Museum of Islamic Art
Hegira 8th century / AD 14th century
Marble engraved in high relief.
Height 60 cm, length 36 cm
A marble plaque, approximately rectangular in shape, the apex of which is an ornamented crown. In the centre of the plaque is a mosque lamp, carved in high relief and suspended from the crown by thick ropes. Flanking either side of the lamp, at the bottom of the composition, there are engraved carvings of two candlesticks with tapering wicks. The neck and base of the lamp are embellished with vegetal motifs and braided bands; in the centre of the body is an inscription that states: 'God is the Light of the Heavens and the Earth'. Vegetal decorations appear above and below the carved inscription, which is contained within a rectangle and delineated by two beaded borders.
Although, this form of decoration does not appear in any known Mamluk glass mosque lamps, nevertheless the general form and the carved inscription are distinguishing characteristics of Mamluk mosque lamps. The candlesticks, in relief, that appear on the plaque, are decorated with vegetal scrolls and diamond-shaped motifs. The background of the plaque is decorated with vegetal scrolls composed of grape clusters, heart-shaped buds and split leaves, in addition to a pair of stylised lotus blossoms below the lamp. Traces of brown paint also appear in the background.
A number of Mamluk carved plaques, embellished in engraved decoration in marble, stone and plaster bear testimony to the widespread popularity of the sculptural arts (in wood and stone) during the Mamluk period. They also bear witness to the creativity and originality of the craftsmen in the design of vegetal and geometric compositions.
This example of Mamluk-period marble engraving depicts a mosque lantern (mishkah), two candlesticks and an inscription saying 'God is the Light of the Heavens and the Earth'. Such marblework bears witness to the skill of the craftsmen in that era.
The object is known to date to the 8th / 14th century because it was made for the Madrasa Bedeiriyya in Cairo, built during this time period.
The plaque was found on site at the Madrasa Bedeiriyya. The Council for the Preservation of Arab Monuments undertook the preservation of the plaque in the eastern court of the mosque of al-Hakim bi Amrillah in 1880, where the first acquisitions of the Museum of Islamic Art were housed before they were transferred to the present Museum building in 1903.
This plaque was found in the Madrasa Bedeiriyya, which lies in the neighbourhood of the Madrasa Salihiyya al-Najmiyya in the Fatimid Street Al-Muizz Li-Din Allah in Cairo. The Madrasa Bedeiriyya was founded in 758 / 1357 by Nasir al-Din Muhammad ibn Bedeir al-'Abbas who worked as a lecturer of fiqh (jurisprudence) of the Shaf'i school. It is likely that the plaque was produced in Cairo for the madrasa.
Al-Maqrizi, Al-mawā'iz wa'l-i'tibār bi-dhikr al-khiţaţ wa'l-āthār [Exhortations and Contemplation of the Recollection of Plans and Monuments], 2 vols, Cairo, 1853.
Atil, E., Renaissance of Islam: Art of the Mamluks, Washington D.C., 1987.
Hassan, Z. M., Funūn Al-Islām [Arts of Islam], Cairo, 1948.
Stierlin, H., and Stierlin, A., Splendours of the Islamic World: Mamluk Art in Cairo (1250–1517), London, New York, 1997.
Al-Sayyed Muhammad Khalifa Hammad "Marble plaque" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2019. http://islamicart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=object;ISL;eg;Mus01;5;en
Prepared by: Al-Sayyed Muhammad Khalifa HammadAl-Sayyed Muhammad Khalifa Hammad
He holds a BA in Islamic Antiquities from the Faculty of Art, Cairo University and an MA in the same field from Assiut University. He has been working at the Museum of Islamic Art, Cairo, since 1974 and attended a training course at Vienna Museum in 1977. He has supervised sections of glass and manuscripts and, currently, coins. At the Museum he has participated in preparing exhibitions at home and abroad and has been a member of several inventory committees. From 1988 to 1999 he worked as a lecturer at Om al-Qura University, Mecca, Saudi Arabia, and registered and organised the display of the acquisitions of the Civilisation Museum at the Shari'a and Islamic Studies Faculty at the University.
Copyedited by: Majd Musa
Translation by: Amal Sachedina (from the Arabic).
Translation copyedited by: Mandi Gomez
MWNF Working Number: ET 08
Islamic Dynasties / Period
On display in
Discover Islamic Art Exhibition(s)The Mamluks | Everyday life in the Mamluk Sultanate
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