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This is the first of a series of posts dedicated to interesting things at the Califa. All objects have a story behind them and never has this been so true as in La Casa del Califa. The history of our art is as important as the pieces themselves. What is art? For us it is not just a beautiful executed painting or a crafted tapestry. The 17th. century cross vaulted ceilings in some of our bedrooms are also works of art, as is a simple antique folding chair or Arabian lamps of coloured glass. For me the legacy of the past forms my bond with the art and objects woven into the fabric of the Califa.
Interesting things at the Califa #1 – The Druze Dowry Chest
Entering the Califa from the Plaza you will see a fine example of a 19th. C. Syrian dowry chest also known as a ’Sunduq’. I always considered this piece of furniture one of the key pieces to giving the Califa it’s identity especially as the original Ummayad Caliphate’s origin was Syria eventually extending in to Andalucia. The chest was bought in a soukh in Beirut in 1967 by my father who haggled for hours he told me over cups of tea and sticky dates before coming to a reasonable agreement. In its day it would have been used both for keeping the brides dowry and generally for storing important household items.
The Syrians were the inventors of the art of wood inlay and thus the finest examples in the Arab world principally come from here. Only the best seasoned walnut was used and then inlaid with mother of pearl and silver filigree.This chest was well over a 150 years old on its arrival in Vejer in 1999 and had suffered many moves and different homes. The chest went from Beirut to Saudi Arabia to Rome on to England and finally arrived in Vejer. By this time it needed a degree of restoration and I commissioned my friend Bertrand Gouillou to do the work. In the absence of mother of pearl he scoured the beach at El Palmar for suitable shells and used these to replace the pieces missing.
I include a couple of other photos here. One with the chest installed in our hillside house above Beirut with me and my two brothers in the picture and another a still life from 1887 by Lawrence Alma-Tadema, a quintessential example of the artistic taste of the period, with its exotic objects and the inlaid Syrian dowry chest as the main feature.