A typical Moorish casket of this kind (Plate iv.) is now in the cathedral of Gerona. It measures fifteen inches in length by nine across, fastens with a finely ornamented band and clasp of bronze, and is covered with thin silver-gilt plates profusely decorated with a bead and floral pattern superposed upon a box of non-decaying wood were particularly lenient in their usage of the dominated Muslim. Thus, the former of these princes recognised the Moorish townspeople of Sena as his vassals, while those of Toledo were freely allowed by Alfonso to retain their worship and their mosque. 1 "Fallaron ay de marfil arquetas muy preciadas
Con tantas de noblezas que non podrian ser contadas Fueron para San Pedro las arquetas donadas; Estan en este dia en el su altar asentadas."
Poem of Ferran Gonzalvez (13th century).
Moorish Casket (Gerona Cathedral) possibly larch or cedar. A Cufic inscription along the lower part of the lid was formerly interpreted as follows: -
"In the name of God. (May) the blessing of God, prosperity and fortune and perpetual felicity be (destined) for the servant of God, Alhakem, Emir of the Faithful, because he ordered (this casket) to be made for Abdul Walid Hischem, heir to the throne of the Muslims. It was finished by the hands of Hudzen, son of Bothla."
It is supposed, however, that the part of this inscription which contains the maker's name was rendered incorrectly by Riano, who followed, on this point, Saavedra, Fita, and other archaeologists; and that the casket was made to the order of Djaudar, as a gift to the heir to the throne, Abulwalid Hischem, the actual workmen being two slaves, Bedr and Tarif. That is to say, the name Hudzen is now replaced by Djaudar, whom Dozy mentions in his history of the Mussulman domination in Spain, and who is known to have been a eunuch high in favour with Alhakem, Hischem's father. These princes ruled at Cordova in the latter half of the tenth century and the beginning of the eleventh.
Spanish-Moorish caskets (arquetas) of ivory, silver, or inlaid work, are also preserved in the South Kensington Museum, the Archaeological Museum at Madrid, and the cathedrals of Braga, Tortosa, and Oviedo. There is no reason to doubt that all these boxes were made in Spain, although an Eastern and particularly Persian influence is very noticeable in their scheme of decoration.
Two silver caskets which were once in the church of San Isidoro at Leon are now in the Madrid Museum. The smaller and plainer of the two, elliptical in shape and measuring five inches in length by two inches and a half in depth, is covered with a leaf and stem device outlined in black enamel. A Cufic inscription of a private and domestic import, also picked out with black enamel, runs along the top. The lid is ornamented, like the body of the box, with leaves and stems surrounded by a Grecian border, and fastens with a heart-shaped clasp secured by a ring.
The other, more elaborate, and larger box measures eight inches long by five in height. In shape it is a parallelogram, with a deeply bevelled rather than - as Amador describes it - a five-sided top. Bands of a simple winding pattern outlined in black enamel on a ground of delicate niellowork run round the top and body of the casket. The central band upon the lower part contains a Cufic inscription of slight interest. Some of the letters terminate in leaves. The bevelled lid is covered with groups of peacocks - symbolic, among Mohammedans, of eternal life - outlined in black enamel. These birds are eight in all, gathered in two groups of four about the large and overlapping hinges. Four leaves, trifoliate in repousse, one beneath the other, decorate the clasp, which opens out into a heart containing, also in repousse, two inverted peacocks looking face to face. Between the birds this heart extremity is pierced for the passage of a ring.
Amador de los Rios considers that both caskets were made between the years 1048 and 1089.
The use of coloured enamel in the manufacture of these boxes dates, or generally so, from somewhat later. Although the history of enamelling in Spain is nebulous and contradictory in the extreme, we know that caskets in champleve enamel on a copper ground, with figures either flat or hammered in a bold relief, became abundant here. Two, from the convent of San Marcos at Leon, and dating from the thirteenth century, are now in the Madrid Museum. Labarte says that the lids of these enamelled reliquaries were flat until the twelfth century, and of a gable form thenceforward.
Other old objects - boxes, triptyches, statuettes, incensories, book-covers, crucifixes, and processional crosses - partly or wholly covered with enamel, belong or recently belonged to the. Marquises of Castrillo and Casa-Torres, the Count of Valencia de Don Juan, and Senor Escanciano. All, or nearly all, of these are thought to have proceeded from Limoges (Pl. v.). Champleve enamel is also on the tiny "Crucifix of the Cid" (Pl. vi.) at Salamanca, as well as on the Virgin's throne in the gilt bronze statuette of the Virgin de la Vega at San Esteban in the same city.1 Of this image, although it properly belongs to another heading of my book, I think it well to give a reproduction here (Plate vii.). I will also mention, in spite of its presumably foreign origin, the enamelled altar-front of San Miguel de Excelsis in Navarre - a small sanctuary constructed by a mediaeval cavalier who, by an accident occasioned by the dark, murdered his father and mother in lieu of his wife.1 This altar-front, conspicuously Byzantine in its style, measures four feet three inches high by seven feet five inches long, and is now employed as the retablo of the little church which stands in solitary picturesqueness on the lofty mountain-top of Aralar. The figures, coloured in relief upon a yellowish enamel ground, are those of saints, and of a monarch and his queen - possibly King Sancho the Great, who is believed to have been the donor of the ornament. If this surmise be accurate, the front would date from the eleventh century.