London, England, United Kingdom
Victoria and Albert Museum
Probably after hegira 350 / AD 961
Carved ivory with silver.
Height 8.5 cm, length 13 cm, width 8.5 cm
Córdoba or Madinat al-Zahra.
An ivory casket with a truncated pyramidal lid, fitted with mounts of nielloed silver. The carved decoration, which includes intertwining leafy stems and an Arabic inscription stating that the casket was made for the daughter of the Caliph ‘Abd al-Rahman III, is nearly identical to that on another casket in the Victoria and Albert Museum, with the exception of a few spelling mistakes in the inscription. For many years it was thought that this casket was a copy of the other casket held at the V&A and made by the 19th-century Spanish forger Don Francisco Pallás y Puig (1859–1926), but recent radiocarbon analysis confirms that this object is quite likely to be original, and it, along with its ‘twin’, may have been made as a pair for the Caliph’s daughter.View Short Description
A finely carved ivory casket decorated with gracefully intertwining tendrils and an Arabic inscription stating that it was made for the daughter of the Spanish Umayyad Caliph ‘Abd al-Rahman III. She may have used it as a jewel-box.
Daughter (name unknown) of the Spanish Umayyad Caliph ‘Abd al-Rahman III
Recent radiocarbon analysis showed the ivory used to make this casket dates to the 3rd / 9th century; the inscription, as with that on the other V&A casket (UK2 06, 301–1866) names the Spanish Umayyad Caliph ‘Abd al-Rahman III and implies that he is dead, making the likely date of production sometime shortly after AH 350 / AD 961.
Bequest of George Salting in 1910.
The Spanish Umayyads were centred at Córdoba, while the carved marble decoration on the walls of the reception hall of Madinat al-Zahra features a similar floral pattern.
Fake? The Art of Deception (ed. M. Jones), London, 1990, p.179, cat. no. 187.
Kühnel, E., Die islamischen Elfenbeinskulpturen VIII.–XIII. Jahrhundert, Berlin, 1971, p.33, no. 21.
Rosser-Owen, M., ‘Questions of Authenticity: The Imitation Ivories of Don Francisco Pallás y Puig (1859–1926)’, Journal of the David Collection 2, 2004 (forthcoming).
Barry Wood "Casket" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2017. http://www.discoverislamicart.org/database_item.php?id=object;ISL;uk;Mus02;8;en
Prepared by: Barry WoodBarry Wood
Barry Wood is Curator (Islamic Gallery Project) in the Asian Department of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. He studied history of art at Johns Hopkins University and history of Islamic art and architecture at Harvard University, from where he obtained his Ph.D. in 2002. He has taught at Harvard, Eastern Mediterranean University, the School of Oriental and African Studies, and the Courtauld Institute of Art. He has also worked at the Harvard University Art Museums and the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore. He has published on topics ranging from Persian manuscripts to the history of exhibitions.
Copyedited by: Mandi Gomez
MWNF Working Number: UK2 08
Islamic Dynasties / Period
On display in
Discover Islamic Art Exhibition(s)The Muslim West | Court Life Women | The Private Lives of Muslim Women
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