Stucco stained-glass window
Qamariyya (skylight); shamsiyya (window)
Islamic Museum, al-Aqsa Mosque / al-Haram al-Sharif
Hegira 12th century / AD 18th century
Carved wood, plaster/stucco and stained-glass.
Height 325 cm, width 128 cm
A stucco stained-glass window divided into 21 decorative units of vegetal and geometric motifs and inscriptions. The first unit is composed of a circular “flower” that complements and forms the arch, and which is adorned with a colourful geometric decoration in yellow, turquoise and dark-red glass. Adjacent to this area is a rectangular zone which contains the only inscription on the window. This is a verse from the Qur'an [“al-Tawba”] (“the Repentance”, 9: 18), which reads: “In the Cause of Allah, They are not comparable in the sight of Allah.” The inscription is carved in an interlaced script of white glass. The surrounding space is filled with simple squares of light-blue glass. Adjacent to the inscription are three squares of equal size. The two side squares are identical, and in the middle of each of them there is an eight-sided star. Both are divided into small pieces of dark-red, green and yellow glass. The middle square contains two polygons of yellow and blue glass; the decorative component transfers thereafter to three long rectangles. The two side rectangles are identical and are decorated with intertwining zigzag lines of blue, yellow and dark-red glass. The middle rectangle takes the form of a flower, out of which emerges an intertwining plant that wraps around three times to resemble a circle, and which is topped by a crown formed from vegetal motifs. The window terminates with three squares that are identical in size, and which resemble those mentioned earlier.
The manufacture of stucco windows inset with stained glass requires a number of stages. The first stage is the preparation of a solid wooden frame to contain the finished window. Liquid plaster is then poured into the frame and left to dry completely. The window is then placed on an iron mount where an imprint of the decoration is made on the surface of the plaster. This can be done by transferring the design from a sheet of tracing paper with the use of a needle and lead filings, and then using a cutting tool. The carving is done directly on to the plaster by hand with the use of precision tools. The work is extremely exacting as the plaster is fragile, making the window vulnerable to damage. The carving is done at a level of deflection of 45 per cent, allowing light to fall at the centre of the mosque hall. The glass is slotted into the empty spaces from the back. Finally, the window is transferred from the workshop to the site where it is mounted. To produce a window such as this would take between nine and 12 months.
This stucco window from al-Aqsa Mosque is divided into 11 decorative elements derived from vegetal, geometric and epigraphic forms. The independent elements appear as a collective unit within a wooden frame, which gathers a multiplicity of decorative forms in a number of colours.
Al-Aqsa Mosque, Jerusalem
The piece was dated by comparison of its style, decoration and form of production with other dated pieces, which are still in situ.
The piece was transferred from al-Aqsa Mosque to the Islamic Museum in around 1929 during renovation works that took place following an earthquake which struck Jerusalem in 1927.
Jerusalem was narrowed down as the place of the production of this piece in view of the presence of a permanent workshop for the production of such windows in the Haram al-Sharif. This workshop is still active at the Haram today and was re-established following a fire at al-Aqsa Mosque in 1969.
Flood, F. B., “The Ottoman Windows in the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque”, in S. Auld and R. Hillenbrand (eds), Ottoman Jerusalem, London, 2000.
Nazmi Al-Ju'beh "Stucco stained-glass window" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2021. http://islamicart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=object;ISL;pa;Mus01;47;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 GomezMandi Gomez
Amanda Gomez is a freelance copy-editor and proofreader working in London. She studied Art History and Literature at Essex University (1986–89) and received her MA (Area Studies Africa: Art, Literature, African Thought) from SOAS in 1990. She worked as an editorial assistant for the independent publisher Bellew Publishing (1991–94) and studied at Bookhouse and the London College of Printing on day release. She was publications officer at the Museum of London until 2000 and then took a role at Art Books International, where she worked on projects for independent publishers and arts institutions that included MWNF’s English-language editions of the books series Islamic Art in the Mediterranean. She was part of the editorial team for further MWNF iterations: Discover Islamic Art in the Mediterranean Virtual Museum and the illustrated volume Discover Islamic Art in the Mediterranean.
True to its ethos of connecting people through the arts, MWNF has provided Amanda with valuable opportunities for discovery and learning, increased her editorial experience, and connected her with publishers and institutions all over the world. More recently, the projects she has worked on include MWNF’s Sharing History Virtual Museum and Exhibition series, Vitra Design Museum’s Victor Papanek and Objects of Desire, and Haus der Kulturen der Welt’s online publication 2 or 3 Tigers and its volume Race, Nation, Class.
MWNF Working Number: PA 47
Islamic Dynasties / Period
On display in
Discover Islamic Art Exhibition(s)The Ottomans | Art in the Spaces of Prayer
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