London, England, United Kingdom
Victoria and Albert Museum
Around hegira 872–901 / AD 1468–96
Wood inlaid with ivory and bone.
Height 708 cm, width 113 cm, depth 304 cm
A wooden minbar; a double door (surmounted by a muqarnas frieze with traces of painted floral decoration) opens to a staircase of seven steps, at the top of which is a small landing topped by an onion-shaped dome. Almost all the exterior surfaces of the minbar are decorated with geometric patterns using wood inlaid with ivory plaques like a mosaic. Some of these patterns are quite bold, such as the 16-pointed stars and polygons on the triangular side panels, while others are more dense and complex, such as the pattern on the twin doors of the entryway. The minbar bears several inscriptions on carved wood or ivory panels. Some are Qur'anic verses; for example, 33:56 and 16:90 (respectively) are found above the front and back of the minbar doors. Other inscriptions praise Sultan Qaytbay and wish him a long reign.
This minbar would have been used in one of the many mosques that Qaytbay either had built or renovated during his sultanate, although it is not known which one. This is one of the last Mamluk minbars to use ivory, as economic conditions made it a prohibitively expensive material in the final years of the dynasty.
A wooden minbar (pulpit) with extensive all-over decoration including geometric patterns formed of inlaid ivory. This was probably used in one of the many mosques founded or renovated by Sultan Qaytbay, who presided over a period of great economic and artistic revival in the Mamluk lands.
Inscriptions on the minbar name Qaytbay as Sultan and imply that he is still alive ('may God extend his rule'). Thus the minbar is dated to his regnal dates, AH 872–901 / AD 1468–96.
Purchased by the Museum in 1869 from the collection of Dr Meymar.
How was provenance for object established: Cairo was the Mamluk capital and thus the likeliest place that an object of such quality would have been made.
Atil, E., Renaissance of Islam: Art of the Mamluks, Washington, DC, 1981, pp.195–6.
Philips, T., Africa: The Art of a Continent: 100 Works of Power and Beauty, New York, 1996, cat. no. 7.67.
Stanley, T., with Rosser-Owen, M. and Vernoit, S., Palace and Mosque: Islamic Art from the Middle East, London, 2004, pp.100–101.
Barry Wood "Minbar" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2020. http://islamicart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=object;ISL;uk;Mus02;10;en
Prepared by: Barry WoodBarry Wood
Barry Wood is Curator (Islamic Gallery Project) in the Asian Department of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. He studied history of art at Johns Hopkins University and history of Islamic art and architecture at Harvard University, from where he obtained his Ph.D. in 2002. He has taught at Harvard, Eastern Mediterranean University, the School of Oriental and African Studies, and the Courtauld Institute of Art. He has also worked at the Harvard University Art Museums and the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore. He has published on topics ranging from Persian manuscripts to the history of exhibitions.
Copyedited by: Mandi Gomez
MWNF Working Number: UK2 10
Islamic Dynasties / Period
On display in
Discover Islamic Art Exhibition(s)The Mamluks | The Sultan and his Court
Virtual Visit Exhibition Trail
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