This is a remarkably well preserved example, typical of the capitals carved for the city of Medinat al-Zahra. A number of similar capitals are known, although a close inspection shows that almost all of them differ slightly one from another. The present capital has a number of unusual features, apart from the fact that one side is left unfinished. Many Cordoba capitals, such as one sold in these Rooms 11 October 2005, lot 21, are divided into two registers. In the present one the leaves continue from the base to the volutes thus giving it a more monumental look despite its relatively small size. Of particular note is the detailing in the centre with the two feathery leaves that cross and support an upper motif. These feathery leaves and the upper central motif can be found in a capital on a larger scale in the archaeological museum in Cordoba (Les Andalousies de Damas à Cordoue, exhibition catalogue, Paris, 2000, no.74, p.106; also Al Andalus, exhibition cataloge, New York, 1992, no.37, p.244, among many other publications, all detailed by Dodds). That capital is dateable to 964-5 AD; ours must date from the same period, at the beginning of the reign of the caliph Al-Hakam II.
The present capital is particularly pleasing to the mathematician. It was carved from a block of marble that was a perfect 26.5cm. cube. The upper surface is incised with the geometric lines made in the original block to enable the capital to be carved, showing how the design was structured.