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  • Place of origin:

    Egypt (made)

  • Date:

    11th century (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Elephant ivory, carved in relief

  • Credit Line:

    Given by G.D. Hornblower

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This small hexagonal (six-sided) plaque has two levels of carved decoration. The shallow carved intertwined leafy stems form a background for the more prominently carved animal decoration. These show a bird in flight above a pair of hares and may represent a bird of prey swooping on its quarry. The plaque probably formed part of a panel in a door, a casket or a similar item of woodwork. We think it was made in Egypt during the Fatimid period (969-1171).

Physical description

Hexagonal ivory plaque. Carved in relief on two levels: interlacing foliate scrolls form a background to the main images in higher relief of a pair of addorsed hares and a bird overhead.

Place of Origin

Egypt (made)


11th century (made)



Materials and Techniques

Elephant ivory, carved in relief


Height: 8 cm, Width: 9.5 cm

Object history note

Historical significance: The juxtaposition of low and high relief carving also occurs in Fatimid woodwork, for example the eleventh-century panels probably from the Dar al-Qutbiyya (reused in the thirteenth-century maristan (hospital) of Qala'un). This decorative style continues into the Ayyubid and Mamluk period, demonstrated by the V&A carved wooden tiles (391-1884) from the minbar of the mosque of Ibn Tulun, dated 1297-8. The technique is also found in other media, such as stone, e.g. the V&A marble basin (335-1903), dated 1277.

There are two comparable plaques in the Louvre, four in Berlin and six in the Bargello Museum in Florence.

Historical context note

This hexagonal plaque was probably made for insertion into a wooden panel. Four of the six sides retain a lower protruding flange which would have interlocked beneath abutting wooden sections. This technique is also evident in a pair of ivory-inlaid wooden doors at the V&A, 886&a-1884.

Descriptive line

Sculpture; Hexagonal ivory plaque. Carved in relief with a bird & two hares against a background of interlaced foliage. Egypt, 11th century.; Ivory Egyptian (fatimid) 11c

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

Longhurst, MH. Catalogue of carvings in ivory. London: Pub. under the authority of the Board of Education, 1927-29. I, Pl. XXVIII
Contadini, A. Fatimid art: at the Victoria and Albert Museum. London: V&A Publications, 1998. Pl.50
Antoine, Élisabeth & Barrucand, Marianne, Trésors fatimides du Caire : exposition présentée à l'Institut du monde arabe du 28 avril au 30 août 1998. Arab World Institute, France, 1998


Elephant ivory



Subjects depicted

Bird; Hare


Islam; Africa


Middle East Section

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