All Collections
Previous Next
Back to Collection

Pair of ‘Door Handles’

MTW 1407, MTW 1428 | northern Mesopotamia (now south-east Turkey) | early 13th century AD

Print Download

Artwork Details

Title: Pair of ‘Door Handles’

Date: early 13th century AD

Location: northern Mesopotamia (now south-east Turkey)

Materials: quaternary copper alloy, cast and engraved

Dimensions: 33.7 x 39.5cm; 33.5 x 40.5cm

Accession Number: MTW 1407, MTW 1428

Other Notes:

The door handles are in the form of winged dragons back-to-back, their scaly bodies knotted and terminating in gryphons’ heads. They have no hind legs. Such figures are often described as door-knockers but the two loops securing them to a door would have made them immovable. Yet even movable handles on mosque doors in 12th- to 14th-century Syria and Egypt are often up to three metres from the ground and so must have been for show only. The present handles derive from a design of the early 13th-century engineer al-Jazari, who cast the knockers of the Artuqid palace at Diyarbekir (Topkapi Saray Library A 3472, folios 169a–b), although in his drawing the dragons are shown confronted and without knotted tails. The dragons’ knotted tails may be an allusion to a pseudo-planet, Jawzahr, which was invoked by Muslim astronomers to explain eclipses of the moon. They may also derive from the entwined serpents of Aesculapius in the eastern Hellenistic world. In Iraq and the Jazira, they also decorated the arched gates of cities or fortresses, like the Talisman Gate at Baghdad (618 AH/ 1221 AD, no longer extant), the Aleppo Gate at Diyarbekir (589 AH/ 1183–4 AD), and the gate of the Citadel of Aleppo (606 AH/ 1209–10 AD).


J.M. Rogers, The Arts of Islam. Masterpieces from the Khalili Collection, London 2010, cat.112, p.102.

Related Artworks

Small Flask

JLY 1075
Jaipur, India

Youth in European Dress and Young Woman with Indian Headdress, from a Shahnamah

MSS 1000.1, MSS 1000.2
Isfahan, Iran


POT 684

Calligraphic Composition

CAL 154
Ottoman Turkey

Mail and Plate Shirt

MTW 1158
Northern Caucasus
for the Persian or Ottoman market

Two ‘Hands of Fatimah’

JLY 1923
India, possibly Hyderabad (Deccan)

Calligraphic Practice Sheet

CAL 266
Qazvin, Iran

Single Folio from a Four-part Qur’an

KFQ 90
Iran, Isfahan

Carpet with Star Medallions

TXT 213
Ushak, western Anatolia, Turkey

Mosque Lamp

GLS 572

Single Folio from a Qur’an

KFQ 45
Middle East or North Africa

Single Folio from a Qur’an

KFQ 50
Middle East

Five Folios from a Qur’an

KFQ 52
Middle East or North Africa

Two Folios from the ‘Blue Qur’an’

KFQ 53
North Africa or Spain

Single Folio from a Qur’an

KFQ 60
probably the Hijaz

Two Bifolios from a Qur’an

KFQ 82
Middle East

Single Folio from a Qur’an

KFQ 93
Middle East or North Africa

Single Folio from a Large Qur’an

KFQ 96
probably North Africa

Single Folio from a Qur'an

KFQ 34
Middle East

Single Folio from a Qur’an

KFQ 84
Middle East or North Africa



Khalili Collections Logo

Share this page