An important carved basalt Mihrab Persia, 9th/10th Century
with ten lines of horizontal kufic script carved in relief below an arch, carved to upper and lower corners with floriated palmettes 34 x 15 cm.
Provenance: Private UK collection since the 1950's.
The inscriptions comprise: 'This is the tomb of [...] God's mercy be upon him' [...] 'God bless Muhammad and grant him salvation'.
A possible reading for the name of the deceased may be "Yazid."
From the ninth century, tombstones in the Islamic world gradually acquired more decorative interest, both in the style of calligraphy used on them and in terms of additional embellishments. At this date, the form of funerary stones was more commonly rectangular and used both calligraphy carved in relief and in intaglio. A funerary stele in the Benaki Museum (10776) dated AH 473/AD 1080 bears some similarity in the format to our example with ten lines of script and a simple floral design above. Presumably both this and the present example would have been set within the walls of a mausoleum.
The now-worn decoration to the upper corners can be best parallelled in the openwork palmettes seen on a bronze bottle in the Al-Sabah Collection, Kuwait and on the black-slip painted decoration seen on Nishapur bowls of the 10th century, an example of which is in the same collection (Giovanni Curatola, Art from the Islamic Civilization from the al-Sabah Collection, Kuwait , Milan, 2010, no. 213 and 214).
Despite the illegibility of the inscription on our tombstone, we may suggest it follows others of the period. The texts inscribed on early gravestones have a specific content, normally statements of faith and submission. They begin with an invocation to the merciful and compassionate God, and continue with standard phrases, passages from the Qur'an, and finally the name of the deceased, a prayer of blessing and the date of death.