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Work Vase with the name of Ayyubid sultan Salah al-Din Yusuf, known as the “Barberini vase”

Department of Islamic Art: Political Recomposition and Birth of the Sultanates (1000–1250)

Vase with the name of Ayyubid sultan Salah al-Din Yusuf, known as the “Barberini vase”

© Musée du Louvre, dist. RMN / Hughes Dubois

Islamic Art
Political Recomposition and Birth of the Sultanates (1000–1250)

This vase was made for an Ayyubid sultan who reigned in Aleppo between 1239 and 1260; its decoration reflects the artistry of Syrian coppersmiths. There is a subtle harmony between the various elements of the decorative composition: wide epigraphic bands, roundels containing lively scenes, elegant arabesques that stand out against an empty background, and densely decorated areas that serve as backdrops for the inscriptions and figurative scenes.

In terms of shape, this vase is unique in Ayyubid metalwork, and is reminiscent of ceramic baluster vases. Several inscriptions in cursive or angular (Kufic) script contain the sultan’s titles and a series of votive formulae. Scenes featuring people and animals are represented inside multilobed medallions. The dominant themes are hunting—the archetypal princely activity—and military exercises: two hunters take aim at flying geese with bow and blowpipe; a horseman stabs a lion with his spear; an archer shoots at a hare, another at a deer; a horseman smites a feline with his sword; two men fight with scimitars.

The Louvre’s collection includes a ewer (OA 7428) inscribed with the name of the same ruler. Moreover, the vegetal decoration on a smooth background recalls that of a basin (AD 4411) on long-term loan to the Louvre from the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, signed by the artist Dawud ibn Salama al-Mawsili and dated 1252–1253.

The inscriptions:
- Cursive inscription on the neck: “Glory to our Lord, the sultan, al-Malik al-Nasir, Salah al-dunya wa’l-din”
- Cursive inscription at the top of the body: “Lasting glory, perpetual good fortune, victory, long life, support [from heaven], tranquility, compassion, triumph over enemies, good health forever to its owner”
- Kufic inscription on the central band, upper register: “Immense glory, life and salvation, amenities... highest salvation, tranquility… to its owner.”
- Cursive inscription on the central band, lower register: “Glory to our Lord, the sultan, the very great king, al-Malik al-Nasir, the wise, the just, the one fortified [by heaven], the triumphant, the victorious, the holy warrior, the defender of the frontiers, Salah al-dunya wa’l din, pillar of Islam and the Muslims, he whose arguments bring truth to triumph, he who exercises justice in both worlds, Abu’l-Muzaffar Yusuf, son of the sultan al-Malik al-‘Aziz”
- The Kufic inscription on the base of the vase, probably also a series of votive formulae, is undecipherable.
- On the back of the base: “For the cellar (sharabkhana) of al-Malik al-Zahir”.



. Makariou S. (dir.), Les Arts de l’Islam au musée du Louvre, Paris, 2012 (à paraître).
. Makariou S. (éd.), L’Orient de Saladin. L’art des Ayyoubides, Cat. exp. Paris, Institut du Monde Arabe, 2001, n° 41, p. 49.
. Komaroff, Linda (éd.), Gifts of the Sultan : the Arts of Giving at the Islamic Courts. Cat. exp. Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2011, fig. 241, n° 131, p. 257.
. Roux J.-P. (éd.), Arts de l'Islam des origines à 1700, Cat. exp. Paris, Orangerie des Tuileries, 1971, n° 151, p. 103-104.

Technical description

  • Vase with the name of Ayyubid sultan Salah al-Din Yusuf, known as the “Barberini vase”


    Syria, Aleppo or Damascus

  • Copper alloy, hammered, repoussé, chased and inlaid with silver and black paste

    H. 46 cm; Diam. max. 36 cm

  • Former Barberini collection , Purchased, 1899

    OA 4090

  • Islamic Art

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