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    Sale 7615

    Art of The Islamic And Indian Worlds

    7 October 2008, London, King Street

  • Lot 92

    AN UMAYYAD CARVED LARCH BEAM

    CORDOBA, SOUTH SPAIN, SECOND HALF 10TH CENTURY

    Price Realised  

    Estimate

    AN UMAYYAD CARVED LARCH BEAM
    CORDOBA, SOUTH SPAIN, SECOND HALF 10TH CENTURY
    The long beam carved in high relief on two planes with a band containing two entwined tendrils each issuing alternating flowerheads and scrolling volutes, the latter combining to form palmette designs, the sides similarly carved with swagged tendrils issuing trefoil motifs alternating with pine-cone motifs, sawn in half longitudinally, a later notch cut at each end, slight weathering and ageing, small traces of polychrome decoration
    221 x 8¼ x 6in. (561 x 21 x 15cm.)


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    Note continued from the preceding lot

    The Construction of the Roof

    Part of the renovation under al-Hakam II was naturally to place an opulent roof on his new extension. It can be assumed that the final building of al-Mansur also was roofed in similar style. Already in the later twelfth century the geographer and commentator al-Idrisi noted that the ceiling must have been constructed in the Golden Age of Cordoba, judging from the great variety of fine designs. A Spanish visitor, the chronicler Ambrosio de Morales, in 1577 again commented at length on the richness of the coloured decoration on the roof. In keeping with the expense on the rest of the mosque that caused so much furore, it was decided that the roof should be made of larch beams. These were not native and had to be imported from Umayyad lands in North Africa, which must have increased their cost considerably. Unfortunately no contemporaneous pictorial record appears to survive of the roof in place. It was therefore only after considerable painstaking work by Ricardo Velázquez Bosco that the original structure of the roof was established. It appears that there was a beam spanning each aisle about every 75cm. Between each beam was supported a flat panel of wood, while further panels boxed in the ends of the beams at a level of the bottom of the beams, thereby ensuring that the plainer end section of the beams were not visible. A recent digital reconstruction enables the original layout to be clearly imagined (see under lot 94).

    Al-Idrisi gives the length of the beams as 37 palmos, which equates to over seven metres. Our beams are a noticeable amount short of that length. A careful examination of the plan of the mosque (one with precise measurements is given in Ewert and Wisshak, pl.146) indicates that the present beams, due to their length, could only have been made for one of the original side aisles. This could have been either of the side aisles of the al-Hakam structure, or the added side aisle contained in the embellishments of al-Mansur.

    The note continues under the following lot

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