Name of Object:

Human head

Location:

Raqqada, Kairouan, Tunisia

Holding Museum:

Museum of Islamic Art

Date:

Hegira, mid-4th–mid-5th centuries / AD 10th–11th centuries

Type of object:

Human head, plaster

Museum Inventory Number:

STC (61)

Material(s) / Technique(s):

Carved plaster.

Dimensions:

Height 16 cm, width 12 cm, thickness 7 cm

Period / Dynasty:

Fatimid–Zirid

Provenance:

Sabra al-Mansuriyya.

Description:

Face of a man in his prime. A part of the head and the right side of the face are damaged. The man wears a moustache and a very full beard. The curls of his beard end in circular, shell-like orifices. The iris of the eye is indicated by a fragment of iridescent glass, ovoid in shape. This work has its roots in an ancient North African tradition. It brings to mind numerous stelae dedicated particularly to Saturn, which share the frontal aspect, the beard and the importance accorded to the eyes. However, the statue does bear a strong resemblance to the bas-relief of the prince and the musician found at Mahdiyya. The face appears Oriental but the absence of clothing obviates any definite conclusions.

View Short Description

How date and origin were established:

This stucco head was found, among other human and animal carvings, in the excavations carried out at Sabra al-Mansuriyya in 1978. It was found in a very ploughed-up area with no clear archaeological layering. The objects were scattered around in a random manner. One has the impression that someone had tried to eradicate or hide these figurative objects for no obvious reason except that there could be a connection with the changing religious mentality in Ifriqiya. This action could indeed coincide with the persecution of the Shi'ites during the troubles in 407 / 1016 or following the split between the Zirid emirate and the Fatimid caliphate in 440 / 1048–9. This date could be a terminus post quem. The terminus ante quem is just after the founding of Sabra in 337 / 948. Any further precision is rendered impossible due to the lack of a definite archaeological layer.

How Object was obtained:

After its discovery at Sabra al-Mansuriyya, this piece was placed in the site storehouse. It was acquired in 1992 by the Museum at Raqqada. It will be displayed in the second section of the Museum, currently under construction.

How provenance was established:

The manufacture of these objects, which is unique in Ifriqiya and in the Maghreb, appears to have taken place in Sabra al-Mansuriyya and to have been commissioned by the Shi'ites.

Selected bibliography:

30 ans au service du patrimoine (exhibition catalogue), Tunis, 1986, p.258.
Tunez, Tierra de Culturas (exhibition catalogue), Valencia, 2004, p.220.

Citation of this web page:

Mourad Rammah "Human head" in Discover Islamic Art , Museum With No Frontiers, 2018. http://www.museumwnf.org/thematicgallery/thg_galleries/database_item.php?itemId=objects;ISL;tn;Mus01;39;en&id=sculptures

Prepared by: Mourad RammahMourad Rammah

Né en 1953 à Kairouan, docteur en archéologie islamique, Mourad Rammah est le conservateur de la médina de Kairouan. Lauréat du prix Agha Khan d'architecture, il publie divers articles sur l'histoire de l'archéologie médiévale islamique en Tunisie et participe à différentes expositions sur l'architecture islamique. De 1982 à 1994, il est en charge du département de muséographie du Centre des arts et des civilisations islamiques. Mourad Rammah est également directeur du Centre des manuscrits de Kairouan.

Copyedited by: Margot Cortez
Translation by: David Ash
Translation copyedited by: Mandi Gomez

MWNF Working Number: TN 62