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Mosque lamp

  • Place of origin:

    Egypt (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1468-1496 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Brass, pierced, inlaid and engraved

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Islamic Middle East, room 42, case 14W

This enormous hanging lamp holder was originally made for the Mamluk sultan Qa'itbay (1468-96). The central medallions carry blazons that read, ‘Glory be to our master the Sultan al-Malik al-Ashraf Abu'l-Nasr Qa'itbay, may his victories be glorious’. Except for their size, the two inscriptions in inlaid silver in the upper and lower bands are identical. They read:

Glory to our lord the Sultan, the most noble ruler, sultan of Islam and the Muslims, reviver of justice in the world, suppressor of the immoral and rebellious, sultan of the Arabs and Persians, lord of the two seas, servant of the Two Holy Shrines, master of kings and sultans, Commander of the Faithful, Abu'l-Nasr Qa'itbay, may God Almighty make his reign long!

These triumphs of the calligrapher's and metalworker's art would have been invisible when the light was shining from inside the holder. But we can still appreciate the skill required to create them.

This lamp holder is very similar to one now in the Museum of Islamic Art in Cairo.

Physical description

Hexagonal brass mosque lamp, tapering upwards and surmounted by a dome with a suspension hook in the form of a dragon. The sides of the lamp are pierced and engraved, and decorated with silver and gold inlay. Borders of Quranic inscriptions are at top and bottom of each side, and a large medallion at the centre bears the blazon of the Mamluk Sultan Qayit Bay (1468-1496). One side is open as the original door for accessing the candle is missing.

It is almost identical to a lamp now in the Museum of Islamic Art in Cairo, from the Mosque of Asal Bay (the wife of Qa'it Bay), also in Cairo. See The Arts of Islam. Exhibition held at the Hayward Gallery, 8 April-4 July 1976 (London : The Arts Council of Great Britain, 1976): cat.no.227, p.196.

Place of Origin

Egypt (made)


ca. 1468-1496 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Brass, pierced, inlaid and engraved

Marks and inscriptions


Height: 176 cm, Width: 74 cm

Descriptive line

Hexagonal brass lamp-holder made for the Mamluk sultan Qa'itbay, Egypt (probably Cairo), 1468-1496.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

A Grand Design (London: V&A Publications, 1997): cat.no.102, pp.255-256
Tim Stanley ed., with Mariam Rosser-Owen and Stephen Vernoit, Palace and Mosque: Islamic Art from the Middle East, London, V&A Publications, 2004; pp. 24, 28, 98, plate 111

Labels and date

Lamp-Holder of Sultan Qa'itbay
Egypt, probably Cairo

This huge lamp-holder was once suspended in a mosque built for Sultan Qa'itbay, who is named in all of the inscriptions. Later it was damaged in a fire and then buried, and only the sides survive. Originally it had a domed top and, at the bottom, a tray pierced with holes that held small glass lamps.

Brass, inlaid with gold and silver

Museum no. 109-1888 [Jameel Gallery]

Production Note

Made for a mosque in Cairo built by the Mamluk Sultan Qa'itbay (r. 1468-1496).


Brass (alloy)


Piercing; Inlay (process); Engraving


Islam; Metalwork; Lighting; Africa


Middle East Section

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