Name of Object:

Rectangular marble slab with Arabic funerary inscription in kufic characters


Trapani, Italy

Holding Museum:

Agostino Pepoli Regional Museum

Date of Object:

Hegira 474 / AD 1081

Museum Inventory Number:

119 / 419

Material(s) / Technique(s):

Marble, inscription in relief.


Height 46 cm, width 32 cm, depth 6.3 cm




Rectangular marble slab, almost complete but slightly damaged on the top, decorated with a rectangular fillet frame and a horseshoe arch (manfukh) that crowns the inscribed area and evokes the mihrab niche. The two spaces between the extrados of the arch and the top corners of the rectangular frame are filled with a decorative element that is repeated symmetrically: one thick plant shoot that spirals upwards to fill the corner, while another spiral unfurls downwards into the empty space. The kufic characters are distinguished by small filler circles and the full shape of the letters. The spiral filler motif is similar to AH 5th / AD 11th funerary stelae from Kairouan (Tunisia).
The inscription reads as follows (translation by M. Amari – see Bibliography): ‘In the name of God the merciful and clement. God bless the prophet Muhammad and his offspring and give them peace. Every person tastes death, then you receive your recompense on the Day of Resurrection. Whoever misses hell, barely, and makes it to Paradise, has attained a great triumph. The life of this world is no more than an illusion. This is the tomb of Sidat al-Ahi, daughter of ‘Abd al-Aziz, the Money-changer, of Mazara, who died on Friday in the month of Rabi I of the year four hundred and seventy-four’.
This stele comes from a well-known private collection in Trapani from the early 1900s belonging to G. M. Di Ferro.

View Short Description

This stele marked a woman’s grave. The arch depicted on the stele, which contains the inscription, is clearly reminiscent of the mihrab niche, evoking the idea of the passage to the afterlife, turning burial rites into rites of passage.

Original Owner:

G.M. Di Ferro collection, Trapani (c. 1830)

How date and origin were established:

The year is given in the inscription, and the style of the kufic characters belongs to the late 11th century.

How Object was obtained:

Transfer from the Fardelliana Library in Trapani.

How provenance was established:

The fact that the father of the deceased is described as a citizen of Mazara has led Amari to suggest that the family had sought refuge in Trapani after the Norman conquest of Mazara in 1072. The stele, found in a private collection in Trapani, would certainly have come from Trapani in this case.

Selected bibliography:

Amari, M., Epigrafi Arabiche di Sicilia II: Iscrizioni Funerarie, Palermo, 1879, I, no. XI, 224, tab. I, fig. 3.
Amari, M., Le Epigrafi Arabiche di Sicilia, new edition (ed. F. Gabrieli), Palermo, 1971, pp.171–2.
Répertoire Chronologique d’épigraphie Arabe, VII, p.211.

Citation of this web page:

Paolo Barresi "Rectangular marble slab with Arabic funerary inscription in kufic characters" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2018.;ISL;it;Mus01_B;48;en

Prepared by: Paolo BarresiPaolo Barresi

Laureato in Archeologia, ha conseguito la specializzazione presso la Scuola Archeologica Italiana di Atene ed il Dottorato di ricerca in Archeologia Classica.
Autore di numerosi articoli e recensioni, ha pubblicato la monografia Province dell'Asia Minore. Costo dei marmi, architettura pubblica e committenza. Collabora da anni con l'Università di Roma “La Sapienza” ed ha insegnato presso la Cattedra di Archeologia e Storia dell'Arte del Vicino Oriente Antico dell'Università di Trapani.

Copyedited by: Pier Paolo RacioppiPier Paolo Racioppi

Laureato e specializzato in storia dell'arte presso l'Università di Roma “La Sapienza” sta conseguendo il dottorato di ricerca in Storia e conservazione dell'oggetto d'arte e d'architettura presso l'Università di Roma TRE. Ha svolto attività seminariali presso l'Istituto di Storia dell'Arte all'Università La Sapienza di Roma e attualmente è docente di storia dell'arte del Rinascimento presso la IES at Luiss (Roma).
Ha pubblicato diversi contributi sulla tutela artistica, il collezionismo e le accademie d'arte, ed ha collaborato al Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani dell'Enciclopedia Treccani.

Translation by: Laurence Nunny
Translation copyedited by: Monica Allen

MWNF Working Number: IT 69


 Artistic Introduction

 Timeline for this item

Islamic Dynasties / Period

Siculo–Norman Art

On display in

MWNF Galleries

Calligraphy Funerary objects


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