On view at The Met Cloisters in Gallery 14

This exquisitely carved cylindrical box is believed to be one of the most accomplished works of a master from the palace of the Umayyad caliph ‘Abd al-Rahman III (r. 912–61), who ruled most of the Iberian peninsula. To judge from other examples, the missing domed lid of this box likely had an inscription giving the owner’s name and the date. Islamic pyxides, known as ushnan in Arabic, were exclusively secular and were used to store jewelry and cosmetics. The incorporation of birds, lions, and gazelles amid richly carved vine scrolls is typical of dense symmetrical Islamic design, which, in turn, influenced the decoration of European Romanesque ivories and manuscripts.

#135. Pyxis

Pyxis, Elephant ivory, Spanish

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