Name of Object:

Lamp holder


London, United Kingdom

Holding Museum:

Victoria and Albert Museum

About Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Date of Object:

Between hegira 872–901 / AD 1468–96

Museum Inventory Number:


Material(s) / Technique(s):

Brass, engraved and inlaid with silver and gold.


Height 163 cm, diameter 74 cm

Period / Dynasty:



Probably Cairo.


A large brass lamp holder; a hexagonal base tapers upward to an upper structure which once supported a dome, now lost, to which the suspension chain would have been attached. The bottom of the structure would have held several small glass oil lamps, accessed through a door in one of the six sides which is now missing. The sides are pierced to let the light from the lamps through, as well as engraved and inlaid with designs in which an inscription medallion praising Sultan Qaytbay is nestled among floral decoration. A large inscription band at the bottom of the lamp holder, repeated in smaller calligraphy in a parallel band at the top, declares: 'Glory to our lord the Sultan, the most noble ruler, sultan of Islam and the Muslims, reviver of justice in the world, suppressor of the immoral and rebellious, sultan of the Arabs and Persians, lord of the two seas, servant of the Two Holy Shrines, master of kings and sultans, Commander of the Faithful, Abu'l-Nasr Qaytbay, may God Almighty make his reign long'! When this lamp holder hung in a mosque it is unlikely that its decoration would have been visible; still, it is indicative of the quality of the arts under Sultan Qaytbay.

View Short Description

A large brass lamp holder, the sides of which are pierced to reveal the light supplied by oil lamps held in its bottom. The decoration, executed in several techniques, includes several inscriptions naming Sultan Qaytbay. The lamp holder must originally have hung in a mosque he founded or renovated.

Original Owner:

Sultan Qaytbay

How date and origin were established:

Inscriptions on the object name Qaytbay as Sultan and imply that he is still alive ('may God extend his rule'), the lamp holder is thus dated to his regnal dates, 872–901 / 1468–96.

How Object was obtained:

Purchased by the Museum in 1888.

How provenance was established:

Cairo was the Mamluk capital and thus the likeliest place that an object of such quality would have been made.

Selected bibliography:

Mitter, P. and Clunas, C., "The Empire of Things: The Engagement with the Orient", A Grand Design: The Art of the Victoria and Albert Museum (eds. M. Baker and B. Richardson), London, 1997, pp.255-6.
Stanley, T., with Rosser-Owen, M. and Vernoit, S., Palace and Mosque: Islamic Art from the Middle East, London, 2004, p.98.

Citation of this web page:

Barry Wood "Lamp holder" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2021.;ISL;uk;Mus02;12;en

Prepared by: Barry WoodBarry Wood

Barry Wood is Curator (Islamic Gallery Project) in the Asian Department of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. He studied history of art at Johns Hopkins University and history of Islamic art and architecture at Harvard University, from where he obtained his Ph.D. in 2002. He has taught at Harvard, Eastern Mediterranean University, the School of Oriental and African Studies, and the Courtauld Institute of Art. He has also worked at the Harvard University Art Museums and the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore. He has published on topics ranging from Persian manuscripts to the history of exhibitions.

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: UK2 12


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