This sophisticated candlestick illustrates various scenes celebrating the sovereign’s power over both earth and cosmos: images of the planets appear alongside scenes of him slaying a lion and enjoying a royal feast. His authority becomes most evident in the enthronement scene. Here, a bearded figure bends to kiss the ruler’s right hand, alluding to the obligation of kissing the sovereign’s hand or the floor before him. This courtly display of obeisance demonstrated the ruler’s supremacy and the loyalty of his subjects.
This sophisticated candlestick, probably from Mosul, illustrates various scenes that celebrate the sovereign’s power over both earth and the cosmos: images of the planets appear alongside scenes of his slaying a lion and enjoying the pleasures of the royal feast. His authority becomes most evident in the enthronement scene, which appears in one of three large polylobed medallions that dominate the composition of the body. Typical for such scenes, the ruler sits atop a cushion on a takht, or throne, with high lateral finials. Symbols of his nobility include his fur hat, or sharbush, and the folded mandil, a precious cloth affordable only by the elite, which he grips in the hand that rests on his knee. His larger proportions in comparison to other figures further distinguish his superiority.
Specific to Jaziran inlaid metalwork is the combination of frontal, side, and three-quarter views, which adds dynamism and variation to the overall pictorial program while allowing for a focus on certain details. Note, for instance, the bearded figure bending to kiss the ruler’s right hand and the two standing figures — representative of the court officials, guards of honor, amirs, and viziers present at royal ceremonials — holding their symbols of office: the amir al-silah benches the sword around which a sashlike band draws an "eight" toward the ruler. The other figure extends a rectangular box toward the ruler; he is probably the dawadar (state secretary), holding a pen box. This scene alludes to the obligation of kissing the hand of or the floor before the sovereign, and other protocols such as the nawba ceremony, which must have been practiced in Mosul under the Zangids and during the reign of Badr al-Din Lu’lu’, as well as elsewhere in the Seljuq world. This courtly display of obeisance demonstrated both the ruler’s supremacy and the loyalty of his adjuncts when they came to pay him allegiance. In one account, related to the foundation of Aksaray, the Rum Seljuq sultan Kılıç Arslan II (r. 1156–92) seized Kayseri and "all the fortresses of that province and put them under the command of his amirs. . . . The Artuqids in Diyar Bakr read the khutba in the name of the sultan, and the rulers of Amid from the house of the Nisanids came to kiss the sultan’s hand. The rulers of Erzurum and Erzincan submitted to the sultan. In short he dominated all regions."
Deniz Beyazit in [Canby, Beyazit, and Rugiadi 2016]
2. The iconography and expressive figural style bear the hallmarks of the al-Mawsili artists (see, for instance, cats. 12a, b, 13a, b in this volume [Victoria and Albert Museum (905-1907), Museum Fünf Kontinente, Munich (26-N-118), Museum für Islamische Kunst, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (I.3570) and Museum of Islamic Art, Doha (MW.466.2007) respectively]) and compare closely with a candlestick in Cairo that is signed by a pupil of Shuja’, who decorated cat. 15 in this volume (British Museum, London 1866,1229.61); see O’Kane, Bernard, et al. The Treasures of Islamic Art in the Museums of Cairo. Cairo and New York, 2006, pp. 106–7.
3. Amirs of the Seljuq Turkish ruling elite were also known to wear the sharbush; see, for example, cat. 38 in this volume (Brooklyn Museum 73.30.6), and Rice, D. S. “The Aghanı Miniatures and Religious Painting in Islam.” The Burlington Magazine 95, no. 601 (April 1953), pp. 128–35, figs. 16, 17, 19. For the mandil, see cat. 38 and Rosenthal, F. “Mandıl.” In EI2 1960–2009, vol. 6 (1991), pp. 402–3.
4. The variations in view are most evident in the friezes of musicians and dancers. See also cats. 15 and 68 in this volume (British Museum 1866,1229.61 and Walters Art Museum 54.456), both of which also show figures kissing the hand of the sovereign.
5. The nawba ceremony was already an integral part of court protocol at the caliphal court in Baghdad, during which a drum was struck several (maximum five) times at specific intervals; the greater the number of nawbas, the greater the prestige of the ruler/visitor. The Buyids, for example, were allowed only three nawbas (Hillenbrand, Carole. “Aspects of the Court of the Great Seljuqs.” In Lange, Christian, and Songül Mecit, eds. The Seljuqs: Politics, Society and Culture [Papers presented at the conference “The Seljuqs: Islam revitalized?,” Edinburgh, September 14–15, 2008]. Edinburgh, 2011, pp. 28–31).
6. From the anonymous Rum Seljuq chronicler, Jalali, N., ed. Tarikh-i al-I Saljuq/Tarix al-e Saljuq dar Anatoli. Tehran, 1999, quoted from Mecit, Songül. “Kingship and Ideology under the Rum Seljuqs.” In Lange, Christian, and Songül Mecit, eds. The Seljuqs: Politics, Society and Culture [Papers presented at the conference “The Seljuqs: Islam revitalized?,” Edinburgh, September 14–15, 2008]. Edinburgh, 2011, p. 68 and n. 19. For a Great Seljuq example of kissing the ground in combination with the nawba, see Hillenbrand, C., 2011 (reference in note 5 above), p. 30.
Inscription: Inscribed in Arabic in graffiti on the top: على بن احمد بن العباس ’Ali b. Ahmad b. Al-’Abbas.
Note 1. The graffiti is the sole epigraphic element. It is possible that one or several inlaid inscriptions once decorated the now lost neck, which would have been contemporary with the body and contained information such as the name of the artist or of the owner, benedictions, etc.
Edward C. Moore (American, New York 1827–1891 New York), New York (until d. 1891; bequeathed to MMA)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Court and Cosmos: The Great Age of the Seljuqs," April 25, 2016–July 24, 2016, no. 72.
Dimand, Maurice S. A Handbook of Mohammedan Decorative Arts. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1930. p. 113, ill. fig. 52 (b/w).
Dimand, Maurice S. A Handbook of Muhammadan Art. 2nd rev. and enl. ed. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1944. p. 146, ill. fig. 87 (b/w).
Baer, Eva. Metalwork in Medieval Islamic Art. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1983. p. 268, ill. fig. 218 (b/w).
Canby, Sheila R., Deniz Beyazit, and Martina Rugiadi. "The Great Age of the Seljuqs." In Court and Cosmos. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2016. no. 72, p. 142, ill. (color).