Name of Object:

Epigraphic panel


Cairo, Egypt

Holding Museum:

Museum of Islamic Art

About Museum of Islamic Art, Cairo

Date of Object:

Hegira 872–901 / AD 1468–96

Museum Inventory Number:


Material(s) / Technique(s):

Ivory; carved in high relief and set within a wooden frame.


Height 9.2 cm, length: 33.8 cm

Period / Dynasty:



Cairo, Egypt.


An ivory panel set within a dark-coloured wooden frame. The panel itself has a thin strip of ivory around the outside of it and this is placed within a frame of lighter wood. The principle ornamentation of the panel consists of an epigraphic inscription in naskhi script. The inscription is carved in high relief, bearing the name of Sultan Qaytbay and his titles, it reads: 'Our Sovereign, the Sultan al-Malik al-Ashraf Qaytbay. May his victory be Glorious'. The background of the panel is decorated with vegetal motifs such as tendrils with tapering, lobed buds and split leaves.
The use of ivory and wood together was an extremely popular technique in the Mamluk period, when wood was inlaid with rectangular panels of ivory or ivory pieces in star or polygonal shapes. This technique was used to decorate religious and residential buildings; it was employed to create vegetal ornamentation of arabesque designs, or made part of inscriptions bearing the name of the patrons or favoured owners, as well as laudatory praises to them.
Sultan Qaytbay (r. AH 872–901 / AD 1468-1496) is considered amongst the most prominent of the Circassian Mamluk rulers and one of the foremost patrons of the arts. He ordered the building of a number of new edifices in the capital, Cairo, as well as in other cities such as Mecca, Medina and Damascus. It is likely that this panel was once part of a door or minbar in the mosque or madrasa that he ordered built.

View Short Description

This ivory panel bears the name and titles of Sultan Qaytbay in high-relief naskhi script on a background of stems, buds and leaves. Ivory was used in wood inlay, in carvings of fine figurines and chess pieces, and in decorated boxes for storing Qur'ans and other precious objects.

Original Owner:

Sultan al-Ashraf Sayf al-Din Qaytbay (r. AH 872–901 / AD 1468-1496)

How date and origin were established:

In view of the fact that this panel bears an inscription with the name of Sultan al-Malik al-Ashraf Qaytbay, it is likely that it dates back to his reign.

How Object was obtained:

This panel was brought to the Museum from the Sultan Qaytbay Complex in Cairo, which includes a mosque, a madrasa and mausoleum. This was one of the first pieces to be acquired by the Museum on its inauguration in 1903.

How provenance was established:

The panel was taken from the complex of Qaytbay in Cairo where it formed part of its minbar.

Selected bibliography:

A'shūr, Said Abd al-Fatah, Al-'Asr al-Mamlūki fi masr wa al-Shām [The Mamluk Period in Egypt and the Levant], Cairo, 1965.
Atil, E., Renaissance of Islam: Art of the Mamluks, Washington D.C., 1987.
Hamdi, A., et al, Katalog Ma'rid al-fan al-islāmi fi misr [Catalogue of the Islamic Art Exhibition in Egypt], Cairo, 1969.
Hassan, Z. M., Funūn al-Islām [Islamic Arts], Cairo, 1948.
Stierlin, H., and Stierlin, A. Splendours of the Islamic World: Mamluk Art in Cairo (1250–1517), London, New York, 1997.

Citation of this web page:

Al-Sayyed Muhammad Khalifa Hammad "Epigraphic panel" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2022.;ISL;eg;Mus01;3;en

Prepared by: Al-Sayyed Muhammad Khalifa HammadAl-Sayyed Muhammad Khalifa Hammad

He holds a BA in Islamic Antiquities from the Faculty of Art, Cairo University and an MA in the same field from Assiut University. He has been working at the Museum of Islamic Art, Cairo, since 1974 and attended a training course at Vienna Museum in 1977. He has supervised sections of glass and manuscripts and, currently, coins. At the Museum he has participated in preparing exhibitions at home and abroad and has been a member of several inventory committees. From 1988 to 1999 he worked as a lecturer at Om al-Qura University, Mecca, Saudi Arabia, and registered and organised the display of the acquisitions of the Civilisation Museum at the Shari'a and Islamic Studies Faculty at the University.

Copyedited by: Majd Musa
Translation by: Amal Sachedina (from the Arabic).
Translation 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: ET 04


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