Name of Object:



London, England, United Kingdom

Holding Museum:

The British Museum

 About The British Museum, London

Date of Object:

Hegira 7th century / AD 13th century

Museum Inventory Number:


Material(s) / Technique(s):

Gouache on paper.


Height 21 cm, width 31.4 cm

Period / Dynasty:



Fustat, Egypt.


A fragment of a battle scene painted in gouache on paper. To the left of the painting is part of a wall with a balustrade from which two archers are drawing their bows ready to fire arrows at the enemy. A bearded figure on horseback, his lower half obscured slightly by the wall, wields a sword in his right hand and shield in the left. He is either about to attack or has just killed his opponent, whose body is bent backwards as if he is wounded or ready to throw the lance. In the centre of the painting another figure aims his lance at a soldier with a round shield and wide sword.
The majority of works on paper discovered at Fustat are Fatimid and when this painting was acquired by the British Museum it was assumed that the painting was a Fatimid work. However, certain details suggest a later date, such as the kite-shaped shields, a type introduced by the Normans that was not in use in Egypt until the end of the AH 7th/ AD 13th century.

View Short Description

A fragment of a gouache painting of a battle scene, from Fustat, Cairo. One of a small number of surviving paintings from the medieval period. The date of this painting is not certain; it is either Fatimid, like many other works on paper excavated at Fustat, or Ayyubid from the AH 7th / AD 13th century.

How date and origin were established:

This painting was previously thought by scholars to date to the Fatimid period, but recent research dates it later to the Ayyubid period, due to the headgear worn by the figures on the left that resembles 7th- / 13th-century illustrated manuscripts produced in Syria, and the figure on the upper right who has a kite-shaped shield, a Norman design not used in Egypt until the end of the 7th / 13th century.

How Object was obtained:

Purchased in 1938.

How provenance was established:

The painting was found in an excavation at Fustat, Cairo.

Selected bibliography:

Contadini, A., Fatimid Art at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1998, p.13.
Gray, B., "A Fatimid Drawing", British Museum Quarterly, XII, 1938, p.91–6.
L'Orient de Saladin au temps des Ayyoubides, exhibition catalogue, Paris, 2001, p.94, cat. no. 62.

Citation of this web page:

Emily Shovelton "Painting" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2021.;ISL;uk;Mus01;19;en

Prepared by: Emily Shovelton
Copyedited by: Mandi Gomez

MWNF Working Number: UK1 22