Museum of Islamic Art at the Pergamon Museum
Hegira first half of the 8th century / AD first half of the 14th century
Glass, enamelled and gilded.
Height 34 cm, diameter 24.8 cm
Egypt or Syria.
Glass mosque lamps with enamel decoration were mainly made during the Mamluk period in Egypt or Syria. They were made on commission and were presented by Mamluk sultans as gifts to Cairo mosques.
The most famous of the Museum of Islamic Art’s mosque lamps is made of honey-coloured glass, with a foot shaped like an inverse chalice and a belly-shaped body that turns, above an indentation, into a long conical neck. On the body there are six eyelets laid on and pressed into escutcheon-shaped spaces. Chains were attached to these in order to hang the lamp from the ceiling. An additional funnel-shaped small oil lamp, which emitted the light, was hung within this lamp.
The decoration consists of two frieze inscriptions, and of flowers painted on a small scale that betray a Far Eastern influence through their lotus blossom motif. The frieze inscription over the body of the lamp has been done in gold over a blue background. It mentions the name of the Mamluk sultan al-Nasir Muhammad, who ruled at various intervals (r. AH 698–708 / AD 1299–1309 and AH 709–41 / AD 1310–41). The mosque lamp could have been commissioned for a mosque or school that contained or had an adjoining mausoleum. These kinds of building complexes were constructed in Cairo in AH 704 / AD 1304 and between AH 718 and 736 / AD 1318–35. The inscription in blue over a tendril ending in spirals and a background that was originally painted in gold is particularly apt for a mosque lamp as its subject matter is based on the ‘Light verse’ from the Qur’an (Sura 24, verse 35). Both inscriptions are written in the thuluth script typical of the Mamluk period.
Glass lamps were produced for mosques, shrines and mausoleums. An inner container held the oil and wick. According to the inscription on its body, this lamp was made in the name of the Mamluk Sultan al-Nasir Muhammad. It is also adorned by the Light verse of the Qur’an (Sura 24 v.35).
Count F. von Pourtales, St. Petersburg
A large number of glass mosque lamps were made during the Mamluk era. This one states the name of the Sultan al-Nasir Muhammad, who ruled in the 8th / 14th century.
A gift from Count F. von Pourtales in 1913.
Mosque lamps were probably made in Syria as well as in Egypt. It is not yet possible to assign a precise origin to this piece.
Carboni, S. and Whitehouse, D., Glass of the Sultans, New York, 2001, pp.199–273.
Lamm, C. J., Mittelalterliche Gläser und Steinschnittarbeiten aus dem Nahen Osten, Berlin, 1929–30, p.434, cat. no. 27, plate 190, no. 10.
Museum für Islamische Kunst, Catalogue, 1972–9, no.13.
Jens Kröger "Mosque lamp" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2019. http://islamicart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=object;ISL;de;Mus01;30;en
Prepared by: Jens KrögerJens Kröger
Jens Kröger is a historian of Islamic art and archaeology. He studied European art history and Ancient Near Eastern archaeology at the Free University of Berlin and obtained his Ph.D. in 1978 on Sasanian and early Islamic stucco (Sasanidischer Stuckdekor, Mainz: von Zabern, 1982). As a curator at the Museum of Islamic Art at the Pergamon Museum, Berlin, he has participated in numerous exhibitions and published on the subject of pre-Islamic and Islamic art, including Nishapur: Glass of the Early Islamic Period (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1995), and edited Islamische Kunst in Berliner Sammlungen (Berlin, 2004).
Translation by: Maria Vlotides, Brigitte Finkbeiner
Translation copyedited by: Monica Allen
MWNF Working Number: GE 40
Islamic Dynasties / Period
On display in
Discover Islamic Art Exhibition(s)The Mamluks | The Sultan and his Court
Virtual Visit Exhibition Trail
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