Name of Object:

Ivory panels


London, England, United Kingdom

Holding Museum:

The British Museum

About The British Museum, London

Date of Object:

Hegira 692–741 / AD 1293-1341

Museum Inventory Number:


Material(s) / Technique(s):

Carved ivory.


Width 16 cm, height from 5.9 to 7.1 cm

Period / Dynasty:





Two pairs of oblong-shaped ivory panels with carved decoration. Two of the four panels have purely vegetal designs comprising geometric features superimposed on leafy scrolls. The combination of geometric forms with scrolls or arabesques was typical of ivory carvings from the Mamluk period. The remaining pair bears inscriptions carved with a background of vegetal scrolls. The split leaves in all four panels have marked striations. The inscriptions include the name Sultan al-Nasir Muhammad ibn Qalawun (r. AH 692–741 / AD 1293–1341). These pieces were therefore either set into a door of a building belonging to the sultan, or into a piece of furniture in his possession. Ivory was often used in combination with wood for doors, furniture or caskets in Mamluk architecture and decorative arts.

View Short Description

Two pairs of ivory panels with carved decoration. The inscriptions on two of the panels include the name Sultan al-Nasir Muhammad ibn Qalawun (r. AH 692–741 /AD 1293–1341). The pieces therefore probably came from a door or building belonging to the sultan.

Original Owner:

Sultan al-Nasir Muhammad ibn Qalawun

How date and origin were established:

The panels are inscribed with the name Sultan al-Nasir Muhammad ibn Qalawun who ruled from AH 692 to 741 / AD 1293 to 1341.

How Object was obtained:

Acquired in 1880.

How provenance was established:

The panels are inscribed with the name of Sultan al-Nasir Muhammad ibn Qalawun who ruled in Cairo, Egypt.

Selected bibliography:

Atil, E., Renaissance of Islam: Art of the Mamluks, Washington D.C., 1981, pp.210 (showing other Mamluk carved ivory objects).
Ward, R., "Two Ivory Plaques in The British Museum", in Cairo to Kabul (eds. W. Ball and L. Harrow), London, 2002, pp.248–54, plate 26.3.

Citation of this web page:

Emily Shovelton "Ivory panels" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2020.;ISL;uk;Mus01;25;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 30


Related monuments

 Artistic Introduction

 Timeline for this item

Islamic Dynasties / Period


On display in

MWNF Galleries

Calligraphy Ivory

See also


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