Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Islamic Middle East, Room 42, The Jameel Gallery

Mosque Lamp

ca. 1360 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place of origin

This large glass lamp has a sharply waisted body with a flaring upper section and a globular lower section with a flattened base. It stands on a low foot and has six suspension rings for hanging. The decoration, executed in gilding and coloured enamels, is in three main registers. In the upper section, a bold inscription in blue enamel is divided into three sections by large roundels. The wording of the inscription, taken from the Holy Qur'an, reads, 'Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth. The likeness of His Light is as a wick-holder wherein is a light.' This is the beginning of the text known as the Light Verse (surah XXIV, verse 35), which was often placed on lighting implements. Within the three roundels there is a short declaration, 'Glory to our master the Sultan, the King'.

The middle register contains an elaborate and very fine pattern of interlace. The bands of the interlace have been left plain, while the surrounding ground has been filled in in red and blue enamels. This would have made the design glow when the lamp was lit. The main feature of the lower register, which fills the flattened base, is a repetition of the inscribed roundels that divide the inscription at the top.

The lamp is thought to have been made to hang in the mosque of the Mamluk sovereign Sultan Hasan, who ruled between 1347-1351 and 1354-1361.

Object details

Categories
Object type
Materials and techniques
Gilded and enamelled glass
Brief description
Lamp made for the mosque of Sultan Hasan in Cairo, Egypt or Syria, about 1360.
Physical description
Lamp of clear glass decorated with red, white and blue enamels. Globular body with flared neck and a low folded foot. Six suspension rings are attached to the body. The enamelled decoration consists of four registers. The top register is composed of medallions and an inscription in blue enamel. The neck features smaller medallions of blue enamel against a sketchy red enamel floriated design. The body contains elaborate strapwork in red enamel against a blue enamel background. The bottom register features small floriated designs and blue enamel medallions.
Dimensions
  • Height: 35.2cm
  • Maximum width: 30.5cm
Style
Marks and inscriptions
(Inscription around top)
Translation
God is the Light of the heavens and earth. His Light is like this: there is a wick-holder and in it a wick.
Gallery label
  • Jameel Gallery Lamp of Sultan Hasan Egypt or Syria About 1360 The lamp is from the large and impressive mosque of Sultan Hasan in Cairo, built in 1356-62. The inscription reads, 'God is the Light of the heavens and earth. His Light is like this: there is a wick-holder and in it a wick'. A wick-holder would once have floated on the oil in the lamp. Glass, gilded and enamelled Museum no. 323-1900(Jameel Gallery)
  • The inscriptions include a verse from the Koran and a dedication to an unnamed ruler. Said to have been made for the mosque of the Mameluke Sultan of Egypt an-Nasir Hasan (ruled 1347-51 and 1354-61) at Cairo. SYRIAN ; middle of 14th century. Bought (Myers Collection)(Old gallery label)
Subject depicted
Summary
This large glass lamp has a sharply waisted body with a flaring upper section and a globular lower section with a flattened base. It stands on a low foot and has six suspension rings for hanging. The decoration, executed in gilding and coloured enamels, is in three main registers. In the upper section, a bold inscription in blue enamel is divided into three sections by large roundels. The wording of the inscription, taken from the Holy Qur'an, reads, 'Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth. The likeness of His Light is as a wick-holder wherein is a light.' This is the beginning of the text known as the Light Verse (surah XXIV, verse 35), which was often placed on lighting implements. Within the three roundels there is a short declaration, 'Glory to our master the Sultan, the King'.

The middle register contains an elaborate and very fine pattern of interlace. The bands of the interlace have been left plain, while the surrounding ground has been filled in in red and blue enamels. This would have made the design glow when the lamp was lit. The main feature of the lower register, which fills the flattened base, is a repetition of the inscribed roundels that divide the inscription at the top.

The lamp is thought to have been made to hang in the mosque of the Mamluk sovereign Sultan Hasan, who ruled between 1347-1351 and 1354-1361.
Bibliographic reference
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.28, 49
Collection
Accession number
323-1900

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Record createdDecember 13, 1997
Record URL
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