A GROUP OF BRONZE MAMLUK-STYLE DOOR FITTINGS
A GROUP OF BRONZE MAMLUK-STYLE DOOR FITTINGS
A GROUP OF BRONZE MAMLUK-STYLE DOOR FITTINGS
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A GROUP OF BRONZE MAMLUK-STYLE DOOR FITTINGS
6 More
A GROUP OF BRONZE MAMLUK-STYLE DOOR FITTINGS

EGYPT OR SYRIA, PROBABLY 19TH CENTURY

Details
A GROUP OF BRONZE MAMLUK-STYLE DOOR FITTINGS
EGYPT OR SYRIA, PROBABLY 19TH CENTURY
Comprising four components, the largest of circular form extensively pierced with dense spiral tendril motif and separate pierced centre with geometric motif, another smaller octagonal and filled with geometric motifs, the third of typical spandrel form extensively pierced with spiral tendril motif, the fourth rectangular with engraved kufic inscription, with oxidation and corrosion congruent with age
Large roundel 25 1/8in. (63.7cm.) diam.
Provenance
American Collection, 1980s, from which acquired by the current owner

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Lot Essay


From the Mamluk period, monumental wooden doors in Cairo were often decorated with openwork bronze decoration, frequently in the form of roundels with accompanying corner spandrels in the style of a bookbinding or carpet. One of the most well known examples are those on the mosque-madrasa of Sultan Barquq, which also includes an inscriptional plaque above and below, though many other examples from both places of worship and civic buildings are known and published by Luitgard Mols, Mamluk Metalwork Fittings in their Artistic and Architectural Context, Utrecht, 2006. Though no similar study has been done of later periods, no doubt this distinctively Cairene doors continued to be made throughout the Ottoman period and beyond. A set of Mamluk-era door fittings is in the Victoria & Albert Museum, London (acc.no. 911PART/1-1884).

The decorative vocabulary on our fittings certainly have their roots firmly in the Mamluk period. The tight lattice of split palmettes on the roundel and spandrel, for example, find a lapidary counterpart in the stone screens erected aorund the funerary complex of Sanjar al-Jawli built in AH 703 / 1303-04 AD (Doris Behrens-Abouseif, Cairo of the Mamluks, London, 2010, p.156, fig.105). The stellar decoration on the small octagon, though quite distinct from the roundel, corresponds more closely with the angular strapwork on the exterior of the dome atop the funerary khanqah of Sultan Barsbay, built in AH 835/1432 AD (Doris Behrens-Abouseif, op.cit., p.255, fig.236) while also evoking Mamluk inlaid woodwork.

The rectangular panel, meanwhile, looks more to portable Mamluk objects: the repeated 'Y' shaped motif in the background is encountered frequently on late Mamluk metalwork, such as a bowl in New York (acc.no. M10; Esin Atil, Renaissance of Islam: Art of the Mamluks, Washington D.C., 1981, p.107, no.38). The distinctive double-zoned calligraphy on the plaque can also be seen on marble dadoes in the Mosque of al-Ashraf Qansuh al-Ghuri which was completed between AH 909 / 1503 AD and AH 910 / 1504 AD. Similar calligraphy can also be seen on the lower register of the doors to the mosque-madrasa of Sultan Barquq mentioned above. They can be made out in a photograph taken by K. A. C. Creswell which is now in the collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum, London (acc.no.1192-1921).

A revival in the arts of the Mamluks in the late 19th century was driven by two interrelated factors. The first important factor was the series of World's fairs which took part in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, where Egypt was often represented with a neo-Mamluk pavilion. This was the origin of a large pair of doors which were sold in these Rooms, 8 April 2008, lot 151, which were commissioned in 1906 by an American client of the art dealer Elias Hatoun.

The second reason why these doors came to be produced again was on account of the activity of the Comité de Conservation des Monuments de l'Art Arabe, established in 1881, who took it upon themselves to restore much of Cairo's historic landscape. Many of their interventions were carried out to a very high standard, but with poor documentation about what had been changed and what was original. In the catalogue of Ottoman and Mamluk revival metalwork in the Khalili Collection, it is suggested that the six examples in that collection all were made during 20th century refurbishments (acc.nos. MTW1590.1 to MTW1590.5 and MTW1593; Michael Spink, Brasses, Bronze, and Silver of the Islamic Lands Part Four, London, 2022, p.1386, nos.886 and 887). The group of fittings under acc.no.886 are similar to our roundel in design.

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