If you’ve never seen a mosque lamp (or even if you have), you’re in for a treat:
Isn’t it amazing? Take a minute and bask in its glory.
These oil lamps were hung in a circular patterns in mosques and other religious buildings. They’ve been replaced with electric lights, and somehow, although I find the oil lamps to be spectacular, the electric lights don’t bother me:
Glass lamps make perfect sense for illumination purposes, although most of them are so heavily decorated that I wonder how effective they really were. They also symbolized God’s light and were often decorated with Koranic verses, particularly the “Verse of Light,” in enamel. Lamps could also be metal or ceramic, and may have served an acoustic function in mosques. Good thing, because they couldn’t have shed much, if any, light.
The decoration also usually included the name of, or a symbol standing for, the donor. Mosque lamps hung by chains from the metal circles that were suspended from the ceiling (as in the above photo of the electric mosque lights):
These lamps encompass all that I love about Islamic art: function plus beauty. I guess you could argue that a lot of these were hardly functional, but the original intention was to provide light. In a beautiful way. Here’s one from Venice — the description says that it may have been made as a blank to be decorated after being imported into Egypt, but I’m glad that it never made it. The pure yet irregular form takes my breath away:
A couple more examples:
I can’t help but think of the lamp stores that we saw in Istanbul last summer. Although for a different purpose, these lamps were just as striking:
And this one I love:
Güzel! (The first word I learned in Turkish, meaning beautiful!)