Fragment of an inscription plaque
Museum of Islamic Art at the Pergamon Museum
Hegira 4th–5th century / AD 10th–11th century
Marble, incised and polished kufic script.
Height 45.5 cm, width 66.5 cm
The rectangular marble plaque is the right-hand side of a monumental inscription. The plaque was obviously reused because of the preciousness of the material. On the reverse side there is a tombstone inscription, written in kufic script, referring to a man who died in AH 307 / AD 920. This date is not consistent with the calligraphic style of the monumental inscription on the front, which indicates that it has indeed been reused. The side with the monumental inscription has been designated as the front because of the beauty of its calligraphy. The kufic script denotes the first three words of the basmala, the Islamic profession of faith. The calligraphy of the inscription, which is cut in relief, has been rendered in the so-called ‘floriated’ kufic, each letter being developed into a half-palmette. Variations of interweaving kufic calligraphy can be seen on the left-hand side. Both calligraphic styles were elementary components of decorative kufic calligraphy from as early as the AH 3rd / AD 9th century. The monumental inscription could have been created in the early part of the AH 5th / AD 11th century. The vertical strokes of the flowery kufic script end in floral motifs, whereas those of the interweaving kufic intertwine with one another. These decorative details are not only present in large monumental inscriptions but also in other art forms. Kufic was often used for religious texts because of its monumental appearance. The Arabic author Ibn Khaldun (AH 732–84 / AD 1332–82) described the origins and development of various calligraphic styles, and the significance of a uniform script for the Arabic conquests. He also argued that kufic calligraphy originated in the Iraqi town of Kufa.View Short Description
This marble plaque fragment from Fatimid Egypt has a monumental inscription in kufic script. Because single letters end in half-palmettes or floral elements, this type of script is called floriated kufic. In different forms it was common in many parts of the Islamic world.
The dated inscription on the back dates the inscription on the front to be from some time after 307 / 920. Its stylistic markings suggest that the monumental inscription is probably from the early 5th / early 11th century.
Bought from a Cairo gallery in 1907. Transferred from the Early Christian department.
The fragment of marble was acquired in Egypt and the style and markings of the script support an Egyptian provenance.
Grohmann, A., Arabische Paläographie, II. part, Das Schriftwesen. Die Lapidarschrift, Graz; Vienna; Cologne, 1971, p.193, ill. 222.
Kühnel, E. Islamische Schriftkunst Berlin; Leipzig, 1942, ill. 14.
Répertoire Chronologique d’épigraphie Arabe III, Cairo, 1932, pp.121–2, no. 1012.
Safadi, Y. H., Islamic Calligraphy, London, 1978, plate 6, 35.
Schimmel, A., Islamic Calligraphy, Leiden, 1970, plate 2.
Annette Hagedorn "Fragment of an inscription plaque" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2020. http://islamicart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=object;ISL;de;Mus01;41;en
Prepared by: Annette Hagedorn
Translation by: Maria Vlotides, Brigitte Finkbeiner
Translation copyedited by: Monica Allen
MWNF Working Number: GE 52