photo.name
AKM597, Ring

© The Aga Khan Museum

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AKM597, Ring, Side

© The Aga Khan Museum

 photo.name
AKM597, Ring, Side

© The Aga Khan Museum

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AKM597, Ring, Bottom

© The Aga Khan Museum

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On Display
Ring
  • Accession Number:AKM597
  • Place:Egypt
  • Dimensions:Height 3.1cm
  • Date:11th century
  • Materials and Technique:gold; filigree and granulation
  • Executed with exceptional skill, this golden ring offers an eloquent testament to the craftsmanship of Fatimid artisans as well as the opulence of Fatimid tastes. Typical of Fatimid rings, it does not have a gemstone at its bezel. Instead, it is decorated with elaborate patterns in metal wire (filigree), further embellished with granulated beads of gold (granulation). Its unusual shape—what art historian Marian Wenzel likened to a stirrup[1] —is shared by a handful of other rings in such international collections as the Khalili Collection, London; the al-Sabah Collection in Kuwait; and the Harari Collection, now at the L. A. Memorial Mayer Institute for Islamic Art in Jerusalem.[2] Wenzel suggested two types of Fatimid rings, the other being those with rectangular bezels (see AKM948.2).

Further Reading

 

Ruling from the capital city of Cairo, the Fatimid dynasty (909–1171) derived their name from Fatima, daughter of the Prophet Muhammad. Their territory stretched across North Africa, and at its maximum extent included areas as far east as the Levant and Hijaz. The Empire maintained important trade relations within Africa as well as with empires around the Indian Ocean and Mediterranean Sea. The Fatimids formed an especially important relationship with the nearby Byzantine Empire (ca. 330–1453), and some Fatimid jewellery has very distinct links to Byzantine objects (see AKM594).

 

The Fatimids obtained gold from a number of sources, including nearby mines in Nubia (modern-day Sudan), as well as the Kingdom of Ghana. In other cases, Fatimid artisans melted down and repurposed older jewellery, a probable fate for many Fatimid pieces which no longer exist today. The infamous looting of the treasury of Fatimid caliph al-Mustansir (1036–94) around 1070 resulted in an irreplaceable loss of many riches from this period.

 

The type of filigree used on this ring is called mushhabbak (latticework) in 12th-century trousseau lists from the Cairo Geniza, a trove of medieval manuscript fragments found in the Ben Ezra Synagogue in Fustat or Old Cairo, Egypt, that indicate prices, terminology, and production details about the goldsmithing and jewellery industry documents.[3] While filigree remained an important element of Fatimid jewellery, the use of granulation eventually fell to the wayside, something that scholar Marc Rosenberg referred to as “the battle of granulation and filigree” in which the latter eventually prevailed.[4] This analysis suggests that this ring is among the earliest of Fatimid jewel types.

 

— Courtney Stewart


Notes
[1] Marian Wenzel, Ornament and Amulet: Rings of the Islamic Lands (New York: Nour Foundation in association with Azimuth Editions and Oxford University Press, 1993), 199, 42–43.
[2] L.A. Memorial Mayer Institute for Islamic Art (no. J29 and J30) Khalili Collection, JLY 1846, 1847, 1878.
[3] Marilyn Jenkins-Madina, The Glory of Byzantium (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1997), 419–20, quoting Goitein, A Mediterranean Society: The Jewish Communities of the Arab World As Portrayed in the Documents of the Cairo Geniza, vol. 4, 211 –12.
[4] Marilyn Jenkins, “Fatimid Jewelry, Its Subtypes and Influences,” Ars Orientalis, vol. 18 (1988), 40, quoting Marc Rosenberg, “Abteilung: Granulation,” Geschichte der Goldschmiedekunst auf Technischer Grundlage, vol. 3 (Frankfurt, 1918), 96–103.


References
Barrucand, Marianne. L'egypte Fatimide: Son Art Et Son Histoire : Actes Du Colloque Organisé À Paris Les 28, 29 Et 30 Mai 1998. Paris: Presses de l'université de Paris-Sorbonne, 1998, 197–217. ISBN: 9782840501626
Bloom, Jonathan M. Arts of the City Victorious. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2007. ISBN: 9780300135428
Content, Derek J. Islamic Rings and Gems: The Benjamin Zucker Collection. London: Philip Wilson Publishers, 1987. ISBN: 9780856673337
Ekhtiar, Maryam, Sheila R. Canby, Navina Haidar, and Priscilla P. Soucek, eds. Masterpieces from the Department of Islamic Art in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1st ed. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2011. ISBN 9781588394347
Goitein, Shelomoh D. A Mediterranean Society: The Jewish Communities of the Arab World As Portrayed in the Documents of the Cairo Geniza. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999. ISBN: 9780520221581
Jenkins-Madina, Marilyn, and Manuel Keene. Islamic Jewelry in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1983. ISBN: 9780870993268
Jenkins-Madina, Marilyn. "Fatimid Jewelry, Its Subtypes and Influences." Ars Orientalis, vol. 18 (1988), 40, 45, ill. figs. 51, 5b.
O'Kane, Bernard. The Treasures of Islamic Art in the Museums of Cairo. Cairo: American University in Cairo Press, 2006. ISBN: 9789774248603
Rosenberg, Marc. “Abteilung: Granulation.” Geschichte der Goldschmiedekunst auf Technischer Grundlage, vol. 3. Frankfurt: 1918, 96–103.
Spink, Michael and Jack Ogden. The Art of Adornment; Jewellery of the Islamic Lands. Part I and Part II. London: Nour Foundation, 2013.  ISBN: 9781874780861
Trésors Fatimides du Caire Exposition Présentée à l'Institut du Monde Arabe du 28 Avril au 30 Aout 1998. Paris: Institut du Monde Arabe, 1998. ISBN: 9782843060113
Wenzel, Marian. Ornament and Amulet: Rings of the Islamic Lands. New York: Nour Foundation in association with Azimuth Editions and Oxford University Press, 1993. ISBN: 9780197276143

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