Description & Technical information

This silver-inlaid brass Qur'an stand (kursi) is a fine example of the Cairene Revival of the late 19th century. It is modelled on the 14th century kursi of al-Nasir Muhammad, held in the Museum of Islamic Art, Cairo (accession no. 139).1 In 1884, the Museum of Arab Art opened in Cairo, where the kursi of al-Nasir Muhammad was housed. Giuseppe Parvis, who had earned a reputation as an orientalist furniture designer at the Paris Exposition Universelle, was allowed entry by Khedive Isma'il to the museum.Following this visit, he created copies of al-Nasir Muhammad's kursi, which became commercially successful throughout the Islamic world, particuarly amongst the new market of tourists visiting from Europe and America.3 Two even reached the Topkapı Saray where they were mistakenly published as Mamluk originals.4

Both the form and ornamentation of the present kursi replicates the Mamluk original faithfully. The central roundels are inscribed with the name of 'Muhammad', whilst birds are applied with silver inlay in polylobed cartouches. 

Similar neo-Mamluk kursis can be found in the British Museum, London (accession no. 1925,0407.1), Penn Museum, Philadelphia (accession no. NEP69), and the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu (accession no. 54.136.1). 

n.b. accession nos are clickable links.

Illustrated in O'Kane, Bernard (ed). The Treasures of Islamic Art in the Museums of Cairo. Cairo: The American University in Cairo Press, 2006. 155. Cat. 137. 
Juvin, Carine and Makariou, Sophie. ‘The Louvre Kursi: Functions and Meanings’ in Doris Behrens-Abouseif (ed.) The Arts of the Mamluks in Egypt and Syria – Evolution and Impact. Bonn: Bonn University Press, 2012. 37-54: 49. 
Milwright, Marcus. ‘Reviving the Past and Confronting the Present: Crafts in Syria and Egypt, c. 1875-1925’, The Journal of Modern Craft 13.1 (2020) 7-21: 13. 
4 Çiğ. K. ‘Two metal Koran cases recently discovered in the Topkapı Palace Museum’, in G. Fehér (ed.) International Congress of Turkish Art 5 (1978). 261-66.