Lamp with a spout
Raqqada, Kairouan, Tunisia
Museum of Islamic Art
Hegira 4th–early 5th centuries / AD 10th–11th centuries
Diameter 9.9 cm, length 15.1 cm
The belly of the oil reservoir is disc-shaped and sits on a high, wide, hollow, decahedral base. The neck is damaged.
A long spout that is shaped like a ship's keel and reinforced at the join, projects from the belly. Its lower part has a rounded channel with horizontal grooves that lead back into the container. The anchor–shaped handle suggests some kind of animal. The workmanship is far from perfect, as shown by the neck, (set off-centre and non-perpendicular), and by the crudely shaped handle set off-axis with the spout.
The Islamic Middle Age has left us several bronze lamps comparable in many respects to the Ifriqiyan lamp. The numerous enamelled or non-enamelled terracotta lamps which abound from al-Andalus to Egypt also have the same form as this one. They date from the AH 2nd–3rd / AD 8th–9th century and differ greatly from Byzantine lamps, showing that Muslim lamps took on their own character over the centuries. However, the form and proportions of this lamp do resemble several lamps found in Spain and Portugal.
We can include in the same category the lamp kept at the Archaeological Museum at Granada (discoid belly), the lamp from the Archaeological Museum at Jaen (spout and decahedral base), and the lamp from the Marquet de Vasselot Collection (truncated cone neck; see Marcais and Poinssot). It does seem possible that there was a Western Muslim School making bronze lamps with its own techniques and to its own designs.
Nevertheless, the different parts of the Ifriqiyan lamp are noted for their simplicity and harmony, which gives them a distinct character, and there was in fact a metalworking tradition at Kairouan.
Reminiscent of Byzantine lamps, its shape and proportions are quite distinctive. Resting on a decahedral base, the lamp has a disk-shaped belly with a truncated cone-shaped neck. It is similar to lamps found in Spain and Portugal.
Similar lamps from Spain and Portugal definitely date from the 4th–5th / 10th–11th centuries. However, the Hilalian invasions in the middle of the 5th /11th century brought about the collapse of the Tunisian economy and the decadence of its craftsmanship, which implies that this date is a terminus post quem.
After its discovery the lamp first went on display at the Bardo Museum and was then transferred in 1995 to the Museum of Islamic Art at Raqqada.
This cast-bronze lamp was discovered by chance, on an unknown date, probably during the 1940s, at Chebba, a small town on the eastern coastline of Tunisia near Mahdiyya, the ancient Fatimid capital. Evidence suggests it is of Ifriqiyan fabrication.
Marçais, G. and Poinssot, L., Objets Kairouanais, XI, fasc. 2, Tunis, 1952, pp.459–61.
Les Andalousies, de Damas a Cordoue (exhibition catalogue), Paris, 2000, p.195.
De Carthage a Kairouan (exhibition catalogue), Paris, 1982, p.220.
Mourad Rammah "Lamp with a spout" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2019. http://islamicart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=object;ISL;tn;Mus01;16;en
Prepared by: Mourad RammahMourad Rammah
Né en 1953 à Kairouan, docteur en archéologie islamique, Mourad Rammah est le conservateur de la médina de Kairouan. Lauréat du prix Agha Khan d'architecture, il publie divers articles sur l'histoire de l'archéologie médiévale islamique en Tunisie et participe à différentes expositions sur l'architecture islamique. De 1982 à 1994, il est en charge du département de muséographie du Centre des arts et des civilisations islamiques. Mourad Rammah est également directeur du Centre des manuscrits de Kairouan.
Copyedited by: Margot Cortez
Translation by: David Ash
Translation copyedited by: Mandi Gomez
MWNF Working Number: TN 24
On display in
Discover Islamic Art Exhibition(s)The Muslim West | Court Life
DownloadAs PDF (including images) As Word (text only)