London, England, United Kingdom
Victoria and Albert Museum
Between hegira 704 and 709 / AD 1306 and 1310
Height 29 cm, width 25.4 cm
An enamelled glass mosque lamp with a flaring mouth and squat body standing on a low foot. The glass is brownish, with decoration in blue and white enamelling, and highlights in red, green, yellow and gold. The decoration consists almost exclusively of an inscription in majestic thuluth script, with additional bands of exuberant floral decoration around the neck and just above the foot. The inscription includes verses from the Qur'an (83:22, 24–5) and the phrase 'Glory to our lord, the Sultan, al-Malik al-Muzaffar, the learned, the just, Rukn al-Dunya wa'l-Din, may God grant him victory'. This refers to the Mamluk Sultan Rukn al-Din Baybars II, who ruled only for a short period, from AH 708–9 / AD 1309–10, before being overthrown and killed. He did, however, govern with a fellow officer as co-regents for the captive al-Nasir Muhammad Ibn Qala'un, beginning in AH 698 / AD 1299. He also built a fine complex in Cairo, containing his tomb as well as a lodge for Sufis, between AH 704–8 / AD 1306–9. Inscriptions in the building – immediately erased by his successor – referred to him even then as Sultan. Since the Qur'anic inscriptions on this lamp refer to the afterlife, it may have been intended to hang in the tomb chamber. The lamp's decoration is also similar to that found in a large Qur'an that Baybars had commissioned for the same complex, suggesting that there may have been a team of designers consciously working to give a unified look to the decorative programme there.View Short Description
An enamelled glass lamp of typical Mamluk form, whose decoration is almost exclusively calligraphic. It includes Qur’anic verses and praise of the short-lived Sultan Rukn al-Din Baybars II. The verses refer to the afterlife, implying that the lamp may have been intended for the sultan’s tomb.
Sultan Rukn al-Din Baybars II
The lamp dates from the brief reign (708–9 / 1309–10) of the Mamluk Sultan Rukn al-Din Baybars II, to whom the phrase in the inscription, 'Glory to our lord, the Sultan, al-Malik al-Muzaffar, the learned, the just, Rukn al-Dunya wa'l-Din, may God grant him victory', refers.
Purchased by the Museum in 1900.
It is assumed that glass lamps like this were made in Cairo, as it would have been easier and safer than making them elsewhere and then transporting them.
Ayers, J., Oriental Art in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1983, p.113.
Carboni, S. and Whitehouse, D., Glass of the Sultans, New York, 2001, pp.230–2.
Lamm, C. J., Mittelalterliche Gläser und Steinschnittarbeiten aus dem Nahen Osten, Berlin, 1929–30, pp.428-9.
Barry Wood "Mosque lamp" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2018. http://www.discoverislamicart.org/database_item.php?id=object;ISL;uk;Mus02;14;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 14
Islamic Dynasties / Period
On display in
Virtual Visit Exhibition Trail
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