Name of Object:

Figure of a dancer


Monastir, Tunisia

Holding Museum:

Ribat Museum

Date of Object:

Hegira 3rd century / AD 9th century

Museum Inventory Number:

H 206

Material(s) / Technique(s):

Ivory with wooden ossature.


Length 18 cm, width 4.5 cm

Period / Dynasty:



Very probably Egypt.


The figure appears to be a dancer and was almost certainly a toy. The black hair is tousled. The round face with big eyes and a thin nose seems out of proportion with the body. The neck is very thick. The breasts are prominent but the abdomen, defined by two sets of grooves, is quite slim.
The figure has lost its arms. The legs are covered by a type of Oriental trouser (sirwal) and the feet are missing.
A wooden framework has been inserted inside the piece of ivory to give it rigidity.
The figure is hardly harmonious but it is finely modelled. The facial features are typically Mesopotamian and they resemble those found on several contemporary pottery plates or stucco objects.

View Short Description

This finely carved figurine of a dancing girl of typically Mesopotamian physiognomy is made of solid ivory, with a wooden framework affording it a degree of stability. It is comparable to several similar images found on ceramic dishes and stucco objects.

How date and origin were established:

Several Iranian human figures dating from the 3rd to 4th / 9th to 10th centuries are very similar to this Egyptian figure. It was very probably imported from Mesopotamia in the Tulunid era or it is possibly a copy made after the Oriental model.

How Object was obtained:

In 1958 this piece was bought by the late H. H. Abdelwahab, former Director of the National Institute of Art and Archaeology, at an Egyptian antique dealership. He donated it to the Ribat Museum at Monastir in the same year.

How provenance was established:

Analogies of style.

Selected bibliography:

Ifriqiya: Thirteen Centuries of Art and Architecture in Tunisia, pp.174–6.

Citation of this web page:

Mourad Rammah "Figure of a dancer" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2018.;ISL;tn;Mus01_B;43;en

Prepared by: Mourad RammahMourad Rammah

Né en 1953 à Kairouan, docteur en archéologie islamique, Mourad Rammah est le conservateur de la médina de Kairouan. Lauréat du prix Agha Khan d'architecture, il publie divers articles sur l'histoire de l'archéologie médiévale islamique en Tunisie et participe à différentes expositions sur l'architecture islamique. De 1982 à 1994, il est en charge du département de muséographie du Centre des arts et des civilisations islamiques. Mourad Rammah est également directeur du Centre des manuscrits de Kairouan.

Copyedited by: Margot Cortez
Translation by: David Ash
Translation copyedited by: Mandi Gomez

MWNF Working Number: TN 66


Related monuments

 Artistic Introduction

 Timeline for this item

On display in

MWNF Galleries

Ivory Toys and Games


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