Objects of ivory and wood comprise decorative architectural items such as beams and doors, and smaller items such as boxes, jewellery and gaming pieces. Relatively few examples have survived due to the perishability of the materials.

The inventiveness of Islamic artists can be seen in the ‘bevelled’ style of the 9th century CE through the medieval period’s complex geometric patterns which were used for compositions in door panels and furniture, especially well known from pulpits (minbars) and Qur’an stands (kursis) of mosques. A completely different style of carving developed in the Islamic West where a style of florid vegetal decoration developed, often highlighted with polychrome painting.

Ivory was used from earliest Islamic times, much of it initially following the Byzantine tradition. Highly prized in Europe in the mediaeval period, many items produced in Islamic lands were donated to churches where they are still preserved in treasuries of cathedrals. Fine objects continued to be produced by Muslim and other craftsmen for Christian patrons in the aftermath of Arab rule in Italy and Spain. Ivory was often used for sword and dagger hilts and small items of adornment such as belt buckles, which are particularly well represented from the Ottoman Empire and India.

View some of our ivory and wood collection below.