Exhibitions/ Art Object

Block Carved with Acanthus and Palmette

ca. 720–724
Made in Jordan, Qasr al-Qastal
Limestone, carved
32 x 17 1/2 x 32 in. (81.3 x 44.5 x 81.3 cm)
Credit Line:
Department of Antiquities, Qasr al-Qastal Archaeological Site, Jordan
Not on view
Qasr al-Qastal
Built in the badiya (border zone) marking the desert’s edge, Qasr al-Qastal is typical of the architectural patronage of Umayyad elites in its combination of palace retreat and vast tracks of cultivated land. The site is connected to the caliph Yazid II (r. 720–24) and his son Walid II (r. 743–44), who built several such palaces in neighboring areas in present-day Jordan. Qasr al-Qastal is noteworthy for its impressive palace structure. The compound’s mosque was located outside the palace precinct and includes one of the world’s earliest surviving minarets. A luxurious bathhouse was also built at the site and featured floors covered in figural mosaic.
Carving on two sides suggests this piece was meant to have adorned a cornice, with the rows of acanthus leaves viewed from below. While acanthus leaves and palmettes were widely used in Byzantine art, their stylized forms here recall Sasanian examples. Roof beams probably sprang from the top of the block, or the piece could have served as a base for a three-dimensional sculpture.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Byzantium and Islam: Age of Transition (7th–9th Century)," March 12, 2012–July 8, 2012.