by L Eggleton · Cited by 10 — Jesús Bermúdez López, La Alhambra y el Generalife: Guía Oficial, Granada: Within the Alhambra, those interiors of the Nasrid palaces which remain largely.
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Journal of Art Historiography Number 6 June 2012 History in the making: the ornament of the Alhambra and the past – facing present Lara Eggleton The Alhambra, a palatine fortress perched on a mountainous outcrop above the city of Granada, has held a unique place in the historiography of Islamic architec tural monuments, owing both to its European location in modern – day Spain and to the nineteenth centuries. Originally constructed under a succession of Nasrid rulers between 1232 an d 1492, the exceptionally well – preserved palace complex later despite its many subsequent alterations under the Catholic monarchs. 1 Like all residential monuments with long hi stories of continuous use, the Nasrid fortress had been occupied and altered numerous times following its capture in 1492; after the conquest by monarchs Ferdinand II and Isabella I (who ruled as joint sovereigns of Aragon and Castile from 1479 until Isabe occupied by their grandson, Emperor Charles V (r. 1516 – 56), and later by a motley crew of Napoleonic troops, Spanish Romany residents, prisoners of war, and travelling artists and writers. 2 During each of these stages, al terations to the occasioned by extended periods of disuse in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, have reflected changing attitudes towards Spain and its history from both withi n and beyond its borders. Framed as the final chapter of Muslim rule in the region, and geographically removed from larger historical developments in North 1 Maurus and was first used in Roman times to denote the inhabitants of the pro vince of Mauretania, which included large portions of modern – day Algeria and Morocco. Since the Middle Ages the term has been used by Europeans to refer generally to Muslim populations of Morocco and former inhabitants of al – Andalus, absenting any clear et descriptions of the historic art and architecture of these areas. Encyclopædia Britannica Online , s.v. oor accessed 16.03.2012]. For a – century Britain see Pascual de Gayangos, Penny Cyclopaedia of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge , vol. 15, London: Charles Knight and Co., 1839 , 381 – 90. 2 Among the many changes made to the palaces was the conversion of the Mexuar to a royal chapel and the area surrounding the Cuarto Dorado or Golden Room into residences under Ferdinand and Isabella. Charles V continued this conversion programme through an extension of the Comares Palace into royal apartments, and the construction of a large Renaissance – style palace alongside the Lions complex. Victorian traveller and Hispanist Richard Ford gives a valuable record of what he calls the Hand – Book for Travellers in Spain and Readers at Home: Describing the Country and Cities, the Natives and Their Manners, the Antiquities, Religion, Legends, Fine Arts, Literature, Sports, and Gastronom y: With Notices on Spanish History , vol. 1, London: John Murray, 1845, 364 – 7.
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Lar a Eggleton The ornament of the Alhambra and the past – facing present 2 history, receivin g unsteady attention from both the Islamic world and the European 3 The symbolic weight of the Alhambra, imagined both a relic of the lost golden age of al – Andalus and a war trophy of the Reconquista , has further ensured it a li minal position within the history of Islamic art. Changing perspectives on Nasrid ornament Figure 1 . Plan of the Alhambra fortress and grounds with main areas highlighted (illustration by the author, after Jesús Bermúdez Lópe z, La Alhambra y el Generalife: Guía Oficial , Granada: Patronato de la Alhambra y Generalife, 2010). Within the Alhambra, those interiors of the Nasrid palaces which remain largely intact date from the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries (these have been retrospectively named the Lions, Comares, Partal and Generalife palaces; see figure 1), and are to greater or lesser extents surfaced with wood, ceramic and carved plaster ornament, 4 exhibiting an extensive design vocabulary based on geometry 3 Al – Andalus: The Art of Islamic Spain , New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1992, xix. 4 W structural surfaces with sculptural relief elements (such as muqarnas ), carved wood and plaster panelling, and cut – tile ceramic mosaic. This article will discuss how negative associations in Western
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Lar a Eggleton The ornament of the Alhambra and the past – facing present 3 and foliation interwoven with epigraphic inscriptions (figures 2 and 3). The general plan of the palace – complex itself is typologically indebted to the tenth – century Spanish Umayyad complex Madinat al – Zahra , near Córdoba. D. Fairchild Ruggles suggests that in adapting the palatial design of the fallen caliphate, the Nasrids were able to differentiate themselves from their immediate predecessors, the Almohad dynasty (1130 – 1269), y that was sorely needed as they balanced themselves politically between Christian Castile and the Merinids of 5 The wide vocabulary of decorative patterns and design formats applied throughout the Alhambra, however, grew and developed from stylis tic models left behind in the region by the Almohads, and contains important distinguishing elements that are specific to the Nasrid period. Figure 2 . Patterned stucco and ceramic decoration in the northwest corner of the Coma res Hall (also called the Hall of the Ambassadors), Comares Palace, Alhambra (photograph by the author). Figure 3 . Patterned stucco, ceramic and wooden decoration of the main entrance facade of the Comares Palace, patio of the Cuarto Dorado (Golden Room), Alhambra (photograph by the author). art history regarding surface decoration have influenced Islamic art discourse, and how associative etymologies can make neutrally descriptive terms difficult if not impossible. 5 D. Fairchild Ruggles, Gardens, Landsca pe, and Vision in the Palaces of Islamic Spain , University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2000, 167.
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Lar a Eggleton The ornament of the Alhambra and the past – facing present 4 Despite the many regional and dynastic innovations that characterize its palatial decoration, the Alhambra has historically been viewed as a culmination of past achievements disconnected fr om the contemporary conditions from which it gradually emerged. This article will examine the impact of nineteenth – and twentieth – century European art historical perspectives on the study of the architectural interiors of the Alhambra. While I do not wish to suggest a simplistic causal connection between nineteenth – century perspectives and twentieth – century art historical interpretations, it is important to point out the unusual circumstances under which the monument was introduced to Western audiences and the subsequent impact which early encounters appear to have had on the development of Alhambra scholarship. While Romantic associations played a major role in sidelining a critical understanding of the monument throughout the nineteenth century, so too did and reproducing its decorative elements. With minimal consideration given to source materials and archaeological evidence, empirical reproductions were equally effective in dislocating its form s from both the material and social reality of the Nasrid period, and from larger architectural systems of meaning found within their palaces (notwithstanding the deliberate omission from scholarly consideration of later conversions or additions). This led to the fragmentary isolation and scrutiny of Alhambra surface – design to the point of fetishization (part of a vogue for the – century art historians thus encountered a monument a lready deeply compromised by specific ideological approaches, and physically reworked according to multiple, often conflicting agendas. It will be argued that it was in fact a combination of Romantic and modernizing perspectives that delayed a critical art historical twentieth century. 6 In recent decades a number of contemporary scholars have addressed the need to revisit the ornament of the Alhambra within the cultural and political context of Nasrid Granada, and, where possible, to discuss specific examples of its ornament in relation to the wider architectural spaces for which they were designed. Earlier views are now being challenged as part of a wider initiative to revi sit the material history of al – Andalus from a range of critical and scientific perspectives, allowing a deeper understanding of the Alhambra by examining the formal and material complexities that comprise its hybrid and multilayered surfaces. Given the con straints of space, rather than providing a comprehensive overview of Alhambra scholarship, this essay will instead present a series of recent perspectives that reflect the changing position of the Alhambra within the field of Islamic art history. Before tu rning to these contributions, the study will first set out to explore some possible origins of the historic critical estimation of the Alhambra as a monument inspired by own p centuries, during both Muslim and Christian residencies. 6 regionally connected tradition in Kühn el, Maurische Kunst , Berlin: B. Cassirer, 1924.
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Lar a Eggleton The ornament of the Alhambra and the past – facing present 5 The popularized narrative of Nasrid kings, isolated from their Arab origins and doomed in the face of encroaching Christian forc es, satisfied nineteenth – century Romantic fantasies and has endured throughout the following century and well into the present day. 7 – Ahmar, which later became the Nasrid sultanate, was indeed the last Muslim dynasty to rule over the diminished territory of al – 250 – year reign also included extended periods of peaceful relations with Christian kingdoms and with the Merinids of North Africa, as well as instances of military advantage in which they were able to win back Christian – conquered territory. 8 While the region of Nasrid Granada was greatly reduced in size and its Muslim population marginalized by the thirteenth century, the theatrical conception of its rulers as lonely, ill – fated and knowing their days to be numbered is, as Cynthia Robinson has rightly pointed out, a historicized perspective that could not possibly have been shared by the Nasrids themselves. 9 Nonetheless, by the early nineteenth century the Al hambra had grown in the European imagination as an isolated fortress under permanent threat from outside forces, a deeply engrained narrative that persisted within Western travel literature and books on the subject late into the twentieth century, and one nostalgia [that] is generally presumed to permeate all of Nasrid cultural 10 While the nostalgic view of the Nasrid period may have its prototype in the Romantic writings of travellers, th e Welsh – born designer – architect Owen Jones (1809 – 74), whose works on the Alhambra will be discussed in more detail in the following section, was equally responsible for presenting its ornament in retrospective terms to a European audience. He felt that Nas rid design perfectly demonstrated the set of modern design principles laid out in his universalizing theory of ornament, but he was largely unconcerned with and even unaware of the development of regional styles or dynastic variations within Islamic art hi story. Idealizing certain elements and necessarily re – presenting them out of the original architectural context, by publishing colour – plate reproductions and exhibiting plaster replicas, Jones revealed an Alhambra to British audiences that had only surface value, and which he framed as a highly – refined archetype, formulating all The Grammar of Ornament (1856), he describes the Alhambra as a perfect synthesis of established traditions: 7 Two recent studies have discussed contemporary nostalgia for the period in relation to the literature of the post – conquest period: Alexander E. Elinson, Looking Back at Al – Andalus: The Poetics of Loss and N ostalgia in Medieval Arabic and Hebrew Literature and Remembering Al – Andalus: Some Historical Considerations Regarding the End of Time and the Medieval Encounters , 15, 2009, 355 – 74. 8 For an overview of the political history of the Nasrids see Leonard P. Harvey, Islamic Spain: 1250 – 1500 , Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990; and Hugh Kennedy, Muslim Spain and Portugal: A Political History of Al – Andalus , London; New York: Lon gman, 1996. Contemporary scholarship continues to be indebted to Rachel Arié’s L’Espagne Musulmane au Temps des Nasrides (1232 – 1492) , Paris: É. de Boccard, 1973. 9 Muqarnas , 25, 2008, 188. 10
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Lar a Eggleton The ornament of the Alhambra and the past – facing present 6 Our illustra tions of the ornament of the Moors have been taken exclusively from the Alhambra, not only because it is the one of their works with which we are best acquainted, but also because it is the one in which their marvellous system of decoration reached its cul minating point. The Alhambra is at the very summit of perfection of Moorish art, as is the Parthenon of Greek art. We can find no work so fitted to illustrate a Grammar of Ornament as that he Alhambra the speaking art of the Egyptians, the natural grace and refinement of the Greeks, the geometrical combinations of the Romans, the Byzantines, and the Arabs. 11 Jones was one of the first to address ornament in a truly global context, and his wo rk was an important precursor to the formalist theories that emerged in the early decades of the twentieth century. However, while he and other design reformers of the period initially offered new inroads to the study of non – Western decorative traditions, they also set in motion a reductive system of formal categories that ultimately served to sideline such practices in favour of a Eurocentric lineage. Also relevant to the study of the Alhambra, a Western art historical tendency to privilege originality, ex alting novelty, non – conformity and even rupture, led to a devaluation of appropriative and standardizing practices. Thus the continuity of stylization and serialization led s ome nineteenth – and early twentieth – century commentators to see it as a mere showcase of the art of previous periods. 12 While the discipline of art history has long since recognized the problems of this strain in modernist thought, and new ways of engaging with different languages of forms and their translation across cultural divides have long since been developed, 13 these earlier world views have cast a long shadow. Despite the many technical innovations and variations of form introduced by the Nasrids, th e basis of such designs in established traditions of architectural decoration continued to prompt Western scholars of Islamic art to view the Alhambra as largely derivative in its form and character, if not overwhelmingly dependent upon earlier building pr ocesses and traditions. In 1978, Oleg Grabar, one of the first to discuss the palace critically in relation to a wider history of Islamic architecture, surmised that the palaces of the Alhambra had only reflective value, ort of summary of medieval themes about princely 14 In his wide – ranging synthetic study of Islamic architecture (1994), 11 Owen Jones, The Grammar of Ornament , 2 nd printing, London: B. Quaritch, 1868, 66. 12 – the ninth – ornamentation. Ralph Wornum, Analysis of Ornament: The Characteristics of Styles, an Introduction to the Study of the History of Ornamental Art , Lon don: Chapman and Hall, 1869, 110. 13 See, for example, Flood, – , Princeton and Oxford: Princet on University Press, 2009. 14 Oleg Grabar, The Alhambra , 2 nd ed., London: Allen Lane, Penguin Books Ltd., 1992, 153 – 4 (1 st ed.,
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Lar a Eggleton The ornament of the Alhambra and the past – facing present 8 travel journals and handbooks from the Victorian era for the elaborate and technically refined artistry of its interiors, but usually only in terms of a perceived sensual ability to enchant its viewers or transport them to a theatrical place suspended from any real – world associations, indicating the profound influence of an earlier nineteenth – century European literary tradition of Orientalist fantasy. Wr iting in 1873, Augustus Hare directs his readers to an entranceway behind the – land into fairy – 19 Its ornate interiors were often contrasted as a generic whole with its unadorned, fortr ess – fairy – like interior 20 The tenacity of such Romantic views of the Alhambra not only undermined attempts at more critical engagement with the history of the Nasrids, systems of courtly and phi losophical meaning that were integral to its use during the Nasrid period. As late as 1908, John Lomas wrote that the Hall of Two Sisters ( Sala de las dos Hermanas and phantasy [ sic ] were allowed to rule in art as they had already ruled long in 21 The division of public, private, and ceremonial spaces, along with their respective decorative programmes, were subverted or altogether ignored within such exoticized descriptions. 22 Others imagined the Alhambra to be a throwback to earlier, more authentic Arab traditions, a nostalgicizing view that further obscured any understanding of the political realities of Nasrid courtly life. Describing the Alhambra for visitors in 1898, a Baedeker handbook states comes to us like the resuscitation and artistic glorification of a far – distant past; the 23 The mid – nineteenth century represents a crucial turning point in the art historiography of the Alhambra, and one which in many respects prevented an terms. With the exception of Jones and James Cavanah Murphy (1760 – 1816), there pretations from this period, which is otherwise dominated by Romantic representations in the form of drawings, prints and paintings which spatially distort the monument, often placing it within sublime or picturesque Granada , and tellingly, remains an integral anecdote for guided tours around the monument to this day. 19 Augustus John Cuthbert Hare, Wanderings in Spain , 5 th ed., London: George Allen, 1883, 146. 20 H. Pemberton, A Winter Tour in Spain , London: Tinsley Bros, 1868, 217. 21 John Lomas, In Spain , London: A. and C. Black, 1908, 234. 22 Romantic descrip tions of the Alhambra as a luxury palace drastically underplayed its function as the central hub of Nasrid political and cultural activity. While it is at least likely that the Generalife palace was used by ruling families as a retreat from the demands of the court, both the Comares and Lions palaces comprise a network of spaces that served a number of public and private functions. The intimately – sized Mexuar was used for conducting council business (described in a poem by Ibn Zamrak from 1365), while large r, more elaborately decorated spaces such as the Hall of Comares were reserved for official or ceremonal purposes. 23 Karl Baedeker, Spain and Portugal: Handbook for Travellers , Leipzig and London: Karl Baedeker Dulau and Co., 1898, 356.
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Lar a Eggleton The ornament of the Alhambra and the past – facing present 9 landscapes. 24 Joseph – Philibert Girault d e Prangey (1804 – 92) produced a series of picturesque drawings, along with a single plan of the Alhambra, published as hand – coloured lithograph illustrations in Monuments Arabes et Moresques de Cordoue, Séville et Grenade, Dessinés et Mesurés en 1832 et 183 3 (1836 – 39), 25 while David Roberts presented portraits of gitanos crumbling walls in (1835). 26 By contrast, schematic or xts, like those of Jones and Murphy, were seen to be faithfully accurate in their rendering of the monument, but in fact these equally reflect the proclivities of their creators. Murphy, an Irish antiquarian who visited the monument in 1802, produced the f irst British survey of the Alhambra with a series of detailed plans, elevations and sections in The Arabian Antiquities of Spain (1815). However, his engravings greatly exaggerated its vertical scale and overall dimensions according to a Gothic – Saracenic s Plans, Elevations, Sections, and Details of the Alhambra (published in two volumes between 1842 and 1845), possessed an exactitude that made him an uncontested authority on the monument. Comprising over one hundred drawings an d prints based on sketches and tracings made by Jones and the French architect Jules Goury (1803 – 34) during a six – month stay in Granada in 1834, the limited edition survey included a historical foreword by the Orientalist scholar Pascual de Gayangos and a selection of his translations of epigraphic inscriptions, further adding to its authority. 27 lithographs, however, significantly altered the appearance of the plasterwork patterns by rendering them in strong primary colours, and it was thi s presentation 24 For a history of representations of the Alhambra in Britain see María Antonia Raquejo Grado, El Palacio Encantado: La Alhambra en el Arte Británico , Madrid: Taurus Ediciones, 1990; and a more recent Art in Translation , 2(2), 2010, 201 – 22. For a wider survey of nineteenth – century representations of Islamic monuments in Spain see Mauricio Pastor Muñoz, ed., La Imagen Romántica Del Legado Andalusí , Barcelona: Lunwerg Editories, 1995 (catalogue for the 1995 exhibition at the Casa de la Cultura, Almuñecar). 25 Joseph – Philibert Girault de Prangey, Monuments Arabes et Moresques de Cordoue, Séville et Grenade, Dessinés et Mesurés en 1832 et 1833 , 3 vols, Paris: Veith et Hauser, 1836 – 39. Ale xandre Laborde, Itinéraire included engravings of the Comares Palace hammam and the Generalife gardens. 26 followed in the tradition of late eighteen th – century picturesque travel publications such as Henry Swinburne, Travels Through Spain, in the Years 1775 and 1776 , London: J. Davies/ P. Elmsley, 1779, and Richard Twiss, Travels Through Portugal and Spain, in 1772 and 1773 , London: Robinson, Becket an d Robson, 1775. The last four lavish volumes of the Jennings’ Landscape Annual series departed from the Grand Tour countries and focused exclusively on Spain. For more on this Narratives of the Journal of Iberian and Latin American Studies , 12(2), 2006, 123 – 46. 27 Goury died of cholera during their stay, and Jones made a return trip to the monument in 1837. He sold a number of subscription s to finance the publication process, releasing the first volume in ten parts in 1842, and the second volume in two parts in 1845 under the full title: Plans, Elevations, Sections, and Details of the Alhambra: From Drawings Taken on the Spot in 1834 by the late M. Jules Goury and in 1834 and 1837 by Owen Jones/ With a Complete Translation of the Arabic Inscriptions and an Historical Notice of the Kings of Granada from the Conquest of that City by the Arabs to the Expulsion of the Moors, by Mr. Pasqual De Ga yangos , 2 vols, London: n.p., 1842 – 45.
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Lar a Eggleton The ornament of the Alhambra and the past – facing present 10 of bold and clinical pattern segments that would characterize the pages of Grammar Figure 4 . Owen Jones, Original drawing for The Grammar of Ornament; Pla te XXXIX, Moresque No.1 , 1856 (published). Drawing. London: Victoria and Albert Museum, number 1612. In addition to publishing these elaborate volumes, Jones was also responsible for introducing the monument to British audiences in the form of a dramati year after the grand opening of the Sydenham Crystal Palace building in 1854 (figure 5). The original Crystal Palace, built in Hyde Park to house the Great Exhibition of 1851, was move d to Sydenham in southeast London after the initial six months of the exhibition were over, and rebuilt according to an enlargement and complete reconfiguration. 28 Debates surrounding the moral and cultural value of 28 within a structure affectionately called the Crystal Palace. It was dismantled and in 1854 some of its contents w ere moved to an expanded structure set within a park in Sydenham (subsequently destroyed in a fire in 1936), which also included full – scale architectural displays.
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Lar a Eggleton The ornament of the Alhambra and the past – facing present 11 ornament took centre stage at Internation al Exhibitions, grand showcases where visitors could survey and compare the stylistic qualities of design deriving from different historical and geographical sources. While the original Crystal Palace in amongst other artefacts attributed to Spain, the second site at Sydenham included a full – scale architectural reproduction. 29 After a period of campaigning, Jones was granted permission to build a facsimile of the Court of Lions and its adjoining rooms based on his extensive study of the monument. Even with its bright polychrome colour scheme, confirmed by visitors to the Exhibition who had seen the monument in Spain. 30 The populari Alhambra came to be generally regarded as definitively representative of Islamic architecture in both popular and specialist architectural circles in London. 31 As Kathryn Ferry has obs easily – accessible representation of an Islamic monument than was available 32 Figure 5 . Philip Henry Delamotte, Entrance to the Cour t of the Lions , Alhambra Court, Sydenham Crystal Palace, 1854 – 1889 (photographed). Albumen print from collodion negative. London: Victoria and Albert Museum, number 39:316. 29 ded exhibits of raw produce, minerals, vegetable, manufactured articles (including an octagonal table of inlaid wood), a sword and other specimens from Toledo. See Popular Guide to the Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations: With a Plan o f the Building, Rules for Visitors, and Suggestions for the Guidance of Large Parties Visiting the Exhibition , London: William Clowes and Sons, Spicer Brothers, 1851, 11. 30 For example, estorations, Henry Blackburn, Travelling in Spain in the Present Day , London: Sampson Low, Son & Marston, 1866, 196). 31 Mark Crinson, Empire Building: Orientalism and Victorian Architecture , Lo ndon: Routledge, 1996, 65. 32 and Mariam Rosser – Owen, eds, Revisiting Al – Andalus: Perspectives on the Material Culture of Islamic Iberia and Beyond , Leiden; Bost on: Brill, 2007, 245.
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