Exhibitions/ Art Object

Alabaster Capital

9th century
Made in Syria, Raqqa
10 5/8 x 11 7/16 x 11 7/16 in. (27 x 29 x 29 cm)
Credit Line:
Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin—Museum für Islamische Kunst, Berlin (I.2195)
Not on view
Raqqa, in north-central Syria, was important as a staging ground for attacks north into Byzantine lands. Harun al-Rashid (r. 786–809), in transferring his short-lived capital of the Abbasid dynasty there, enlarged the existing city extensively. Finely carved alabaster capitals from the site offer a glimpse of the luxury and taste of the ascendant Abbasid court. Their style reflects an important shift in the arts of the later Umayyad and early Abbasid periods from naturalistic to more abstract forms. Drawn from the classical and Byzantine tradition, this capital displays the new aesthetic in the stylization of its motifs.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Byzantium and Islam: Age of Transition (7th–9th Century)," March 12, 2012–July 8, 2012.