Stucco stained-glass window
Qamariyya (skylight); shamsiyya (window)
Islamic Museum, al-Aqsa Mosque / al-Haram al-Sharif
Hegira 12th century / AD 18th century
Wood, plaster (stucco) and stained-glass crafted using casting, carving and mounting.
Height 288 cm, width 166 cm, depth 9.5 cm
A large arched rectangular stained-glass window with a wooden frame of 7.5 cm wide. It also has two interior frames of stucco that are each 5 cm wide. Together the frames contain the entire window. Flanking the two plaster frames is a decorative band that is 10 cm wide. The window has 10 decorative elements, consisting of one-, two-, three- or four-leafed blossoms. Circles with a fan-like circumference divide these units from each other.
The principal decorative scheme of the window consists of an upper section and a lower one connected by a circle. In each section there are 14 circles; each of which has a circumference of 20 cm. The circles encompass vegetal decoration in the form of bifurcating branches, which surround the interior circumference of each section and meet above it. The decoration in the upper section includes the text of the Basmala (“In the name of God …”) and in the lower section, a verse from “Surat al-nisa'” “Chapter of the Women” (4: 125), which reads “Allah did Take Abraham for a Friend”. The epigraphic inscriptions are coloured in white glaze to accentuate them.
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.
The windows at al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock as well as other religious buildings are made from plaster and coloured glass. This window from al-Aqsa Mosque is adorned with vegetal, geometric and epigraphic decoration. The fragility of these windows has led to their being replaced almost every century.
The date of the object was established by analysis of its decoration, and by comparison with other similar windows that had already been reliably dated, some of which are preserved at the Islamic Museum, while others remain in situ at the Dome of Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque.
The window was transferred from al-Aqsa Mosque to the Islamic Museum during restoration of the mosque after a fire in 1969.
Jerusalem was narrowed down as the place of production as a stained-glass stucco-window workshop is still operational at the Haram al-Sharif to this day. Furthermore, a window such as this would have been difficult to transport due to their extreme fragility, so it is likely to have been crafted in situ.
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;5;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 05
Islamic Dynasties / Period
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