Ceramic Lantern, Stonepaste; underglaze painted in blue, luster-painted on transparent glaze

Ceramic Lantern

Object Name:
early 13th century
Attributed to Syria, probably Raqqa
Stonepaste; underglaze painted in blue, luster-painted on transparent glaze
H. 9 1/8 in. (23.2 cm)
W. 5 3/4in. (14.6cm)
Credit Line:
Edward C. Moore Collection, Bequest of Edward C. Moore, 1891
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 454
This lantern presents a classic example of Raqqa lusterware in its stonepaste body composition, overglaze luster‑painting technique, and decorative motifs, which closely resemble those on the other lusterware objects in the collection. Its form, however, is unusual. Modeled from slabs and rolls, it resembles a square domed building, articulated at each corner by a column and finial.

Recent studies point to the production of glazed ceramics in twelfth- and thirteenth-century Syria at multiple locations and indicate that several types were produced at each of the various centers.[1] One type from this period, a group of underglaze- and luster-painted stonepaste ware, is associated mainly with Raqqa, a site on the middle Euphrates.[2] The Ayyubid prince al-Malik al-Ashraf Musa lived in this city from 1201 to 1229, during which time ceramic production is thought to have thrived there; it tapered off toward the middle of the thirteenth century and ended with the Mongol invasion in 1258. This ware belongs to a larger class of ceramics referred to as Raqqa ware, which shares the same body fabric and glaze composition.

While this lantern represents a classic example of Raqqa lusterware in its stonepaste composition, overglaze luster-painting technique, and decorative motifs, its form is unusual. Modeled from slabs and rolls, its shape resembles a square-domed building, articulated at each corner by a column and finial.[3] On two opposing sides, the walls of this "building" are pierced with eight-petaled rose windows. The other two sides are open and surmounted by lobed arches. The dome is also pierced, with small openings on its sides.[4]

The decoration of the lantern highlights its architectonic elements. A sketchy vegetal scroll with dots, executed in brown luster against a white ground, meanders across the dome and the walls. The columns are painted entirely in luster, which is now rather abraded. Concentric outlines of blue and luster paint accentuate the piercings of the dome as well as the four rectangular wall panels and their openings. Surmounting the arches is interlace ornament that mimics a decorative device frequently found in Syrian buildings of the Ayyubid and Mamluk periods.

Two similar ceramic lanterns are known, both roughly contemporaneous examples of the same technique attributed to Raqqa: one, slightly larger, has corner columns and finials but is open on all four sides;[5] the other, like the Museum’s lantern, has alternating rose windows and openings.[6]

Ellen Kenney in [Ekhtiar, Soucek, Canby, and Haidar 2011]


1. See, for example, Watson 2004, p. 289.

2. This is a subgroup that has been identified through petrographic analysis (Mason 2004, pp. 91–120). The attribution of this group of Raqqa ware is explored in Jenkins-Madina 2006.

3. Three of the existing finials are modern reconstructions based on the fragmentary remains of the fourth.

4. The original summit of the dome is lost. A pierced spherical knob that was formerly applied to the dome was identified as a modern reconstruction and removed in a 1975 restoration.

5. Sotheby’s London 1986, p. 47, lot 157. These references come from a report by Annie-Christine Daskalakis in the Department of Islamic Art files, Metropolitan Museum, New York.

6. Dumbarton Oaks (no. D.O. 50.39).

The Holy City was a luminous one. Visitors of all creeds remarked upon the abundance of lamps that illuminated its sacred spaces. This charming domed lamp, associated with the famous kilns at Raqqa, speaks to the ecumenical appreciation of light. It pairs a rose window with an ogive arch, emblematic of Christian and Islamic architecture, respectively. The same combination appears in the Aqsa Mosque, where the Knights Templar, who used the structure for their headquarters, installed a chapel replete with a rose window on the east wall. In reclaiming the mosque, Saladin retained the window, and the space is now known as the mihrab of Zachariah.

Melanie Holcomb in [Drake and Holcomb 2016]
M. Albert Goupil, Paris(until d. 1884; sale Hôtel Drouot,Paris, April 23–27, 1888); Edward C. Moore, New York (probably 1888–d. 1891; bequeathed to MMA)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Jerusalem 1000–1400: Every People Under Heaven," September 26, 2016–January 8, 2017, 60.

Soustiel, Jean, Charles Kiefer, and Henry-Pierre Fourest. La Ceramique Islamique. Le Guide du connaisseur. Fribourg, Suisse: Office du Livre, 1985. p. 122, ill. fig. 134 (b/w).

Drake Boehm, Barbara, and Melanie Holcomb, ed. Jerusalem, 1000–1400: Every People under Heaven. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2016. no. 60, p. 142, ill. fig. 60.

Orient de Saladin : L'Art des Ayyoubides. Paris: Gallimard, 2001. no. 234, p. 217, ill. (color).

Watson, Oliver. "Kuweit National Museum - The Al-Sabah Collection." In Ceramics from Islamic Lands. New York: Thames and Hudson, 2004. p. 289.

Jenkins-Madina, Marilyn. "Ceramics of Ayyubid Syria." In Raqqa Revisited. New York; New Haven: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2006. pp. 116, 174, 222, ill. MMA1 (color).

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. 96, pp. 138, 148, ill. p. 148 (color).

Ekhtiar, Maryam. "Shimmering Surfaces: Lustre Ceramics of the Islamic World." Arts of Asia vol. 42 (2012). p. 94, ill. fig. 9 (color).