London, England, United Kingdom
The British Museum
Hegira 5th / AD 11th century
Gold with inset enamel.
Width 2.1 cm
A gold crescent-shaped pendant with enamel work. Two bands of delicate gold filigree work surround a panel of cloisonné enamel with a symmetrical design of two birds arranged on either side of a tree. The pendant may have been hung with strings of pearls from the three loops along the bottom. The enamel inset imitates Byzantine designs. Gold jewellery from Byzantium was known in Fatimid Egypt originating either from Byzantine craftsmen who immigrated to Egypt or through diplomatic gifts sent by Byzantine rulers. In 1046 the Fatimid Caliph al-Mustansir (r.1036–94) received a large gift from the Emperor of Byzantium which included hundreds of gold vessels, brocade and gold-embroidered turbans. This exchange of diplomatic gifts is recorded in The Book of Treasures and Gifts, by Ibn Zubayr, written just before the destruction and dispersal of the Fatimid treasury in 1062.View Short Description
Gold jewellery with delicate filigree work was popular during the Fatimid period. Some pieces, such as this pendant, also feature enamel work derived from Byzantine designs. The Fatimid treasury is known to have accumulated a vast hoard of gold objects that included jewellery.
The pendant resembles other gold jewellery from the Fatimid era; generally small in size and often decorated with filigree work, cloisonné enamel, or niello. From the mid-11th century figurative elements began to appear, such as birds. The dating of Fatimid jewellery has been derived from excavations in a number of sites, including that at Fustat in Cairo.
Purchased by the British Museum in 1981.
The Fatimids were renowned for their rich splendid jewellery. Most of the workmanship would have taken place in Egypt, the political centre of the Fatimid dynasty.
Al-Hijjawi al-Qaddumi, G. (ed.), Book of Gifts and Rarities (Kitab al-hadaya wa al-tuhaf'): Selections compiled in the fifteenth century from an eleventh-century manuscript on gifts and treasures, Harvard University Press, 1996, pp.108–9.
Hasson, R., Early Islamic Jewellery, Jerusalem, 1987, pp.56–91.
Institut du Monde Arabe, Tresors fatimide du Caire, exposition presentée a l'Institute du monde Arabe du 28 avril au 30 aout 1998 (Paris, Institut du Monde Arabe, 1998), p.135 (a similar pendant to that held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York).
Emily Shovelton "Pendant" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2019. http://islamicart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=object;ISL;uk;Mus01;4;en
Prepared by: Emily ShoveltonEmily Shovelton
Emily Shovelton is a historian of Islamic art. She studied history of art at Edinburgh University before completing an MA in Islamic and Indian art at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London. Since graduating she has worked on a number of projects at the British Museum. Other recent work includes editing and writing for a digital database of architectural photographs at the British Library. She is currently working on a Ph.D. on “Sultanate Painting in 15th-century India and its relationship to Persian, Mamluk and Indian Painting”, to be completed at SOAS in 2006. A paper on Sultanate painting given at the Conference of European Association of South Asian Archaeologists, held in the British Museum in July 2005, is due to be published next year.
Copyedited by: Mandi Gomez
MWNF Working Number: UK1 06