Fresco from Qusayr Amra
Museum of Islamic Art at the Pergamon Museum
Reign of Caliph al-Walid I Hegira 86–96 / AD 705–715, probably after AH 92 / AD 711
Fresco painting on wall plaster; very damaged and peeled away.
Height 205 cm, width 102 cm
Palace of Qusayr Amra, Jordan.
A woman stands upright in front of a niche, lightly clothed but richly adorned with jewels. She is wearing jewelled armbands and a necklace around her neck with a circular pendant. There is a jewelled belt around her waist. Her dark hair, decorated with strings of white pearls, falls to her shoulders. The representation seems to consist of a niche that is flanked by two pillars on pedestals. Behind and to the side of the woman the niche appears to be hung with a blue cloth. The details are hard to make out, particularly along the lower part as it has been spoiled by graffiti.
The painting comes from the main room of the Qusayr Amra Palace. This depiction is one of several pictures of women on the frescoes in the Qusayr Amra. Such depictions represented popular themes in Umayyad wall frescoes, and formed part of the figurative repertoire representing courtly life, which was lived with great expense and freedom during that period. Each of the painted women is portrayed wearing expensive jewellery and jewels. Some of the women are unclothed; others wear long robes. During this period courtly celebrations included feasts at which wine was drunk, concerts were presented, acrobats performed and singers entertained. Such festivities already featured in the sources dating from when the castle was first founded.
This fragment of wall painting from the Umayyad palace of Qusayr Amra in Jordan shows a lightly clad woman adorned with beautiful jewellery within a niche. One of several frescoes of women in the throne room and baths of the palace, she represents the taste and courtly life of the time.
The work must date from the same period as the other paintings in Qusayr Amra as it shares the same context. The ‘Paintings of the Six Kings’ date Qusayr Amra as being built after 92 / 711 during the reign of al-Walid I.
Acquired in 1908 from A. L. Mielich, Vienna.
The work comes from the painter A. L. Mielich, who took the work shortly after the discovery of the paintings in Qusayr Amra was made. This guarantees its provenance. The work appears as a single object after its removal from the Qusayr Amra panels.
Almagro, M. et al., Qusayr Amra: Residencia y Baños Omeyas en el Desierto de Jordania, Madrid, 1975.
Baer, E., “Female Images in Early Islam”, Damaszener Mitteilungen 11, 1999, pp.13–24, plate 3.
Fowden, G., Qusayr Amra: Art and the Umayyad Elite in Late Antique Syria, Berkeley, 2004.
Grabar, O. “Umayyad Palaces Reconsidered”, Ars Orientalis 23, 1993, p.105, ill. 9.
Hillenbrand, R. “La Dolce Vita in Early Islamic Syria: The Evidence of Later Umayyad Palaces”, Art History 5(1), 1982, pp.1–35.
Kaiserliche Akademie der Wissenschaften (eds.), Kuseijr Amra, Vienna, 1907, Vol. 1 Text, p.210, Vol. 2 Plates, plate 23.
The Umayyads: The Rise of Islamic Art, pp.120–3.
Annette Hagedorn "Fresco from Qusayr Amra" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2017. http://www.discoverislamicart.org/database_item.php?id=object;ISL;de;Mus01;3;en
Prepared by: Annette Hagedorn
Translation by: Maria Vlotides, Brigitte Finkbeiner
Translation copyedited by: Monica Allen
MWNF Working Number: GE 03
Islamic Dynasties / Period
On display in
Discover Islamic Art Exhibition(s)The Umayyads | Court Ceremonials and Pastimes
MWNF GalleriesWall paintings and frescoes
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