A Mother’s Gift? Astrology and the Pyxis of Al-Mughira

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This article re-examines the most celebrated, and most controversial, of the Cordoban ivories, the al-Mughīra pyxis, from a perspective of gender and kinship relations within the court hierarchy. It proposes an alternative patron for this object, namely al-Mughīra's mother al-Mushtaq, a consort of the Cordoban Umayyad caliph ʿAbd al-Rahmān III (r. 929–61) in the latter years of his life, and a patron of architecture. The article suggests astronomical and astrological possibilities for interpreting the pyxis’ unusual iconography, which arise from considering al-Mushtaq as a potential patron of the al-Mughīra pyxis. Key to the argument is the notion that women in the Cordoban court were ‘makers’ of art and architecture, in that they could and did exercise authority through artistic patronage.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)107-130
JournalJournal of Medieval History
Issue number1
Early online date23 Nov 2015
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 23 Nov 2015


  • Heritage
  • History of Science, History of magic, History of religion
  • Islamic art
  • Medieval studies
  • Islamic history
  • Gender

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