Pair of Islamic Marble Umayyad Capitals

Islamic · Caliphate period, Spanish Umayyads, 10th century A.D.

Material

Marble

Dimensions

H: 29 cm

Dia: 34 cm

Reference

8220

Price

$200,000

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Overview

H: 29 cm – W: 30 cm – D: 34 cm
H: 28 cm – W: 29 cm – D: 33 cm

Capital I
Second half of the 10th century The capital is of the mixed Corinthian order. It is composed of a column richly ornamented with fl at decoration carved using a drill and of a flowered abacus terminating at the corners with a foliate scrolled finial. The capital shows traces of external wear and meticulous restorations from the late 19th – early 20th century. The two rear volutes were abraded, probably when this architectural element was reused. The base of the column is truncated, but it was carefully cleaned.
The ornamentation of the column essentially consists of long leaves formed by geometrically arranged foliage. Long stems cover the body and spread out under the abacus. They radiate from a group of foliate scrolls adorning the lower register, whose motif is partially truncated. Five-petaled flowers are placed in an arabesque pattern under a frieze composed of square beads and lozenges.
The abacus has two registers. The first one is decorated with foliage and stylized flowers surrounding a leafy finial. The finial is missing on three sides of the capital.
The second row is covered with a fragmentary Arabic inscription in relief. Inscriptions placed on Umayyad capitals are generally dedications containing the name of the commissioner with a votive formula. Sometimes the sculptor or the architect carves his name in the stone. Here, the script slightly marked on the smooth and undecorated stone accentuates, by a very pure and architectural contrasting effect, the exuberance of the floral volutes.
The construction of the capital, the style and the decor are characteristic of capitals carved in Spain under the Umayyad caliphs of Cordoba. Our example can be related with those of the Great Mosque of Cordoba and of the city of Madinat al-Zahra constructed and embellished under the reigns of the first Umayyad caliph Abd al-Rahman III (912-961) and of his son and successor Al-Hakam II (961-976).
Our capital recalls the gorgeous capital of Madinat al-Zahra housed in the Al-Sabah collection (Kuwait National Museum). The dedication on the abacus allows us to date it with certainty to 972-973 (reign of Al-Hakam II). Although less stylized, richer and more refi ned, this capital displays many similarities with our example: the column adorned with leaves and covered with long stems, the frieze of beads and lozenges, the volutes decorated with four-petaled flowers, the foliage and the inscription on the abacus.
Yet, the exact same design on our capital can be seen on an example carved two centuries earlier in Spain (Ars Hispaniae, fi g. 60) under the Emir Abderrahman II (792-852).
This ornamental structure appears later on several capitals from the 10th century, forming a real category. There is, for instance, a capital from the second half of the 10th century, now in the cathedral of Pisa (perhaps a looted artifact from the sack of Almería in 1089). The name of a famous sculptor of Madinat al-Zahra, Fath, is inscribed on the plinth. The acanthus leaves are stylized in the extreme and turned into leaf-like ornaments carved in a geometric shape, like on our capital.
Other beautiful capitals coming from the Hall of Abd al-Rahman III at Madinat al-Zahra (961-970) also feature the same ornamental char-acteristics and the same decorative arrangement. Very refi ned and very complete, they are the greatest representatives of this group (les Andalousies de Damas à Cordoue, no. 81, p. 108; Ars Hispaniae, p. 85).
Finally, one can also mention a capital from the former collection of the Duke of Grimaldi (Christie’s London, 17 April 2007, lot 14). It refl ects a more primitive and more quickly executed artistry. It remains a good example of the style of the second half of the 10th century, probably imitating the extraordinary sculptures from the Hall of the Caliph.

Capital II

The second capital is of the mixed Corinthian order. The two rear volutes are missing and the base of the column is truncated. These changes were certainly made later in order to adapt the piece to a new architectural use. A good restoration from the late 19th or early 20th century consolidated the capital with a bronze tenon. A scroll was duplicated in white marble. The same changes were wrought on the first capital. This would indicate a symmetrical use of these two pieces, probably placed against a facade or in a doorway.
The decorative elements are pretty well preserved although the projections are worn (tips of the leaves, fi nials, volutes…). The decor was deeply carved using a drill, clearly marking the background motifs. The capital is composed of a richly decorated column, surmounted by a finial, by fl oral scrolls and by a narrow abacus.
The decor of the column is separated into two registers. The base is adorned with short chained stems that form, with the foliage surmount-ing them, sort of a stylized tapering leaf. Long “chained” stems cover the fi rst register and are surrounded, at their ends, by a characteristic “crowned comma” pattern.
The second register is composed of a crossed lyre-shaped pattern. The volutes are formed by a foliate stem that frames a quadrilobed flower nestled within the spiral.
The abacus is covered with a frieze of lozenges and with lines connected one to another. The pattern projects lightly from the mass of the stone and contrasts with the deeply carved lace of the rest of the capital.
The stylized treatment of the decor, the abstraction of the Corinthian acanthus leaf, the fl oral scrolls, the “crowned comma”, and the four-petaled fl ower or lyre-shaped patterns enable us to attribute this piece to the Spanish Umayyad architecture, more specifically to that of the great Caliphs of Cordoba from the 10th century (Abd al-Rahman III, 912-961, and his son Al-Hakam II, 961-976).
This capital can actually be related to those of Cordoba or of Madinat al-Zahra. The most beautiful capitals of this period are in the palace of Madinat al-Zahra and in the Great Mosque of Cordoba. The importance of these sites, as well as their high concentration of sculptors certainly favored an exchange of the patterns developed in the architecture of these major projects during the 10th century. The use of the four-petaled flower is therefore a typical feature of the capital’s decoration in the Caliphate period. It is also found in the foliage of the bell, of the abacus and in the hollow of the volutes in many architectural works.
As for our capital, the use of the ‘crowned comma’ pattern is quite rare. It appears however on a pilaster of the Salon Rico of Madinat al-Zahra (Ars Hispaniae, pp. 79, 81) where a large number of sculptors have worked. Their names are carved in the stone next to the caliph’s name: Bedr, Nasr, Fatah, Afl ah, Taric, Mohamed ben Saad, Said Alahmar, Rasic. This privilege indicates the prestige and importance of the site and of its sculptors under the Caliphate of Abd al-Rahman III. The ornaments and architectural models of this Hall must have greatly influenced the construction of palaces and monuments in Madinat al-Zahra, in Cordoba and other cities.

 

Condition

BERNUS-TAYLOR M., Les Andalousies de Damas à Cordoue, Paris, 2000, pp. 105-108, p. 195.
DODDS D. J., Al-Andalus, The Art of Islamic Spain, New York, 1992, pp. 241-247.
GABRIELI F. et al, Histoire et Civilisation de l’Islam en Europe, Arabes et Turcs en Occident du VIIe au XXe siècle, Verona 1983, p. 39.
GOLVIN L., Essai sur l’Architecture Religieuse Musulmane, L’art Hispano-Musulman, vol. 4, Paris, 1979, pp. 120-123, fi g. 32.
GÓMEZ-MORENO M., Ars Hispaniae, Historia Universal del Arte Hispanico, Arte Arabe Espanol Hasta Los Almohades, Arte Mozarabe, vol. 3, Madrid, 1951, pp. 54, 65, 81, 85.
GÓMEZ-MORENO M., Capiteles arabes documentados, in Al-Andalus, 6, 1941, pp. 422-427.
KÜHNEL ERNST, Omayadische Kapitelle aus Cordova, in Berliner Museen: Berichte aus den Preussischen Kunstansammlungen, 49, 1928, pp. 82-86. DOMÍNGUEZ PERELA E., Los capiteles hispanomusulmanes del Museo Lazaro Galdiano, in Goya, 163, 1981, pp. 2-11.
OCAÑA JIMÉNEZ M., Capiteles fechados del siglo X, in Al-Andalus, 5, 1940, pp. 437-449.
PAVÓN MALDONADO B., Memoria de la excavación de la mezquita de Madinat al-Zahra, in Excavaciones Arqueológicas en España, 50, Madrid, 1966. PAVÓN MALDONADO B., Nuevos capiteles hispano-musulmanes en Sevilla (contribución al corpus del capitel hispano-musulmán, in Al-Andalus 31, 1966, pp. 353-372.
PAVÓN MALDONADO B. – SASTRE F., Capitelles y cimacio de Medinat al-Zahra tras las ultimas excavaciones (hacia un corpus del capitel hispano-musulman), in Archivo Espanol de Arte, 42, 1969, pp. 155-183.
TORRES BALBÁS L., Arte califal, in España musulmana hasta la caída del Califato de Córdoba (711-1031 de J.C.). Vol. 5 de Historia de España, pp. 333-829, Madrid, 1957.

Provenance

Art market, prior to 1997;

German art market, acquired in 1997.

Bibliography

BERNUS-TAYLOR M., Les Andalousies de Damas à Cordoue, Paris, 2000, pp. 105-108, p. 195.
DODDS D. J., Al-Andalus, The Art of Islamic Spain, New York, 1992, pp. 241-247.
GABRIELI F. et al, Histoire et Civilisation de l’Islam en Europe, Arabes et Turcs en Occident du VIIe au XXe siècle, Verona 1983, p. 39.
GOLVIN L., Essai sur l’Architecture Religieuse Musulmane, L’art Hispano-Musulman, vol. 4, Paris, 1979, pp. 120-123, fi g. 32.
GÓMEZ-MORENO M., Ars Hispaniae, Historia Universal del Arte Hispanico, Arte Arabe Espanol Hasta Los Almohades, Arte Mozarabe, vol. 3, Madrid, 1951, pp. 54, 65, 81, 85.
GÓMEZ-MORENO M., Capiteles arabes documentados, in Al-Andalus, 6, 1941, pp. 422-427.
KÜHNEL ERNST, Omayadische Kapitelle aus Cordova, in Berliner Museen: Berichte aus den Preussischen Kunstansammlungen, 49, 1928, pp. 82-86. DOMÍNGUEZ PERELA E., Los capiteles hispanomusulmanes del Museo Lazaro Galdiano, in Goya, 163, 1981, pp. 2-11.
OCAÑA JIMÉNEZ M., Capiteles fechados del siglo X, in Al-Andalus, 5, 1940, pp. 437-449.
PAVÓN MALDONADO B., Memoria de la excavación de la mezquita de Madinat al-Zahra, in Excavaciones Arqueológicas en España, 50, Madrid, 1966. PAVÓN MALDONADO B., Nuevos capiteles hispano-musulmanes en Sevilla (contribución al corpus del capitel hispano-musulmán, in Al-Andalus 31, 1966, pp. 353-372.
PAVÓN MALDONADO B. – SASTRE F., Capitelles y cimacio de Medinat al-Zahra tras las ultimas excavaciones (hacia un corpus del capitel hispano-musulman), in Archivo Espanol de Arte, 42, 1969, pp. 155-183.
TORRES BALBÁS L., Arte califal, in España musulmana hasta la caída del Califato de Córdoba (711-1031 de J.C.). Vol. 5 de Historia de España, pp. 333-829, Madrid, 1957.