Length: 6.030 cm
Height: 4.450 cm
Bequeathed by Sir A.W. Franks
ME OA FB Is 12
Room 34: The Islamic world
Rock crystal bottle in the form of a lion
Fatimid dynasty, 11th century AD
The royal associations of the lion, the 'king of beasts', was as common in the Islamic world as elsewhere. Images of lions often flanked or supported the ruler's throne, and real lions were prized possessions in the menageries attached to the medieval royal courts. Lions were therefore a popular subject with craftsmen carving or decorating luxury vessels. The inside of this rock crystal bottle is hollowed out to allow storage of some precious material, perhaps a cosmetic or perfume.
Rock crystal carving reached a peak during the Fatimid dynasty (969-1171), when access to the east African coast enabled large quantities of this precious material to be traded and carved in Cairo, the Fatimid capital. Many rock crystal vessels were exported across the Mediterranean to Europe where they became prized receptacles for relics in church treasuries, valued both for their quality and for their transparency which allowed the relic to be seen from the outside.