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Pavement and Octagonal Fountain

18th century CE

This floor is a fine example of the architectural decoration used in the Syrian area during the 12th century, as exemplified in Aleppo by the courtyards of the Great Mosque and the Madrasa al-Firdaws. The alternation of white and coloured stone takes up an old technique first used for the lower rows in two-coloured masonry of Byzantine buildings and then in the geometric patterns of the floors of Arab-Norman palaces of the 12th and 13th centuries. In the Islamic world, this technique was first employed during the Zengid dynasty (1127–83) and continued uninterruptedly through the Ayyubid (late 12th – mid – 13th century), Mamluk (mid-13th – early 16th century) and Ottoman (early 16th – 20th century) eras. A hallmark of Syrian architecture, initially public and then also private, it was used for the decoration of internal façades, courtyards, fountains and walls. From the late 17th to early 19th century, Syrian decoration involved two complementary techniques: ablaq for the mineral elements or stone and ajami for the woodwork of walls and ceilings.

Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi/ photo: Mohamed Somji/ Seeing Things

Designed for coolness during the summer, the floor and fountain were originally part of the inner courtyard or, more probably, the main hall of an 18th-century residence in Damascus. In Syria more than anywhere else in the Islamic world, inner courtyards constituted the central point of houses and palaces with the rooms extending off them. In the contemporary light-flooded setting of the Louvre Abu Dhabi, the fountain regains something of its traditional symbolic importance as the reflection of the celestial vault represented in architecture in the form of a dome or cupola.

Artwork Details

Title: Pavement and Octagonal Fountain
Geography: Damascus, Syria
Date: 18th century CE

Medium: marble, multicoloured limestone, slate

Classification: architectural element
Dimensions: 55 x 500 x 500 cm
Inventory number: LAD 2011.029
Contact for images : images@louvreabudhabi.ae
Permalink : www.louvreabudhabi.ae/en/Explore/Highlights-of-the-collection/pavement

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