Glass-making thrived during the Mamluk period (1250-1517). Objects are distinguished by their sophisticated enamel and gilt decoration. The best-known and often most stunning are the 13th- and 14th-century lamps that were hung in great numbers in mosques, religious schools and charitable foundations as well as private mansions and palaces. Lit, they provided both soft glowing light and jewel-like colour to the architectural environments they embellished.
This lamp exemplifies the characteristic form of these handsome objects: bulbous body, funnel-shaped neck and small loop handles. It bears the blazon of the cup bearer, conveying the office of the patron, whom the inscription identifies as Saif al-Din Qawsun, a high ranking official in the service of Sultan Nasir Muhammad ibn Qalaun (r. 1293-1341). The text on the body reading “God is the light of the heavens and the earth” – the beginning of the famous Light Verse (Sura 24, verse 35) which compares the light of God to a lit lamp shining like a brilliant star – shows that the lamp was made for a religious institution.