Name of Object:

Column capital


London, England, United Kingdom

Holding Museum:

The British Museum

About The British Museum, London

Date of Object:

Hegira 6th century / AD 12th century

Museum Inventory Number:


Material(s) / Technique(s):



Height 32 cm, width 40 cm

Period / Dynasty:





A limestone capital with boldly cut foliage and volutes resting on twin columns. Pine cones, resembling bunches of grapes, are dispersed amongst symmetrically arranged stylised acanthus leaves. The leaves are punctuated with drilled holes. This design recalls some of the Abbasid capitals which were in turn inspired by Late Antique styles. However, instead of one pine cone and naturalistic leaf forms this capital has a proliferation of pine cones with more abstract leaves. Therefore it is probably later in date, perhaps made during Saladin's renovations of Jerusalem following his victory over the Crusaders, in the late 12th century.

View Short Description

High-relief carvings of leaves alternating with pinecones decorate this limestone capital. The design dates to the Abbasid period but ultimately derives from Late Antique models. This capital was found in the Haram al-Sharif in Jerusalem.

How date and origin were established:

Saladin, the greatest Islamic hero of the Crusades, led the battle against the Crusaders and won back Jerusalem from them in 1187; this capital may have been made during Saladin's renovations of the city following his victory.

How Object was obtained:

Donated to the British Museum by the Palestine Exploration Fund in 1903.

How provenance was established:

The capital was found in the Haram al-Sharif in Jerusalem.

Selected bibliography:

Wilkinson, J., Column Capitals in al-Haram al-Sharif, Jerusalem, 1987.

Citation of this web page:

Emily Shovelton "Column capital" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2020.;ISL;uk;Mus01;10;en

Prepared by: Emily ShoveltonEmily Shovelton

Emily Shovelton is a historian of Islamic art. She studied history of art at Edinburgh University before completing an MA in Islamic and Indian art at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London. Since graduating she has worked on a number of projects at the British Museum. Other recent work includes editing and writing for a digital database of architectural photographs at the British Library. She is currently working on a Ph.D. on “Sultanate Painting in 15th-century India and its relationship to Persian, Mamluk and Indian Painting”, to be completed at SOAS in 2006. A paper on Sultanate painting given at the Conference of European Association of South Asian Archaeologists, held in the British Museum in July 2005, is due to be published next year.

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: UK1 13


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