Name of Object:

Plaster graffito


Tunis, Tunisia

Holding Museum:

Bardo Museum

Date of Object:

Hegira, second half of the 4th–first half of the 5th centuries / AD 10th–11th centuries

Material(s) / Technique(s):

Incised stucco.


Length 30 cm, width 29 cm, thickness 3 cm

Period / Dynasty:



Sabra al-Mansuriyya (Kairouan).


This is an engraving of a stylised horse of majestic demeanour. A rider holds the reins with his left hand and seems to be about to mount. The carefully drawn animal is seen depicted in profile. Its mane is indicated with a few short lines projecting from the neck. The left back leg is slightly raised and the left forearm and cannon-bone are elevated to form an inverted V-shape. The fetlock and hoof have been completely effaced.
The rider is sketchily drawn and very faint. The artist seems to have drawn a man whose torso is set frontally whereas the right leg and the head are in profile. He wears a turban and his face is covered. The horse is typically Arab distinguished by the shape of its head and the gracefulness of its neck and legs. This drawing is unique in Ifriqiyan art. The overall posture of the horse is similar to an image on an Umayyad caliph's goblet from Madinat Elvira in Spain.

View Short Description

This is a hand-carved engraving of a majestic Arab horse, whose rider is barely visible, and is a drawing unique in Ifriqiyan art. The carefully drawn animal is seen in profile, with its mane rendered using oblique and radiating strokes.

How date and origin were established:

This piece comes from the excavations at Sabra al-Mansuriyya, a place which survived for around a century (from 337 to 444 / 948 to 1053). This allows us to date it from the second half of the 4th / 10th century to the first half of the 5th / 11th century. No more precise dating is possible owing to the lack of published information from the excavations but the object's similarity to the Umayyad goblet (mid-4th / 10th century) suggests that we can limit the period to the end of the 4th / 10th century.

How Object was obtained:

After the discovery of this piece in the Sabra al-Mansuriyya excavations between 1952 and 1956, it was stored and later displayed at the Bardo Museum.

How provenance was established:

Excavated object.

Selected bibliography:

De Carthage à Kairouan (exhibition catalogue), Paris, 1982, p.221.
Zbiss, S. M., Actes du 79e congrès national des sociétés savantes, Algiers, 1954, p.302.

Citation of this web page:

Mourad Rammah "Plaster graffito" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2020.;ISL;tn;Mus01_A;37;en

Prepared by: Mourad Rammah
Copyedited by: Margot Cortez
Translation by: David Ash
Translation copyedited by: Mandi Gomez

MWNF Working Number: TN 60