Collection Highlights: Eastern Art
Spain (probably Cordoba), carved ivory, 10.5 cm diameter, dated AD 999.
Carved from a section of elephant's tusk, this beautiful lid is decorated with the figures of four huntsmen killing deer and leopards. It is inscribed with the name of the patron, the vizier Abu'l-Mutarrif, one of the last members of the Spanish Umayyad dynasty, whose fall saw the beginning of the Christian reconquest. Originally part of a casket (probably a container for exotic perfume), it was almost certainly made in Cordoba, one of the two main centres of ivory carving in Muslim Spain. It is outstanding both for the representation of movement and for the quality of the detail, and belongs to a rare sequence of luxury objects made for members of the Islamic royal court. [Acquired with grants from the Victoria and Albert Museum Purchase Grant Fund, the National Art Collections Fund and the Friends of the Ashmolean, EA1987.0003].