Lot n° 31
8000 - 10000
PUPITRE PLIANT POST-NASRIDE EN BOIS INCRUSTÉ D'OS
SPAIN, GRENADA, CIRCA 17th CENTURY
Composed of inlaid and articulated wooden boards, carved with decorative elements: A symmetrical motif centered on a pomegranate at the top and curved arcatures at the feet. Wood inlaid with a mosaic of tinted bone and mother-of-pearl.
Size: 36 x 27 x 8 cm.
Private collection, Spain.
The pomegranate, the royal symbol of the city of Granada chosen by the Catholic Monarchs, Isabella I and Ferdinand V of Castile, announces a certain pride in place of manufacture, although it is not entirely clear when this symbol began to be used in ordinary decorative objects made in Granada. The surface is almost entirely covered with inlaid and superimposed geometric decorations, called taracea in Spanish, from the Arabic tarṣī' "the action of setting, fixing or assembling jewels, precious stones, gems, pearls, etc." (Lane 1863, p. 1093). Two main techniques are used in taracea work, both represented in the lectern. The first is marquetry, where a groove or void is cut into the base and a contrasting material is shaped and fixed with glue inside. The second is what Julian Raby has called "sliced packets", where long, thin strips of decorative material are glued together to create a mosaic block that, when sawed horizontally into thin slices, reveals a repeating pattern (Raby 2020). (This practice, which is the most efficient way of creating a repeating micro-mosaic pattern over a large area, was widely adopted in Islamic countries and Europe, where it was used for decorative objects and furniture, and still is today by violin makers.
The patterns applied to the lectern, although slightly different in scale on each of its surfaces, are variations of eight-pointed stars between bands of thin chevrons and alternating triangles. Triangular micro-mosaic elements are applied to the decorative edges of the head and feet. The shape of the eight-pointed stars on the reverse is identical to inlaid motifs found, for example, on several wooden folding chairs inspired by Nasrid styles and attributed to the 15th and 16th centuries (Metropolitan Museum of Art, inv. nos. 27.225.1, 45.60.41a, b and 45.60.40a). This motif also appears on a Victoria and Albert Museum box attributed to the 16th century (V&A inv. nos. 530-1903, see Rosser-Owen. The network of eight-pointed stars with crosses on the front of the lectern is found in a variety of supports produced in Nasrid and post-Nasrid Spain. In the taracea, this type of arrangement is found, for example, on the inner lid of a scribe's box attributed to the 14th century in the Museo Arqueológico Nacional, Madrid (inv. num. 1972/105/3), although the technical aspects are somewhat different. Given that taracea has been (and continues to be) produced in Granada for centuries, it is not possible to assign a precise date to the lectern.
The shape is an interesting hybrid. Initially, it is reminiscent of a raḥla or kursī, an articulated X-shaped book-rest of almost universal format in Islamic countries, in which the book is cradled equally on both sides, with the spine supported in the center. In this case, the two boards are asymmetrical, one forming a back and the other a small ledge. This way of placing a codex almost vertically has its origins in the classical world, but became more widespread in European ecclesiastical contexts. The closest parallel to today's folding lectern are the Namban lacquer lecterns (shokendai) produced for Spanish and Portuguese Jesuit missionaries in Japan at the end of the 16th century. These lecterns also consist of two hinged folding boards, but the hinges have a heavier, stepped profile. They were intended for use in churches in Japan, and probably elsewhere due to their portability (Canepa 2009). The surviving examples were mainly preserved in Spanish and Portuguese ecclesiastical treasuries, some are now in museums and private collections, while others are preserved in Japan, Italy and France. Their shape is generally thought to have been inspired by the Indian folding kursī, but as hybrid objects produced for European patrons in Asia, they may also have been inspired by a folding kursī brought from Spain. The present example, probably from Granada, appears to be a reincorporation of the form, probably inspired by an example deposited in an ecclesiastical context.
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