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Glass Lamps from the Muslim World

From the 8th century, the Islamic world transformed the glass industry, developing objects of beauty & function. Colourful glass lamps were created to light mosques & palaces. Sought after, they were traded as far as Europe to China A thread on glass lamps in Muslim cultures...

Glassblowing was invented by Syrian craftsmen in the area of Sidon, Aleppo, Hama, and Palmyra in the 1st century BC, where blown vessels for everyday and luxury use were produced commercially, and exported to all parts of the Roman Empire

From Ibn Al-Haytam’s optical lenses and Ibn Hayyan’s chemistry flasks to a mosque lamp of Amir Qawsun, Muslim Civilisation played a major role in inspiring the growth of glass industry from the 8th century onwards Mosque Lamp of Amir Qawsun ca. 1329–35

Metropolitan Museum of Art

Glass from the Muslim world & especially that from Syria, was highly prized across the globe. Glass objects were discovered in medieval European sites in Sweden & Southern Russia - as early as the 13th century Glass lamps from the Muslim world have inspired design

Museum of Islamic Art, Qatar

In Mamluk Egypt, enameled glass oil lamps were used to light the interiors of mosques. These fragile vessels were suspended from the ceiling by chains attached to the glass loops on their sides Mosque Lamp 1385, Egypt, Mamluk

Khalili Collections

Mosque lamps survived in considerable numbers from the Islamic art of the Middle Ages, especially the 13th and 14th centuries, with Cairo in Egypt and Aleppo and Damascus in Syria the most important centres of production Mosque Lamp 1330, Egypt, Mamluk

British Museum

Mosque Lamp 1320-1330, Egypt, Mamluk This mosque lamp was made for Qijlis, a high official who had been the sultan’s armourer. His emblem was a sword, which can be seen in the large roundels with a quotation from the Qur’an that mentions ‘the mosques of God’

Victoria & Albert Museum

Techniques to make mosque lamps are typical of contemporary Islamic glass, with the enamel decoration applied to a pre-fired plain body & the whole fired for a 2nd time. The coloured decoration may include Qur'anic verses especially Ayat an-Nur or Verse of Light

National Asian Art Museum

The Verse of Light, Qur'an 24:35 Allah is the Light of the heavens & the earth. The example of His light is like a niche within which is a lamp, the lamp is within glass, the glass as if it were a pearly star lit from [the oil of] a blessed olive tree...

Fitzwilliam Museum

The Verse of Light, Qur'an 24:35 ...neither of the east nor of the west, whose oil would almost glow even if untouched by fire. Light upon light. Allah guides to His light whom He wills. And Allah presents examples for the people, and Allah is Knowing of all things.


Today, Mamluk mosque lamps are sought after by collectors , three 14th-century Mamluk mosque lamps in pristine condition from the collection of Bethsabée de Rothschild sold at Christie's in London for £1,763,750 (US$2,582K), £993,750 (US$1,455K) and £641,750 (US$937K)

In 19th century Europe, there was a great wave of interest in Islamic art, which influenced many aspects of the applied arts & interior decoration. This vessel was inspired by mosque lamps & made in 1902 by Philippe Joseph Brocard, a French craftsman

The British Museum

Lamp, 13th century, Syria

Victoria & Albert Museum

This glass lamp is thought to have been made in Syria in around 1250. It is the only known example of an Islamic lamp with figures in the gilded and enamelled decoration

Glass making goes back hundreds of years in Turkey & is thought by most historians to have reached its zenith in the 16th century. It is during this time that the historical records take note of oil lamps with colorful glass shades, that are the Turkish lamps we know today

Turkish mosaic lamps derive their beauty from the quality of materials used in their construction & the skill of the artisans that create them. Mechanization has virtually no place in the production process, & as such each mosaic lamp is very much an individual object d’art

The Turkish glass lamp shade spent several centuries being refined and reworked and having its aesthetic breadth expanded and elaborated upon. By the late 19th century it had reached an extraordinary level of elegance & sophistication

It was at this time that Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848 – 1933) on one of his many European sojourns, first encountered Turkish mosaic lamps. He was so taken aback with what he’d found in Constantinople (present day Istanbul) that he returned to his American workshops inspired

Tiffany made subtle changes to the production process & tweaked the look of the glass. He launched the new product in 1893 at the Worlds Columbian Exhibition in Chicago. From that point on the mosaic table lamp, became widely known as the Tiffany Lamp

Tiffany lamps are considered part of the Art Nouveau movement. Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848 – 1933) is best known for his work in stained glass. His purpose was to promote & spread the status of the decorative arts to the level of fine art

Today, Turkish glass mosaic lamps are little changed from the early style of the 16th century. Turkish mosaic lamps are hand crafted by skilled Turkish artisans. Each lamp is an example of cultural expression & tradition at its best


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