A Magnificent Ivory Veneered Jewellery Casket Decorated With Engraved Ivory Panels, Gold & Silver Inlay, Gold Damascened Steel, Parcel-Gilt Silver Partitions & Enamelled Medallions, Kubachi, The Caucuses, Circa 18-19th Century.

This exceptionally rare masterpiece was most likely made and achieved by either the collaboration of different artists or by a comprehensive or versatile artist who could master various fields of Islamic fine arts such as carpentry (by physically making the body of the box), blacksmithing (by making all iron panels including the lock and key), Ivory carvings (by making various small geometric panels including the making of stylised stained green ivory small pieces to create a Jade or turquoise stone like effect), engraving (by finely engraving all the small ivory panels with floral and arabesque designs), gold and silversmithing (by making all various gold and silver parts including the overlaying techniques of gold sheets and silver wires in the finely engraved ivory panels also the gold and silver overlaid work on steel), a jeweller and an enameller (by making the very fine colourful enamelled pieces).
The artist who had created this beautiful and rare piece must have had great knowledge and insight to early fine Islamic works of art that were made in previous Islamic eras and more importantly they had a wide understanding of Islamic Art history in different parts of the Islamic world especially arts from the Mamluks, Timurids, Ottomans, Safavids, Mughals, Zands and probably Qajar Empires.
The artist was also trying to show off their confidence, unique talent and amazing test by applying various complex techniques of Islamic art and showcasing them together all in one piece.
This unique piece was probably made by a master and was commissioned or made for royalty or an individual of extreme wealth and power.
In the Islamic world, the making of fine objects such as caskets and boxes etc. that are made from expensive and rare materials like gold, silver and ivory is quite rare and can be narrowed down to the few elite in the Muslim society.
Throughout Islamic Art history and it’s vast terrain, solid or veneered ivory caskets are extremely rare and only few of them have actually survived due to their fragility and the maintenance needed to keep them safe for extreme hot and dry weather conditions can make them disintegrate.

In the Islamic world there were very few major centres of making ivory objects and other carved and engraved ivory pieces, that were mainly used for wood and furniture ivory inlaid decorations.
Ivory boxes were very fashionable during the Fatimid period therefore reasonable quantities of fine ivory boxes were produced in Egypt and Southern Italy-Sicily. Another important source of making fine Islamic ivory boxes was Andalucía or Muslim-Spain, therefore, extremely high quality of Islamic ivory boxes was produced during the Umayyad reign in Spain, also in India and during the Deccan and the Mughal empires. India was a major and important centre in producing exceptionally intricate and very high quality Islamic ivory artefacts.

Meanwhile, the making of fine Islamic boxes including other artifacts that were made out of ivory with Islamic taste in other parts of the Islamic world are really scarce.

Below are some examples and references to a number of different Islamic dynasties and locations where fine Islamic ivory boxes and other ivory artifacts were made, and also including other materials and artifacts that require similar techniques and necessary expertise during their production e.g. Jade,

1- (1-A) Examples of fine Islamic ivory boxes and other ivory carvings that were produced in the very early Islamic period and during the Umayyad dynasty in the eighth and ninth centuries, please see the carved ivory lidded box which was probably made in Syria or Egypt during the Umayyad period, lot exhibited at the Victoria And Albert Museum, the Islamic Middle East Room 42, The Jameel Gallery case WE6, Lot No. 136-1866.

(1-B) Also please see the carved ivory and bone fragments exhibited at the Benaki Museum, A guide to The Museum of Islamic Art, Athens, 2006, ISBN 960-8347-36-X, lot Nos. 10411 & 10413 exhibited in page 36.

2- (2-A) Examples of fine Islamic ivory boxes and other ivory carvings that were produced during the Fatimid dynasty in the tenth century, please see the Ivory casket that was made in Sicily exhibited at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, lot illustrated at Palace And Mosques, Islamic Art From The Middle East, Tim Stanley with Mariam Rosser-Owen and Stephan Vernoit, the V&A Publications, 2004, ISBN 1 85177 430 0, catalogued lot No. 129, 130 & 131 pages 114 & 115.

(2-B) Also please see the magnificent carved ivory plaques or panels catalogued in Cairo To Kabul, Afghan and Islamic Studies, Presented to Ralph Pinder-Wilson, Edited by Warwick Ball and Leonard Harrow, Melisende London, 2002, ISBN 1 901764 12 5, plates Nos. 26.1-2&3 catalogued on pages 251-252.

3- (3-A) Examples of fine Islamic ivory boxes and other ivory carvings that were produced during the Umayyad dynasty in Andalusia or during the Muslim reign in Spain please see the Moorish Ivory Pyxis and caskets that were made in Andalucía (Muslim Spain), exhibited at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, Please see Palace And Mosques, Islamic Art From The Middle East, Tim Stanley with Mariam Rosser-Owen and Stephan Vernoit, V&A Publications, 2004, ISBN 1 85177 430 0 catalogued lot Nos. 92, 93, 94, 95 & 96 pages71-81.

(3-B) Also please see the various masterpieces illustrated in the Journal of The David Collection Volumes 2,1 & 2,2, edited by Kjeld Von Folsach and Joachim Meyer, Copenhagen 2005.

4- Examples of fine Islamic ivory boxes and other ivory carvings that were produced during the Mamluk dynasty in Egypt and Syria (1250-1517AD.), please see the Carved Ivory Pyxis, exhibited at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, lot catalogued at Palace And Mosques, Islamic Art From The Middle East, by Tim Stanley with Mariam Rosser-Owen and Stephan Vernoit, the V&A Publications, 2004, ISBN 1 85177 430 0, catalogued lot No. 153 page 128 (this ivory pyxis is debatable about it’s real origin! for there is another similar complete example with additional silver mounts in a Spanish collection that some other authors think it could be made in Muslim Spain!).

5- Examples of fine Islamic carvings on other materials such as jade which were produced during the Timurid dynasty, please see the wine jade cup with gold inlaid decorations, illustrated in The Art Of Adornment, The Nasser D. Khalili Collection of Islamic Art, Volume XVII, Jewellery of the Islamic Lands, part Two, By Michael Spink, The Nour Foundation, 2013, please see figure No. 45 page 514, and the very similar jade carvings and gold inlay techniques used in the making of the Jade cup, please see lots exhibited on pages 600 & 604. Notice: (The reason why we chose this non ivory item because Timurid Ivory artifacts are exceptionally rare, also we suggest that both the jade cup and our Ivory casket could have originated from the same location but two different periods, also the idea and technique used in carving the jade cup including the gold overlay is similar to our casket).

6- (6-A) Examples of fine Ottoman ivory carvings made during the Ottoman dynasty, please see the very similar ivory carvings with fine engraved gold inlay of what we think could possibly be the earliest surviving example that could have inspired the artist to make our current piece in terms of the materials used, techniques and decorations. Please see the magnificent 16th century Jeweled Ivory Belt, exhibited at the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art, AKBANK, Akbank cultural and art publications, 2002, ISBN 975 7880-21-3, lot catalogued exhibited in page 261.

(6-B) Examples of fine ivory carvings made For another very similar ottoman examples of engraved and gold inlaid ivory decoration please see the early 17th century ottoman ivory comb illustrated in Harem, by Nurhan Atasoy, the Bilkent Kultur Girisimi Publications, 2011, ISBN 978-605-5495-06-0, catalogued in page 117.
Also please see the 18th century silk-velvet fabric belt with pierced ivory buckle decorated with rubies, emeralds and lapis lazuli and exhibited in pages 88 & 89, also see the very similar technique used in the making of the similar enameled metal decoration

(6-C) Examples of fine ivory carvings please see the magnificent ivory carvings used to decorate an important Quran binding lot catalogued in Splendors of the Ottoman Sultans, by Dr Nurhan Atasoy and Dr Tulay Artan, presented by wonders, Turkey, 1992. Lot exhibited in pages 136 & 137.
Also please see the 16th century gold overlay on ivory decoration used in the making of the magnificent sword handle made for Sultan Suleiman the magnificent, lot exhibited in page 117.
Also notice the same techniques used but to decorate jade instead of ivory please see the 16th century gold and jade bookbinding exhibited on pages 70&71.
Also please see the same techniques used to decorate other materials such as the 16th century jeweled zinc jug (Tutaya) exhibited on pages 74 & 75.
Also see the same technique used to decorate what could resemble ivory, replicated using White Chinese Porcelain with polished and decorated rock crystal lid catalogued on pages 80 & 81,
Also notice the magnificent carved ivory mirror exhibited in page 198.

(6-D) Examples of fine Ottoman ivory carvings with inlaid gold decoration made during the 16th century please see the 16th century magnificent Yatagan handle illustrated in Islamic Arms and Armor In The Metropolitan Museum Of Art, By David G. Alexander, with contribution by Stuart W. Pyhrr and Will Kwiatkowski, distributed by Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2015, ISBN 978-1-58839-570-2, lot No. 57 catalogued in page 152 -154, also for creating the jade or turquoise colour effect please notice the deeply carved and green stained ivory handle of lot No. 76 exhibited in pages 196-198.

(6-E) for similar craftsmanship but on a much smaller scale, please see the sold ivory box, sold at Sotheby’s The Turkish Sale, London, 16th October 1998, lot 24 page 12.

7- (7-A) Examples of fine ivory carvings made during the Safavid dynasty in 17th century, please see the similar ivory carvings on the handle of our Safavid ivory dagger, lot No. 289.
http://www.aljantiques.com/new-items/october-2017/safavid-dagger-a-fine-carved-ivory-hilted-single-edged-watered-steel-jawher-blade-with-gold-damascene-inlay-persia-circa-17th-century.html
Also for another very similar ivory carving in comparison to our present lot, please see the identical techniques and decoration used to decorate the 17th century ivory dagger handle including the same designs and gold overlaid decorations on both the ivory handle and the steel flower shaped stud, lot illustrated on the Arms and Armour from Iran, By Manouchehr Moshtagh Khorasani, The Bronze Age To The End Of The Qajar Period, Legat, 2006, lot No. 236 catalogued on page 602.

(7-B) For a very similar craftsmanship and technique made during the Qajar dynasty, please see the (C. 1800-1850 AD.) carved and gold inlaid mother-of-pearl comb, this comb is a part of 27 pieces tools set exhibited at the Victoria And Albert Museum, the Islamic Middle East Room 42, The Jameel Gallery, Lot No. 5, W.87: 4 to 30-1929.

8- (8-A) Examples of fine Islamic ivory boxes and other ivory carvings that were produced during the Mughal dynasty in the sixteenth century up to the mid of the nineteenth century when the Mughal empire was ended in 1856 AD, by deposing the last Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah II by the British.
Also the continuation of production of fine Islamic taste ivory carvings like boxes up to the beginning of the twentieth century (our next month collection will focus on some extremely fine Islamic taste ivory boxes that were produced in the 18th century up to the end of the nineteenth century in India).

(8-B) For a fine example of Islamic ivory boxes please see the 17th century Mughal carved ivory casket, exhibited at the Louvre Museum in Paris, please see Islamic Art At The Mussee Du Louvre, Louvre editions, edited by Sophie Makariou, Hazan, 2012, ISBN 978-2-75410-636-8, Lot No. 186 page 316.

9- (9-A) Examples of fine ivory carvings made in Central-Asia and the Caucuses (where we think our present casket could have originated from)
For fine ivory carvings with gold and silver overlaid decorations please see the Art of Kubachi, the book was published in Russian language in Leningrad, Published by Khudozhnik Rsfsr in 1976. Please see the similar technique used in making the gold overlaid on ivory with similar gilt silver mounts of the sword and scabbard lot No. 99, also notice lot Nos. 100,101, 102, 103 &104.

(9-B) For another similar gold and carved ivory decoration please see
Arms and armor of the Caucasus, by Kirill Rivkin, ISBN 978-0-692-49481-3 Printed in the USA, 2015, please see a very similar technique used in the making of the 1830s Tblilisi Kindjal exhibited in the Wallace Collection, London, figures 151 & 198 catalogued on pages 289& 288-289, also for jade or turquoise stone effect please see the green stained ivory handle in figure 155 exhibited on page 251 also see the shagreen leather used in figure 206 exhibited on page 295.

(9-C) For another Central Asian masterpiece but to a different subject with other versatile techniques and the usage of various materials, please see
Beyond the Palace Walls, Islamic Art From The State Hermitage Museum, Islamic Art in a World Context, edited by Mikhail B. Piotrovsky and Anton D. Pritula, The National Museums Of Scotland, 2006, ISBN 978 1 905267 04 0, Pleas see the magnificent Bukhara Nielloed dish lot No. 221 exhibited on page 218.

(9-D) For other similar Kindjals that have similar carved ivory with gold and silver inlaid decorations including staining the ivory to bring the jade or turquoise stone effect please see
Searching for lost Relics by Isa Askhabove, Khamzat Askhabov, Cultural Heritage, 2016, ISBN 978-5-4444-5509-8.
Lots exhibited on Pages 52, 53, 108, 109, 206, 385, 359, 371& 377.

(9-E) For similar jade or turquoise stone effect please sees the green stained ivory Kindjal handles exhibited on pages 175, 168, 175, 194.


The fine rosettes shaped enameled metal fitted at the front and rear side of the casket has a clear influence of other similar Islamic metal enameling centres such as the Ottoman Empire (Turkey), Persia or India.

For similar ottoman metal enameling techniques please see the above (5-B), the 18th century silk velvet fabric belt with fine pierced ivory buckle decorated with rubies, emerald and lapis lazuli stones also with enameled gold decoration, please see: Harem, by Nurhan Atasoy, the Bilkent Kultur Girisimi Publications, 2011, ISBN 978-605-5495-06-0, lot illustrated in pages 88 & 89.

In India Similar types of metal enameling or what is known as the pink enamel (Gulabi Mena) is opaque (non-transparent enameling in comparing with the champlevé clear enameling), which was very popular during the eighteen and the nineteenth centuries in Benares-India. Please see Handcrafted Indian Enamel Jewellery, by Rita Devi Sharma & M. Varadarajan lot exhibited in pages 46 &47.

Examples of similar metal enameling techniques from Persia during the Zand And Qajar Dynasties please see the possibly 18th century Iranian dagger exhibited in Later Islamic Jewellery by L. A, Mayer Memorial Institute for Islamic Art, Jerusalem, 1987, lot No. 219 exhibited on page 150. For another 18th-19th century similar either Zand or Qajar dynasties enameling decorations please see the fully enameled Zand or Qajar Dagger lot No. 88 exhibited on pages 220-221.

Also please see the engraved ivory dance card also decorated with enameled gold panels (this piece has some shared elements with our lot, Ivory and enamel metal decorations), illustrated in The Art Of Adornment, The Nasser D. Khalili Collection of Islamic Art, Volume XVII, Jewellery of the Islamic Lands, part Two, By Michael Spink, The Nour Foundation 2013, lot No. 525 exhibited on page 629.

Also please notice lot Nos. 525 & 481 exhibited on pages 629, for very similar flower decorations to our present lot please see lot Nos. 487 & 488 exhibited on pages 600 & 604.

Condition: Very Good (the tarnish of both gilt-silver mounts and steel, some missing nails and the fabric linings are worn out).

Dimensions:

Width 28.5 cm.
Height 14 cm.
Depth 17.6 cm.
  • Identification Number: 298


A Magnificent Ivory Veneered Jewellery Casket Decorated With Engraved Ivory Panels, Gold & Silver Inlay, Gold Damascened Steel, Parcel-Gilt Silver Partitions & Enamelled Medallions, Kubachi, The Caucuses, Circa 18-19th Century.

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