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This fine lamp was produced in Syria (and possibly Palestine) and was made to be hung in a mosque. It is of hand-blown, pale-green glass and was decorated in dark blue and other enamels and gold in a variety of fourteen thuluth calligraphic cartouches against intricate scrollwork. Traces of these pigments remain. The designs were scratched into the surface of the glass and the depressions then filled with enamel and gold leaf.
The lamp is of typical globular shape, with a funnel neck, and a concave base. It rises to an everted conical neck with a wide circular mouth. Three three glass hanging hoops are applied to the shoulders. Iron chains would have been threaded through these to suspend the lamp from the roof of the mosque. The lamp has a flat, stable base, so could also be used as a standing lamp. The form is based on earlier lamps from medieval 14th century Mamluk Egypt or Syria. Rows of such lamps would have illuminated mosques and other religious buildings.
Such lamps were hand-blown – the pontil mark to the base of this example is clearly evident. The glass is also fully of tiny bubbles which add to its frosted nature.
The lamp would have been partially filled with oil and a lit wick on small platform would have floated on the oil’s surface or be suspended from the rim of the lamp.
A related example in the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art (accession 47.58.1) is on long-term loan to the Honolulu Museum of Art. Another, similar example, is in the Wereldmuseum, the Netherlands (accession no.: 7013-3) and illustrated in van den Broek & Mols (2011, p. 97). The latter is signed with the maker’s name – possibly Tarzi Sham. It is highly likely that the lamp here is by the same maker.
The example here is without cracks or repairs. The rim shows minor wear and the decorative pigments have worn with age and use, as might be expected. The lamp is a beautiful example; it is in a useable condition and could be suspended for display.
van den Broek, S., & L. Mols, Indonesia and Islamic Art, Wereldmuseum/Mercatorfonds, 2011.
Carboni, S., & Whitehouse, D., Glass of the Sultans, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2001.
Piotrovsky, M., & J.M. Rogers, Heaven on Earth: Art from Islamic Lands, Prestel, 2004.