Decorative wooden panel
Islamic Museum, al-Aqsa Mosque / al-Haram al-Sharif
Hegira 1st century / AD 8th century
Wooden Pieces 123
Cedarwood with decorative carving.
Height 193 cm, width 55 cm, depth: 8–10 cm
A cedarwood panel comprising wood imported mainly from Lebanon that was part of a wider scale procurement process which took place during the implementation of the grand Umayyad project to erect the Haram al-Sharif. The development of the Haram included the construction of the Dome of the Rock, al-Aqsa Mosque and other buildings. The panel presented here is one of a collection of pieces similar in size and carving technique, although different with regard to the decorative program. The Islamic Museum has acquired 16 of these panels, while the Palestinian Museum (Rockefeller Museum) holds some pieces from the collection. In addition to these decorative cedarwood panels, the Islamic Museum holds a large collection of undecorated pieces, including undecorated wooden beams, some of which extend to more than 10 m in length, and date back to the Umayyad period. These panels and beams were retrieved during restoration works at al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, and form a basic resource for the study of woodworking techniques used in Umayyad constructions. Additionally, the Islamic Museum has acquired other collections of woodwork dating to the Abbasid, Fatimid, Ayyubid, Mamluk and Ottoman periods. The comprehensive woodwork collection at the Museum is considered to be a rare resource for the study of Islamic woodworking throughout the ages.
This panel has been carved in low relief, which has led to a notable projection of the decoration. The decoration consists of whirling vegetal motifs and various geometric forms. The decorative style is not dissimilar to that of the Umayyad period, which combined several different styles including Byzantine, Sassanid, Coptic, and local Syrian.
The piece under discussion is adorned with decoration. Central to the overall scheme is a vase in the form of a goblet out which emerges a whirling plant in the shape of three pairs of branching and intertwining leaves that lengthen along the extent of the panel. The decoration is contained within a rectangular frame that is contained on the outside by vegetal motifs; these aim towards connecting this panel with its neighbours, thereby facilitating the transfer from one decorative theme to the next.
This piece of woodwork was used in the building of the Dome of the Rock. Its is thought to be the oldest Islamic woodwork still extant in its original location. The wood is decorated with very beautiful geometric and vegetal motifs and is a reflection of Umayyad decorative arts whose sources derived from different pre-Islamic arts.
Caliph 'Abd al-Malik bin Marwan (r. AH 65–86 / AD 685–705) or Caliph al-Walid bin 'Abd al-Malik (r. AH 86–96 / AD 705–15)
The date for this panel has been established by comparison with other related pieces: for example, the decoration and technique used to carve this piece were compared with similar woodwork at Khirbat al-Mafjar (Hisham's Palace) in Jericho. Comparisons have also been drawn with other Umayyad pieces.
The piece was initially placed in the al-Aqsa Mosque following construction, by order of 'Abd al-Malik or his son al-Walid, and subsequently transferred from al-Aqsa Mosque to the Islamic Museum in 1938.
Jerusalem was narrowed down as the place of production by means of documents pertaining to the restoration of al-Aqsa Mosque, which have been preserved by al-Aqsa Mosque Restoration Committee.
Abu Khalaf, M., Islamic Art through the Ages: Masterpieces of the Islamic Museum of al-Haram al-Sharif, Jerusalem, 1998.
Hamilton, R. W., The Structural History of al-Aqsa Mosque: A Record of Archaeological Cleaning from the Repairs of 1938–42, London, 1949.
Marçais, G., “The Panels of Carved Wood in al-Aqsa Mosque at Jerusalem”, in Creswell, K. A. C., (ed), Early Muslim Architecture (Vol. 2), Oxford, 1940.
Nazmi Al-Ju'beh "Decorative wooden panel" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2018. http://www.discoverislamicart.org/database_item.php?id=object;ISL;pa;Mus01;1;en
Prepared by: Nazmi Al-Ju'behNazmi Al-Ju'beh
Nazmi Al-Ju'beh is an archaeologist and historian and Co-Director of RIWAQ, Centre for Architectural Conservation in Ramallah, Palestine. He studied at Birzeit University in Palestine and at Tübingen University in Germany. He taught at Birzeit University and at al-Quds University. He was Director of the Islamic Museum, al-Haram al-Sharif, Jerusalem, and directed various cultural heritage projects in Palestine, including surveys of archaeological and architectural sites. He was a major contributor to Pilgrimage, Sciences and Sufism: Islamic Art in the West Bank and Gaza (Vienna: MWNF, 2004) and is the author of numerous publications on the history, archaeology and cultural heritage of Palestine.
Copyedited by: Majd Musa
Translation by: Amal Sachedina (from the Arabic).
Translation copyedited by: Mandi Gomez
MWNF Working Number: PA 01
Islamic Dynasties / Period
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