Museum of Mediterranean and Near Eastern Antiquities (Medelhavsmuseet)
Hegira late 3rd century / AD late 9th century
Woodwork, panel, wood
Height 29 cm, width 68 cm
Probably al-Qata’i, Egypt.
The rectangular panel consists of an arch with small plain sections on each side. Its carved decoration shows a symmetrical floral composition. The centre forms a vase-like motif with a flower. Leaves of different sizes and shapes fill the space inside and outside the arch. The decoration consists of a variety of small elements, but the overall composition appears integrated since the curves form a relationship through all parts. The deep carved patterns are of charming clarity and possess sculptural depth.
This type of decoration goes back to the stuccoes and wood carvings at Samarra. Samarra, situated some 60 miles up the Tigris from Baghdad, was the capital of the Abbasid caliphs from AH 224 / AD 838until AH 270 / AD 883. Ahmad ibn Tulun, the founder of the Tulunid dynasty in Egypt (AH 254–94 / AD 868–906) spent many years in Samarra and brought the Abbasid style of decoration and Abbasid craftsmen to his own capital, al-Qata'i. The so-called style C of the Samarra stuccoes is characterised by bevelling carved, symmetrical abstract patterns of leaf and vase motifs which match the shapes within the arch of the wooden panel. The wood carvings made in Tulunid Egypt at the end of the AH 3rd / AD 9th century represent the culmination of this style, although they have a tendency to break up the originally broad sculptured surface into smaller elements as in the case of this panel. The specific function of the panel is not known; it was possibly part of the architectural decoration.
National Museum of Fine Arts, Stockholm. In order to reorganise the expanding collections, the main part of the Islamic collection has been on permanent loan to the Museum of Mediterranean and Near Eastern Antiquities since 1982
The architectural decoration of the mosque of Ahmad ibn Tulun in al-Qata'i, completed in 266 / 879, is close to the style of this panel.
Purchased by the Crown Prince of Sweden in December 1934 in Cairo.
The object was found during excavations in Egypt.
Abu Khalaf, M., “Early Islamic Woodwork in Egypt and the Fertile Crescent”, Ph.D. dissertion, University of Oxford, 1985.
Anglade, E., Catalogue des Boiseries de la Section Islamique, Paris, 1988.
Pauty, M. E., Catalogue Général du Musée Arabe du Caire: Les Bois Sculptés, Cairo, 1931.
Friederike Voigt "Panel" in Discover Islamic Art , Museum With No Frontiers, 2019. http://www.museumwnf.org/thematicgallery/thg_galleries/database_item.php?itemId=objects;ISL;se;Mus01;3;en&id=furniture_and_woodwork
Prepared by: Friederike VoigtFriederike Voigt
Friederike Voigt has an MA in Iranian studies, history of art and social science and is currently working on her doctoral thesis on wall tiles in architectural decoration of Qajar Iran. Since 2004 she has been a project-related curator at the Museum for Mediterranean and Near Eastern Antiquities in Stockholm for Museum With No Frontiers. She studied at Humboldt University in Berlin, at the University of Tehran and archaeology at the University of Halle-Wittenberg. She taught Persian language at several universities in Germany. She was an assistant curator at the Department of Near and Middle Eastern Cultures at the Museum of Ethnology, State Museums of Berlin. Her main fields of interest are the material culture of Iran, especially of the Qajar period, and contemporary Iranian art.
Copyedited by: Monica Allen
MWNF Working Number: SE 04
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