Imami, built just after the collapse of the Ilkhanid dynasty. The mihrab was created by joining a myriad of cut glazed tiles to produce its intricate arabesque and calligraphic designs. The result is one of the earliest and finest examples of mosaic tilework. A splendid work of religious architectural decoration, this mihrab is one of the most significant works in the Museum’s collection.
Inscription: Large inscription in Arabic in muhaqqaq script on outer border: (Qur’an.9:18–22 )

Inscription in Arabic in kufic script framing the niche:
قال علیه الصلوة والسلام بنى الاسلام علی خمس شهادة ان لا إله إلا الله وأن محمداً رسول الله
واقام الصلوة وإیتاء الزکوة و الحج و صوم رمضان وقال علیه الصلوة و السلام من بنی لله
مسجداً ولو بمفحص قطاة علی التقوی
He [the Prophet], blessings and peace be upon him, said: “Islam is built on five
attestations: there is no god but God and Muhammad is the Messenger of God,
he established prayer and the giving of alms and the pilgrimage and fasting of
[the month of] Ramadan.” And he [the Prophet], blessings and peace be upon
him, said: “Whoever builds a mosque for God, even the size of a sand-grouse
nest, based on piety, [God will build for him a palace in Paradise].”

Inscription in Arabic in kufic and thuluth scripts at center of niche:
قال النبي علیه الصلوة والسلام/ المسجد بیت کل تقي
The Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, said:
“The mosque is the abode of the pious.”
Madrasa Imami, Isfahan, Iran (1354–late 1920s); [ A. Rabenou, Paris, by 1931–39; sold to Arthur U. Pope for MMA]
"An Illustrated Souvenir of the Exhibition of Persian Art at Burlington House London, 1931." In Persian Art. 2nd ed. London: Royal Academy of Arts, 1931. no. 57, p. 52, ill. (b/w).

Wilson, Arnold T. "7th January to 28th February, 1931." In Catalogue of the International Exhibition of Persian Art. 3rd. ed. London: Royal Academy of Arts, 1931. no. 57.

Harari, Ralph, and Richard Ettinghausen. A Survey of Persian Art from Prehistoric Times to the Present, edited by Arthur Upham Pope. Vol. I-VI. London and New York: Oxford University Press, 1938. ill. v. VI, pl. 402.

Erdmann, Kurt, George C. Miles, Jean Sauvaget, Amy Briggs, Maurice S. Dimand, Mary E. Crane, Richard Ettinghausen, Wolfgang Born, and Myron B. Smith. "A Fourteenth Century Mihrab from Isfahan." Ars Islamica vol. VII (1940). pp. 96-100, ill. (b/w).

Dimand, Maurice S. A Handbook of Muhammadan Art. 2nd rev. and enl. ed. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1944. p. 204, ill. fig. 134 (b/w).

Ettinghausen, Richard. "Islamic Art." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin vol. 33, no. 1 (Spring 1975). ill. p. 20 (color).

Welch, Stuart Cary. The Islamic World. vol. 11. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1987. pp. 48-49, ill. fig. 34 (color).

Soucek, Priscilla, ed. Content and Context of Visual Arts in the Islamic World : papers from a colloquium in memory of Richard Ettinghausen, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University. Monographs on the fine arts, vol. 44. University Park, PA: College Art Association of America, 1988. pp. 53, 62, ill. fig. 3 (b/w).

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Guide. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2012. pp. 132-133, ill. p. 132 (color).

Carboni, Stefano, and Tomoko Masuya. Persian Tiles. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1993. no. 31, p. 36, ill. (b/w).

de Montebello, Philippe, and Kathleen Howard, ed. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Guide. 6th ed. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1992. p. 321, ill. fig. 24 (color).

Ekhtiar, Maryam, Sheila R. Canby, Navina Haidar, and Priscilla P. Soucek, ed. Masterpieces from the Department of Islamic Art in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 1st ed. ed. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2011. no. 81, pp. 12-13, 15, 16, 89, 124-126, ill. p. 125 (color), figs. 19, 20 (b/w).

Ekhtiar, Maryam, and Claire Moore, ed. "A Resource for Educators." In Art of the Islamic World. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2012. pp. 46-47, ill. pl. 4 (color).

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