Name of Object:

Marble frieze

Location:

Jerusalem

Holding Museum:

Islamic Museum, al-Aqsa Mosque / al-Haram al-Sharif

About Islamic Museum, al-Aqsa Mosque / al-Haram al-Sharif, Jerusalem

Date of Object:

Hegira 6th century / AD 12th century

Museum Inventory Number:

ز/ م/43     

Material(s) / Technique(s):

Hewn and carved marble.

Dimensions:

Length 258 cm, width 37 cm, depth 20 cm

Period / Dynasty

Crusader

Provenance:

Possibly Jerusalem.

Description:

A section from an ash-grey marble frieze, the provenance of which is uncertain but which might have been one of a number of marble pieces crafted in a workshop within the Haram al-Sharif in around AH 555 / AD 1160, during the Crusader period (AH 492–583 / AD 1099–1187), when the workshop became renowned for its marble carving. The frieze is classified as an example of Romanesque art. It was probably used as a lintel for an entrance to one of the buildings at the Haram al-Sharif or the area around it. It continued to be used as a lintel for the southern portals of the Dome of the Rock for an unspecified period, which led to it being disfigured with cement. The frieze was damaged further by obliteration of the facial features of some of the carved figures, and it is possible that the partial removal of the figurative motifs was done in order to use the work within the Dome of the Rock. The remaining animal forms survived intact, thereby enabling easy identification.
The decorative themes include human forms likely to be of religious personalities, but the defacement has made identification difficult. There are also animal forms such as hunting dogs, dragons and birds such as ducks, and a mythical bird-like character that resembles a turkey. The Vegetal decoration assumes the form of a laurel wreath which wraps itself around the other motifs, entering into their spheres.
This piece consists of a number of decorative units, each of which contains a complete decorative theme. For example one theme appears to show men and boys hunting animals and birds, each theme is connected to the next by means of the laurel wreath. The piece ingeniously appears, therefore, as one work; a collection within a single decorative panel, while a spiral-patterned frame in high relief marks the borders. The high level of skill in the Haram al-Sharif workshop is manifest in the skilful carving of this work, affirming that the frieze was produced to decorate the entrance of an important building, perhaps a religious one.
A break may be observed which divides it into two unequal parts.

View Short Description

This is a grey marble frieze with carved decoration in the Romansque style. It was probably made during the Crusader period in al-Haram al-Sharif. Its decorative themes represent human and animal forms such as hunting dogs, dragons and birds. It also contains vegetal motifs forming a laurel wreath that wraps around the other forms.

How date and origin were established:

Dating of this marble piece was possible by comparison of decorative themes and carving techniques with other pieces, particularly those present at the Holy Sepulchre Church (Kanisat al-Qiyama) and the Church of the Tomb of the Virgin Mary in Jerusalem.

How Object was obtained:

The piece was transferred from the Dome of the Rock to the Islamic Museum in around 1959.

How provenance was established:

It is likely that the piece was produced in the workshop at the Haram al-Sharif, known to have been operational at the period.

Selected bibliography:

Hunt, L. A., “Crusader Sculpture and the So-Called Templar Workshop: A Reassessment of Two Carved Panels from the Dome of the Rock in al-Haram al-Sharif Museum in Jerusalem”, Palestine Exploration Quarterly, No. 132, 2000.
Jacoby, Z., “The Provincial Impact on Crusader Sculpture in Jerusalem: More Evidence on the Temple Area Atelier”, Zeitschirft für Kunstgeschichte, No. 48, 1985.
__________, “The Workshop of the Temple Area in Jerusalem in the Twelfth Century: Its Origin, Evolution and Impact”, Zeitschirft für Kunstgeschichte, No. 45, 1982.

Citation of this web page:

Nazmi Al-Ju'beh "Marble frieze" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2017. http://www.discoverislamicart.org/database_item.php?id=object;ISL;pa;Mus01;10;en

Prepared by: Nazmi Al-Ju'behNazmi Al-Ju'beh

Nazmi Al-Ju'beh is an archaeologist and historian and Co-Director of RIWAQ, Centre for Architectural Conservation in Ramallah, Palestine. He studied at Birzeit University in Palestine and at Tübingen University in Germany. He taught at Birzeit University and at al-Quds University. He was Director of the Islamic Museum, al-Haram al-Sharif, Jerusalem, and directed various cultural heritage projects in Palestine, including surveys of archaeological and architectural sites. He was a major contributor to Pilgrimage, Sciences and Sufism: Islamic Art in the West Bank and Gaza (Vienna: MWNF, 2004) and is the author of numerous publications on the history, archaeology and cultural heritage of Palestine.

Copyedited by: Majd Musa
Translation by: Amal Sachedina (from the Arabic).
Translation copyedited by: Mandi Gomez

MWNF Working Number: PA 10

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