Casket thumbnail 1
Casket thumbnail 2
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Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Islamic Middle East, Room 42, The Jameel Gallery

Casket

961-965 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

This small ivory casket has carved decoration of stylised plants. It covers the sides of the base and the top of the lid. Around the sides of the lid there is an Arabic inscription composed in a decorative style of script known as 'floriated Kufic'. The silver hinges and hasp may well be original. They are decorated in niello. This is a technique in which the decorator uses black inlay to fill the hollow design in a metal surface.

Ivories of this kind were produced in Spain during the 10th and 11th centuries. At this time most of the country was ruled by Muslim Arabs of the Umayyad dynasty. The inscription tells us that this casket was made for the daughter of the Umayyad caliph 'Abd al-Rahman III. His name is followed by a short prayer said only for the deceased. We can therefore date the casket to the period after the caliph's death in 961.

One theory suggests that this type of decoration consisting entirely of plants, with its associations with fertility, was suitable for objects owned by women. Yet the same type of decoration appears in the carved marble wall panels of the reception hall in Madinat al-Zahra. This hall was used only by men and was part of the huge palace complex 'Abd al-Rahman built near Cordoba. Designers therefore used the same style of decoration in different media. This suggests at the very least that there was some central control in the production of all the decorative arts at this time.

This casket is probably a pair with A.580-1910, which was made at the same time for the same daughter of 'Abd al-Rahman III. The commission may have commemorated a significant event in her life, such as a marriage or birth of a son.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Carved ivory, with mounts and clasp of chased and nielloed silver
Brief Description
Carved ivory casket with decoration in the form of stylized vegetation, Spain (probably Córdoba), about 962.
Physical Description
Rectangular ivory casket with carved decoration in the form of stylized vegetation on the sides of the base and the top of the lid and an inscription in the "floriated Kufic" style on the sides of the lid. Mounts and clasp of chased silver inlaid with niello, which may well be original.
Dimensions
  • Length: 9.5cm
  • Height: 4.3cm
  • Width: 6cm
Style
Marks and Inscriptions
  • (Inscription; decoration; Arabic; Arabic (in the style known as floriated Kufic); around the side of the lid; carved)
  • السيد (sic) بسم الله هذا ما عمل الابنة (front side) ة ابنة عبد الرحمن ا (left short side) المؤمنين رحمة الله (sic) ميو (back) عليه ورضوانه (right short side) (The reading of this casket's inscription was revised in July 2014 by María Antonia Martínez Núñez of the University of Málaga. See attached PDF with her reading and discussion (in Spanish).)
Gallery Label
  • Jameel Gallery Ivory Caskets Spain, probably Córdoba About 962 This casket was made for an unnamed daughter of the caliph Abd al-Rahman III. He died in 961, and as his name is followed by a prayer for the dead, the casket must have been produced after this date. The leafy scrollwork resembles that on the walls of the caliph’s palace at Madinat al-Zahra. Carved ivory with silver and niello mounts Museum no. 301-1866 (2009)
  • Jameel Gallery Ivory Caskets Spain, probably Córdoba About 962 Both caskets were made for an unnamed daughter of the caliph Abd al-Rahman III. He died in 961, and as his name is followed by a prayer for the dead, the caskets must have been produced after this date. The leafy scrollwork resembles that on the walls of the caliph's palace at Madinat al-Zahra. Carved ivory with silver mounts, and with copper-gilt and niello mounts Museum nos. 301-1866; A.580-1910: Bequest of George Salting(2006-2008)
Object history
Made for an unnamed daughter of the Spanish Umayyad caliph Abd al-Rahman III, who died in 961.
Summary
This small ivory casket has carved decoration of stylised plants. It covers the sides of the base and the top of the lid. Around the sides of the lid there is an Arabic inscription composed in a decorative style of script known as 'floriated Kufic'. The silver hinges and hasp may well be original. They are decorated in niello. This is a technique in which the decorator uses black inlay to fill the hollow design in a metal surface.



Ivories of this kind were produced in Spain during the 10th and 11th centuries. At this time most of the country was ruled by Muslim Arabs of the Umayyad dynasty. The inscription tells us that this casket was made for the daughter of the Umayyad caliph 'Abd al-Rahman III. His name is followed by a short prayer said only for the deceased. We can therefore date the casket to the period after the caliph's death in 961.



One theory suggests that this type of decoration consisting entirely of plants, with its associations with fertility, was suitable for objects owned by women. Yet the same type of decoration appears in the carved marble wall panels of the reception hall in Madinat al-Zahra. This hall was used only by men and was part of the huge palace complex 'Abd al-Rahman built near Cordoba. Designers therefore used the same style of decoration in different media. This suggests at the very least that there was some central control in the production of all the decorative arts at this time.



This casket is probably a pair with A.580-1910, which was made at the same time for the same daughter of 'Abd al-Rahman III. The commission may have commemorated a significant event in her life, such as a marriage or birth of a son.
Associated Object
Bibliographic References
  • The Arts of Islam, Catalogue of the exhibition held at the Hayward Gallery, 8 April-4 July, 1976, The Arts Council of Great Britain, 1976. 396p., ill. ISBN 0 7287 0081 6 paper bound, 07287 0080 8 cloth bound. Catalogue entry 146, p.151
  • Ferrandis, J. Marfiles de Occidente, tomo I, 1935, /tomo II, 1940, Madrid. I, no. 2, pl. II
  • Beckwith, J. Caskets from Córdoba, London, 1960.p. 6f, pl. 2
  • Kühnel, E. Die Islamischen Elfenbeinskulpturen VIII-XIII Jh, Berlin, 1971. P.32f, no. 20, pl.VIII.
  • Tim Stanley (ed.), with Mariam Rosser-Owen and Stephen Vernoit, Palace and Mosque: Islamic Art from the Middle East, London, V&A Publications, 2004p.78
  • Mariam Rosser-Owen, 'The Metal Mounts on Andalusi Ivories: Initial Observations', in Venetia Porter and Mariam Rosser-Owen,(eds) Metalwork and Material Culture in the Islamic World, London and New York, 2012, pp.301-16, Fig.17.5.
  • Baker, Malcolm, and Brenda Richardson (eds.), A Grand Design: The Art of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London: V&A Publications, 1999.
Collection
Accession Number
301-1866

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record createdMarch 11, 2003
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