Thursday, December 2, 2010

Cultural Season 16: Ivory

This Cultural Season's theme is dedicated to ivory from Islamic lands. The brochure for CS16 has images of several ivory pieces from The al-Sabah Collection.  

Ivory was considered a very valuable and luxurious commodity. Early craftsmen mostly used elephant ivory from East Africa.

If you have a copy of CS16’s brochure, have you wondered what the ivory object on the cover was?

This ivory piece is part of a sword hilt—the grip. It dates to the 14th century from Spain. It is elephant ivory and is carved and decorated with inscriptions and arabesques. Throughout the Muslim world, there was a unity in style of Islamic ivory work; from Spain and Sicily in Europe, to the Near East. Geometry and perfect symmetry were important elements. This is evident in the vegetal designs and organic patterns in this particular object [1].
Images: [1]
This sword grip is hollow and the ornamented section is thicker than the rest of the object. The sizes of ivory objects were limited because of the nature of this material. Judging from the cover image you wouldn’t be able to guess the size of this ivory piece. But this sword grip is 10.00 cm in length, and the width is 4.00 cm. 

Images: [2] An example of another sword with an ivory hilt; also from The al-Sabah Collection.

Even after the fall of the Arab rule in Cordoba, carved ivory remained popular in Spain to the 14th century.  That period of Arab rule had a great influence on craft traditions in that region.

-Dar al-Athar al-Islamiyyah's Cultural Season 16 Brochure.
-The al-Sabah Collection's Database. 
[1] "Ivory: A History and Collector's Guide", (London: Thames and Hudson Ltd., 1987), 190. 

[1] LNS 20 I from The al-Sabah Collection, carved elephant ivory grip from the hilt of a sword with pious inscriptions. probably Granada, Spain, 8th century AH/14th century AD.  
[2] LNS 37 I from The al-Sabah Collection, carved from walrus ivory; inlaid with gold. length 110 mm; width 39 mm. probably Deccan, Bijapur, dated AH 1044/AD 1634. 


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