Decorative stone with stylised scrollwork and pomegranates
Museum of Islamic Art at the Pergamon Museum
Around Hegira 86–96 / AD 705–15
Height 55 cm, width 28 cm
Umayyad, period of Caliph al-Walid I (r. c. AH 86–96 / AD 705–15)
Palace of Khirbat al-Minya on the Sea of Galilee, Israel.
This rectangular block of stone displays decorative relief work on its front side. The decoration comprises two tendril stems growing out of a single stalk. The tendrils interweave with each other, sweeping across like waves, and branch out into pairs of scrolls, before turning into leaves or stylised pomegranates.
The relief stone block came from a larger architectural complex, and was intended as a piece of ornamental decoration for the entrance area of the palace in Khirbat al-Minya. As the palace was never completed, it is not known what the entire complex would have been. The Umayyad Caliph al-Walid I ordered the building of a small palace in Khirbat al-Minya next to Tiberias on the northwestern banks of the Sea of Galilee between AH 86 and 96 (AD 705–15). The palace, which was never finished, was designed to have an extensively decorated entrance hall, but it was nevertheless exceptional for its splendid audience hall, complete with mosaic floors, as well as a mosque with a semi-circular prayer niche. The stone decoration in Khirbat al-Minya is completely at one with the traditions of Late Antiquity, although it also incorporates clear differences demonstrated by heavier stylisation that was characteristic of the Early Islamic period. The use of stylised pomegranates can principally be found in the architectural ornamentation of the Umayyad period in stone and stuccowork as well as on mosaics.
The Berlin Museums participated in 1936–9 in the excavation in Khirbat al-Minya, which is why the Museum was allowed to have an important part of the discoveries. The other half of what was found remains in Jerusalem.
This limestone block was excavated from the unfinished palace of Khirbat al-Minya near Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee, built for the Umayyad Caliph al-Walid I. The relief shows undulating stems ending in vine leaves and pomegranates. This design was to decorate part of the entrance into the palace.
Probably Caliph al-Walid I (r. AH 86–96 / AD 705–15)
The palace of Khirbat al-Minya has been dated to the reign of the Caliph al-Walid I from various characteristics. These include an inscription on the building and coins found there, the architectural design and distribution of rooms, and the form and appearance of the prayer niche.
Acquired as an excavation piece following the division of the finds.
This stone was discovered along with others during the excavation of Khirbat al-Minya; they lay, displaced, in the entrance hall of the palace.
Creswell, K. A. C., Early Muslim Architecture, Oxford, 1969, Vol. I(2), pp.380–9, plates 64–9.
Museum für Islamische Kunst, Mainz, 2001, p.18.
Puttrich-Reignard, O., “Die Palastanlage von Chirbet el Minje”, Palästina-Hefte des Deutschen Vereins vom Heiligen Lande 17–20, 1939 (special number).
Jens Kröger "Decorative stone with stylised scrollwork and pomegranates" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2020. http://islamicart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=object;ISL;de;Mus01;49;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 66
Islamic Dynasties / Period
On display in
Discover Islamic Art Exhibition(s)The Umayyads | The Formation of Islamic Art Echoes of Paradise: the Garden and Flora in Islamic Art | Visions of the Heavenly Garden and the Tree-of-Life
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