Public drinking fountain
National Museum of Damascus
Hegira 971 / AD 1564
Carved marble inlaid with marble mosaic and mother-of-pearl mosaic at the base.
Height 78.5 cm, width 1.50 m
Mosque of Mustafa Lala Pasha, Damascus, Syria.
This fountain was designed for the Mosque of Mustafa Lala Pasha. It resembles a bench and is made of fine marble decorated with calligraphic carving and geometric mosaics composed of coloured marble and mother-of-pearl. The upper section consists of a marble panel grandly engraved with two lines of Arabic inscriptions written in the busy and rhythmically over-lapping diwani script, a calligraphic type popular during the Ottoman era. A thin band of vegetal motifs divides the two lines of inscription. This central panel is flanked by a pair of curvilinear brackets that are also heavily ornamented with vegetal and calligraphic carvings.
The inscription conveys that the fountain, referred to as a rub' (a unit of water measurement), was built and made available to the public in honour of Sultan Sulayman by the High Aristocrat Mustafa Pasha in AH 971 / AD 1564. The date seems to have been important as it is written numerically and alphabetically in three different locations within the inscription. This is the date upon which Mustafa Lala Pasha became the governor of Damascus and he would remain in this prominent position for the next five years. Of his waqf endowments to Damascus, he built a new mosque and a new khan with lavish water supplies. During the reign of Sultan Salim II (AH 973–81 / AD 1566–74) Mustafa Lala Pasha was assigned as the military commander to conquer Cyprus in AH 977 / AD 1570, one of the greatest victories of the Ottoman military.
The inscription on this fountain translates as follows:
“The one who built this public rub', may God make it the most useful, during the era of the most God-fearing sultan, the Sultan Sulayman Khan son of the Sultan Salim Khan, may God the Most Exalted raise him to the throne of the sultanate, is the High Aristocrat Mustafa Pasha, may God include him in the intercession of his mediator, the heir of the Ottoman kingdoms of the Sultan Salim Khan, the most God-fearing, may God light up his realm with his brilliant light, the utterance of this text was dictated and inscribed in the year nine hundred and seventy-one, 971 .”
An important marble fountain made in Damascus and dedicated to Sultan Sulayman the Magnificent by the powerful military aristocrat and governor of Damascus, Mustafa Lala Pasha.
The ruler of Damascus Mustafa Lala Pasha (r. AH 971–6 / AD 1563–9) in honour of Sultan Sulayman the Magnificent (r. AH 926–74 / AD 1520–66)
The inscription on the object includes the date of its completion in 971 (1564).
The Mosque of Lala Mustafa Pasha in Damascus was demolished between 1928 and 1930 so that the Suq al-Hal could be built. However, this piece along with a number of other archaeologically valuable objects, were relocated to the Museum for preservation. This piece was registered at the Museum in 1931.
The fountain is dated by the documentary records at the Museum.
Abu al-Faraj al-Ush, M., A Concise Guide to the National Museum of Damascus, Damascus, 1969, p.183, p.244.
Mona al-Moadin "Public drinking fountain" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2018. http://www.discoverislamicart.org/database_item.php?id=object;ISL;sy;Mus01;40;en
Prepared by: Mona Al-Moadin
Translation by: Hilary Kalmbach (from the Arabic)
Translation copyedited by: Mandi Gomez
MWNF Working Number: SY 63
Islamic Dynasties / Period
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