Copper door panel
Islamic Museum, al-Aqsa Mosque / al-Haram al-Sharif
About hegira 886 / AD 1482
Height 16.5 cm, length: 87 cm
Probably Jerusalem, but possibly Egypt or Syria.
An inscribed copper panel that once adorned the door of the Madrasa al-Ashrafiyya, founded by Sultan al-Ashraf Qaytbay, situated near the western wall of the Haram al-Sharif, next to Bab al-Silsila (Gate of Chains). The Madrasa al-Ashrafiyya is considered to be one of the most important schools of Mamluk Jerusalem, and the third most significant Islamic building in Jerusalem in terms of beauty, splendour and skilled architectural style, after the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque. The panel shown here was taken from the door of the madrasa during restoration work carried out in 1928, after it was badly damaged as a result of the earthquake in Jerusalem in 1927. It would seem that the door of the madrasa was destroyed and all that remained of it was its copper decorative panels.
The composition comprises inscriptions that fill two medallions placed either side of a round-cornered rectangle. The two medallions contain thuluth script that reads: “Glory to our lord, Sultan Abu al-Nasr Qaytbay. May he have strength in his triumph”. The principle inscription, inside the soft-cornered rectangle, is in rounded thuluth script, it reads: “Glory to our lord, the Sultan, the Sovereign, the Just, al-Malik al-Ashraf Abu al-Nasr Qaytbay”. Another inscription inside the rectangle reads: “Sultan of Islam and Muslims, Destroyer of Polytheists and Unbelievers, al-Malik al-Ashraf Abu al-Nasr Qaytbay, Glory to his triumph”. In the middle of the rectangle a Qur'anic verse “al-Tawba” (“the Repentance” 9: 18) is inscribed in kufic script: “The mosques of Allah shall be visited and maintained by such as believe in Allah and the last day, establish regular prayers, and practice regular charity, and fear none (at all) except Allah. It is they who are expected to be on true guidance”. The background outside the medallions and the rectangle contains interwoven vegetal motifs.
This copper panel adorned Madrasa al-Ashrafiyya in Jerusalem, which was built by Mamluk Sultan al-Ashraf Qaytbay at the Western Wall of al-Haram al-Sharif. The panel is worked with epigraphic decoration, which bears the name of the sultan. Vegetal decorative motifs cover the entire panel and fill all the spaces between and around the inscription.
Al-Malik al-Ashraf Abu al-Nasr Qaytbay (r. AH 872–901 / AD 1468–96)
Dating of the panel was made possible by the inscription, which mentions the name of Sultan al-Ashraf Abu al-Nasr Qaytbay. It is known that this panel is associated with Madrasa al-Ashrafiyya built in around 886 / 1482, and this assertion is further supported by historical sources.
The piece was transferred in 1928 from the Madrasa al-Ashrafiyya in Jerusalem to the Islamic Museum.
The copper engraving could have been done anywhere in Egypt, Palestine or Syria. For this reason it is difficult to ascertain the place of production but its presence on the door of the Madrasa al-Ashrafiyya in Jerusalem makes it likely that it was made in a workshop on site.
Al-'Arif, A., Tarikh Qubat al-Sakhra wa al-Masjid al-Aqsa [The History of the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque], Jerusalem, 1955.
Burgoyne, M., Mamluk Jerusalem: An Architectural Study, London, 1978.
Al-Hanbali, Mujir al-Din, (d. 927 / 1520), Al-Uns al-Jalil bi Tarikh al-Quds wa al-Khalil [The Significant Ambiance in the History of Jerusalem and Hebron], Amman, 1973.
Nazmi Al-Ju'beh "Copper door panel" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2021. https://islamicart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=object;ISL;pa;Mus01;24;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 24
Islamic Dynasties / Period
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