"G"l"a"s"s" "h"a"n"g"i"n"g" "l"a"m"p" "w"i"t"h" "r"o"u"n"d"e"d" "b"o"d"y" "r"e"s"t"i"n"g" "o"n" "a" "s"h"o"r"t" "f"o"o"t" "f"l"a"r"i"n"g" "t"o" "a"n" "i"n"v"e"r"t"e"d" "c"o"n"i"c"a"l" "m"o"u"t"h"." "T"h"e" "b"o"d"y" "h"a"s" "s"i"x" "t"r"a"i"l"e"d" "c"o"b"a"l"t"-"b"l"u"e" "b"a"n"d"s" "r"u"n"n"i"n"g" "d"o"w"n" "f"r"o"m" "t"h"e" "s"u"s"p"e"n"s"i"o"n" "l"o"o"p"s" "t"o" "t"h"e" "b"a"s"e" "w"i"t"h" "a"p"p"l"i"e"d" "s"m"a"l"l"e"r" "l"o"o"p"s"."
AKM645, Hanging Lamp

© The Aga Khan Museum

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Hanging Lamp
  • Accession Number:AKM645
  • Place:Near East, probably Syrian region
  • Dimensions:14.7 cm
  • Date:10th to 12th Century
  • Materials and Technique:glass, light aquamarine and dark blue, inclusions and numerous bubbles; blown, tooled, applied, worked on the pontil
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More About Hanging Lamp

In many Islamic societies, lamps from pre-Islamic periods continued to be used in both secular and religious contexts. Over time, however, changing needs and tastes inspired craftsmen to reshape these older forms or invent new ones. Though clay or metal remained popular materials for these vessels, glass was highly valued for its translucency and ability to transmit light. This lamp, probably made in the Syrian region due to the use of aquamarine glass, is a beautiful example of Islamic glasswork. Its globular body, with a wide neck of the about the same diameter as the body rests on a footring that was achieved by folding and pushing-in the underside of the base. Six suspension rings or handles of dark blue glass were applied on its shoulders. Its shape is a recognizable type; a nearly identical lamp—though larger and with a dark blue thread around the rim—can be found in the Khalili Collection.[1]

Further Reading


The decorative elements on this lamp are typical of Islamic glasswork, particularly that of the 10th to 12th centuries.[2] Each of the lamp’s suspension rings has a flat disc and a looping trail on top of a thin glass thread. To create the suspension rings, dark blue glass discs would have been applied on the shoulders and then continuing threads would have been pulled down the body to the footring. The thread was pulled up again in numerous loops and curls and thus serves as a decorative element already introduced in late Antiquity. If used in a hanging position, chains were attached to the suspension rings. With its thick footring which has a pontil mark, the lamp could also have been used in a standing position. The lamp may have been made for a secular building, a mosque, a religious school, or even a tomb of a venerated person.


Like others of its type, this lamp has no cylindrical tube to serve as a wick holder. A wick (perhaps held by a metal strip attached to the rim) could have floated on a layer of oil and water. Cost and availability generally determined the type of oil used; sesame oil was a popular choice. Such a wick-holding system meant that any open vessel could have served as a lamp.


During the excavations in the northeastern Iranian town of Nishapur, different kinds of lamps used in the 9th and 10th centuries were found.[3] These include smaller examples of cylindrical beakers with a wick holder attached to the bottom of the lamp, and lamps with applied handles (both coloured and clear) around their shoulders.


Hanging lamps from other regions could also be plain and even without a foot.[4] A type of lamp excavated in Old Cairo/Egypt and datable to the 9th or 10th century has the shape of a conical vessel which sat on a stem, and may have been placed in a metal ring to be used as a hanging lamp.[5]


The famous large lamps with enamelled decoration and inscriptions used in the Ayyubid (1169–1260) and Mamluk (1250–1517) periods in Egypt and Syria can reasonably be called “mosque lamps” because inscriptions identify the names of Sultans who ordered them to be made for newly built mosques or other religious buildings.[6] Only these lamps feature a Qur’anic verse from the Chapter of Light: “Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth. The similitude of His Light is as a niche wherein is a lamp. The lamp is in a glass. The glass is as it were a shining star.”[7]


— Jens Kröger

[1] Goldstein, 82–83, no. 80. See also Goldstein, 82-83, no.82 and E. Marianne Stern, 321, no. 183.
[2] Pinder-Wilson, 123, no. 154.
[3] Kröger, 179–183; Carboni and Whitehouse, 20, Fig. 5.
[4] Carboni and Whitehouse, 77, no. 7.
[5] Ibid., 76, no. 6.
[6] Ibid., 226–238, nos. 113–118.
[7] Quoted from Pinder-Wilson, 135, no. 167.

Carboni, Stefano and David Whitehouse, with contributions by Robert H. Brill and William Gudenrath. Glass of the Sultans. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art; Corning, NY: The Corning Museum of Glass; Athens: Benaki Museum; New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001. ISBN: 9780300088519
Goldstein, Sidney. Glass From Sasanian Antecedents to European Imitations, Nasser D. Khalili Collection of Islamic Art XV. London: The Nour Foundation in Association with Azimuth Editions, 2005. ISBN: 9781874780502 ​​​​​​​
Kröger, Jens. Nishapur. Glass of the Early Islamic Period. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1995. ISBN: 9780300192827
Pinder-Wilson, Ralph. “The Islamic Lands and China,” Five Thousand Years of Glass, ed. Hugh Tait, London: British Museum, 1991, 112–139. ISBN: 9780714117560 ​​​​​​​
Scanlon, George T. and Ralph Pinder-Wilson. Fustat Glass of the early Islamic Period. Finds excavated by The American Research Center in Egypt 1964-1980. London: Altajir World of Islam Trust, 2001. ​​​​​​​
Stern, E. Marianne. Roman, Byzantine, and Early Medieval Glass, 10 BCE-700CE: Ernesto Wolf Collection, Hatje Cantz Publishers, Ostfildern-Ruit, 2001. ISBN: 9783775790420

Note: This online resource is reviewed and updated on an ongoing basis. We are committed to improving this information and will revise and update knowledge about this object as it becomes available.


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