Rare And Important Mamluk Ivory-inlaid Wooden Panel
Egypt - 14th Century - Dimensions: 57.5 x 34 cm
Made up of individually cut sections fitted into a framework, the design based on a central sixpointed star with radiating polygons, hexagons and half-stars carved of light and dark woods including ebony inlaid with thin ivory strips and carved ivory plaques, with late 19th -early 20th century European fruitwood frame. The Mamluks of Egypt and Syria were a powerful dynasty of Turkic slave soldiers who rose to power in the thirteenth century. It was the Mamluks who drove back the Mongol invaders and banished the Crusaders from the Holy Land. Their reputation in battle was matched by their energy as builders and patrons of the arts. Under Mamluk patronage, Cairo was transformed by elaborate domes and minarets, creating one of the most beautiful skylines in the world. Mamluk woodworkers – wood is a precious material in Egypt- excelled in the art of inlaying ivory into furniture destined for buildings commissioned by sultans and amirs. Geometrical designs were favoured for their bold symmetry and formal strength. This panel most likely came from a door or a minbar. It is assembled like a mosaic using individually carved segments, a technique that requires great patience and skill as well as knowledge of geometry and mathematics. The central star and each of the polygonal elements has been cut and carved separately and then inlaid with ivory filaments which act to highlight and define the design. The present panel can be compared with the Qur’an box in the Sultan Hasan Mosque in Cairo, completed in 1359 AD. Both have ivory polygons set against wood geometry. Both incorparate small lozenges containing palmettes, similarly executed border treatment and carved arabesque units.
Provenance: Private UK Collection