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 after hegira 350 / AD 961

Museum Inventory Number:


Material(s) / Technique(s):

Carved ivory with silver.


Height 8.5 cm, length 13 cm, width 8.5 cm

Period / Dynasty:

Spanish Umayyad


Córdoba or Madinat al-Zahra.


An ivory casket with a truncated pyramidal lid, fitted with mounts of nielloed silver. The carved decoration, which includes intertwining leafy stems and an Arabic inscription stating that the casket was made for the daughter of the Caliph ‘Abd al-Rahman III, is nearly identical to that on another casket in the Victoria and Albert Museum, with the exception of a few spelling mistakes in the inscription. For many years it was thought that this casket was a copy of the other casket held at the V&A and made by the 19th-century Spanish forger Don Francisco Pallás y Puig (1859–1926), but recent radiocarbon analysis confirms that this object is quite likely to be original, and it, along with its ‘twin’, may have been made as a pair for the Caliph’s daughter.

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:

Recent radiocarbon analysis showed the ivory used to make this casket dates to the 3rd / 9th century; the inscription, as with that on the other V&A casket (UK2 06, 301–1866) names the Spanish Umayyad Caliph ‘Abd al-Rahman III and implies that he is dead, making the likely date of production sometime shortly after AH 350 / AD 961.

How Object was obtained:

Bequest of George Salting in 1910.

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:

Fake? The Art of Deception (ed. M. Jones), London, 1990, p.179, cat. no. 187.
Kühnel, E., Die islamischen Elfenbeinskulpturen VIII.–XIII. Jahrhundert, Berlin, 1971, p.33, no. 21.
Rosser-Owen, M., ‘Questions of Authenticity: The Imitation Ivories of Don Francisco Pallás y Puig (1859–1926)’, Journal of the David Collection 2, 2004 (forthcoming).

Citation of this web page:

Barry Wood "Casket" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2024.;ISL;uk;Mus02;8;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 08


Related monuments

 Artistic Introduction

 Timeline for this item

Islamic Dynasties / Period

Umayyads of al-Andalus

On display in

MWNF Galleries

Calligraphy Ivory


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