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Enamelled and gilded glass lamps were commissioned in large numbers for the many mosques built in Cairo by the Mamluk Sultans and their amirs. Many, including this example, are inscribed with verses from the Qur'an (24:35):

'God is the Light of the heavens and the earth;
the likeness of His Light is as a niche wherein is a lamp
(the lamp in a glass,
the glass as it were a glittering star)
kindled from a Blessed Tree,
an olive that is neither of the East nor of the West
whose oil wellnigh would shine, even if no fire touched it'
(Arberry, 1955, pp. 50-51)

The lamp is also decorated with a bold inscription frieze containing the name and titles of Sayf al-Din Shaykhu al-Nasiri, and his heraldic device incorporating a red cup appears in the centre of the roundels on the neck and the underside of the lamp. Shaykhu's wealth and influence made him an important patron of art and architecture in Cairo: more than eleven mosque lamps similarly inscribed have survived. They are likely to have come from Shaykhu's mosque at the foot of the Citadel in Cairo which was completed in 1349 and was considered to be one of the finest of its time.It remains an important architectural landmark in Cairo.

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  • Title: Mosque lamp
  • Date Created: 1330/1330
  • Physical Dimensions: Diameter: 26.00cm (top); Diameter: 14.00cm (base); Height: 35.00cm
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Technique: blown; enamelled; gilded
  • Registration number: G.497
  • Place: Found/Acquired Syria. Found/Acquired Egypt
  • Period/culture: Mamluk dynasty
  • Material: glass; gold
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Previous owner/ex-collection Godman, Frederick Du Cane. Bequeathed by Godman, Edith
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