Name of Object:

Kohl jar

Location:

Madrid, Spain

Holding Museum:

National Archaeological Museum

About National Archaeological Museum, Madrid

Date of Object:

Hegira 327–400 / AD 939–1010

Museum Inventory Number:

62317

Material(s) / Technique(s):

Carved rock-crystal.

Dimensions:

Height 9.5 cm, width 8.2 cm

Period / Dynasty

Fatimid

Provenance:

Alcalá de Henares, Madrid, Spain.

Description:

Small, lenticular rock-crystal bottle, broken at the top and the bottom. Its high-relief decoration is divided into different sections. At the top there is a strip inscribed in florid kufic script that reads 'Baraka min Allah / wa lahu al-afiya' (The blessing of God) on both sides. The next section depicts two birds of prey, presumably falcons, facing one another around a vegetal composition in the form of volutes.
As is common in this type of piece, this jar has a 'bore' (central cylindrical hole) that would almost certainly have been used to keep kohl or antimony chloride, which was used as a cosmetic. This jar would have been mounted on some sort of support and would also have had a glass rod used to dip into the substances and apply it.
The production of colourless quartz rock-crystal provided a level of transparency that medieval craftsmen had not yet achieved using glass. This, combined with the difficulty of the technique, meant that this craftwork was always sought after. Objects made of this material were sometimes offered as diplomatic gifts.
There is no evidence of the production of such objects in al-Andalus, and their presence on the Iberian Peninsula in the AH 4th and 5th / AD 10th and 11th centuries was undoubtedly due to trade with Fatimid Egypt. Many of the Islamic rock-crystal pieces that came to the Caliphate of Córdoba from the East were dispersed subsequently around the Iberian Peninsula and reused during the Christian age, embellished with new and sumptuous precious-metal elements.

View Short Description

Objects carved from rock-crystal from Fatimid Egypt were much sought after for their beauty and quality, and consequently they were imported, exchanged as diplomatic gifts and considered to be valuable booty. The small size of the inside of this pot suggests that it was used to hold essence.

How date and origin were established:

The rock-crystal industry in Fatimid Egypt grew up a short time before 254 / 868 and survived until 452–4 / 1060–2. Most researchers agree on the Egyptian origin of the approximately 180 objects from this era that are held around the world, as well as on Kurt Erdman's method of classifying them purely on the basis of stylistic analysis.

How Object was obtained:

The piece was deposited with the National Archaeological Museum by the Artistic Recuperation Service on 21 November 1910.

How provenance was established:

According to its file, this jar came from Alcalá de Henares. There are currently 40 rock-crystal pieces in Spain, including various different bottles and chess pieces (there is another Fatimid piece in this material in the general inventory of the National Archaeological Museum). Most of them, having been acquired during the Reconquest in the form of taxes or war booty, were deposited in churches or monasteries in various different regions of Christian Spain as offerings.

Selected bibliography:

Camón Aznar, J. “Las Piezas de Cristal de Roca y Arte Fatimí Encontradas en España”, Al-Andalus, 4, 1939, pp.396–405.
Casamar, M., Valdés, F. 'Les objects égyptiens en cristal de roche dans al-Andalus, éléments pour une réflexion archéologique', L' Egypte fatimide, son art et son histoire, Paris, 1999.
Erdman, K. “Fatimid Rock Crystal”, Oriental Art, 3, 1951, pp.142–6.
El Esplendor de los Omeyas Cordobeses, Catalogue of the Madinat al-Zahra exhibition, Granada, 2001, p.82.
Zozaya, J. “Importaciones Casuales en al-Andalus”, in Actas IV del Congreso de Arqueología Medieval Española, Vol. I, Alicante, 1993, p.125.

Citation of this web page:

Margarita Sánchez Llorente "Kohl jar" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2016. http://www.discoverislamicart.org/database_item.php?id=object;ISL;es;Mus01;16;en

Prepared by: Margarita Sánchez LlorenteMargarita Sánchez Llorente

Margarita Sánchez Llorente cursó estudios de Historia del Arte y Psicología en la facultad de Filosofía y Letras de la Universidad Complutense de Madrid, obteniendo la licenciatura en 1974.Tras realizar numerosos cursos de posgrado en museología y documentación del patrimonio histórico-artístico y arqueológico, le fueron concedidas varias becas de investigación en museística. De 1989 a 2000 trabajó en el Museo Arqueológico Nacional, en la gestión y documentación de los proyectos de la Unión Europea: EMN (European Museum Network), RAMA (Remote Access to Museum Archives) y –como colaboradora del departamento de Antigüedades Egipcias y del Próximo Oriente– Champollion. Ha participado en numerosos coloquios y encuentros internacionales y publicado varios artículos sobre las nuevas tecnologías aplicadas a la documentación en los museos.

Copyedited by: Rosalía AllerRosalía Aller

Rosalía Aller Maisonnave, licenciada en Letras (Universidad Católica del Uruguay), y en Filología Hispánica y magíster en Gestión Cultural de Música, Teatro y Danza (Universidad Complutense de Madrid), ha obtenido becas de la Agencia Española de Cooperación Internacional y la Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia de Madrid, así como el Diplôme de Langue Française (Alliance Française), el Certificate of Proficiency in English (University of Cambridge) y el Certificado Superior en inglés y francés (Escuela Oficial de Idiomas de Madrid). Profesora de Estética de la Poesía y Teoría Literaria en la Universidad Católica del Uruguay, actualmente es docente de Lengua Castellana y Literatura en institutos de Enseñanza Secundaria y formación del profesorado en Madrid. Desde 1983, ha realizado traducción y edición de textos en Automated Training Systems, Applied Learning International, Videobanco Formación y El Derecho Editores. Integra el equipo de Museo Sin Fronteras desde 1999 y ha colaborado en la revisión de los catálogos de “El Arte Islámico en el Mediterráneo”. Así mismo, ha realizado publicaciones sobre temas literarios y didácticos, ha dictado conferencias y ha participado en recitales poéticos.

Translation by: Laurence Nunny
Translation copyedited by: Monica Allen

MWNF Working Number: SP 28

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