London, United Kingdom
Victoria and Albert Museum
Between hegira 872–901 / AD 1468–96
Brass, engraved and inlaid with silver and gold.
Height 163 cm, diameter 74 cm
A large brass lamp holder; a hexagonal base tapers upward to an upper structure which once supported a dome, now lost, to which the suspension chain would have been attached. The bottom of the structure would have held several small glass oil lamps, accessed through a door in one of the six sides which is now missing. The sides are pierced to let the light from the lamps through, as well as engraved and inlaid with designs in which an inscription medallion praising Sultan Qaytbay is nestled among floral decoration. A large inscription band at the bottom of the lamp holder, repeated in smaller calligraphy in a parallel band at the top, declares: 'Glory to our lord the Sultan, the most noble ruler, sultan of Islam and the Muslims, reviver of justice in the world, suppressor of the immoral and rebellious, sultan of the Arabs and Persians, lord of the two seas, servant of the Two Holy Shrines, master of kings and sultans, Commander of the Faithful, Abu'l-Nasr Qaytbay, may God Almighty make his reign long'! When this lamp holder hung in a mosque it is unlikely that its decoration would have been visible; still, it is indicative of the quality of the arts under Sultan Qaytbay.View Short Description
A large brass lamp holder, the sides of which are pierced to reveal the light supplied by oil lamps held in its bottom. The decoration, executed in several techniques, includes several inscriptions naming Sultan Qaytbay. The lamp holder must originally have hung in a mosque he founded or renovated.
Inscriptions on the object name Qaytbay as Sultan and imply that he is still alive ('may God extend his rule'), the lamp holder is thus dated to his regnal dates, 872–901 / 1468–96.
Purchased by the Museum in 1888.
Cairo was the Mamluk capital and thus the likeliest place that an object of such quality would have been made.
Mitter, P. and Clunas, C., "The Empire of Things: The Engagement with the Orient", A Grand Design: The Art of the Victoria and Albert Museum (eds. M. Baker and B. Richardson), London, 1997, pp.255-6.
Stanley, T., with Rosser-Owen, M. and Vernoit, S., Palace and Mosque: Islamic Art from the Middle East, London, 2004, p.98.
Barry Wood "Lamp holder" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2019. http://islamicart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=object;ISL;uk;Mus02;12;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 12
Islamic Dynasties / Period
On display in
Virtual Visit Exhibition Trail
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