Ivory gilded in Bronze
The David Collection from Park Museerne
This ivory casket is part of the carved ivory tradition witnessed in the Umayyad court in Cordoba. Created around c. 966-968, this carved casket is made from an elephant’s tusk and is gilded in bronze. This casket departs from the medallion design of many other caskets of the time and, instead, utilizes the entire side to illustrate figural scenes. Today, this piece belongs to The David Collection from the Park Museerne.
The scenes that surround the box reference various aspects of the princely court. The front panel of the box depicts a scene of two huntsmen on horses preying on a small gazelle. The huntsmen face each other and point their spears down at the gazelle. The back panel uses recurring motifs of the princely court: imagery of a lion attacking a gazelle, as well as images of falcons. Additionally, both side panels depict symmetrical images of animals facing each other. For example, on one side panel, two hybrid animals containing both lion and falcon characteristics look and mirror each other along the vertical axis. The remaining side of the box depicts a repeating set of four falcons arranged around the central, vertical axis of the panel.
Additionally, the lid contains the recurring animal imagery of deer, gazelles, and falcons. The decoration of the lid is also notably organized around the vertical axis. Ultimately, it uses the animate imagery to relate the piece to the princely pastimes. Scholars from Perk Museerne also suggest that there may have also been an Arabic inscription surrounding the lid. This may have included the patron of the casket, however, it no longer exists because of the casket’s eventual modification in the Christian Middle Ages.