London, England, United Kingdom
Victoria and Albert Museum
Around hegira 963 / AD 1557
Painted and glazed ceramic.
Height 48 cm, diameter 31 cm
A large ceramic mosque lamp with a high flaring neck and a bulbous, almost pear-shaped body on a low foot. The lamp is divided into three registers by thin white bands. In the top register, around the neck, a Qur'anic inscription features part of the famous Light Verse (24: 35), which, because it likens the light of God to a lamp, was often used on mosque lamps. The lower two registers are decorated with floral motifs on the body which are painted under the glaze in turquoise, cobalt-blue, black, and red. Curiously, the floral motifs, most noticeably the large bisected quatrefoil motifs in red, do not line up between the middle and lower registers; perhaps the painter was working from a design not originally meant for an object of this shape. Around the middle of the lamp are large bosses alternating with handles, one of which is now missing. The loss of one handle may be the reason that the suspension chains have been riveted directly to the lamp's body.
This 'lamp' – which would have shed no light, being made of ceramic, and is thus clearly meant to be symbolic – is reputed to have been made for the mosque complex in Istanbul built by Sultan Süleyman 'the Magnificent'. This complex was an important act of architectural patronage which provided a major stimulus to the Ottoman ceramic industry, centred at Iznik. One result was the addition of a brilliant red to the colour range of Ottoman ceramics. The clearly tentative quality of the red on this lamp, the thin and uneven application of the pigment, indicates that it comes from the early phases of the Ottoman potters' experimentation with the colour.
A ceramic ‘lamp’ with a bulbous body and flaring neck. Although clearly meant to hang from a ceiling like a regular lamp, it would have shed no light, and is thus clearly meant to be symbolic. It is reputed to have been made for the Süleymaniye mosque complex, which was completed in AH 963 / AD 1557.
Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent
The lamp is supposed to have been made for the mosque complex built by Sultan Süleyman in around 963 / 1557.
Purchased by the Museum in 1885.
Iznik was the centre of quality ceramic production in this period.
Atasoy, N., and Raby, J., Iznik: The Pottery of Ottoman Turkey, Istanbul/London, 1989, p.224.
Atil, E., The Age of Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent, Washington, DC, 1987, pp.264–7.
Lane, A., Later Islamic Pottery: Persia, Syria, Egypt, Turkey, London, 1957, p.56.
Stanley, T., with Rosser-Owen, M. and Vernoit, S., Palace and Mosque: Islamic Art from the Middle East, London, 2004, p.28, p.103.
Watson, O., "An Iznik Mosque-Lamp," Oriental Art 35:4, Winter 1989–90, pp.194-5.
Barry Wood "Mosque lamp" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2021. http://islamicart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=object;ISL;uk;Mus02;25;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 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: UK2 28
Islamic Dynasties / Period
On display in
Discover Islamic Art Exhibition(s)The Ottomans | Art in the Spaces of Prayer
Virtual Visit Exhibition Trail
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