Lidded Box of Muhammad al-Hamawi, Timekeeper at the Umayyad Mosque, Damascus

Object Name:
Box with lid
15th century
Brass; engraved and inlaid with silver
H. 4 in. (10.2 cm) W. 6 11/16 in. (17 cm) D. 3 1/4 in. (8.3 cm)
Credit Line:
Edward C. Moore Collection, Bequest of Edward C. Moore, 1891
Accession Number:
  • Description

    Mamluk metalwork began to decline in quality by the late fourteenth century. Commissioned for the official responsible for supervising the call‑to‑prayer and announcing the beginning and end of Ramadan, this box probably served as a food container.

  • Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings

    Inscription: Arabic, on lid and body; translation: (lid) "What was made for al-Wathiq bi-l-Mulk (the confident in rule) al-Wali Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn Ali al-Hamawi (from Hama in Northern Syria), the timekeeper in the Umayyad Mosque (in Damascus)."; (right side of the body) "And to its owner happiness, safety, longevity, glory unmarred by humiliation, and prosperity until the day of judgement."; (on the left hand side) "O God! You are my hope and in You I assured my doubts, forgive me for my sins, give me health and forgive me." The inscription on the short sides consists of only partially decipherable verses.

    Previous translations:
    -On top: "Of what was made by order .. of the King, the Sovereign, Mohammed, son of Ali, of Hama."
    -On body: "I [the casket] give gladness in the day of salvation and ... my owner ... knows ... and from the illness of eyes and skin ... and Forutne and Joy ... and Prosperity, till the Day of Judgment ... to the King ... the Sultan.. the Amiable."
    -On clasp: "Beduh" (a combination of letters having a magical meaning)

    Translation by Yassir al-Tabba (1978):
    -Lid, top: "Of what was made on the order of al-Wathiq bi-l-mulk (the confident in rule) al-wali ibn Muhammad Muhammad (sic) ibn `Ali al-Hamawi, which is waqf in the Umayyad mosque";
    -Body, right: "And to its owner happiness, security, longevity, glory unmarred by contempt, and prosperity to the Day of Judgement";
    -Body, left: "O God! You are my hope and in you I assured my doubts forgive me for my sins, give me health, and forgive me";
    -Body, right: "When the Lord elevates ... "

    Corrections by Dr. Abdullah Ghouchani (2008):
    -On top: "Of what was made by order of the King, the Sovereign, Mohammed, son of Mohamed, of Hama, who arrange the time."

  • Provenance

    Edward C. Moore, New York (until d. 1891; bequeathed to MMA)

  • See also
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History