Name of Object:



London, England, United Kingdom

Holding Museum:

Victoria and Albert Museum

 About Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Date of Object:

Around hegira 872–901 / AD 1468–96

Museum Inventory Number:


Material(s) / Technique(s):

Wood inlaid with ivory and bone.


Height 708 cm, width 113 cm, depth 304 cm

Period / Dynasty:



Probably Cairo.


A wooden minbar; a double door (surmounted by a muqarnas frieze with traces of painted floral decoration) opens to a staircase of seven steps, at the top of which is a small landing topped by an onion-shaped dome. Almost all the exterior surfaces of the minbar are decorated with geometric patterns using wood inlaid with ivory plaques like a mosaic. Some of these patterns are quite bold, such as the 16-pointed stars and polygons on the triangular side panels, while others are more dense and complex, such as the pattern on the twin doors of the entryway. The minbar bears several inscriptions on carved wood or ivory panels. Some are Qur'anic verses; for example, 33:56 and 16:90 (respectively) are found above the front and back of the minbar doors. Other inscriptions praise Sultan Qaytbay and wish him a long reign.

This minbar would have been used in one of the many mosques that Qaytbay either had built or renovated during his sultanate, although it is not known which one. This is one of the last Mamluk minbars to use ivory, as economic conditions made it a prohibitively expensive material in the final years of the dynasty.

View Short Description

A wooden minbar (pulpit) with extensive all-over decoration including geometric patterns formed of inlaid ivory. This was probably used in one of the many mosques founded or renovated by Sultan Qaytbay, who presided over a period of great economic and artistic revival in the Mamluk lands.

How date and origin were established:

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

How Object was obtained:

Purchased by the Museum in 1869 from the collection of Dr Meymar.

How provenance was established:

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

Selected bibliography:

Atil, E., Renaissance of Islam: Art of the Mamluks, Washington, DC, 1981, pp.195–6.

Philips, T., Africa: The Art of a Continent: 100 Works of Power and Beauty, New York, 1996, cat. no. 7.67.

Stanley, T., with Rosser-Owen, M. and Vernoit, S., Palace and Mosque: Islamic Art from the Middle East, London, 2004, pp.100–101.

Citation of this web page:

Barry Wood "Minbar" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2021.;ISL;uk;Mus02;10;en

Prepared by: Barry Wood
Copyedited by: Mandi Gomez

MWNF Working Number: UK2 10