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Opus sectile panel with a Musenna inscription reading ‘Muhammad’

Like the technically identical Ispenian panel (C001513), the origin and date of this piece is mysterious too. With bold blue letters in Thuluth script arranged in mirror image against a bright yellow ground, it is composed of ceramic tile elements with a red earthenware body covered with an opaque monochrome glaze.

On epigraphic grounds, and if it were not for its undeniable similarity to the Ispenian panel, one would be inclined to place this within the Ottoman world, where we find examples of calligraphy in mirror image (Musenna) as far back as 1500 in book illumination and from at least 1600 painted on tiles. But they all have one thing in common; they are associated with Sufi brotherhoods. Indeed, the rendering of the word Muhammad on this piece appears in a very similar fashion on a 19th-century Sufi drawing.

Central Islamic Lands

Height: 28.5 cm
Width: 35.6 cm

Sotheby's, London, 02/04/2009, lot 124
Acquired there by AXIA