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Home > Auctions > 19th June 2013 > Islamic Umayyad Marble Water Basin

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LOT 0932

Sold for (Inc. bp): £7,260

12 1/2" (27 kg, 32 cm).

A carved marble water basin, octagonal in plan with scooped recess beneath the rim, circular recess with drainage hole; the outer faces each with a carved foliage panel, one with animal-head spout.

From an English collection, by gift from Jan Adler in 1980; by bequest from the Eric Adler collection, Brighton, UK, in the 1950s.

Basins of this type may have been used to contain water used for ritual cleansing before prayers, or in a Maristan (foundation hospital). They may also have served an ornamental purpose, decorating gardens and courtyards. The vessel would have been filled from a fountain and placed prominently, raised on a pedestal. During the reigns of Abd-al Rahman III (who ruled as prince from 912 and caliph between 929-961) and his son Al-Hakam II (caliph between 961-976), the caliphate of Cordoba, in al-Andalus (Islamic Spain) enjoyed a period of prosperity and relative peace. Cordoba's magnificent Great Mosque was expanded during this period, and the Madinat Al-Zahra ('Beautiful Town') - a lavish palace and the hub of government and commerce - was constructed, famed for its intricate architecture and superb public artworks. The quality of stonework at Madinat Al-Zahra is particularly noteworthy, and, in its intricacy, the design of this basin is reminiscent of some of Al-Zahra's finest surviving architectural sculpture. The crispness and near-symmetry of the design likewise recalls contemporary work in ivory, particularly the famed ivory boxes of the period.