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Architectural fragment

Architectural fragment

  • Place of origin:

    Madinat al-Zahra (Probably, made)

  • Date:

    936-976 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown (makers)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Carved limestone

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Dr W. L. Hildburgh, F.S.A.

  • Museum number:

    A.156-1919

  • Gallery location:

    Islamic Middle East, Room 42, The Jameel Gallery, case WE6

The palace of Madinat al-Zahra, near Córdoba, was built after the Umayyad rulers of Spain assumed the title of caliph in 929. Its walls were decorated with plant designs. Court poetry of the period shows that abundant plants symbolised the realm's fertility, which was ensured by the caliph's just rule.

Physical description

Carved limestone architectural ornament in the form of intertwining bands of foliage.

Place of Origin

Madinat al-Zahra (Probably, made)

Date

936-976 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown (makers)

Materials and Techniques

Carved limestone

Dimensions

Length: 24.5 cm, Width: 22 cm, Depth: 5 cm

Object history note

Madinat al-Zahra' was first excavated by Ricardo Velazquez Bosco in 1912 and has been in the process of archaeological investigation for much of the rest of the 20th Century. Dr W. L. Hildburgh probably obtained the objects later received by the V&A over the course of his many trips to Spain in the early 20th Century. . The V&A collectoin includes many different fragments of carved decorative limestone wall panels and carved marble architectural fragments.

Historical context note

The Umayyad rulers of Spain assumed the title of caliph, or rightful leader of the Muslim community, in 929. Shortly thereafter, in 936, the Umayyad caliph Abd al-Rahman III founded a palace complex near the city of Córdoba called Madinat al-Zahra. The walls of Madinat al-Zahra were decorated with plant designs, including this fragment of limestone ornament. Court poetry of the period shows that abundant plants symbolised the realm’s fertility, which was ensured by the caliph’s just rule.

Patterns based on plants had been used long before the coming of Islam, and they continued to be popular throughout the Islamic period. Over time, the use of elements with recognisable plant forms gave way to more heavily stylised vegetal patterns. As time passed, the stylised element became dominant. Many of the patterns used at Madinat al-Zahra show this increasing tendency toward abstraction.

Descriptive line

Limestone architectural ornament in the form of intertwining bands of foliage, Spain (probably Madinat al-Zahra), 936-76.

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

Rosser-Owen, Mariam, Islamic Arts from Spain, V&A Publishing, London, 2010
Dodds, Jerrilynn D. (ed), Al-Andalus, The Art of Islamic Spain, Metropolitan Museum of Art Publishers, New York, 1992

Labels and date

Limestone Leaves
Spain, probably Madinat al-Zahra
936-76

The palace of Madinat al-Zahra, near Córdoba, was built after the Umayyad rulers of Spain assumed the title of caliph in 929. Its walls were decorated with plant designs. Court poetry of the period shows that abundant plants symbolised the realm's fertility, which was ensured by the caliph's just rule.

Carved limestone

Museum nos. A.106, 156-1919. Given by Dr W.L. Hildburgh, FSA [2006]

Materials

Limestone

Techniques

Carving

Categories

Architectural fittings

Collection

Middle East Section

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