Museum of Islamic Art
Hegira 5th century / AD 11th century
Gold embellished with enamel.
Diameter 2.5 cm
Possibly Fustat, Egypt.
Archaeological excavations in the Egyptian City of Fustat have furnished us with some pieces of jewellery such as bracelets, rings, earrings and pendants of gold and silver. A number of techniques in jewellery-making and ornamentation were widespread in Egypt during the Fatimid period. Some of the most important techniques were carving, piercing and enamel inlay. The piece illustrated here is a good example of decorative enamel inlay.
Generally, decorative enamelling was done in one of two ways: one way – called lobed enamel – involves pouring the enamel into small metallic lobes, closely resembling moulds. After firing the lobes in a kiln, they are then mounted in specific places in accordance with the design on to the gold surface of the piece of jewellery. The other way involves making deep-grooved decorative carvings of the desired design on the surface of the piece; enamel is then poured into the grooves and the piece is then fired in a kiln. The former method is a quicker and faster way than the latter. The piece illustrated here is an exquisite example of lobed enamel jewellery – the first method of decoration with enamel.
This is a circular pendant whose form assumes a concave surface. Its decorative layout is arranged along three horizontal sections. The central section, which is the broadest, is filled with an inscription in kufic script set in white, decorated in red, and placed against a background of ash-green. The text reads: “… God is best to take care [of him]” and is part of verse (ayah) 64 of the Chapter of Joseph (Yusuf; no. 12). The sections above and below the inscription are decorated with a vegetal branch, each of which is depicted in red, and set against a green background.
Women used all kinds and shapes of jewellery, such as bracelets, rings, earrings, brooches and pendants. Techniques in ornamentation included engraving, incising, piercing and enamel inlay. This piece is good example of decorative enamel inlay.
The pendant is dated by means of studying the kufic script used in the decoration. Dating was also greatly assisted by a comparative study of the pendant's craftsmanship that, together with some objects made of stucco, have been uncovered in archaeological excavations in the Egyptian City of Fustat, and which are attributed to the same period.
The object was discovered during the course of archaeological excavations that took place in Fustat in 1916.
A study of the pendant's craftsmanship with reference to stucco objects also uncovered in archaeological excavations in Fustat suggests that the pendant may have been produced there.
Hassan, Z. M., Atlas al-Funun al-Zukhrufiya wa al-Tasawir al-Islamiya [Atlas of Islamic Decorative Arts and Pictorial Representations], Beirut, 1981.
Hamdi, A. M., Mu'addat al-Tajmil bi-Mathaf al-Fan al-Islami [Cosmetic Implements at the Museum of Islamic Art], Cairo, 1959.
________ et al, Katalog Ma'rid al-fan al-islāmi fi misr [Catalogue of the Islamic Art Exhibition in Egypt], Cairo, 1969.
Sayour, S. A., “Les bijoux au cours de l'ère islamique”, in Prisma, No. 19, 1999, p.36.
________________, “Las Joyas en la época Islamica”, in Prisma, No. 7, 1998, p.25.
Salah Sayour "Pendant" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2018. http://www.discoverislamicart.org/database_item.php?id=object;ISL;eg;Mus01;24;en
Prepared by: Salah SayourSalah Sayour
Salah Ahmad Sayour holds a BA in Islamic Antiquities, Faculty of Arts, Cairo University (1973) and is currently studying for an MA in the same field. In 1979 he had a four-month scholarship at Austrian museums to study museology. Preparing exhibitions for the Museum of Islamic Art's collections in the Arab World Institute, Paris and curating exhibitions held in host museums in the USA and Paris augmented his experience leading to his appointment as head of several sections at the Museum. He has written several articles on Islamic painting and arts for Prism Magazine published by the Ministry in different languages and has participated in preparing scientific texts for the catalogues for the Museum's exhibitions at home and abroad.
Copyedited by: Majd Musa
Translation by: Amal Sachedina (from the Arabic).
Translation copyedited by: Mandi Gomez
MWNF Working Number: ET 41
Islamic Dynasties / Period
On display in
Discover Islamic Art Exhibition(s)Women | Muslim Women’s Costume and Jewellery The Fatimids | Royal Women: Granddaughters of Fatima al-Zahra′
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