Name of Object:

Frieze panels


London, England, United Kingdom

Holding Museum:

Victoria and Albert Museum

About Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Date of Object:

Hegira 6th / AD 12th or early AH 7th / AD 13th century

Museum Inventory Number:

378B–1907 و 378C–1907

Material(s) / Technique(s):

Carved, plastered and painted wood.


378B–1907: Height 16.8cm, width 101.4cm, depth 1.8cm; 378C–1907: Height 16.7cm, width 103cm, depth 2cm

Period / Dynasty:



Spain or North Africa.


Two panels made of pine, each carved with an inscription in deep relief and background decoration in lower relief. Both levels of carving are decorated with plaster and with green, red, and white paint. The inscriptions, done in a style of calligraphy known as foliated kufic, consist of verses from the Qur'an: the first panel has part of sura 2, verse 164, while the second has part of sura 3, verse 191. Clearly these panels were part of a much larger ensemble, one which probably decorated the upper level of a building intended for religious use, such as a madrasa or a mosque. Friezes of Qur'anic quotations were common in such settings in many parts of the Islamic world; one such frieze in the Mosque of Ibn Tulun in Cairo was originally over 2 km long.

The style of the panels suggests an origin in Spain or North Africa under the Almohads. The Almohads are known to have had fairly ascetic views on art, yet it is worth noting that for them, a Berber dynasty with origins in the Sahara desert, wood would have been considered a luxury material.

View Short Description

Two panels of pinewood carved in relief with inscriptions and (originally) decorated with paint and plaster. The inscriptions are Qur’anic verses, and the panels were probably once part of a frieze in a mosque. Wood was considered a luxury material in a desert environment like that of North Africa.

How date and origin were established:

Both the style of calligraphy and the arabesque scrolls forming the background, are typical of Spanish and North African architectural decoration under the Almoravids (448–551 / 1056–1147) and Almohads (524–667 / 1130–1269).

How Object was obtained:

Purchased by the Museum in 1907.

How provenance was established:

Stylistic comparisons.

Selected bibliography:

Stanley, T., with Rosser-Owen, M. and Vernoit, S., Palace and Mosque: Islamic Art from the Middle East, London, 2004, p.27.

Citation of this web page:

Barry Wood "Frieze panels" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2021.;ISL;uk;Mus02;42;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 52


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