Ivory casket

Ivory casket

Ivory casket
About 962
Spain, probably Madinat al-Zahra'
Museum no. A.580-1910

This ivory casket was made for a daughter of the caliph Abd al-Rahman III (reigned 912-61). This great ruler wished to create an imperial power centred in Córdoba, and to demonstrate this aspiration, he constructed an enormous palace city outside Córdoba, which he called al-Madinat al-Zahra, 'the shining city'. He was also a great patron of the luxury arts, and created an ivory-carving industry which was based at the palace. The scrolling decoration of leaves and flowers on this casket resembles that on the walls of his throne room. Caskets like this, carved from solid blocks of ivory, were probably used to store precious possessions, like jewellery or perfumes.