Ivory and Mother-of-pearl
Star-Shaped Panel With A Coat-Of-Arms
Mamluk, circa 1470 CE
Materials and technique
Ivory, wood, and metal; carved and mosaic technique
Ø 22 cm
The use of coats-of-arms in the Islamic world is unique to the Mamluks (1250-1517 CE), whose status in society could not be inherited. Pictorial blazons representing recognized images, such as a stemmed cup or napkin, identified the rank of an amir that served as cupbearer or master of robes. Epigraphic heraldic emblems, such as the one in this wood and ivory panel, were destined to monarchs or rulers, although other composite panels were not uncommon (see Mayer 1933). While several Mamluk sultans used the epithet al-malik al-ashraf, it is likely that the inscription carved into the tripartite blazon on this panel refers to Sultan Qaytbay (r. 1468-96 CE), a ruler who brought about the revitalisation of the arts in Cairo. The form and style of the star-shaped architectural element bear resemblance to other carved ivory door panels produced during this sultan’s reign, one of which is housed in the Museum of Islamic Art, Cairo, and is inscribed with his name (Atıl 1981, p. 210 [no. 105, inv. no. 2334]). That panel has been attributed to about 1470 CE, around the time Qaytbay’s funerary complex was under construction in Cairo’s Northern Cemetery (1472-79 CE). The sultan’s epigraphic blazon appears throughout the structure, and it is possible that these ivory and wood panels were meant for this building or another structure commissioned by him. The present panel once belonged to the collection of Ernst and Marthe Kofler-Truniger in Lucerne (inv. no. K 493 H/1 CE).
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