Six rectangular wooden panels

1296 (made)

Height: 9 cm top panel, Width: 31 cm top panel, Depth: 2.7 cm top panel, Height: 9.5 cm panel fourth from top, Width: 30.5 cm panel fourth from top, Depth: 1.5 cm panel fourth from top

1052:1 to 6-1869 FWK

Six wooden panels carved with Arabic inscriptions.

This object is comprised of six rectangular panels. Four panels have been carved with Arabic inscriptions. The surface of the other two panels has been incised with floriated circular scrollwork. On one of the scrollwork panels there is evidence of a yellow pigment, which suggests that the panel was once painted.

This is a set of wooden panels. They were carved in Egypt under the Mamluks (who ruled Egypt and Syria between 1250 and 1517 A.D.) They panels are rectangular in shape and have been carved with Arabic inscriptions. They were originally used as surface decoration on a minbar (or pulpit in a mosque). The Arabic inscription helps to identify these panels. The inscription states that they originate from a minbar commissioned by Sultan Lajin in 1296. Sultan Lajin (d.1299 A.D.) ordered a new minbar to be made for the Mosque of Ibn Tulun (876 – 79 A.D.) – the mosque was in need of urgent restoration. The panels are important as they are widely regarded as among the finest examples of Mamluk woodcarving.

These six panels are fine examples of Mamluk woodcarving. The Mamluks ruled both Egypt and Syria between 1250 and 1517A.D. They were keen patrons of architecture and built many sacred buildings in the city of Cairo. This group of panels once formed the surface decoration of a minbar (pulpit in a mosque) which was commissioned by Sultan Lajin (d. 1299 A.D) in Cairo, Egypt. It was made in 1296 A.D and placed in the Mosque of Ibn Tulun (built 876-79A.D). Lajin chose to restore the mosque, after he used the dilapidated building as a shelter whilst hiding from his enemies. He vowed that if he survived, he would repay the mosque by repairing it to its former glory. These exquisite minbar panels are an example of his vow. According to Stanley Lane-Poole (1854 -1931) in The Art of the Saracens in Egypt, the Lajin minbar panels are exceptional examples of carving skill and creativity and they represent the peak of Mamluk minbar design. The panels are also excellent examples of Mamluk wood carving: ivory would later eclipse wood as the chief material used in minbar inlay, as wood panel production declined during the fifteenth century. During the latter half of the nineteenth century the Lajin panels became collectible objects. By 1885 the Lajin minbar had been stripped of its panels as interest in the Middle East peaked. This set of Lajin panels formed part of the Meymar collection – a collection of Islamic and Middle Eastern objects collected by the Turkish bureaucrat known as Dr Meymar. Little is known of Dr Meymar – however it is clear that he had unbridled access to the sacred objects of Cairo. Dr Meymar’s collection was exhibited at the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1867, from where the South Kensington Museum (V&A) made a large number of purchases to enhance their growing collection of Islamic art. Together with the collection of Gaston de Saint-Maurice (accessioned in 1884), the Meymar collection was the foundational collection of ‘Saracenic’ art – or the art of the Mamluks – in this museum.

Location: In Storage

View this object on the V&A website