National Museum of Aleppo, Islamic Department
Hegira late 9th–early 10th century / AD late 15th–early 16th century
Height 51.4 cm, width 55 cm, depth 18.7 cm
Unknown (Aleppo, Syria).
In the Mamluk period, heraldry played an important role and was widely used on architecture, metalwork, textiles, glass and pottery. Its use was strictly the reserve of sultans and particularly of the officers who were awarded individual blazons, each according to their rank. While the early Bahri Mamluks used blazons which represented a distinct office held by an individual, the later Burji Mamluks combined several heraldic emblems which were commonly shared by a corps of amirs who served a distinct master.
The stone roundel with the tripartite blazon from the Aleppo Museum represents a widely used composition from the late Mamluk period: it contains the symbol of the jamdar (master-of-the-robes) with a so-called “napkin” in the upper field, the stemmed cup of the cup-bearer (saqi) charged with the pen box of the dawadar (secretary) in the central field, flanked by what has been identified as a pair of powder horns. A second, smaller, stemmed cup is placed in the lower field.
According to Meinecke (1972), this particular emblem was the most popular blazon of the late Burji period and is known to have been used by at least 47 amirs. Its first employment can be traced back to Sultan Qaytbay (AH 872–901 / AD 1468-96) when he was still an officer himself and he then conferred it upon his own followers. It was in use up to AH 922 / AD 1517 and came to represent something like the Mamluk “State blazon”.
The use of royal emblems reached a high point during the Mamluk period. This carved stone roundel reveals a composition of symbols including those of the cup-bearer, the secretary and the master of robes.
The piece was dated by comparison with other similar pieces.
It is not known how the Museum came by this object.
Although the provenance is unknown, this medallion probably belonged to either Amir Uzdamur (also known as Özdemir), who ruled Aleppo twice in 884 / 1479 and between 889–99 / 1484–93, or the last Mamluk amir, Kha'irbak b. Bilbay. Both were closely connected to Sultan Qaytbay, leaving examples of this emblem on various buildings in the city: Uzdamur on his caravanserai (Khan al-Sabun), the Qastal al-Ramadaniyya, the Qastal Jami' al-Sharaf and the Jami' al-Sharaf itself; Kha'irbak on his mausoleum south of Bab al-Maqam and his khan in the suq not far from the citadel.
Syrie: Mémoire et Civilisation, exhibition catalogue, Paris, 1994, p.475 ; cat. no. 379.
Herzfeld, E., Matériaux pour un Corpus Inscriptionum Arabicarum: Syrie du Nord, Part 2: Inscriptions et monuments d'Alep, 3 Vols, Cairo, 1954–6, p.393ff, p.396 ff, pp.404–6; figs. 126, 128, 130; plates CLXX a, CLXXII c.
Mayer, L. A., Saracenic Heraldry, Oxford, 1933, pp.136–8.
Meinecke, M., “Zur mamlukischen Heraldik”, Mitteilungen des Deutschen Archäologischen Institutes, Abteilung Kairo, XXVIII/2, 1972, pp.213–87.
Sauvaget, J., Alep. Essai sur le développement d'une grande ville syrienne des origines au milieu du XIXe siècle, 2 Vols, Paris, 1941, plates XXII, XXIII.
Julia Gonnella "Stone blazon" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2017. http://www.discoverislamicart.org/database_item.php?id=object;ISL;sy;Mus01_A;48;en
Prepared by: Julia Gonnella
Copyedited by: Mandi Gomez
MWNF Working Number: SY 80
Islamic Dynasties / Period
On display in
Discover Islamic Art Exhibition(s)The Mamluks | The Sultan and his Court
Related MWNF Tour Related MWNF Travel Book
Virtual Visit Exhibition Trail
DownloadAs PDF (including images) As Word (text only)