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Tau-head - Tau Head

Tau Head

  • Object:

    Tau-head

  • Place of origin:

    Istanbul, Turkey (perhaps, made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1650 - ca. 1700 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown (production)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Carved ivory with engraved and painted scrollwork, gold inlay, ebony and gems, silver mounts and cabochon rubies

  • Museum number:

    944-1904

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

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This Tau Head of ivory is by an unknown artist probably from Constantinople executed in ca. 1650-1700. It shows two dragon's heads, the eyes formed by cabochon rubies in gold settings. The floral scrolls engraved on the shaft and prominent portions of the arms have been inlaid partly with gold, partly with black composition. Comparisons can be made with analogous works in the Monastery of St. Catherine on Mount Sinai, known to be from Constantinople, and thought to date from the second half of the seventeenth century. This suggests that the piece too is likely to date from that time and was perhaps produced at the Ottoman Court.

Physical description

Tau head of carved ivory with two reversed dragon's heads, the eyes formed by cabochon rubies in gold settings. The gaping mouths are thickly set with ivory teeth, and the tongues are in ebony (one is missing). The floral scrolls engraved on the shaft and prominent portions of the arms have been inlaid partly with gold, partly with black composition; of the gold, however, little remains but the studs forming the flowers. Round the base of the shaft and at various points in the scrollwork were gold settings for gems, twelve being sexfoil and twenty-two star shaped; three of the latter alone remain, one filled with a turquoise. The octagonal silver knop terminates in a screw.

The short stem is eight-sided below and rounded above where it divides into two masses, each bending downwards and outwards and tapering towards the monsters' heads, which are turned upwards and inwards. The heads are carved with scales which, with the interior of the mouths and other details, are painted dark brown (perhaps a ground for gilding). The octagonal knop is moulded above and below.

Place of Origin

Istanbul, Turkey (perhaps, made)

Date

ca. 1650 - ca. 1700 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown (production)

Materials and Techniques

Carved ivory with engraved and painted scrollwork, gold inlay, ebony and gems, silver mounts and cabochon rubies

Dimensions

Height: 10.5 cm whole, Height: 7.5 cm ivory alone, Width: 15.2 cm

Object history note

Bought, £28 13s. from Mr G. R. Harding, St Jame's Square, London, in 1904.

Descriptive line

Tau-head, carved ivory, gold inlay and gems, perhaps Constantinople, ca. 1650-1700

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

Inventory of Works of Art Acquired by the Victoria and Albert Museum in the Years 1903 - 1904. In: List of Works of Art Acquired by the Victoria and Albert Museum, During the Year 1904, Arranged According to the Dates of Acquisition with Appendix and Indices. London: Printed for His Majesty's Stationery Office, by Wyman and Sons, Limited, 1908, p. 159
Longhurst, Margaret H. Catalogue of Carvings in Ivory. Part II. London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1929, p. 116
Trusted, Marjorie, Baroque & Later Ivories, Victoria & Albert Museum, London, 2013, cat. no. 324, p. 328

Materials

Silver; Gold; Ivory; Ebony; Rubies

Techniques

Engraving; Carving; Inlay

Subjects depicted

Scrolls; Dragons

Categories

Sculpture; Religion; Christianity

Collection code

SCP

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Qr_O106791
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