The reign of Sultan Qaitbay (1468–96), the last great Mamluk sultan, briefly revitalized the declining metalwork industry, but not to the heights of fourteenth century production. The repoussé work that creates the lobed petal‑like form is typical of the late Mamluk period, as are the pincerlike termini of the vertical letters in the inscription.
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Title:Basin of Sultan Qaytbay
Geography:Attributed to Egypt or Syria
Medium:Brass; inlaid with silver
Dimensions:H. 5 in. (12.7 cm) Max Diam. 14 1/2 in. (36.8 cm)
Credit Line:Edward C. Moore Collection, Bequest of Edward C. Moore, 1891
Bowl with Articulated Base
The production of metalwork, which had declined during the first half of the fifteenth century, was revitalized under the patronage of Qaitbay, who brought relative peace and prosperity to the Mamluk empire. Even though the splendid examples of fourteenth-century inlaid brasses could not be recreated, the artists of Qaitbay's period revived traditions and created new forms and designs. One of the innovations of the age is the production of bowls with articulated bases composed of a series of scallops or triangles executed in relief. New developments appear in epigraphy, in which vertical letters form pincers at the apex, and in naturalistic floral scrolls containing lotuses, peonies, and blossoms with a spiked petal and two curling lobes.
This bowl characterizes the style of metalwork produced at the end of the fifteenth century. The thin edge of the lip is adorned with a floral scroll, now abraded. The straight rim has a floral scroll with lotus blossoms, peonies, buds, and spiked leaves on a tightly wound scroll ground.
The main panel of the body is decorated with inscriptions on a tightly wound scroll, enclosed in four oval units alternating with lobe medallions. A continuous thin strip encloses each unit, looping around the ovals and medallions. The medallions bear epigraphic blazons of the sultan in three registers on an extremely fine scroll. Between the ovals and medallions is an elaborate knot with four lotus blossoms in the corners. The lower portion of the bowl has a series of twenty-four scallops, decorated with lotus blossoms, peonies, or arabesques.
The bottom of the bowl, heavily abraded, reveals an elaborate design in two concentic zones. Th core of the inner zone is too worn to be idenified; it is encircled by six medallions with geometric designs enclosing a central rosette. Six twelve-pointed stars surround the medallions. The units are linked to one another by a continuous thin strip and placed on a fine floral ground. The outer zone is filled with a floral arabesque containing knots, buds, split leaves, and blossoms; it is encosed by a thin strip, which also loops around the scallops of the lower portion of the walls. The execution of the bottom is extremely refined, and the overall effect recalls manuscript illumination.
The interior of the base repeats the layout of the two concentric zones: the inner ring is plain, the outer one has a floral ground with twelve lotus blossoms, peonies, and other flowers.
Even though the piece, particularly the articulated base, is worn and has been repaired, it must have been quite spectacular in its pristine condition. Silver inlay, which appears as small dots in the floral scroll on the rim and in the main panel on the body, is carelessly and haphazardly rendered, indicating a later attempt to improve the appearance of the piece.
There exists a number of similar bowls dedicated to Qaitbay, the most magnificent of which, in the Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum in Istanbul, is inlaid with silver and gold.
Inscription: In Arabic; translation: - On body: Glory to our Lord, the Sultan, the most noble King (al-Ashraf), the Father of victory, Qaytbay, the greatest Sultan, the Sultan of Islam and the Muslims, the most noble Kind, the Father of victory, Qaitbay - In medallions: Qaitbay the most noble King, be his triumph magnified
Translation by Yassir al-Tabba (1978): -On body: Glory to our Lord, the Sultan, the King, al-Ashraf abu al-Nasr Qaytbay the greatest Sultan, the Sultan of Islam and Muslims, the King al-Ashraf abu al-Nasr Qaytbay, the Sultan - In medallions: Qaytbay, the king al-Ashraf may his victory be glorious
Edward C. Moore (American), New York (until d. 1891; bequeathed to MMA)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Renaissance of Islam: Art of the Mamluks," November 21, 1981–January 10, 1982, no. 35.
Dimand, Maurice S. A Handbook of Mohammedan Decorative Arts. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1930. p. 118.
Dimand, Maurice S. A Handbook of Muhammadan Art. 2nd rev. and enl. ed. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1944. p. 151.
Atil, Esin. Renaissance of Islam : Art of the Mamluks. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1981. no. 35, pp. 102–3, ill. p. 103 (color).
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