Lot 6
  • 6

Siculo-Arabic, 12th century

50,000 - 70,000 GBP
139,250 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Casket
  • ivory with polychromed engraved decoration and gilt copper mounts, with later ivory legs and wooden underside, the interior lined with red fabric

  • 12.8 by 24.5 by 13.4cm., 5 1/8 by 9 5/8 by 5¼in.
with a label inscribed: Pierre Bérès, Paris on the underside


By repute the treasury of the Abbey of Grandmont, near Limoges, until circa 1790;
Baron Alphonse James de Rothschild, Paris, until circa 1905;
Pierre Bérès, Paris, circa 1932;
Private collection, France;
Alain Moatti, Paris

Catalogue Note

According to tradition, Pierre Bérès believed that this object was once part of the treasury in the Abbey of Grandmont. The abbey was founded by St. Etienne de Muret in 1076 but was closed in 1790 by the Bishop of Limoges, Mgr. du Plessis d'Argentré. The treasury was probably dispersed on that occasion. Koechlin (op.cit.) notes that the 1496 inventory of the treasury at Grandmont  mentions eight ivory caskets, each mounted in brass and painted with little birds, and supposes these must be Siculo-Arabic.

These caskets are believed to have been made in Palermo by Muslim craftsmen during the 12th-century Norman occupation. The tear-shaped mounts act both as highly decorative features of the whole and as supports for the delicate and fragile ivory walls. The small ring and dot motifs that feature at intervals around the casket in the form of small cruciform repeat patterns can also be found on chess pieces and other ivory objects dated to 11th- and 12th-century Sicily.

An analagous casket was sold in these rooms on 7 December 2010, lot 1. Another example was also sold at Sotheby's on 9 April 2008, lot 83. Other Siculo-Arabic caskets can be found in major institutions including the Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore (inv. no. 71.310) and the Doha Museum (inv. no. iv.03.97).

R. Koechlin, Les ivoires gothiques français, Paris, 1924, vol. I, p. 473, n. 2; R. H. Randall Jr, Masterpieces of Ivory From the Walters Art Gallery, London, 1985, no. 232, pp. 158-159; M. Rosser-Owen, Ivory. 8th to 17th centuries. Treasures from the Museum of Islamic Art, Qatar, Doha, 2004, no. 5, pp. 24-29