According to Museum files, the findspot for these doors was the town of Takrit in north-central Iraq. Researchers, however, have deduced that local residents in modern times had brought them there for reuse from the ruins of Samarra, a site located on the east bank of the Tigris, about seventy-eight miles (125 km) north of Baghdad. It was at Samarra, in 836, that the Abbasid caliph al- Mu‘tasim (r. 833–42) established a new administrative and military center, the ruins of which cover over fifty square miles (80 square km). Excavations at Samarra have revealed a series of sprawling palace complexes, constructed of fired and unfired brick as well as pisé (mud or clay applied in courses); the walls were decorated with dadoes of carved or molded stucco panels, wall paintings, ceramic tiles, and glass mosaics. The Museum’s doors resemble the finds from Samarra so closely that they probably originated there as well.
Wood was not an abundant resource in this region, and at Samarra it seems to have been used sparingly in building interiors, primarily for doors, soffits, and jambs. The Museum’s doors are made of teak, a highly prized material shipped from Southeast Asia. Each leaf consists of a rectangular panel between two square panels, arranged vertically and set within a plain framework. The six inset panels embellished with symmetrical designs represent quintessential examples of the so-called beveled style of ornament that developed under the Abbasids, characterized by the slanted profile of its carving and the rhythmic undulation of its surfaces. Typical of beveled-style ornament, the designs on these doors vaguely suggest vegetation, with palmette-like forms and tendrillike spirals, while retaining their abstract nature. Here a raised ridge accentuates the outlines, and it is likely that brightly colored paint and gilding once highlighted the carved designs, as is the case on most of the wood fragments associated with the Samarra palaces.
Ellen Kenney in [Ekhtiar, Soucek, Canby, and Haidar 2011]
1. Dimand 1932, p. 135.
2. Samarra was first excavated by Ernst Herzfeld between 1911 and 1914. His endeavors are fully explored in Gunter, Ann C., and Stefan R. Hauser, eds. Ernst Herzfeld and the Development of Near Eastern Studies, 1900–1950 [Papers originally delivered at the symposium . . . held from 3–5 May 2001 at the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.]. Leiden, 2004; see also Leisten, Thomas. Excavation of Samarra. Vol. 1, Architecture: Final Report of the First Campaign, 1910 – 1912. Mainz am Rhein, 2003. Iraqi excavations took place at Samarra in 1936–39 and 1979–82 [see al-Janabi, Tariq. "Islamic Archaeology in Iraq: Recent Excavations at Samarra." World Archaeology 14, no. 3 [Islamic Archaeology] (February 1983), pp. 305–27. For a more recent analysis of Abbasid Samarra, see Northedge, Alastair. The Historical Topography of Samarra. Samarra Studies, 1. London, 2005.
3. Herzfeld, Ernst. Der Wandschmuk der Bauten von Samarra und seine Ornamentik. Forschungen zur islamischen Kunst, 2. Ausgrabungen von Samarra, 1. Berlin, 1923. 2001, pp. 86–87.
4. Milwright, Marcus. "Fixtures and Fittings: The Role of Decoration in Abbasid Palace Design." In A Medieval Islamic City Reconsidered: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Samarra, edited by Chase F. Robinson, pp. 79–109. Oxford Studies in Islamic Art, 14. Oxford, 2001.
5. This style is also known as Samarra Style C, after Herzfeld 1923. See also "Beveled Style,"in Bloom,Jonathan M., and Sheila S. Blair, eds. The Grove Encyclopedia of Islamic Art and Architecture. Oxford and New York,2009, vol. 1, pp. 280–81.
6. Among the close parallels in other collections are examples in the Benaki Museum, Athens (no. GE 9128); Musee du Louvre, Paris (no. AA 267), which came in as a gift in 1938 and may be a "mate" of the Benaki panel (the attribution to Jawsaq al-Khaqani is actually based on its similarity to the stucco found there; see Anglade, Elise. Catalogue des boiseries de la section islamique, Musée du Louvre Paris, 1988, pp. 18 – 20 ); and the British Museum, London (no. 1944, 0513.1–2), a frieze and door purchased from a private collector in 1944. See also Canby, Sheila [R]. "Islamic Archaeology: By Accident or Design?" In Discovering Islamic Art: Scholars, Collectors and Collections, 1850–1950, edited by Stephen Vernoit, pp. 128–37. London, 2000,, pp. 132–35, for a discussion of the dispersal of the Samarra finds.
Dimand, Maurice S. A Handbook of Muhammadan Art. 2nd rev. and enl. ed. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1944. p. 110, ill. fig. 62 (b/w).
Welch, Stuart Cary. The Islamic World. vol. 11. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1987. pp. 18-19, ill. fig. 7 (color).
Ali, Wijdan. The Arab Contribution to Islamic Art : From the Seventh to the Fifteenth Centuries. Jordan: The Royal Society of Fine Arts, Jordan, 1999. p. 70, ill. fig. 39 (b/w).
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. 23, pp. 23, 45-46, ill. p. 45 (color).
Canby, Sheila R. "The Islamic Galleries at The Met." Arts of Asia, Arts of Asia, vol. 42 (September/October 2012). pp. 83-84, ill. fig. 6 (color).
Flood, Finbarr Barry, and Gulru Necipoglu. "Volume 1. From the Prophets to the Mongols." In A Companion to Islamic Art and Architecture. vol. I. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2017. pp. 236–37, ill. fig. 9.6 (b/w).