Curtain (Sitarah) from the Prophet’s Mosque at Medina

dark green silk, with red and dark beige silk appliqués, embroidered in silver and silver-gilt wire over cotton thread padding

288 x 137cm

The design of the sitarah, with the central arch, the mosque lamp and the two candlesticks and the text in the two panels above the arch (both of which refer to prayer) strongly suggest that the curtain was intended for a mihrab in the Prophet’s Mosque.

The first inscribed panel at the top of curtain has surah al-Hujurat (XLIX), verse 3, ‘Those that lower their voice in the presence of God’s Apostle – their hearts has God tested for piety: for them is forgiveness and a great reward.’ In the panel below it is a hadith about the value of prayer upon the Prophet, ‘He who prays for me once shall be blessed by God tenfold’. The text in the panels on the vertical sides of the sitarah is surah al-Hashr (LIX), verses 22–24, and appears on several types of sitarahs made for the sanctuary at Medina. The small roundels in the top and side borders have the names of God, Muhammad, Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, ‘Uthman and ‘Ali. The commissioning inscription, with the name of Selim III, occupies two roundels in the lower border. The Sultan’s name appears a second time in the drop-shaped cartouche below the lamp, along with the date.