Exhibitions/ Art Object

Block Carved with a Fan Pattern

ca. 720–724
Made in Jordan, Qasr al-Qastal
Limestone, carved
32 3/4 x 24 x 13 3/4 in. (83.2 x 61 x 34.9 cm)
Credit Line:
Department of Antiquities, Qasr al-Qastal Archaeological Site, Jordan
Not on view
Qasr al-Qastal
Built in the badiya (border zone) marking the desert’s edge, Qasr al-Qastal is typical of the architectural patronage of Umayyad elites in its combination of palace retreat and vast tracks of cultivated land. The site is connected to the caliph Yazid II (r. 720–24) and his son Walid II (r. 743–44), who built several such palaces in neighboring areas in present-day Jordan. Qasr al-Qastal is noteworthy for its impressive palace structure. The compound’s mosque was located outside the palace precinct and includes one of the world’s earliest surviving minarets. A luxurious bathhouse was also built at the site and featured floors covered in figural mosaic.
Among the greatest achievements of Umayyad artists was their innovative redeployment of earlier styles, patterns, and motifs. This stone from Qasr al-Qastal repeats the fan or scale pattern, a popular background motif on Roman and Byzantine floor mosaics. The Umayyad stonecutters creatively translated the motif to a different medium and moved the pattern from the floor to the wall. The coloristic effects of mosaic are evoked in the play of light over the carved surface.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Byzantium and Islam: Age of Transition (7th–9th Century)," March 12, 2012–July 8, 2012.