The inscription around the body reads:
'izz li-mawlana al-sultan al-malik al-za- hir Abu Sa'id nasarahu Allah (glory to our Lord the Sultan al-Malik al-Zahir Abu Said, may God render him victorious).
That around the mouth is from the Qur'an, sura xxiv (of light), vv.36-39.
The complex which was finished for Sultan Barquq in 1386 was at Bayn al-Qasrayn in Cairo, described by al-Maqrizi, the contemporary Egyptian historian and pupil of Ibn Khaldun as a jami' (mosque), madrasa and khanqah (monastery). The reign of this sultan showed a brief but substantial upturn in the city's fortunes. It is therefore not surprising that he should seek to emulate both the quantity and variety of lamps which had been commissioned for Sultan (al-Nasir Nasir al-Din) Hasan (1347-51 and 1354-61), the ruler under whom he had first found preferment in his rise to power. As with the lamps created for Sultan Hasan, the majority of those made for Sultan Barquq are today to be found in the Islamic Museum in Cairo. G. Wiet, Catalogue général du musée arabe du Caire, Lampes et bouteilles en verre émaillé, Cairo, 1929, pp. 175-6, notes 24 in their holdings, together with a further 29 fragments which can with confidence be said to come from comparable lamps. The present example is typical of those produced in his reign, following a design which was first popularised under Sultan Hasan (1347-61 AD). It is dominated by the two large bands of inscription, the marginally larger one in praise of the Sultan, the other from the Qur'an. Between these is a band which is found on a number of other lamps made for this patron whose principal decoration is plain red and green circles which are enamelled on the interior of the lamp. This technique is seen on the Sultan Hasan period lamp in this sale, but it was later in the century, as with the present lamp, that it became more predominant (G. Wiet, op.cit., nos. 274, 295, 297-300 306-08, 310, 336.1-4, and 336/5-14; pls. LXIV, LXXII, LXXIV-LXXX, LXXXII and LXXXIV-LXXXV). Many of these are so close to the present example that they almost appear to be pairs to it. The only one however which could be the pair is no. 300, pl. LXXVII. It is however fragmentary and therefore one cannot be sure what decoration was on the underside of the body.
Sultan Barquq was the founder of the Circassian Mamluk dynasty, having been Marshal of the Armies (atabek al-'asakir) under two sultans of the Bahri Mamluk line who had not achieved their majority. In 1382 he ceased the pretence and took the throne himself. With an interlude in which he lost power, he then reigned through to the end of the century, over a kingdom which was relatively stable, although at the end of the reign it was being threatened by Timur. Cairo in 1384 was described by Ibn Khaldun as 'the city of the universe, the orchard of the world, the thronging place of the nations and anthill of the human race; the iwan of Islam and throne of empire, embellished with palaces and pavilions, ornamented with khanqahs and madrasas, illuminated by the moons and stars of its learned men ... I wandered the streets of the city filled with passing throngs, its markets crammed with good things, and we continued to remark on this metropolis, its far stretches of flourishing constructions and expansive condition'. In the same year the Italian Frescobaldi noted that 'In the city of Cairo there are more people than in the whole of Tuscany, and in [one] street there are more people than in Florence' (quoted from J. A. Williams, 'Urbanisation and Monument Construction in Mamluk Cairo', in O. Grabar, ed., Muqarnas, Vol. 2, New Haven and London, 1984, p. 41).
In addition to the numerous examples in the Islamic Museum in Cairo, a number of mosque lamps in the name of Sultan Barquq are also in important collections around the world including in the Louvre Museum (donated by Salomon de Rothschild, inv. no. A.O.7568), the Islamic Museum in Berlin, three in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, one in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and one in the Musée Jacquemart-André, Paris. A further example was in the collection of Baron Nathaniel de Rothschild and sold in these Rooms 8 July 1999, lot 186.