Facts and Artefacts: Art in the Islamic World, Festschrift for Jens Kroger on His 65th Birthday

  • Book Title:
 Facts And Artefacts
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Annette HagedornAvinoam Shalem
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The happy occasion of a Festschrift for Jens Kröger provides me with an opportunity to announce the planned publication of a corpus of Islamic rock crystal carvings on which I have been working for many years.

It allows me to offer two examples of entries in this catalogue and, at the same time, it permits me to set straight an issue which has been weighing rather heavily upon me ever since the unfortunate publication of the catalogue to the Venice exhibition on Islamic art in Italian collections, in 1993.1

 “Unfortunate”, not only in the sense that the original catalogue texts, which I had written in English, had been incompetently trans-lated into Italian (and had entirely to be retranslated, by Alberta Fabris Grube, for which no acknowledgment was ever made); but also because some rather serious mistakes crept into the final version of the catalogue, which—the authors never having received final proofs with the illustrations in place—were not discovered until after the catalogue was printed, at which time the damage was already done.

 As the English edition of the catalogue, in which corrections could have been made, was originally promised but never materialised, I found myself in the unenviable position of finding a serious mistake in one section of my contribution:  the substitution, for one object in the Treasury,2 of another, rather dubious, piece;3 this substitution was made by the editor of the exhibition catalogue.

With one excep-tion,4 no one seems to have commented on the piece illustrated;

thus, not much harm appears to have been done. Nonetheless, the fact remains that anyone who may consult the exhibition catalogue will still find the wrong object illustrated and may not notice, as was in fact the case with Miss Bianco, that it is not the piece discussed in the text.

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 But now, especially in a short offering to honour an old friend and a highly respected colleague in the field, one who is particularly known for the admirable precision of his work, it is time to set the record straight. This seems especially urgent, with the plan for a corpus publication of all medieval Islamic rock crystals now in preparation.

 I take this opportunity, therefore, to present two entries from this corpus, this time with the correct texts accompanying the correct objects (illustrations):

Venice, Tesoro di San Marco, inv. no. 102.  (Fig. 1, A&B)

A Rock Crystal Dish

Cut and carved rock crystal

Egypt, 4th/10th century

Diameter: 201 mm; height: 53 mm

Bibliography: Pasini, San Marco Tesoro I (1885), p. 93; Lamm, Gläser I (1930), p. 207 (brief note in comment to no. 73.3); A. H.  Christie, “Two Rock-Crystal Carvings of the Fatimid Period”, Ars Islamica, 9, 1942, pp. 166-168, and fig. 1; Erdmann, “Bergkristallarbeiten” (1940), p. 138, fig. 20; Roman Ghirshman, Iran, Paris, 1954, p. 335, and pl. 46b; Erdmann, in San Marco Tesoro (1971), pp. 115-116, cat. no. 126, pl. CII (with the wrong identification of the object illustrated on the left, since, in fact, it is the piece illustrated on the right which is cat. no. 126); Gabrieli & Scerrato (1979), fig. 588; Alcouffe, in San Marco Treasury (1984), pp. 214-215, cat. no. 30, called “Abbasid, 9th-10th century (?)”; Venice Exh. 1993, pp. 143-144, cat. no. 53 (with wrong illustration of Tesoro, inv. no. 106, instead of inv. no. 102); Vienna Exh. 1998-1999, pp. 131-132, cat. no. 104.

The small dish, standing on a fairly pronounced and slightly splayed base, is carved on the outside with a single floral scroll that circles

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