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Mosque lamp
  • Mosque lamp
  • Unknown Artist / Maker
  • Cairo, Egypt
  • Date: About 1350–57
  • Medium: Colourless glass with straw tinge, many air bubbles and some inclusions, especially to the suspension loops, which are from a distinctly different glass batch to the body and foot and filled with inclusions and bubbles; applied and tooled features; enamelled in blue, red, white, green, yellow and black; gilding.
  • Height: 39.4 cm
  • Diameter: 27.8 cm
  • Inv: C512
  • Location: Arms and Armour I
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Further Reading
  • This mosque lamp is one of some twenty that bear the blazon of the Great Amir Sayf al-Dīn Shaykhü al-‘Umarī, one of the most powerful Mamluk amirs of the Islamic world in the mid-14th century. Probably commissioned in his honour, the lamp depicts his blazon at the centre of six medallions. The red outlines and elaborate use of blue and gold are characteristic of mosque lamps from this period. If looked at closely, a great deal of imagery can be seen, including flowers and schematic fish woven into the design. When many lamps were lit, their floral decoration would have inspired thoughts of a heavenly garden of paradise.

    Mosque lamps such as this are the best known and most iconic artefacts to have been produced in Egypt and Syria under Mamluk rule. Complex and colourfully decorated lamps were commissioned to be hung from the ceilings of religious buildings, not only for lighting, but also to symbolise God’s presence and as a reminder of the patron’s piety. The inscription on this lamp, in thuluth script, is from the Qur’an, süra 24, the beginning of verse 35, the Sürat al-Nür (Verse of Light) and may be translated ‘God is the Light of the heavens / and the earth; the likeness of His light / is as a niche, wherein is a lamp’. It is the Qur’anic phrase most widely used on mosque lamps.

    Though stunning in design, these elaborately enamelled and gilded lamps would not have been very effective in providing light.