Door with geometric insets

On display

Within the architecture of Egypt during the Mamluk sultanate (1250–1517), which was predominantly made of stone, wood was used for elements such as ceilings, doors, prayer niches (mihrab), pulpits (minbar), and screens (mashrabiyya). As timber was expensive and not available in great quantities in the region, most of these items were built and decorated by assembling small pieces of wood rather than using large panels.

In this pair of doors, the wood background provides the framework of the decorative geometric pattern, where ivory and ebony insets were inserted. Both ebony and ivory plaques were carved with vegetal patterns. Five of the ivory plaques, however, have crosses, instead of vegetal decoration, as their central decoration. This suggests that these doors belonged to a Christian building, possibly a Coptic church, and that, with the exception of some specific elements, a shared decorative vocabulary was used for patrons belonging to the different religious communities present in Egypt at this time.


  • Title

    Door with geometric insets

  • Associated place

    Egypt (place of creation)
    Egypt (a Christian building) (original location)
  • Date

    late 13th century - early 14th century
    Mamluk Period (1250 - 1517)
  • Material and technique

    palisander wood, inset with ivory and ebony, and with carved decoration

  • Material index

  • Technique index

  • Object type

  • Dimensions

    both panels 157 x 76 x 3 cm (height x width x depth)
    each panel 157 x 38 x 3 cm (height x width x depth)
  • No. of items


  • Credit line

    Purchased with the assistance of the MLA/V&A Purchase Grant Fund and the Eric North Bequest Fund, 1984.

  • Museum location

    First floor | Gallery 31 | Islamic Middle East
  • Museum department

    Eastern Art

  • Accession no.


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Reference URL

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