Name of Object:

Ivory box


Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom

Holding Museum:

Burrell Collection, Glasgow Museums

About Burrell Collection, Glasgow Museums, Glasgow

Date of Object:

Hegira 6th century / AD late 12th century

Museum Inventory Number:

BC 21.1

Material(s) / Technique(s):

Painted Ivory panels with brass fittings.


Width 18.4 cm, depth 10.3 cm, height 7.3 cm

Period / Dynasty:

Siculo-Norman (Siculo-Arab)




An ivory box with black and gold decoration on all sides except for the underside. Painted on the lid are five circular medallions containing a lion, two peacocks and two gazelles; between them are five birds with flowers. On the front side are two medallions with arabesque decorations. On each of the two sides and on the back there is an arrangement of two birds that flank a medallion which contains a lion. The box was re-lined with a wooden frame after it was purchased by Sir William Burrell. The once gilded brass brackets and lock help support the structure of the box, which is made of thin ivory plates held together with bone pegs. Both the design and style of the painted motifs are typical of this type of box, inspired by a combination of Byzantine and Islamic elements, and made by Muslim craftsmen for Christian customers in Norman Sicily.

View Short Description

Made by Muslim craftsmen for Christian customers in Norman Sicily, this box is inspired by a combination of Byzantine and Islamic decorative elements. Valued for their material and artistic quality, many such boxes have survived in Christian churches where they were used as reliquaries.

Original Owner:

From the Manfrini Palace, Venice

How date and origin were established:

Artistic analysis: the design and style of this box was fairly well known in Norman Sicily in the 8th / 12th century, and several similar examples survive.

How Object was obtained:

Part of the collection given to the City of Glasgow by Sir William and Lady Burrell in 1944.

Selected bibliography:

Rice, D. T., Islamic Art, London, 1975.

Wallin, H. E., "Art from the World of Islam, 8th–18th Century", Louisiana Revy, vol. 27, no. 3, March 1987, p.84.

Citation of this web page:

Noorah Al-Gailani "Ivory box" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2018.;ISL;uk;Mus04;3;en

Prepared by: Noorah Al-GailaniNoorah Al-Gailani

Noorah Al-Gailani is Curator for Islamic Civilisations at Glasgow Museums, Scotland. With a BA in Interior Design from the College of Fine Arts, Baghdad University and three years' experience in design and folk art preservation, she moved to the UK in 1992. On completing her MA in Museum Studies at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London in 1994, she worked as Project Officer at the Grange Museum of Community History documenting the presence of Muslim communities in the London Borough of Brent. In 1995 she was Assistant Curator, Ancient Monuments Laboratory, English Heritage, and in 1996 became Curator for John Wesley's House and the Museum of Methodism in London. She co-authored The Islamic Year: Surahs, Stories and Celebrations (Stroud: Hawthorn Press, 2002) for non-Muslim children. Since 2003 she has been based at The Burrell Collection in Glasgow, working across the city's museums to interpret Islamic art and culture, ancient and modern, through research, exhibitions and educational activities.

Copyedited by: Mandi Gomez

MWNF Working Number: UK4 08


 Artistic Introduction

 Timeline for this item

Islamic Dynasties / Period

Siculo–Norman Art

On display in

MWNF Galleries


See also


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