Ottoman, circa 1575-80 CE
Materials and technique
Ceramic; fritware, polychrome underglaze painted
123 x 62 cm
The set of eighteen tiles comprising this panel displays numerous points in common with two similar mihrabs located on the north courtyard wall of a mosque founded by Governor Darwish Pasha in Damascus in 1572-75 CE: the two candelabra, the Prophet’s sandals, the suspended lamp bearing the shahada, and the false marble of the columns inhabited by hidden creatures. At the Darwish Pasha Mosque (Darwishiyya), one of the mihrabs is topped by a ceramic tympanum bearing the date 982 H/1574-75 CE (Makariou 2007, p. 206, note 1). However, there are some differences between the Darwishiyya mihrabs and this panel, such as the number of tiles, the narrower set, and the fact that the two candelabra touch each other, which is not the case on the Darwishiyya panels (ibid., note 2). Several clues, such as the design of the lamp’s chains, which curve softly to the left, and the false marble, indicate that these were probably produced in the same atelier. The false marble’s decoration serves as a refuge for a crowd of small animals. Still, the variety of animals - rabbits, flatfish, small quadrupeds, and ducks - is richer here (ibid., note 3). In the centre of the panel, the Prophet’s sandals occupy a place of paramount importance. The iconography of the Prophet’s sandals, which sometimes seems to be confused with the representation of his footprints, became widespread in the sixteenth century and is also present in Safavid Iran and in India (ibid., note 5). The sandal is a sign of distinction specific to the Prophet of Islam, in comparison to Moses; its protective shape (mithal) “leads to life in both homes” (earthly then eternal). This devotional context explains the singularity of an image of a pair of sandals right in the middle of a space where all faithful believers are required to remove their shoes. The sandals, believed to have touched the throne of God, made the Prophet the quintessential intercessor par excellence and an example to be followed (ibid., note 10).
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