Candlestick of al-Nasir Muhammad bin Qalawun
Islamic Museum, al-Aqsa Mosque / al-Haram al-Sharif
Hegira 693–741 / AD 1294–1340
Copper with decorative carving inlaid with silver.
Height 43.4 cm, diameter 29 cm, height (of neck) 18.5 cm
Probably Cairo, Egypt.
A candlestick consisting of a cylindrical base and body, as well as a cylindrical neck whose diameter is small when compared to the base and body. Three decorative braid-like bands wrap around the base of the candlestick, one on top of the other. They are separated from the one adjacent to it by strokes, which also wind around the base. The body of the candlestick is completely covered with decoration, including a large inscription in Mamluk naskhi script that extends from the lowest section of the body to the top. It reads: “The possession of the sublime, the sovereign, the all-knowing, the just, the victorious.” The background of the inscription is filled in with dense vegetal decoration that is worked throughout the body. Two medallions appear on the body of the candlestick, each of which consists of three circles: the interior one is extremely small and in it is a fan-shaped decorative form. The middle circle contains vegetal decoration within twisted lines, which might be lotus blossom. The outer circle is large and also contains vegetal decoration of flowers and intertwining leaves. Two decorative bands are wrapped around the surface (plate) of the candlestick. There is an encircling inscription on the surface written in Mamluk naskhi script that reads: “The Possession of the Sublime, The lord, The sovereign, the warrior, the Mujahid, the knower, the helper, the victorious.” Two medallions intercept the inscription, each of which contains a depiction of a bird most likely a pigeon or a partridge. The two birds face each other. The background of the inscription is filled in with a collection of leaves and flowers. The neck of the candlestick is clearly not original and the replacement certainly indicates the decline in craftsmanship during the late Mamluk period.
It is noteworthy that travellers who visited al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, as well as al-Haram al-Ibrahimi, (the Ibrahimi Mosque) in Hebron (al-Khalil), mentioned in their descriptions of these places that they contained a large number of lamps and candlesticks, only a few of which have survived to the present. Some of them are displayed in the Islamic Museum in Jerusalem.
A cylindrical candlestick with two epigraphic inscriptions. There are no spaces as thick vegetal decoration has been worked over the entire body. From its decoration, script and titles it appears to be associated with al-Nasir Muhammad bin Qalawun. It is typical of Mamluk candlesticks made in Cairo and Damascus. It was formerly at al-Haram al-Ibrahimi in Hebron.
Mamluk sultan, al-Nasir Muhammad bin Qalawun (who ruled three times: AH 693–4, 698–708 and 709–41 / AD 1294–5, 1299–1309 and 1309–40)
The candlestick is dated by the inscriptions on it which mention the titles of the Mamluk sultan, al-Nasir Muhammad bin Qalawun. Further, an accurate date was achieved by study of its style and decoration and through analysis of the calligraphic script used, and also by comparing it to other pieces of the same period.
The piece was transferred some time after 1967 from the Haram al-Ibrahimi in Hebron (al-Khalil) to the Islamic Museum in Jerusalem.
Cairo was narrowed down as the place of production by studying the method of manufacture and decoration. The Islamic Museum in Cairo holds a number of dated candlesticks similar to this one. It is probable that Sultan al-Nasir Muhammad bin Qalawun donated this candlestick and another one to the Haram al-Ibrahimi in Hebron (al-Khalil).
Abu Khalaf, M., Islamic Art Through the Ages: Masterpieces of the Islamic Museum of al-Haram al-Sharif, Jerusalem, 1998.
__________, “Three Candlesticks from the Islamic Museum of al-Haram al-Sharif”, Levant, No. 20, 1988.
Nazmi Al-Ju'beh "Candlestick of al-Nasir Muhammad bin Qalawun" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2021. https://islamicart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=object;ISL;pa;Mus01;18;en
Prepared by: Nazmi Al-Ju'behNazmi Al-Ju'beh
Nazmi Al-Ju'beh is an archaeologist and historian and Co-Director of RIWAQ, Centre for Architectural Conservation in Ramallah, Palestine. He studied at Birzeit University in Palestine and at Tübingen University in Germany. He taught at Birzeit University and at al-Quds University. He was Director of the Islamic Museum, al-Haram al-Sharif, Jerusalem, and directed various cultural heritage projects in Palestine, including surveys of archaeological and architectural sites. He was a major contributor to Pilgrimage, Sciences and Sufism: Islamic Art in the West Bank and Gaza (Vienna: MWNF, 2004) and is the author of numerous publications on the history, archaeology and cultural heritage of Palestine.
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: PA 18
Islamic Dynasties / Period
On display in
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