Name of Object:

Wooden panel


Cairo, Egypt

Holding Museum:

Museum of Islamic Art

About Museum of Islamic Art, Cairo

Date of Object:

Hegira 3rd century / AD 9th century

Museum Inventory Number:


Material(s) / Technique(s):

Wood inlaid with bone, ivory and ebony.


Length 180 cm, width 51 cm

Period / Dynasty:



Fustat, Egypt.


A wooden panel with inlaid decoration of bone, ivory and ebony in the manner of a mosaic. The ornamentation is composed of semi-circles, circles, arches, pillars and vegetal decorations that include five-lobed vine-leaves and half-fan palm-leaves. The artistic roots of these motifs lie in Sassanid, Byzantine and Coptic art. Egypt had acquired fame from the Pharonic period onwards for its craftsmanship in wood and inlay work in ivory, bone and ebony. The Copts inherited these skills, mastered them, and became outstanding artisans in this craft, producing doors, door-panels and partition screens. The woodcrafts flourished in Egypt during the Umayyad and Abbasid periods, and production included objects such as doors, windows, minbars, inscription bands, dining tables, tribunes and chairs. All of these objects were decorated with small pieces of ivory, bone and ebony which were set to adjoin each other and to create delicate and detailed geometric and vegetal designs, such as on this inlaid panel, believed to have been a side panel for a piece of furniture belonging to a residence or palace.

View Short Description

Early Egyptian woodwork was decorated both by carving and by inlaying with ivory and bone. This piece is a good example of the second method.

How date and origin were established:

The panel is dated based on an analysis of its geometric and vegetal decorative motifs; the style indicates a date during the Tulunid period of the 3rd / 9th century.

How Object was obtained:

This panel was uncovered during the course of archaeological excavations carried out at Fustat.

How provenance was established:

Wooden inlayed panels such as this were used to furnish mosques and residences. Fustat in particular was famous for the production of such panels in the early Islamic period, and production flourished during the Fatimid and Mamluk periods. Many of these panels were discovered in Fustat.

Selected bibliography:

Abu Sadaira, al-Sayyed Taha al-Sayyed, Al-Hiraf wa al-Sina'at Masr al-Islamiya [Handicrafts and Manufactures in Islamic Egypt], Cairo, 1991.
Brend, B., Islamic Art, London, 1991.
Hassan, Z. M., Al-Fan al-Islami fi Masr [Islamic Art in Egypt], Cairo, 1935.
Marzuq, Muhammad Abd al-Aziz, Al-Fununal-Zukhrufiya al-Islamiya fi Masr qabl 'Asr al-Fatimiyyin, [Islamic Decorative Arts in Egypt Before the Fatimid Period], Cairo, 1974.
Wilson, E., Islamic Designs, London, 1988.

Citation of this web page:

Muhammad Abbas Muhammad Selim "Wooden panel" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2020.;ISL;eg;Mus01;37;en

Prepared by: Muhammad Abbas Muhammad SelimMuhammad Abbas Muhammad Selim

He graduated from the Faculty of Archaeology, Cairo University in 1974 and received an MA on Abbasid Tiraz textiles from the same university in 1995. He has worked at the Museum of Islamic Art in Cairo since 1975. He attended a textile conservation course in Vienna while studying different collections at Austrian museums for five months. He co-authored the first catalogue of the Abegg Foundation in Bern in 1995, the catalogue of the Islamic Art Museum in Cairo and the forthcoming catalogue of the Egyptian Textile Museum. He lectured on Fatimid Art in Switzerland in 1997 and at the Ismaili Centre for Islamic Studies in London in 2003. He has classified and studied the Islamic collection at the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, London, and is currently preparing to publish its catalogues.

Copyedited by: Majd Musa
Translation by: Amal Sachedina (from the Arabic).
Translation copyedited by: Mandi GomezMandi Gomez

Amanda Gomez is a freelance copy-editor and proofreader working in London. She studied Art History and Literature at Essex University (1986–89) and received her MA (Area Studies Africa: Art, Literature, African Thought) from SOAS in 1990. She worked as an editorial assistant for the independent publisher Bellew Publishing (1991–94) and studied at Bookhouse and the London College of Printing on day release. She was publications officer at the Museum of London until 2000 and then took a role at Art Books International, where she worked on projects for independent publishers and arts institutions that included MWNF’s English-language editions of the books series Islamic Art in the Mediterranean. She was part of the editorial team for further MWNF iterations: Discover Islamic Art in the Mediterranean Virtual Museum and the illustrated volume Discover Islamic Art in the Mediterranean.

True to its ethos of connecting people through the arts, MWNF has provided Amanda with valuable opportunities for discovery and learning, increased her editorial experience, and connected her with publishers and institutions all over the world. More recently, the projects she has worked on include MWNF’s Sharing History Virtual Museum and Exhibition series, Vitra Design Museum’s Victor Papanek and Objects of Desire, and Haus der Kulturen der Welt’s online publication 2 or 3 Tigers and its volume Race, Nation, Class.

MWNF Working Number: ET 67


 Artistic Introduction

 Timeline for this item

Islamic Dynasties / Period


On display in

Discover Islamic Art Exhibition(s)

The Abbasids | Abbasid Egypt

MWNF Galleries

Furniture and woodwork


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