Name of Object:

Tray

Location:

London, England, United Kingdom

Holding Museum:

Victoria and Albert Museum

About Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Date of Object:

Hegira 742 / AD 1341 or AH 762–4 / 1361–3

Museum Inventory Number:

420–1854

Material(s) / Technique(s):

Brass inlaid with silver and gold.

Dimensions:

Diameter 78.7 cm

Period / Dynasty

Mamluk

Provenance:

Cairo or Damascus.

Description:

A large brass tray with extensive silver inlay, much of it now missing. The layout is a study in circles: the central motif, a geometric pattern itself derived from intersecting circles, is linked to three circles which divide the surrounding inscription into equal parts. Within this arrangement there are further circles within circles. The whole composition serves as a framework for no less than seven inscriptions, whose verticals, arranged like spokes within wheels, provide a striking and satisfying visual contrast. The largest inscription reads, 'Glory to our master the Sultan, the wise, the diligent, the just, the warlike king – may his victory be glorified'! The same sentiments are reflected in all the inscriptions, right down to the tiny roundels which proclaim, 'Glory to our master, the Sultan'! A bold use of inscriptions, in which a laudatory text becomes the main part of the decoration, is a hallmark of Mamluk art. Although the identity of the patron is not clear (see below), a magnificent tray like this would have been a valued adornment of his court.

View Short Description

A splendid brass tray extensively inlaid with silver to form geometric and calligraphic decoration. The bold inscriptions are particularly striking, although the identity of the sultan they praise is ambiguous. Such a tray would undoubtedly have been used at court gatherings.

Original Owner:

Possibly either of the Mamluk rulers Sultan Abu Bakr (r. AH 742 / AD 1341) or Sultan Muhammad (r. AH 762–4 / AD 1361–3)

How date and origin were established:

The style of the tray is that of the mid-8th / 14th century. The specific identity of the patron is ambiguous; the inscriptions make reference to 'al-Malik al-Mansur', a regnal name which was used by two Mamluk sultans in this period: Abu Bakr (r. 742 / 1341) and Muhammad (r. 762–4 /1361–3).

How Object was obtained:

Purchased by the Museum in 1854.

How provenance was established:

Cairo and Damascus were the two most important centres of art production under the Mamluks.

Selected bibliography:

Stanley, T., with Rosser-Owen, M. and Vernoit, S., Palace and Mosque: Islamic Art from the Middle East, London, 2004, p.97.

Citation of this web page:

Barry Wood "Tray" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2017. http://www.discoverislamicart.org/database_item.php?id=object;ISL;uk;Mus02;16;en

Prepared by: Barry WoodBarry Wood

Barry Wood is Curator (Islamic Gallery Project) in the Asian Department of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. He studied history of art at Johns Hopkins University and history of Islamic art and architecture at Harvard University, from where he obtained his Ph.D. in 2002. He has taught at Harvard, Eastern Mediterranean University, the School of Oriental and African Studies, and the Courtauld Institute of Art. He has also worked at the Harvard University Art Museums and the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore. He has published on topics ranging from Persian manuscripts to the history of exhibitions.

Copyedited by: Mandi Gomez

MWNF Working Number: UK2 17

RELATED CONTENT

 Artistic Introduction

 Timeline for this item

Islamic Dynasties / Period

Mamluks


On display in

Discover Islamic Art Exhibition(s)

Arabic Calligraphy | Civilisation of the Word

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Calligraphy Metalwork


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