Mosque Lamp of Amir Qawsun

Dublin Core


Mosque Lamp of Amir Qawsun


The Mosque Lamp of Amir Qawsun is a transparent glass vessel approximately 18 inches tall and 10 inches in diameter at its widest point. As its contemporary name indicates, the vessel was designed as a lamp for use within the dark passageways of a mosque. The mouth of the lamp takes a cone-like form and extends outward at one, uncurving angle. The main body of the lamp, the oil reservoir, is rounded and bulbous. This central section also features eyelets constructed from applied glass that serve as hang points. The base of the lamp is a trumpet-like, downward-facing cone. Although intended to be hung while in use, the lamp’s foot is a practical feature, providing stability for refilling or storage. Arabic calligraphy is featured prominently on the exterior walls of the lamp. Large bold, blue lettering decorates the sides of the bulbous central section, and negatively-shaded, transparent lettering covers the walls of the lamp’s mouth. A dense, monochromatic vine motif covers much of the lamp's surface, and creates contrast relative to the other design elements. Scattered over the lamp, small flourishes of colored enamel highlight details, such as flowers in the vine motif and several stylized emblems.

Mosque lamps of the Mamluk period, and the Mosque Lamp of Amir Qawsun in particular, represent important developments for the medium of glasswork and the broader stylistic canon of Islamic art. Craftsmen during the Mamluk period were the first to master the highly-technical art of coloring with glass enamel, which requires precise control of temperature during the firing process, and an understanding of the physical chemistry of each color of glass. Stylistically, Mamluk lamps are important because they established many of the ornamental conventions now associated with Islamic art.

The Mosque Lamp of Amir Qawsun would be a good complement to, or replacement for, the Mosque Lamp for the Mausoleum of Amir Aydakin al-'Ala'i al-Bunduqdar featured in figure 9.6 of Janson’s History of Art. Both lamps are extremely similar in their form and the detail of their enameling; furthermore, the two are also very close in age. These formal similarities aside, the Mausoleum lamp features an inscription that simply proclaims the occasion for the lamp’s commissioning. The Mosque Lamp of Amir Qawsun in contrast, features an inscription that is far more historically illuminating concerning the hierarchy within the Mamluk court. This inscription praises the exalted status of its patron, Amir Qawsun (d. 1342), while also identifying his relationship to the ruling sultan: “That which was made for his excellency, the exalted, the lord, the royal, the well-served Sayf al-Din Qawsun, the Cupbearer of al-Malik al-Nasir.”


'Ali ibn Muhammad al-Barmaki ?



The Metropolitan Museum of Art


ca. 1329–35


Miles Crawford, '19


Public Domain




Attributed to Egypt

Still Image Item Type Metadata

Original Format

Glass, colorless with brown tinge; blown, blown applied foot, enameled and gilded

Physical Dimensions

H. 14 1/8 in. (35.9 cm) Max. diam. 10 1/16 in. (25.6 cm) Diam. with handles 10 5/16 in. (26.2 cm)




'Ali ibn Muhammad al-Barmaki ?, “Mosque Lamp of Amir Qawsun,” accessed July 18, 2019,