Name of Object:

Fragment (from a wooden frieze) with an inscription in kufic script

Location:

Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom

Holding Museum:

Royal Museum, National Museums of Scotland (NMS)

About Royal Museum, National Museums of Scotland (NMS), Edinburgh

Date of Object:

Hegira, late 2nd–5th century / late AD 9th–11th century

Museum Inventory Number:

A.1984.519

Material(s) / Technique(s):

Carved wood.

Dimensions:

Height 12 cm, length 117 cm

Period / Dynasty

Tulunid or Fatimid

Provenance:

Possibly Syria or Egypt.

Description:

A fragment of a wooden frieze inscribed with large kufic characters. When the NMS acquired this piece it was thought to have come from Tulunid Egypt and it was suggested at the time that the inscription read: ‘baraka wa yumn wa sa’ada wa ghibt lisahibii’ (‘blessing and good fortune and happiness and joy to its owner’). However on closer inspection, the surviving lettering does not stand up to such a reading, and although the inscription has not yet been re-deciphered, it appears more likely that it originally formed part of a quotation from the Qur’an.

View Short Description

The little that survives of Fatimid wood carving is characterised by its intricate high relief technique and the vibrancy of its epigraphic or figurative decoration. Occasionally the final panels, which were meant to grace contemporary interiors, were painted, varnished and treated to be fire retardant.

How date and origin were established:

At one time this fragment was thought to originate in Tulunid Egypt (3rd–4th / 9th–10th centuries), it is now believed to be a product of the Fatimid period (4th–6th / 10th–12, due to certain stylistic similarities with a wooden panel excavated in Raqqa, Syria.

How Object was obtained:

Purchased by the NMS from Lisbet Holmes Textiles, London, in 1984.

How provenance was established:

Although it was assumed at one time that the object was produced in Egypt, a Syrian provenance may now also be feasible, given certain stylistic similarities between this fragment and a panel excavated at Raqqa in Syria dating to the Fatimid period.

Citation of this web page:

Ulrike Al-Khamis "Fragment (from a wooden frieze) with an inscription in kufic script" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2017. http://www.discoverislamicart.org/database_item.php?id=object;ISL;uk;Mus03;3;en

Prepared by: Ulrike Al-KhamisUlrike Al-Khamis

Ulrike Al-Khamis is Principal Curator for the Middle East and South Asia at the National Museums of Scotland in Edinburgh. She began her academic career in Germany before completing her BA (1st class Hons) in Islamic Art and Archaeology at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London in 1987. The same year she moved to Edinburgh, where she completed her Ph.D. thesis on “Early Islamic Bronze and Brass Ewers from the 7th to the 13th Century AD” in 1994. From 1994 to 1999 she worked as Curator of Muslim Art and Culture for Glasgow Museums and, in 1997, was one of the main instigators of the first ever Scottish Festival of Muslim Culture, SALAAM. Since 1999 she has been based at the Royal Museum in Edinburgh, where she has curated several exhibitions and continues to publish aspects of the collections. In addition to her museum work she has contributed regularly to the teaching of the Fine Arts Department at the University of Edinburgh.

Copyedited by: Mandi Gomez

MWNF Working Number: UK3 03

RELATED CONTENT

 Artistic Introduction

 Timeline for this item

Islamic Dynasties / Period

Fatimids

Tulunids


On display in

Discover Islamic Art Exhibition(s)

Arabic Calligraphy | Kufic Script

Download

As PDF (including images) As Word (text only)