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HOME : Islamic Art : AS Collection 4 : Fatimid Rock Crystal Sculpture of a Bird
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Fatimid Rock Crystal Sculpture of a Bird - OF.074
Origin: Egypt
Circa: 1000 AD to 1100 AD
Dimensions: 3.1" (7.9cm) high x 2.65" (6.7cm) wide
Collection: Islamic Art
Style: Fatimid
Medium: Rock Crystal

Additional Information: AS

Location: Great Britain
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Sizeable statuette of a bird carved from single strain of rock crystal; a tendency for abstraction rather than naturalistic representation is attested by the simple and angular shape of the head and body; prominent triangular cleft to the forehead angulates the head, a hint of naturalism in the form of an incised At the height of their power, the Fatimid Caliphate ruled much of the Islamic world, including North Africa, Egypt and Syria from their capital in Cairo between tenth and twelfth centuries. A Shi’ite splinter group, the Fatimids claimed to be descended from Fatima, daughter of the Prophet and wife of Ali. Rock crystal is the purest form of quartz. Al Biruni tells us “it is the most precious of stones. Its worth lies in its clarity, and in being like a combination of two of the four elements: air and water.” The ancient sources offer a wide range of sources of supply of rock crystal and decided opinions about variations in quality and also reference to two widely separated centres, Basra and Cairo, for the working of rock crystal during 10th and 11th centuries. Because of its purity, beauty and permanence, rock crystal had been fashioned into objects of particular rarity since classical times. Just under 180 carved rock crystals of the early Islamic period have survived, a large number of them from the period between the ninth and eleventh centuries. The majority was fashioned as containers of various forms, while smaller pieces were worked as small animals (sometimes transformed into chess pieces), pendants and beads, amulets and seals. An ewer in the treasury of San Marco represents a pinnacle of artistic achievement, and the outstanding skills of the Egyptian craftsmen who produced it in the last quarter of the 10th century, at the same time this piece was produced. In the Cairo bazaar we can infer that there was certainly commercial workshops producing for the open market. Nevertheless has been carved by a steady hand with a thorough understanding of the fracture planes of the mineral. - (OF.074)


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