Name of Object:

Panel from a cenotaph


London, England, United Kingdom

Holding Museum:

Victoria and Albert Museum

About Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Date of Object:

Hegira 613 / AD 1216

Museum Inventory Number:


Material(s) / Technique(s):

Carved wood.


Length 158.3 cm, height 43.2 cm

Period / Dynasty:



Probably Cairo.


A carved wooden panel, which once formed part of the cenotaph of Fakhr al-Din Abu al-Tahir Isma’il, an official in the service of the Ayyubid Sultan al-Malik al-‘Adil (r. AH 596–615 / AD 1200–1218). The surface of the panel is divided into smaller panels of varying size, with a long continuous one at the top and seven smaller ones below it. Each of the panels is carved into an abstract arabesque pattern. The spaces between these panels are filled with inscriptions, including verses from the Qur’an and benedictory phrases. Importantly, the date of the panel is given in the lower section. This panel is an interesting example of the re-use of materials in Islamic art, for it was carved on the back of a panel which bears decoration in the style of the Tulunid era (AH 254–92 / AD 868–905).

View Short Description

A wooden panel which once formed part of the cenotaph of an Ayyubid official. Its surface is divided into smaller sections, each carved with an arabesque pattern. It was carved on the back of a panel which bears decoration in the style of the Tulunid period, some three centuries earlier.

How date and origin were established:

The inscription gives the date as Rajab 613 / October–November 1216.

How Object was obtained:

Purchased by the Museum in 1883.

How provenance was established:

Stylistic comparison.

Selected bibliography:

Lane-Poole, S., The Art of the Saracens in Egypt, London, 1886, p.122.

Citation of this web page:

Barry Wood "Panel from a cenotaph" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2021.;ISL;uk;Mus02;49;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 66


 Artistic Introduction

 Timeline for this item

Islamic Dynasties / Period


On display in

Discover Islamic Art Exhibition(s)

The Atabegs and Ayyubids | Religious Life


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