Name of Object:

Zellij panel


Fez, Morocco

Holding Museum:

Batha Museum

Date of Object:

Hegira 751–7 / AD 1351–6

Museum Inventory Number:


Material(s) / Technique(s):

Glazed earthenware tiles.


Height 160 cm, length 77 cm

Period / Dynasty:



Buinaniya Madrasa, Fez.


This zellij panel, which covered the entrance wall of the Bouinaniya Madrasa, is decorated with testirs, geometric motifs often used in earthenware tile facings.
Each element is known by a particular name, and the stucco craftsmen memorised the particular proportions, motifs and dimensions corresponding to each figure. The motifs were first drawn on the tile then carved using a mallet. They were carved in the fired clay beneath the glaze so as to give each piece a corner-shaped profile. Once assembled, they created a polychrome mosaic with large and simple motifs dominated by white, yellow ochre and black. The panel includes a thick white line tracing rectilinear knotwork, a method introduced in the AH 7th / AD 13th century by the Almohads in their architectural decoration, and polychrome filling made up of small elements whose specific shapes are matched exactly to the voids left in the design. This knotwork rises from small white columns encircled with a green band and finishes in half knots. It encloses a network of concentric diamonds made up of elements in yellow ochre, violet black and emerald green or yellow ochre, black and lavender blue, all with a black piece in the centre.
This fragment illustrates the mastery of the zellij craftsmen in the Marinid era who, like their Nasrid counterparts, produced op art masterpieces before their time.

View Short Description

This zellij panel covered the entrance wall to the madrasa. It is decorated with testirs, or geometric patterns that are the pre-eminent decorative motif for earthenware-tile facings. It consists of a network of lozenges surrounded by an interlacing design.

Original Owner:

Habus (endowment)

How date and origin were established:

The panel comes from the Buinaniya Madrasa (AH 751–7 / AD 1351–6).

How Object was obtained:

Salvaged following the restoration of the monument.

How provenance was established:

The panel was salvaged during the restoration of the monument in the 20th century.

Selected bibliography:

Marçais, G., L'architecture musulmane d'Occident, Paris, 1954.
Paccard, A., Le Maroc et l'artisanat traditionnel islamique dans l'architecture, Vol. 1, Paris, 1979.
Terrasse, Ch., Médersas du Maroc, Paris, 1927.
Terrasse, H. and Hainaut, J., Les arts décoratifs au Maroc, Paris, 1925.
Andalusian Morocco: A Discovery in Living Art, pp.124–6, p.232.

Citation of this web page:

Naima El Khatib-Boujibar "Zellij panel" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2018.;ISL;ma;Mus01_C;26;en

Prepared by: Naima El Khatib-BoujibarNaima El Khatib-Boujibar

Archéologue et historienne de l'art, titulaire d'une licence en lettres (française), N. Elkhatib-Boujibar a également étudié l'archéologie et l'histoire de l'art à l'Institut d'art et d'archéologie de Paris, l'art islamique et la muséologie à l'École du Louvre (Paris), et suivi des cours à l'Institut d'ethnographie de l'Université de Neuchâtel (Suisse). Elle a occupé plusieurs postes de responsabilité, parmi lesquels directrice des Musées et de l'Archéologie, inspectrice générale des Musées et de l'Archéologie, déléguée régionale du ministère de la Culture.
Elle a dirigé un chantier de fouille durant 20 ans et enseigné à l'Institut national marocain des sciences de l'archéologie et du patrimoine (INSAP). Elle a organisé différentes expositions sur le patrimoine marocain, au Maroc comme à l'étranger, et animé des cycles de conférence, dont celui sur l'art islamique à la “Villa des Arts” à Casablanca.
N. El Khatib-Boujibar a publié différents articles sur le patrimoine archéologique, artistique et architectural marocain, mais aussi sur d'autres sites islamiques et sur les arts mobiliers. Elle a également participé à la rédaction du catalogue Musée Sans Frontières Le Maroc andalou, à la rencontre d'un art de vivre.

Copyedited by: Margot Cortez
Translation by: Laurence Nunny
Translation copyedited by: Monica Allen

MWNF Working Number: MO 32


Related monuments

 Artistic Introduction

 Timeline for this item

Islamic Dynasties / Period

Marinids and Wattasids

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