Egypt or Syria
Mamluk, 14th century CE
Materials and technique
Brass, incised and inlaid with silver and niello
Height 35 cm; maximum Ø 31.5 cm
Thanks to the active patronage of Mamluk sultans and their amirs, the art of Mamluk metalwork between the late thirteenth and the mid-fourteenth centuries reached its greatest height, distinguished by a flourishing of the figural style and the development of an epigraphic one (Atıl 1981, p. 51). This period falls under the relatively long reign of Sultan al-Nasir al-Din Muhammad (r. 1293-1341 ce, with interruptions), a particularly enthusiastic patron of art and architecture. The present candlestick may have been made for one of al-Nasir’s amirs, as suggested by the inscriptions around the socket, shoulder, and neck; the predominance of the bold and monumental thuluth, the preferred script under the Mamluks, represents the epigraphic style that evolved during this period. The truncated conical socket includes a band of inscription interrupted by whirling eight-petalled rosettes. Although the whirling rosette motif was not a blazon, it does appear to have held associations with some Mamluks, including al-Nasir al-Din Muhammad. The motif is repeated six times in a six-petalled form on the neck, enclosed within and between three large roundels filled with foliate scrolls and bordered by an abstract design of stylised overlapping leaves. The largest inscription appears on the body against a dense background of foliage composed of spiralling leaf scrolls and bordered by raised ridges above and below. A tughra inscribed on the object’s interior indicates that it was later in the possession of another individual, perhaps an Ottoman official, in the mid-fifteenth century, when Egypt and Syria came under Ottoman control. Similar candlesticks may be found in the collection of the Musée du Louvre, Paris (inv. no. AO 5005), as well as in the Museum of Islamic Art, Cairo (inv. nos. 4043 and 3982).
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