Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
Royal Museum, National Museums of Scotland (NMS)
Hegira 8th century / AD 14th century
Hammered and incised sheet-brass with remains of silver inlay.
Height 27.94 cm; diameter (at base) 25.40 cm
Egypt or Syria.
A candlestick with a truncated, conical body and double ridges around the lower edge and below the shoulder. The shoulder is flattened and has been damaged and repaired. From the centre of the shoulder a cylindrical neck rises into a projecting candle socket, echoing the shape of the body in the double ridges around its base and mouth; damage and deformation affect the aperture of the socket. The candlestick is embellished with incised decoration, much of which was originally inlaid with silver. On the socket there is a cursive inscription band, interrupted by roundels with whirling rosettes and enclosed by a continuous plain border. The inscription gives the official titles of the owner. The two ridges of the socket are enhanced by hatching.
On the neck are three bands: the two outer bands comprising latticework with individual four-leaf motifs, interrupted by two roundels with whirls. The broad band in between has a tall thuluth- script inscription set against a stylised leaf-scroll background that is interrupted by two large roundels with individual lotus blossoms, five-petalled flower heads and floral scrolling. The base of the neck is enhanced by obliquely set leaf shapes and a stylised scroll band. On the shoulder two elongated cartouches alternate with two roundels; they are filled with individual lotus blossoms, the cartouches further enhanced with secondary motifs such as five-petalled flower heads.
The two ridges below the shoulder have an oblique-leaf decoration similar to that seen on the base of the neck, above and below this is a narrow interlacing leaf scroll. On the body of the candlestick, two elongated epigraphic cartouches alternate with two epigraphic roundels. The remaining background is filled with a geometric T-fret pattern. The cartouches give the titles and name of Sultan Muhammad ibn Qalawun, who was twice deposed, reigning three times between AH 693 and 741 / AD 1293 and 1340. At the centre of the roundels the titles are repeated: ‘al-sultan al-nasir’, with further titles radiating from it with tall, slim and densely set hastae (spears). The decoration on the body is completed at the base by oblique leaf designs on the ridges, between which is a leaf scroll guilloche.
In Mamluk times splendid silver- and gold-inlaid utensils were commissioned by officials and rulers. Most show proud large-scale inscriptions with the patron’s name or titles, some are radial sun-like compositions around the owner’s emblem, attesting to his self-confidence and spiritual aspirations.
Sultan al-Nasir Nasir al-Din Muhammad ibn Qalawun
Produced for Sultan al-Nasir Nasir al-Din Muhammad ibn Qalawun who was twice deposed, reigning three times: 693–4/698–708/709–741 / AD 741 / 1293–4/1299–1309/1310–1340.
Purchased by NMS from Bluett and Sons, London, in 1966.
The style of this candlestick is consistent with Mamluk metalwork executed during the 8th / 14th century in both Egypt and Syria, characterized in particular by the large and emphatic titular inscriptions, highlighted by silver inlay. There is also a notable tendency to display inscriptions in radial compositions around the blazon of the owner like sun rays; a device that probably held symbolic significance and attests to the self-confidence and spiritual aspirations of Mamluk patrons. Lotus blossoms are also in evidence during this period, coupled on occasion with peonies and other minor chinoiserie motifs.
Ulrike Al-Khamis "Candlestick" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2019. http://islamicart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=object;ISL;uk;Mus03;19;en
Prepared by: Ulrike Al-KhamisUlrike Al-Khamis
Ulrike Al-Khamis is Principal Curator for the Middle East and South Asia at the National Museums of Scotland in Edinburgh. She began her academic career in Germany before completing her BA (1st class Hons) in Islamic Art and Archaeology at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London in 1987. The same year she moved to Edinburgh, where she completed her Ph.D. thesis on “Early Islamic Bronze and Brass Ewers from the 7th to the 13th Century AD” in 1994. From 1994 to 1999 she worked as Curator of Muslim Art and Culture for Glasgow Museums and, in 1997, was one of the main instigators of the first ever Scottish Festival of Muslim Culture, SALAAM. Since 1999 she has been based at the Royal Museum in Edinburgh, where she has curated several exhibitions and continues to publish aspects of the collections. In addition to her museum work she has contributed regularly to the teaching of the Fine Arts Department at the University of Edinburgh.
Copyedited by: Mandi Gomez
MWNF Working Number: UK3 19