Fatimid Wood and Ivory Carving

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Mahnaz Shayestehfar, et. al.


The Fatimid, who had often considered themselves to be completely descendants of the Prophet, became prominent, and they made a claim to the prophet’s succession. Within this, by leading this political and religious sense of mission, they tried to predominate over the whole Islamic world, despite the political tensions between Berber tribes in North Africa, the caliphs of Bagdad, Byzantium, and the later crusaders too.

But the most remarkable achievement of this period is probably the art of engraving on wood and ivory. Ivory carvings from Fatimid Egypt often display the lively figural scenes, including animals such as hares, birds, or deer, or more complicated compositions such as hunting or courtly scenes. Many of these Fatimid carved wood panels are in public collections, such as the Islamic art museum in Cairo, Islamic art museum in Berlin, national art museum of Florence, Louvre museum in Paris, Metropolitan museum of art in New York and David’s collection in Denmark. This paper will focus on the carved wooden panels and ivory carvings of the Fatimid era that make it possible to classify these panels for various applications. Moreover, their patterns can be classified in inscription, herbal, human, and animal designs, and in some instances, a combination of the mentioned patterns. It should be noted that Ivory carvings are technically similar to wooden engravings. The aims of this study are introducing of wood and ivory carving of the Fatimid period, and searching for designs that used these traces of the carved wooden panels and ivory carvings of this period.

In each of these specific patterns, various meanings are searching for that give information about the religious concepts of the inscriptions, the metaphoric images to abstract herbal designs extracted from nature, and human life depicting the social lives of people.

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