Zamora Pyxis

Bote de Zamora Pulse para ampliar Bote de Zamora. Sala 23, vitrina 23.15

Palace workshops

This cylindrical box is one of the loveliest examples of the ivory carving practised by Hispano-Islamic craftsmen at the palace workshop of Madinat al-Zahra (Córdoba) in the second half of the 10th century. The inscription carved in elegant Kufic script around the rim of the lid tells us that it was a gift commissioned by Caliph Al-Hakam II for his favourite Subh, under the supervision of a high-ranking civil servant named Durri as-Saghir. Subh, a Vascon from northern Spain by birth, was one of the most influential women in Umayyad Córdoba and mother of the future caliph Hisham II. The decorative programme of stylised trees, palms, stalks, leaves, buds and flowers, interspersed with affronted pairs of peacocks, doves and fawns, recreates the palace gardens and was therefore an appropriate choice for the intended recipient of this piece. Boxes like this one were exotic, exclusive objects reserved for the caliph’s family and high-ranking government officials, and were used to hold jewellery and perfumes. The Christians admired them so much that they were often reused as reliquaries at monasteries or cathedrals.