Name of Object:
Wooden screen in two parts
National Museum of Damascus
Date of Object:
Hegira 497 / AD 1104
Museum Inventory Number:
Material(s) / Technique(s):
Poplar; carved and inlaid with bone.
Top: height 0.79 m, width 2.46 m, bottom: height 2.13 m, width 2.46 m
Period / Dynasty:
Maydan quarter in southern Damascus.
A wooden screen that represents a masterpiece of woodcarving and which illustrates the “pivotal position” held by Syria in the field of Islamic woodwork. The screen is in two parts. The top, smaller, section of the screen is a wooden rectangular partition with various frames that divide the surface into rectangular fields. One frame is decorated with carved stylised vegetal motifs, its central field carved with the “Basmala” (“in the name of God the Compassionate the Merciful”), executed in geometric kufic script and openwork carving. The upper part of this partition also includes a kufic inscription, carved within a field of leafy vegetal patterns, which may be translated as follows: “Abu Ja'far Muhammad bin al-Hasan bin al-Ali, sincere friend of the Commander of the faithful [the caliph], God accepts this work from him in the months of the year 497 [AD 1103].” The text also includes Qur'anic verses: "Your (real) friends are (no less than) God, His messenger, and the believers, those who establish regular prayers and pay alms and bow down humbly (in worship). As to those who turn (for friendship) to God, His Messenger, and the believers, it is the party of God that must certainly triumph," (5:55-56). On the other side of this panel is the expression “… God is Islam” centrally oriented and executed in kufic script and openwork carving. It indicates the final words of the Qur'anic verses (3:18-19) that are inscribed around the frame. The middle panel is decorated with vegetal motifs that spring from a small carved vase.
View Short Description
Furnishings of mosques and holy places are often executed in a highly developed style of woodcarving. This maqsura screen from an AH 5th- / AD 11th-century royal tomb in Damascus, is a prime example of the important role Syria played in the woodcarving tradition.
According to the inscribed date, the screen probably originally belonged to the mausoleum of the Seljuq Sultan Duqaq (r. AH 488–97 / AD 1095–1104), located in the Maydan, southwest of old Damascus. During the Atabeg period, nearly 100 years later, it was reworked and moved to the nearby Musalla al-Idain Mosque, built by Amir Ja'far Muhammad bin al-Hasan bin al-Ali
How date and origin were established:
The year Hegira 497 (AD 1104) it is inscribed on the object.
How Object was obtained:
The object was expropriated by the General Directorate of Antiquities in 1927.
How provenance was established:
The distinguished archaeologist Michael Meinecke argued that the original location of the screen was next to the mausoleum of the Seljuq Sultan Duqaq (r. 488–97 / 1095–1104), and that it was moved afterwards to the Musalla al-Idayn Mosque, because the mosque was constructed about a century after the date inscribed on the object.
Abu al-Faraj al-Ush, M., A Concise Guide to the National Museum of Damascus, Damascus, 1969, p.206.
Citation of this web page:
Mona al-Moadin "Wooden screen in two parts" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2020. http://islamicart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=object;ISL;sy;Mus01;21;en
Prepared by: Mona Al-Moadin