Islamic and North African Infleunces

Verbascum Plants (painting with text, recto and verso), illustrated folio from a manuscript of the De Materia Medica of Dioscorides

Verbascum Plants--an illustrated folio. An illustrated folio from a 13th century Arabic manuscript of Greek surgeon and scholar Pedanius Dioscorides’ De Materia Medica. The folio has been dated to 1224, and its place of creation surmised to be Baghdad. As an aesthetic object, the folio is strikingly beautiful, and depicts plants of the genera Verbascum, along with ornamental birds. The text and illustration were rendered with ink, watercolor, and gold highlights, and would have had a practical pharmacological purpose as well as a likely high value for its aesthetic qualities. 

Lusterware Bowl Sherd with Two Peacocks

Lusterware Bowl Sherd. This 11th century Lusterware bowl sherd with two painted peacocks was from the Fatimid Era. Most likely from Africa, this sherd is light blue with painted peacocks and other ambiguous patterns in brown/red paint. Given its detail, the sherd probably was not for daily use but was instead employed on special occasions or utlizied for display.

A Treatise on the Astrolabe

A Treatise on the Astrolabe. Dedicated to Chaucer's son, this guide, written in English in 1400, provides instructions on how to use an astrolabe. While connecected to the British Isles, this guide also displays Middle Eastern and Spanish influences, containing information of both Baghdad and the Spanish March.  

15th Century Astrolabe

15th Century Astrolabe. This object, created in 1405, only 5 years after the corresponding treatise, serves as an example of what medieval astrolabe would look like. The above guide would have given the user all the infomration that he would need to use this object.  


Mortar (left) and pestle (below). From 14th century Italy, made of a metal, most likely iron. Artist unknown. The set is notable for having both of its original pieces (a rarity for medieval mortars), but otherwise quite typical of mid- to late medieval mortars of the time period. Function not able to be determined, though the object presents an opportunity for interesting tie-ins with the history of medicine in late medieval Italy, specifically concerning the origins of academic medicine in Salerno and the Islamic influence in both European medicine and European decorative arts.


A reproduction of a Muwashshah from the 12th century. Muwashshah's were Andalusian pieces passed down in the oral, rather than notated tradition. The piece presents evidence of both Arabic and Spanish influence, especially in the combination of classical arabic and medieval romance dialects.

Islamic and North African Infleunces
Islamic and North African Infleunces