Name of Object:



London, England, United Kingdom

Holding Museum:

Victoria and Albert Museum

About Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Original Owner:

Daughter (name unknown) of the Spanish Umayyad Caliph ‘Abd al-Rahman III

Date of Object:

Probably shortly after hegira 350 / AD 961

Museum Inventory Number:


Material(s) / Technique(s):

Carved ivory, silver.


Height 4.3 cm, width 9.5 cm, depth 6 cm

Period / Dynasty:

Spanish Umayyad


Córdoba or Madinat al-Zahra.


An ivory casket with silver hinges and clasp. An Arabic inscription in the script known as floriated kufic reads, ‘In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate. This is what was made for the young lady, the daughter of ‘Abd al-Rahman, Commander of the Faithful – may God’s mercy and favour be his’. The sides of the casket’s body, as well as the top of the lid, are decorated with relief carvings of gracefully intertwining stylised plants. The same style of floral decoration appears on the marble wall panels of the reception hall in ‘Abd al-Rahman’s palace of Madinat al-Zahra, near Córdoba. Luxury ivory objects like this casket are an important feature of the arts under the Spanish Umayyads.

View Short Description

A finely carved ivory casket decorated with gracefully intertwining tendrils and an Arabic inscription stating that it was made for the daughter of the Spanish Umayyad Caliph ‘Abd al-Rahman III. She may have used it as a jewel-box.

How date and origin were established:

The inscription includes an Arabic formula, recited only for the deceased. We can thus date the casket shortly after the death of ‘Abd al-Rahman III in 350 / 961.

How Object was obtained:

Purchased by the Museum in Spain in 1866.

How provenance was established:

The Spanish Umayyads were centred at Córdoba, while the carved marble decoration on the walls of the reception hall of Madinat al-Zahra features a similar floral pattern.

Selected bibliography:

Beckwith, J., Caskets from Córdoba, London, 1960, pp.6–7 and plate 2.

Holod, R., "Luxury Arts of the Caliphal Period", Al-Andalus: The Art of Islamic Spain (ed. J. Dodds), New York, 1992, p.43 and p.192, cat. no. 2.

Kühnel, E., Die islamischen Elfenbeinskulpturen VIII.–XIII. Jahrhundert, Berlin, 1971, pp.32–3, no. 20.

Stanley, T., with Rosser-Owen, M. and Vernoit, S., Palace and Mosque: Islamic Art from the Middle East, London, 2004, p.78.

Citation of this web page:

Barry Wood "Casket" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2024.;ISL;uk;Mus02;6;en

Prepared by: Barry WoodBarry Wood

Barry Wood is Curator (Islamic Gallery Project) in the Asian Department of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. He studied history of art at Johns Hopkins University and history of Islamic art and architecture at Harvard University, from where he obtained his Ph.D. in 2002. He has taught at Harvard, Eastern Mediterranean University, the School of Oriental and African Studies, and the Courtauld Institute of Art. He has also worked at the Harvard University Art Museums and the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore. He has published on topics ranging from Persian manuscripts to the history of exhibitions.

Copyedited by: Mandi GomezMandi Gomez

Amanda Gomez is a freelance copy-editor and proofreader working in London. She studied Art History and Literature at Essex University (1986–89) and received her MA (Area Studies Africa: Art, Literature, African Thought) from SOAS in 1990. She worked as an editorial assistant for the independent publisher Bellew Publishing (1991–94) and studied at Bookhouse and the London College of Printing on day release. She was publications officer at the Museum of London until 2000 and then took a role at Art Books International, where she worked on projects for independent publishers and arts institutions that included MWNF’s English-language editions of the books series Islamic Art in the Mediterranean. She was part of the editorial team for further MWNF iterations: Discover Islamic Art in the Mediterranean Virtual Museum and the illustrated volume Discover Islamic Art in the Mediterranean.

True to its ethos of connecting people through the arts, MWNF has provided Amanda with valuable opportunities for discovery and learning, increased her editorial experience, and connected her with publishers and institutions all over the world. More recently, the projects she has worked on include MWNF’s Sharing History Virtual Museum and Exhibition series, Vitra Design Museum’s Victor Papanek and Objects of Desire, and Haus der Kulturen der Welt’s online publication 2 or 3 Tigers and its volume Race, Nation, Class.

MWNF Working Number: UK2 06


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 Artistic Introduction

 Timeline for this item

Islamic Dynasties / Period

Umayyads of al-Andalus

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