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Cross-Cultural Style in the Alhambra: Textiles, Identity and Origins

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Although previous scholarship has examined the appropriation and adaptation of Islamic textiles in Christian Spain, no substantial work has yet focused on the presence and interpretation of Christian textiles in Nasrid Spain. Attention to trade patterns of portable goods as well as to archival documents suggests, however, that an interest in Christian textiles may have existed in al-Andalus in the later medieval period, raising the possibility that the ceilings of the Alhambra should be viewed from within that context.

This paper recognizes compelling formal parallels between these ceilings and northern tapestries and uses those similarities in conjunction with contextual evidence to suggest that one of the ways in which the painted ceilings might have been viewed was as part of a textile collection displayed in the Alhambra. While earlier scholarship frequently interprets the Hall of Justice painted ceilings as representing Christian domination of the Nasrid dynasty, a reading of the paintings as part of a textile collection, in conjunction with ideas of aesthetics and display, suggests that they might instead have contributed to a representation of the wealth and power of the Nasrid ruler in a world stretching far beyond the borders of alAndalus.

Affiliations: 1: College of the Holy Cross, 1 College Street, Worcester, MA 01610, USA


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