This item will be withdrawn due to UK Ivory ban as it comes into force from 6 June 2022.

Islamic Art From Spain, An Important Moroccan or Recycled Nasrid Dynasty Wooden Fragment Altered Into A Box, Probably Fez-Morocco or Granada-Andalusia-Spain, Probably 15th & 19th Century.

Identification Number: 261


This very unusual rectangular shaped box was probably made out of recycled and much older thick wooden fragment that had been saved or taken from another object and been altered into a box, possibly a Quran Box and when the Box went to Europe it was used as a cigar box.

For there is a clear contradiction between the top of the box and its other plane parts

For there is a clear contradiction between the top of the box and its other plane parts.

The unique characteristic, quality, style, resources and elements used in the making of the surface of the top of this box is very similar and reminiscent to early Islamic works of art from this part of the world, that have not been revived up to this standard on later and much recent centuries, but the shape and the empty sides of the box suggest that it was made in a much later period.

Early decorative Islamic woodwork that was used in covering plane surfaces and other Islamic furniture were thick in general. Therefore, we suggest that a thick decorative wooden element was taken and had been cut into two parts and then been altered into a useable box, or an additional wooden piece was added to make the base of the box to match its modified upper part.   

The hinged box was probably being altered to be originally used as a Quran box. The box’s top is of a rectangular shape and is been overlaid with nine carved wooden cartouches, due to the importance of the large rectangular shaped inscribed central cartouche, the artist had deliberately carved it on a slightly raised form for it bears the name of God (Allah), the other eight surrounding cartouches had been engraved in a low manner, four similar carved cartouches are being placed facing the central cartouche towards each corner of the box’s top also another two larger elongated cartouches are being placed at the top and below the central carved cartouche, and the remaining two smaller cartouches are being placed on to the left and the right of the central cartouche. The engraved wooden cartouches are being outlined with two alternating frames like micro mosaic parquetry wood work and ivory beadings also the eight smaller cartouches are being outlined with thin sliced ivory slaps and a combination of twisted arched shaped motifs made with thin sliced pieces of ivory with ebony, the plane sides of the box are being carved with two parallel lines or grooves.

The outstanding quality, technique, materials & craftsmanship found on the cigar box’s top which was typical of earlier civilisation that was predominant in southern Spain, the box probably being re-cycled from an earlier wooden fragment.

Neither locks nor a keyhole was made to the box due to its very short heights.

The suggested alteration probably took place in the late 18th.-19th. century, in the city of Fez, this box was probably made or owned by Si Taieb El Kadri or (Tyyib Al-Qadiri) as his name is clearly inscribed in old ink on the box in both Arabic and French languages.

Who can possibly be Si Taieb El Kadiri?!

According to Wikipedia

Mohammed Ibn Al-Tayyib Al-Qadiri

He was born in Morocco and lived between 1712-1773 AD.,

He was a very well-known Sufi historian and was a descendant of Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jailani,

After the fall of Baghdad to the Mongols in 1258 AD., his family immigrated to the city of Al-Kufa and then to Andalusia-Spain.

After the fall of the last Umayyad dynasty in Andalusia, his family immigrated and settled in the Moroccan city of Fez.  

The central part is beautifully inscribed by using the elegant Maghriabi Kufic style script, the Arabic inscription says

(بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم)

Translates to: In The Name of Allah (God), The Most Gracious, The Most Merciful).

(Registration for an item with a percentage of ivory, declaration reference no.58ZKMS58)


30.5 cm is the wide.
6 cm is the height.
22 cm is the depth.


Very Good, some wear and tear, minor wood and ivory beading loss to the top, due to changes of the environmental conditions, at one location at the top right-hand side of the overlaid areas of the top surface, one thin ivory slice has naturally slightly raised from its location, the wooden surfaces of the interior and the base of the box is been linned with later probably 19th c. Moroccan leather.


The UK Art Market.


For similar decoration, please see

1- Maroc Medieval, Un Empire De L’Afrique A L’Espagne. L’album De L’exposition, The Louvre Museum edition.

The very similar woodwork and decoration of the fourteenth century Minbar in the mosque of Madrasa Bu’ inaniya Qasaba in Fez, lot illustrated on page 38.

The almost identical woodwork and decoration of the twelfth century Minbar in the mosque of Al Qasaba in Marrakesh, lot illustrated on pages 28 & 29.

The Stucco wall decoration at the mosque of Al-Qarawiyyin in Fez, lot illustrated on pages 14 & 15.

2-The very similar techniques and decoration used in the making of the wooden octagonal box, Made in Andalusia-Spain around the (1400-1500 AD.), the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA.
The Rogers fund, 1950 Lot No. (50.86), the former owner Mr. Edwin M. Berolzheimer.

3- Morocco, Marrakesh-Fez-Rabat, Text by Rom Landau, Photographs by Wim Swaan, Elk Books Limited, 2 All Saints Street, London N1.

The Stucco and The Carved Cedar wood details in the court of Medrasa Bu Inaniya in Fez, pages 75-77 & lot 55, also see the carved wood on pages 90-91, and the court of the fourteen-century Marinid Dynasty (Attarin Medrasa) in Fez, pages 110, 111.