This carved marble capital shows a distinctive type of lithe, muscular, tightly coiled interlace scroll, full of tension, of which the Ayyubids were masters. Similar work can be found in various media, including a cast bronze element for suspension in the Khalili Collection (J Michael Rogers, The Arts of Islam, Treasures from the Nasser D., Khalili Collection, Abu Dhabi, 2008, no.111, p.101), a carved wooden box in the David Collection, (Kjeld von Folsach, Islamic Art in the David Collection, Copenhagen, 2003, no.428, p.266), an inlaid brass tray in the Hermitage (Sophie Makariou (ed.), L'Orient de Saladin, exhibition catalogue, Paris, 2001, no.98, p.115, especially the central roundel), the background scrolls on an inlaid brass vase in the Louvre (Makariou, op.cit., no.41, p.49) and, closest of all, the scrollwork that covers a candlestick in the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha (James W. Allan, Metalwork Treasures from the Islamic Courts, Doha, 2002, no.8, pp.42-3).
The love for animals as an element in scrollwork is somewhat more pronounced to the east and north-east, especially in Diyar Rabi'a and Diyar Bakr. Examples of similar sphynxes included in scrolls can be seen in the roundels on the Freer Canteen (Esin Atil, W. T. Chase and Paul Jett, Islamic Metalwork in the Freer Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., 1985, no.17, pp.124-136); similar roundels can be seen on the Ayyubid tray stand in the Museum of Islamic Art, Doha (Allan, op.cit, no.5, pp.30-33). Even closer is a roundel on a basin made for Badr al-Din Lulu that is now in the Völkerkunde Museum, Munich (Katharina Otto-Dorn, "The Griffin-Sphynx ensemble", in Robert Hillenbrand (ed.), The Art of the Saljuqs in Iran and Anatolia, Costa Mesa, 1994, pl.296). There a succession of griffins can be found prowling around the edges of a circle filled with arabesques.
An interesting feature of this capital is that, while the object inherently is a completely three-dimensional piece, it has been carved into the basic geometric form and then each face has been carved in relatively shallow relief against a cut-away background. There is little sense of three-dimensionality in the carving, although the energy conveyed and the quality of drawing are really excellent. Both the capital and the Doha candlestick have scrolls which visibly avoid spiralling, which stand out clearly against the ground, and which issue various leaves and flowers, the interiors of which are delineated with secondary designs on a very shallow plane. It is as if the design had been created by somebody more used to working on paper and then transferred to the relevant medium, as happened considerably later in the Ottoman nakkashhane.