Mihrab (Prayer Niche)

Object Name: Mihrab

Date: A.H. 755/A.D. 1354–55

Geography: From Iran, Isfahan

Medium: Mosaic of polychrome-glazed cut tiles on stonepaste body; set into mortar

Dimensions: 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)

Classification: Ceramics

Credit Line: Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1939

Accession Number: 39.20


The most important element in any mosque is the mihrab, the niche that indicates the direction of Mecca. Because it functions as the focal point in prayer ritual, its decoration was executed with great skill and devotion. This example from the Madrasa Imami in Isfahan, founded in 755 A.H./1354 A.D., is composed of a mosaic of small glazed tiles fitted together to form various geometric and floral patterns and inscriptions. The inscriptional frieze in muhaqqaq script containing sura IX:14–22 from the Qur'an runs from the bottom right to the bottom left; a second inscription, in kufic script, with sayings of the Prophet, borders the pointed arch of the niche; and a third inscription, in cursive, is set in a frame at the center of the niche. The bottom of the niche, just below the central inscription, and a substantial part of the beginning and end of the main inscription were restored by skillful potters in Isfahan in the mid-1920s.