Candlestick of Qalawun
Islamic Museum, al-Aqsa Mosque / al-Haram al-Sharif
Hegira 693–741 / AD 1294–1340
أ/ ن/ 4
Copper, engraved and inlaid with silver.
Height 38.5 cm, height (of neck) 19.5 cm, diameter 23.5 cm
Probably Cairo, Egypt.
A copper candlestick consisting of a cylindrical body, base and neck. The cylindrical neck is smaller in diameter than the base and body. At the top of the neck is a candleholder that is wider than the neck. Three decorative bands wrap themselves around the relatively broad base of the candlestick. The first band consists of shapes that are separated from each other by polygons. The second band is characterised by interwoven half-leaves that wrap around each other like a necklace. The third band is similar in shape to an ear of wheat. The body of this candlestick is reminiscent of another, also in the Museum, that belonged to al-Nasir Muhammad bin Qalawun.
The body of the candlestick exhibited here has an engraved inscription band in large Mamluk naskhi script, which fills its surface. The spaces in between the inscription are filled with intertwining vegetal motifs, which continue until there are no spaces remaining on the surface of the candlestick body. The inscription reads: “The possession of our lord, the great amir, the all-knowing, the just, the sovereign, the victorious”.The inscription is intersected by two circular medallions, each of which is formed by an outer circle filled with depictions of lotus flowers, and an inner circle that contains one big flower. The body ends with two bands of vegetal decoration that resemble the remaining decorative scheme of the body.
The top-plate of the candlestick is devoid of decoration and it is probably not original; the original was probably decorated and perhaps had an inscription band. It is likely that replacement of the top-plate took place when the neck of the candlestick was replaced, but it is not known when these alterations took place. The replaced neck, also undecorated, indicates the decline in craftsmanship during the late Mamluk period. There is striking similarity between this candlestick and that of al-Nasir Muhammad, which suggests that both candlesticks were made by the same craftsman in the same period.
A copper candlestick with thick vegetal decorative motifs. Its epigraphic inscriptions are within medallions and written in large Mamluk naskhi script, with backgrounds of vegetal decoration. The inscriptions are linked to the ruler, al-Nasir Muhammad bin Qalawun, who endowed it to al-Haram al-Ibrahimi in Hebron.
Mamluk Sultan, al-Nasir Muhammad bin Qalawun (who ruled three times: AH 693–4, 698–708 and 709–41 / AD 1294–5, 1299–1309 and 1309–40)
This piece was dated based on the inscriptions on it, which also mention the Mamluk sultan, al-Nasir Muhammad bin Qalawun.
The piece was transferred after 1967 from al-Haram al-Ibrahimi in Hebron (al-Khalil), to the Islamic Museum in Jerusalem.
Cairo was narrowed down as the place of production by studying the craftsmanship and decoration of these candlesticks, and by comparing them with two similar candlesticks in the Islamic Museum in Cairo that were produced in the same period.
Abu Khalaf, M., Islamic Art Through the Ages: Masterpieces of the Islamic Museum of al-Haram al-Sharif, Jerusalem, 1998.
__________, “Three Candlesticks from the Islamic Museum of al-Haram al-Sharif”, Levant, No. 20, 1988.
Nazmi Al-Ju'beh "Candlestick of Qalawun" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2020. http://islamicart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=object;ISL;pa;Mus01;20;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 20
Islamic Dynasties / Period
On display in
Discover Islamic Art Exhibition(s)Al-Franj: the Crusaders in the Levant | Journey of an Islamic Minbar Al-Franj: the Crusaders in the Levant | Two Mamluk Sultans against the Franks
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