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Casket - Saints and other figures

Saints and other figures

  • Object:

    Casket

  • Place of origin:

    Italy (south, made)

  • Date:

    12th century-13th century (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Carved ivory on wood, painted and gilt

  • Museum number:

    603-1902

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This casket is an example of the exchange of artistic ideas between Europe and the Middle East. It was made in Sicily or southern Italy. The painted and gilded decoration includes sirens, birds and Christian saints, all in the local style. But there is also an inscription in Arabic, which expresses good wishes for the owner.

In the medieval period, luxury goods from the Islamic Middle East found a ready market in Christian-ruled Europe. The prestige of these imports was so great that luxury goods made in Europe were often decorated in Islamic styles.

Physical description

Wooden casket with a truncated pyramidal lid, covered with ivory panels decorated in outline and gilded with medallions containing a seated musician, animals and interlaced ornament; at either end is a siren with a cruciferous nimbus; in front two figures of standing saints holding books and long staves; on the edge of the lid is an inscription in naskhi script. On the ground are scattered bird and foliage designs. With gilt metal mounts.

Place of Origin

Italy (south, made)

Date

12th century-13th century (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Carved ivory on wood, painted and gilt

Marks and inscriptions

Naskhi inscription
'The happiness of a bird and the height of esteem and conditions which point to the proper guidance, and everlasting glory and may the ending be perfect and may glory endure'.
On the front

Dimensions

Height: 18 cm, Width: 36 cm, Depth: 19 cm

Object history note

Formerly in the Cathedral at Bari, Southern Italy

Descriptive line

Ivory casket with Christian imagery as well as a blessing in Arabic, Sicily or southern Italy, 1100-1200.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

List of Works of Art acquired by the Victoria and Albert Museum during the Year 1902 arranged according to the Dates of Acquisition. London: Her Majesty's Stationary Office. Wyman and Sons. 1906. pp.187-8
Longhurst, Margaret, H. Catalogue of Carvings in Ivory. I London: The Board of Education, 1929. pp.55
Pinder-Wilson, R.H and Brooke, C.N.L. 'The Reliquary of St Petroc and the Ivories of Norman Sicily.' Archaeologia CIV. pp.261-305, pl. LXVI (a) and pp.276
Federics e la Sicilia, dalla terra alla cosmo. Palermo. 1995. pp. 162-215.
Booms, Dirk and Higgs, Peter, eds. Sicily: culture and conquest, London, 2016, p. 216, fig. 174.

Labels and date

Ivory Casket
Sicily or southern Italy
1100-1200

This casket is similar to the one on the left, but it has a different link with the Middle East. The painted and gilded decoration includes sirens, birds and Christian saints, all in the local style. But there is also an inscription in Arabic, which expresses good wishes for the owner.

Wood faced with ivory panels, painted and gilded, with gilt bronze mounts

Museum no. 603-1902 [Jameel Gallery]

Production Note

Siculo-Arabic

Subjects depicted

Animals; Siren; Saints

Categories

Containers; Islam; Religion

Collection

Sculpture Collection

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