Photo © President and Fellows of Harvard College
Gallery Text

Lines intersect and interlace to form a star and polygon pattern in this ceiling fragment. In prestigious buildings, panels of cedar carved and painted with complex designs were often employed to cover the wooden beam construction used throughout Morocco during the reigns of the Saʿdid (1554–1659) and early ʿAlawid (1664–present) dynasties.

For viewers glancing upward, the pattern may have seemed celestial, alluding to a divinely ordered universe. The interlacing geometric mode of ornament underwent intense development around the year 1000 in Baghdad, the capital of the Abbasid Empire. Initially applied to objects or parts of buildings with symbolic or religious value, the style came to be used for a broad range of structures and portable objects. Geometric interlace spread eastward and westward, but its decorative possibilities — rhythmic and complex, yet austere — found particular favor across North Africa from the late eleventh to the early seventeenth century.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
Ceiling Facet
Architectural Elements
Work Type
architectural element
16th-17th century
Creation Place: Africa, Morocco
Sa'did period
Persistent Link
Level 2, Room 2550, Art from Islamic Lands, The Middle East and North Africa
View this object's location on our interactive map
Physical Descriptions
Carved and painted wood
H: 74 x W: 67 x Depth no greater than: 17 cm (29 1/8 x 26 3/8 x 6 11/16 in.)
[Spink and Son, Ltd, London, 1981], sold; to Fogg Art Museum, 1981.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Fund for the Acquisition of Islamic Art
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art
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Publication History

Michele de Angelis and Thomas W. Lentz, Architecture in Islamic Painting: Permanent and Impermanent Worlds, brochure, Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, Mass, 1982)

Stephan Wolohojian and Alvin L. Clark, Jr., Harvard Art Museum/ Handbook, ed. Stephan Wolohojian, Harvard Art Museum (Cambridge, 2008), p. 122

Exhibition History

Islamic Art: Drawings, Calligraphies and Objects, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 06/29/1983 - 09/25/1983

Islamic Art: The Power of Pattern, Harvard University Art Museums, Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 09/23/1989 - 01/17/1990

Arabesque, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 12/01/1990 - 03/24/1991

Woven, Hammered, and Thrown: Textiles and Objects from the Islamic World, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 06/22/1991 - 08/18/1991

Recent Acquisitions, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 05/04/1992 - 06/21/1992

Pattern and Purpose. Decorative Arts of Islam., Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 02/19/1994 - 07/03/1994

32Q: 2550 Islamic, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 01/01/2050

Subjects and Contexts

Google Art Project

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at