Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
Royal Museum, National Museums of Scotland (NMS)
Hegira late 9th–early 10th century / AD late 15th–early 16th century
Incised and tinned copper.
Diameter 39.37 cm
Egypt or Syria.
A large tinned copper dish with a low foot, a slightly convex base and shallow rounded sides; it has a flat rim with a cusped edge. Made out of a single circular plate of metal, the dish has a crudely punched hole in the rim, while the surface is enhanced by incising. The rim has a scroll band and hatched areas which complement the scallops on the rim. In the well of the dish there are six compartments that contain an alternating composition of an inscription in kufic script and floral decoration, separated by interlacing decorative roundels, and with bands of simple scroll-work at the top and bottom. On the base of the dish there is an interlaced star with geometric detailing, set within a roundel and bordered by scrolling. The centre of the star has a roundel containing a composite blazon surrounded by a cursive inscription. The blazon consists of a napkin in the upper field, a cup charged with a pen-case between a pair of powder horns in the centre field, and another cup in the lower field. This particular type of blazon is associated with Sultan Qaytbay, his officials and two of his successors, a fact which suggests a date of the late AH 9th–early 10th / AD late 15th–early 16th century.
The inscription has been deciphered by James Allan (1969): ‘You have reached the highest rank as regards greatness, and good fortune is associated with you on every side; may you not cease to be in demand and to stretch forth your right hand in the world by obtaining your wishes.’ The underside is not decorated but holds two very poorly written inscriptions. These – according to Allan – read: ‘This was made for … (?) Sayf al-Din Aynal al-Ashqar.’ The remaining word is virtually illegible but Allan suggests that it might be an attempt to copy the words ‘al-muqarr al-ashraf’.
Many late Mamluk artefacts show blazons that consist of a napkin in the upper field, a cup charged with a pen case between a pair of powder horns in the centre field and a cup in the lower field. This particular type of blazon is associated with Sultan Qaytbay, his officials and two of his successors.
This dish has been dated to between 872 and 923 / 1467 and 1517 by James Allan (1969), due to the type of blazon on the dish which is associated with Sultan Qaytbay, his officials and two of his successors.
A gift from John Home in 1923.
James Allan (1969) attributed this piece to a workshop operating in Syria or Egypt during the late Mamluk period.
Allan, J. W., “Late Mamluk Metalwork: A Series of Dishes”, Oriental Art,Vol. XV, No. 1, Spring 1969: 1–6.
Atil, L. E., Renaissance of Islam: Art of the Mamluks, Washington D.C., 1981, pp.108–9, cat. no. 39 (for a comparative argument); pp.240–1, cat. no. 124 (for discussion of the composite blazon).
Ulrike Al-Khamis "Dish" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2019. http://islamicart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=object;ISL;uk;Mus03;22;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 22