This coffer shows a number of features not normally found in examples of its type. The absence of feet, the heavy gauge separately fashioned sides, and the concave shoulder of the lid. The overall form is similar to that of two caskets formerly in the Khosrovani Collection and now in the Museum of Islamic Art, Doha (Treasures of Islam, exhibition catalogue, Geneva, 1985, nos.266 and 267, pp.260-1). The construction of this example is, however, very different. There is one closely comparable coffer that is in a private collection, sold in these Rooms 27 April 1993, lot 119. Of identical size and construction it shares many of the same decorative motifs with the present example.
The separate sides are found in two early miniature examples made of silver now in the L.A.Meyer Memorial Museum, Jerusalem (Arthur Upham Pope, A Survey of Persian Art, London and New York, 1939, pl.1352). Eva Baer, when discussing the larger of these two, notes that the original prototype can be found in the Hispano-Islamic ivory boxes of the tenth century (Baer, p.46). Another casket of similar form which also has separate sides is attributed by James Allan to Sicily of around 1200 on account of its form and decoration which are similar to the ivory caskets produced there at this time ('Art from the World of Islam', in Louisiana Revy, Vol.27, no.3, Copenhagen, March 1987, no.80, p.84). The method of tonguing and grooving the edges of the metal plates to join smoothly at the corners can be parallelled in contemporary enamelled copper caskets from Limoges. The present casket thus shows evidence of considerable influence from the Western, principally Islamic, world.
The decorative repertoire of this casket is most similar to that of a casket formerly in the Heeramaneck Galleries, ascribed by Baer to 12th century Iran (Eva Baer, Metalwork in Medieval Islamic Art, New York, 1983, p.43). Both have similar central winged harpie(s) flanked by inscriptions and with long hinges for which spaces were already allowed before they were applied. Yet in that example the sides are continuous. The decoration of the present casket, much more than that of the last example sold in these Rooms, links it to the group of footed cups, one of which is included in the present sale as the preceding lot. This enables an Iranian origin to be suggested with a greater degree of certainty. The shape of those cups, and their link to examples in pottery, also enable a more precise dating of these two caskets.