Name of Object:

The Tavira Vase


Tavira, Faro, Portugal

Holding Museum:

Tavira Municipal Museum

About Tavira Municipal Museum, Tavira.

Date of Object:

Hegira end of 5th or beginning of 6th century / AD end of 11th or beginning of 12th century

Museum Inventory Number:


Material(s) / Technique(s):

Ceramic fired in oxidising atmosphere, made on the wheel and modelled.


Height 36 cm, width 42 cm

Period / Dynasty:



Tavira, Portugal.


Vessel made from red clay.The sides, sloping slightly outwards, become thicker at the top to form an invisible channel through which water could pass after having been poured into a kind of funnel-neck which stands out clearly from the overall piece. The water would run through the channel and then be poured into the interior of the vase through eight of the 14 figurines standing around its edge.Two armed and mounted knights, accompanied by a dismounted archer, stand on either side of a woman also on horseback. Then come two musicians, who would have been part of a quartet, now incomplete. This set of human figures was followed by five animals, four of which remain: a bovine, a camel, a deer or gazelle, another camel and a lion. A flock of doves is perched on the funnel-neck.This is an extraordinary piece of popular art probably representing the ceremonial abduction that took place before a wedding ceremony, in which the animals are intended to be an allegory of good fortune for the couple. The water coming from the eight gargoyles would be for a shrub planted in the vase, possibly basil as this plant was associated with the cult of love in Iberian and Mediterranean traditions.

View Short Description

This pot, an example of popular art, represents the ceremonial abduction enacted before a wedding ceremony. The human figures (woman, crossbowman, knights and musicians) are accompanied by animals, intended as a good omen for the newly weds. The pot would have contained a plant.

How date and origin were established:

By stratigraphic references and typological comparison with related artefacts.

How Object was obtained:

Deposited in Tavira Municipal Museum following archaeological excavations.

How provenance was established:

Collected during archaeological excavations directed by Maria and Manuel Maia, near the Porta de D. Manuel in Tavira.

Selected bibliography:

Maia, M., “O Vaso de Tavira e o Seu Contexto”, in Actas do Colóquio Internacional sobre Portugal, Espanha e Marrocos. O Mediterrâneo e o Atlântico, Faro, 2004, pp.143–66.
Torres, C., O Vaso de Tavira, Mértola, 2004.

Citation of this web page:

Cláudio Torres "The Tavira Vase" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2019.;ISL;pt;Mus01_C;9;en

Prepared by: Cláudio TorresCláudio Torres

Cláudio Figueiredo Torres, licenciado em História e História da Arte pelas universidades de Bucareste e Lisboa e Doutor “Honoris Causa” pela Universidade de Évora, é director do Campo Arqueológico de Mértola que fundou em 1978. Foi agraciado com o Prémio Pessoa em 1991.
Depois do 25 de Abril de 1974, durante vários anos foi docente de História Medieval e Arqueologia islâmica na Universidade de Lisboa, chefe da Divisão Cultural da Câmara Municipal de Mértola e Director do Parque Natural do Vale do Guadiana. Desde 2004 é coordenador em Portugal do Programa EUROMED- Fundação Anna Linht. Nos últimos 30 anos tem dedicado a sua investigação e publicado vários trabalhos sobre a civilização islâmica em Portugal.

Translation by: Gilla Evans
Translation copyedited by: Monica Allen

MWNF Working Number: PT 12


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