Façade of the Mshatta Palace

Unknown743 - 744

Pergamonmuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Pergamonmuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
Berlin, Germany

It must have been the Umayyad caliph al-Walid II (743-744) who, during his short reign, commissioned the building of a palace in the Jordanian desert, south-east of the modern capital, Amman. It was never completed, however, and it was not rediscovered until the nineteenth century. Offered as a gift to the German Kaiser by the Ottoman Sultan, a substantial part of the façade has since 1903 been in the keeping of the Museum of Islamic Art. A square outer wall enclosed the palace with its audience hall and living quarters, a mosque and other buildings necessary for temporary government business. The south façade on either side of the entrance portal was decorated in relief. Between the moulded plinth and the cornice is a continuous zigzag band, with large rosettes in the triangles it forms with the horizontal elements, the ground beneath being covered with vine motifs emerging from bowls. In the triangles of the left half of the façade are various animals - birds, lions, gryphons, a peacock-dragon (senmurw) and even a centaur - depicted in paradisaical peaceful co-existence, most drinking at large basins. The right-hand gate tower, however, marks a change of decorative program, the animals giving way to detailed vegetal decoration, the ground being entirely filled by tendrils scrolling up from vases or flower motifs. This was probably out of respect for the mosque that was built behind the wall, the prohibition on images of living creatures in the decoration of mosques already being in force.


  • Title: Façade of the Mshatta Palace
  • Creator: Unknown
  • Date Created: 743 - 744
  • Location: Mshatta, Jordan
  • Physical Dimensions: w33 x h5.07 cm
  • Type: Façade
  • Medium: Limestone
  • Inv. no.: I. 6163_1
  • ISIL no.: DE-MUS-814517
  • External link: Pergamonmuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
  • Copyrights: Foto © bpk - Photo Agency / Staatliche Museen zu Berlin - Preußischer Kulturbesitz / Georg Niedermeiser || Text © Scala Publishers / Museum für Islamische Kunst, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin / Jens Kröger Audio © Tonwelt
  • Collection: Museum für Islamische Kunst, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

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