Name of Object:

Mosque lamp


London, England, United Kingdom

Holding Museum:

Victoria and Albert Museum

About Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Date of Object:

Between hegira 704 and 709 / AD 1306 and 1310

Museum Inventory Number:


Material(s) / Technique(s):

Enamelled glass.


Height 29 cm, width 25.4 cm

Period / Dynasty:



Probably Cairo.


An enamelled glass mosque lamp with a flaring mouth and squat body standing on a low foot. The glass is brownish, with decoration in blue and white enamelling, and highlights in red, green, yellow and gold. The decoration consists almost exclusively of an inscription in majestic thuluth script, with additional bands of exuberant floral decoration around the neck and just above the foot. The inscription includes verses from the Qur'an (83:22, 24–5) and the phrase 'Glory to our lord, the Sultan, al-Malik al-Muzaffar, the learned, the just, Rukn al-Dunya wa'l-Din, may God grant him victory'. This refers to the Mamluk Sultan Rukn al-Din Baybars II, who ruled only for a short period, from AH 708–9 / AD 1309–10, before being overthrown and killed. He did, however, govern with a fellow officer as co-regents for the captive al-Nasir Muhammad Ibn Qala'un, beginning in AH 698 / AD 1299. He also built a fine complex in Cairo, containing his tomb as well as a lodge for Sufis, between AH 704–8 / AD 1306–9. Inscriptions in the building – immediately erased by his successor – referred to him even then as Sultan. Since the Qur'anic inscriptions on this lamp refer to the afterlife, it may have been intended to hang in the tomb chamber. The lamp's decoration is also similar to that found in a large Qur'an that Baybars had commissioned for the same complex, suggesting that there may have been a team of designers consciously working to give a unified look to the decorative programme there.

View Short Description

An enamelled glass lamp of typical Mamluk form, whose decoration is almost exclusively calligraphic. It includes Qur’anic verses and praise of the short-lived Sultan Rukn al-Din Baybars II. The verses refer to the afterlife, implying that the lamp may have been intended for the sultan’s tomb.

Original Owner:

Sultan Rukn al-Din Baybars II

How date and origin were established:

The lamp dates from the brief reign (708–9 / 1309–10) of the Mamluk Sultan Rukn al-Din Baybars II, to whom the phrase in the inscription, 'Glory to our lord, the Sultan, al-Malik al-Muzaffar, the learned, the just, Rukn al-Dunya wa'l-Din, may God grant him victory', refers.

How Object was obtained:

Purchased by the Museum in 1900.

How provenance was established:

It is assumed that glass lamps like this were made in Cairo, as it would have been easier and safer than making them elsewhere and then transporting them.

Selected bibliography:

Ayers, J., Oriental Art in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1983, p.113.

Carboni, S. and Whitehouse, D., Glass of the Sultans, New York, 2001, pp.230–2.

Lamm, C. J., Mittelalterliche Gläser und Steinschnittarbeiten aus dem Nahen Osten, Berlin, 1929–30, pp.428-9.

Citation of this web page:

Barry Wood "Mosque lamp" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2021.;ISL;uk;Mus02;14;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 14


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