The carved vine leaves, scrolls, border designs, and other details of this panel are typical of early Islamic woodcarving. The prominent six‑pointed star was a common decorative feature in Islamic art of all periods, as well as in Roman art.
This panel is one of fourteen carved wooden elements acquired as a group, all reportedly found in the ruins of Takrit, in Iraq. Made of teak, it appears to be a fragment of a larger piece, perhaps a door or a piece of furniture. Interlacing bands frame its design within a square, of which the two lateral sides and part of the top remain, surrounding a large central circle with smaller circular loops around its circumference. Inside the large circle, an interlaced six-pointed star encloses another circle. A dense, crisply carved vine scroll, with striated trefoil sprigs, lancet leafs, and split-palmette motifs, fills the square framework. Both the iconography and the style of this panel recall the stone-carved facade of the eighth-century palace of Mshatta (from present-day Jordan, now in the Museum für Islamische Kunst, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin) though with less variety and greater stylization. Yet the motifs here are not as repetitive and abstract as the carving in wood and stucco associated with the ninth-century palaces at Samarra; even the so-called Samarra Style A is more regularized in its imagery and less varied in the manner of its carving. Perhaps the closest parallel from a dated context — albeit physically the farthest afield — is the wood minbar of the Great Mosque of Qairawan, in Tunisia, produced between 856 and 863. Whether these minbar panels were carved in Baghdad, as previously believed, or sent as raw material to North Africa and carved there according to early Abbasid models, they share with the Metropolitan Museum’s panel its motifs and compositional approach. A design almost identical to that found on this panel decorates a pair of doors in the Benaki Museum, Athens. There, an eight-pointed interlaced star within a circle framed in a square makes up the central part of the rectangular door leaves, enclosing similar vegetal elements. The Benaki doors have been attributed to late eighth- or early ninth-century Baghdad, and it is likely that this panel originally comes from that milieu as well. Ellen Kenney (author) in [Ekhtiar, Soucek, Canby, and Haidar 2011] Footnotes: 1. Dimand 1933. 2. For a discussion of the development of this carving, see Dimand 1937. See also Ettinghausen, Richard. "The Taming of the Horror Vacui in Islamic Art." Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 123, no. 1 (February 20, 1979), pp. 15 – 28. p. 20. 3. Ettinghausen, Grabar, and Jenkins-Madina 2001, p. 94. 4. For a recent succinct discussion of the "Solomon’s-Seal" motif, see Hasson, Rachel. "An Enamelled Glass Bowl with ‘Solomon’s Seal’: The Meaning of a Pattern." In Ward, ed. 1998, pp. 41 – 44, 174 – 75, pl. F. 5. Pauty, Edmond. "Sur une porte en bois sculpte provenant de Bagdad [sic]." BIFAO: Bulletin de l’Institut français d’archéologie orientale 30 (1931), pp. 77–81, pls. 1–6. Cf. Moraitou, Mina. "Umayyad Ornament on Early Islamic Woodwork: A Pair of Doors in the Benaki Museum." Mouseio Benake 1 (2001), pp. 159–71, which demonstrates the continuity of Umayyad-style ornamentation and compositions into the Abbasid period, and proposes a mid-eighth-century date for the Benaki doors
[ Sidney Burney, London, until 1933; sold to MMA]
Ettinghausen Richard, Oleg Grabar, and Marilyn Jenkins-Madina, ed. Islamic Art and Architecture, 650–1250. 2nd ed. New Haven and London, p. 94.
Dimand, Maurice S. "Studies in Islamic Ornament: I. Some Aspects of Omaiyad and Early 'Abassid Ornament." Ars Islamica vol. IV (1937). pp. 293–337.
Ekhtiar, Maryam, Sheila R. Canby, Navina Haidar, and Priscilla P. Soucek, ed. Masterpieces from the Department of Islamic Art in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 1st ed. ed. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2011. no. 22, pp. 44-45, p. 44 (color).