Mihrab Découpage Panel


This piece of white paper has been carefully cut out to produce an elaborate image of interlacing vines and flowers. In the central panel, two columns border the right and left vertical frame and appear to hold an almost baroque arch in which hangs a lamp. This motif may be identified as a mihrab, or the prayer niche in the qibla wall of a mosque (i.e., the wall facing Mecca), illuminated by a hanging mosque lamp. Above the mihrab, a rectangular frame contains the words Allah, Muhammad (peace and prayers upon him), and 'Ali, written in such a way as to create a reverse or mirror image. This writing technique is known as specular, bifold (musenna), duplicate (cift yazi), or reflecting itself (mutenazir) writing. The process of mirror writing and mirror image-making flourished in the Ottoman Empire during the 18th and 19th centuries, in particular in mystical quarters associated with the Bektashi order. The Bektashis created calligraphic panels and paintings representative of their tenets, among which the belief in the divinity of 'Ali, the fourth caliph of Islam and son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad, comes to the fore. It is quite probable that this panel was hung on a wall in a Bektashi dervish's living quarters, mosque, or dervish lodge (tekke).

Last updated: January 20, 2012