Madinat al-Zahara workshop, Al-Mughira’s pyxis, 968 CE, ivory, 5.9” high, Musée du Louvre, Paris, Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Make the Time: The New Islamic Galleries at the Louvre

The Musée du Louvre recently opened the doors to their new 32,000 square foot gallery space filled with Islamic art.  It is the first big addition to the building since I. M. Pei’s glass pyramids were finished in 1993.

Nearly 3,000 works of art from Spain to India, dating from the eighth through the nineteenth centuries, are on display in the new space.

One of the masterpieces in the collection is al-Mughira’s pyxis created in Spain in 968 CE.  These round boxes normally were made for the wives, daughters, or sons of a caliph.  This one, made completely of elephant ivory, is intricately carved with Islamic script that reads, “God’s blessing, favors, joy, beatitude to Al-Mughira son of the Commander of the faithful, may God have mercy upon him.”  The vessel was probably commissioned from the Madinat al-Zahara workshop to commemorate the eighteenth birthday of al-Mughira, who was the last son of the late caliph ‘Abd al-Raḥmān III.

The elaborately decorated pyxis has four medallions on the sides with scenes that symbolize victory and quests for sovereignty, which were suitable for the young prince.   Most likely, the container held treasures or aromatic substances.