Name of Object:



Madrid, Spain

Holding Museum:

National Archaeological Museum

 About National Archaeological Museum, Madrid

Date of Object:

Hegira 422–55 / AD 1031–63

Museum Inventory Number:


Material(s) / Technique(s):

Silver; relief, enamelled, nielloed.


Height 11 cm, length 17.5 cm, width 11 cm

Period / Dynasty:

Taifa kingdoms


The Taifa from which this piece originates is unknown.


Silver prismatic chest with a lid in the shape of a truncated pyramid. It stands on four moulded rectangular supports that are hollow and smooth. The lid is decorated with two hinges on the rear that have reliefwork depicting birds and flowers, and a third with a medallion-shaped end and two birds facing one another on the front for locking it. The chest is decorated with seeding and with black enamelled scrolls that run around the whole of the piece on the edge of the lid as well as on the top and bottom parts of the chest. In the centre there is an inscription in kufic characters, enamelled in the same colour, which translates as: 'Allah's blessing on his people / ever-lasting health … fulfilled / permanent happiness, lasting happiness … wealth … for its owner'. Given that the ironwork interrupts the inscription, we can assume that it was added at a later date. The bevelled sides of the lid bear the following inscription using the same type of enamelled letters, but larger: 'Allah's blessing on the people, / Ever-lasting health and / wealth fulfilled and permanent happiness and …'
On the upper part of the lid, on a granulated base with black enamelled leaves, there are eight peacocks arranged in three pairs facing each other and two turned towards the sides. The piece does not appear to have been commissioned, but made to sell.
The kings of León, Fernando I and Doña Sancha, donated it, with other chests, to the collegiate church of San Isidoro de León.

View Short Description

An unusual Andalusian chest as it is made of silver and decorated with enamel and niello, although it is adorned with inscriptions. Its historical value lies in that it was made in a Taifa kingdom before passing to the king and queen of León, who gave it to the collegiate church of San Isidoro.

How date and origin were established:

Its formal characteristics date it to the Taifa period. The chest was dedicated by the kings of León, Fernando I and Doña Sancha, to the collegiate church of San Isidoro on 21 December 1063 (13 of Dhu'l-Hijja 455), according to the donation documentation. Its date of manufacture is therefore between the end of the Caliphate of Cordoba (422 / 1031) and the date that it was donated to the collegiate church.

How Object was obtained:

The chest arrived at the National Archaeological Museum on 20 October 1869 after it was confiscated by the Scientific Commissions that were created after the revolution of 1868.

How provenance was established:

As no place of origin is mentioned in the inscription, the chest could have been made in any of the workshops that were dedicated to this kind of activity during the Taifa period. The chest must have come into King Fernando I's possession as war booty or as taxes from one of the Taifas.

Selected bibliography:

Amador de los Ríos, R., “Arquetas Arábigas de Plata y Marfil”, Museo Español de Antigüedades, Vol. VIII, 1877, pp.529–49.
The Arts of Islam, London, 1976, p.164.
Franco Mata, A., “Arqueta em Prata e Esmalte”, in O Românico e o Douro, Lisbon, 1998, pp.146–8.
Franco Mata, A., “Arte Medieval Cristiano Leonés en el Museo Arqueológico Nacional”, Tierras de León, no. 71, 1988, pp.27–59.
Franco Mata, A., “El Tesoro de San Isidoro y la Monarquía Leonesa”, Boletín del Museo Arqueológico Nacional, IX, 1991, pp.52–3.

Citation of this web page:

Ángela Franco "Chest" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2020.;ISL;es;Mus01;26;en

Prepared by: Ángela Franco
Copyedited by: Rosalía Aller
Translation by: Laurence Nunny
Translation copyedited by: Monica Allen

MWNF Working Number: SP 41