Name of Object:

Ablutions basin

Location:

Madrid, Spain

Holding Museum:

National Archaeological Museum

Date:

Hegira 377 / AD 988

Type of object:

Basin, marble

Museum Inventory Number:

50428

Material(s) / Technique(s):

Carved marble.

Dimensions:

Height 68 cm, width 150 cm, depth 77 cm

Period / Dynasty:

Umayyads of al-Andalus, Caliphate period

Provenance:

The missing royal palace of Madinat al-Zahira (Córdoba), Spain.

Description:

This ablutions basin was discovered in pieces at the end of the 19th century in the centre of Seville. Restoration work has reconstructed the bands of inscriptions, as well as the decoration on three of its sides.
The front is decorated with three tri-lobed arches, framed by alfiz (frame) panels supported on columns. Each arch contains a plant sprouting leaves, palmettes, pinecones and intertwining stems. The space between the arch and the alfiz panel shows the same type of decoration, and the whole thing is framed by an inscribed strip.
The right-hand side shows a space divided vertically into three parts. The central area is undecorated, probably to allow space for the water to come out, and the other two sides show similar scenes: eagles, seizing deer with their talons, bear two lions face to face on their outspread wings, while beneath them two griffins facing each other complete the scene. This iconography, of Sassanid origin, refers to power, abundance and eternity.
Only the inscribed band is preserved from the third side, a strip with ducks and fishes, and, underneath it, the remains of a lion attacking a deer.
We know from the inscription that this basin was commissioned for the mosque of the royal palace of al-Zahira on the orders of al-Mansur, prime minister and favourite of Hisham II, who was still a child when he became Caliph in AH 366 / AD 976, following the death of his father al-Hakam II. The unstoppable rise to power of al-Mansur started shortly after the accession of Hisham II. With the intention of establishing a parallel dynasty to the legal Umayyad one, al-Mansur built a palatine city called Madinat al-Zahira. This new city, rival to Madinat al-Zahra, was in the eastern part of Córdoba, but limited material remains have survived to the present day. The city was burnt to the ground in AH 399 / AD 1009.

View Short Description

How date and origin were established:

The inscription in kufic lettering says: '…Almanzor Abi Amir Muhammad ben Abi Amir and glory to God. [This was] ordered to be made for the royal palace of al-Zahira and was finished with the help and assistance of God under the direction of the great Amiri Fata in the year seven seventy and three hundred'. Consequently, the basin has been dated to 377 / 988.

How Object was obtained:

The basin arrived at the National Archaeological Museum in stages. The two most important parts, the front and part of one of the sides, were bought on 22 November 1882. Another fragment arrived in 1923. Finally, on 30 July 1930, the last piece arrived from the Provincial Archaeological Museum of Seville.

How provenance was established:

There are two other basins attributable to the same period and place, one of which can be found in the Alhambra Museum, Grenada, and the other in Marrakesh (Morocco). This latter was made for ‘Abd al-Malik, son of Al-Mansur. The three pieces have similar decorations of eastern origin on one of their sides.

Selected bibliography:

Ewert, C. et al., “Denkmaler des Islam”, Hispania Antiqua, 1997, p.176.
Lévi-Provençal, E., Inscriptions Arabes d'Espagne, Paris, 1931, p.194.
Revilla Vielva, R., Catálogo de las Antigüedades que Se Conservan en el Patio árabe del Museo Arqueológico Nacional, Madrid, 1932, p.77.
Torres Balbás, L., “España Musulmana Hasta la Caída del Califato de Córdoba (711–1031)”, in Historia de España, dir. Menéndez Pidal, Vol. 5, Madrid, 1957, p.718.
Zozaya, J., “Antigüedades Andalusíes de los Siglos VIII al XV”, in Guía General del Museo Arqueológico Nacional, Vol. II, Madrid, 1991, p.66.

Citation of this web page:

Margarita Sánchez Llorente "Ablutions basin" in Discover Islamic Art , Museum With No Frontiers, 2017. http://www.museumwnf.org/thematicgallery/thg_galleries/database_item.php?itemId=objects;ISL;es;Mus01;5;en&id=religious_life

Prepared by: Margarita Sánchez LlorenteMargarita Sánchez Llorente

Margarita Sánchez Llorente cursó estudios de Historia del Arte y Psicología en la facultad de Filosofía y Letras de la Universidad Complutense de Madrid, obteniendo la licenciatura en 1974.Tras realizar numerosos cursos de posgrado en museología y documentación del patrimonio histórico-artístico y arqueológico, le fueron concedidas varias becas de investigación en museística. De 1989 a 2000 trabajó en el Museo Arqueológico Nacional, en la gestión y documentación de los proyectos de la Unión Europea: EMN (European Museum Network), RAMA (Remote Access to Museum Archives) y –como colaboradora del departamento de Antigüedades Egipcias y del Próximo Oriente– Champollion. Ha participado en numerosos coloquios y encuentros internacionales y publicado varios artículos sobre las nuevas tecnologías aplicadas a la documentación en los museos.

Copyedited by: Rosalía AllerRosalía Aller

Rosalía Aller Maisonnave, licenciada en Letras (Universidad Católica del Uruguay), y en Filología Hispánica y magíster en Gestión Cultural de Música, Teatro y Danza (Universidad Complutense de Madrid), ha obtenido becas de la Agencia Española de Cooperación Internacional y la Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia de Madrid, así como el Diplôme de Langue Française (Alliance Française), el Certificate of Proficiency in English (University of Cambridge) y el Certificado Superior en inglés y francés (Escuela Oficial de Idiomas de Madrid). Profesora de Estética de la Poesía y Teoría Literaria en la Universidad Católica del Uruguay, actualmente es docente de Lengua Castellana y Literatura en institutos de Enseñanza Secundaria y formación del profesorado en Madrid. Desde 1983, ha realizado traducción y edición de textos en Automated Training Systems, Applied Learning International, Videobanco Formación y El Derecho Editores. Integra el equipo de Museo Sin Fronteras desde 1999 y ha colaborado en la revisión de los catálogos de “El Arte Islámico en el Mediterráneo”. Así mismo, ha realizado publicaciones sobre temas literarios y didácticos, ha dictado conferencias y ha participado en recitales poéticos.

Translation by: Laurence Nunny
Translation copyedited by: Monica Allen

MWNF Working Number: SP 08