Note on the Giraffe painting in one copy of Jahiz Hayawan/ Fatimid Giraffes .


Taken from: Meinecke-Berg, V. 1999: Fatimid painting on tradition and style: the workshop of Muslim.;ISL;it;Mus01_C;45;en


The giraffe painting (a caparisoned giraffe) as found in one copy of the Kitab al-Hayawan (Book of Animals)

by al-Jahiz probably from Syria, 14thc; Biblioteca Ambrosiana, is not an isolated case during Fatimid times

several others have been produced having been copied from closely related sources.

Muslim ibn al-Dahhan (around 1000) Ceramic Bowls Egypt

(now in Athens and Berlin)


Taken from:


In the centre, a caparisoned giraffe is conducted by a character who seems to run by pulling her halter. He wears a tunic

with short sleeves marked with two bands, a sort of loincloth and a pointed turban. On the other side of the giraffe a stylized

tree, seeming to bend under the fruit that forms a curve that follows the contours of the flat and balanced composition.

 The accuracy of the details in both the anatomy of the animal (accurate representation of the head and hair on the belly

and under the tail) and in its harness (halter, decorative horns ...) made R. Ettinghausen call this, one of the best examples

of Fatimid realism, in opposition to the Abbasid stylized forms. V. Meinecke-Berg has connected this dish with fragments

preserved in Berlin, where the same scene is shown twice, in symmetry. These fragments are signed Muslim, a well-known

potter of sixty signed pieces of very different styles, which probably worked in Fustat during the reign of Caliph al-Hakim (d1021).

The ceramic bowl from Berlin and the painting in the ms of Jahiz have in common the shape of the black spots on the

giraffe that consists of groups of 3 circles.

Ivory Casket  (Berlin Museum) (around 1100) Sicily


Taken from:;ISL;de;Mus01;12;en&cp


A rectangular casket, with a desk-like lid, made of individual pieces of ivory that have been joined together. The lid is

attached by two silver clasps/hinges, which were made at a later date, and the padlock has been lost. Various holes

that have been bored through the casket demonstrate its chequered history and the possibility that it had an indefinite

number of iron fittings. A great variety of animals are represented: lions, hares, ibex, stags, camels, giraffes and birds.

In the right corner of the back site of the lid, a caparisoned giraffe is conducted by a Fatimid infantryman with a small shirt,

a large round shield and two double ended javelins.

Ivory casket, Sicily (12th)


Taken from: Ernst J. Grube; The painted ceilings of the Cappella Palatina


Paintings on the cover and the front and back of an ivory casket, Sicily, 12th century. Palermo, Cappella Palatina,

Treasury. This giraffe is also ornamentally covered (caparisoned). Together with the giraffe in the ms of Jahiz they

form the collection of caparisoned giraffes.


Taken from: South Kensington Museum. Textile Fabrics; a Descriptive Catalogue of the Collection of Church Vestments, Dresses, (etc.) Forming Stat Section of the Museum by Chapman, 1870


Nr 1274 Silk damask; ground, sawn colour; design, parrots and giraffes in pairs, amid floriated ornamentation, all excepting the parts done in gold, of the tint of the ground. Sicilian, 13th century. 20.5 inches by 10.5 inches. Below (under the parrots) and back to back and biting the stems of the foliage, are two giraffes, with one leg raised. They are specked all over with quatrefoil spots, and have head and hoofs done in gold, now faded to black. This stuff is as beautiful in design as substantial in its material, being all of good fine silk; through so poor and sparing was the gold upon the thread, that it has quite faded. From the curve at the upper end, this piece seems to have been cut out of an old chasuble (liturgical vestment of priest).


Nr 8591,8591A (Bock Collection) Two pieces of silk tissue; ground, a bright green; pattern, not complete, but showing a well-managed ornamentation, consisting of the so-called pomegranate with two giraffes below, the heads of which are in gold, now so faded as to look a purplish black. Sicilian, early 14th century. 7.5 inches by 4.5 inches and 4.5 inches by 4.5 inches.

When new and fresh, this stuff must have been very pleasing; the elaborate design of its pattern, done in a cheerful spring-like tone of green upon a ground of a much lighter shade of the same colour, makes it welcome to the eye. The giraffes, tripping and addorsed, with their long necks and parted skins, have something like a housing on their backs. From such a quadruped being figured on this stuff, he who drew the design must have lived in Africa, or have heard of the animal from the Moors; he must have been a Christian too for green being Mohammed’s own colour, and even still limited, in its use, to his descendants, no Saracenic loom would have figured this stuff with a forbidden form of an animal. Yet, withal, there may be seen upon it strong traces of Saracenic feeling in its pattern. That singular ornament, made up of long zero-like forms placed four together in three rows, seems distinctive of some particular locality; so that we may presume this fine textile to have been wrought at the royal manufactory of Palermo, where the giraffe might have been well known, where Saracenic art-traditions a long time lingered; and people cared nothing for the prohibition of figuring any created form, or of wearing green in their garments.


Nr 8599 (Bock Collection) Piece of silk Damask; ground green; pattern in light purple or violet, an ellipsis filled in with Saracenic ornamentation, having below two split pomegranates in gold, and above, two giraffes, which alternate with a pair of long-necked gold-headed birds that are flanked by an ornament made up of letters like U. Sicilian, 14th century. 1 foot 10.5 inches by 2 feet 2 inches.

Through this specimen has been sadly ill used by time, and is made out of several shreds, it evidently came out of the hands that designed the previous one in this collection. We have the same elements in the pattern, the ellipsis, the giraffes, and that singular kind of ornamentation, a sort of letter U or flattened O. (as sign of the manufacturer)

Though of so pleasing and elaborate a design, the stuff, in its materials, is none of the richest.