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:
  • Description

    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.

  • Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings

    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.”

  • Provenance

    Madrasa Imami, Isfahan, Iran (1354–late 1920s); [ A. Rabenou, Paris, by 1931–39; sold to Arthur U. Pope for MMA]

  • See also
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History