Spanish Perspective

The Scientific Reassessment of the Islamic Legacy

The publication of Monumentos Arquitectónicos de España between 1859 and 1880 was the result of a scientific project supervised by the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando (Fig. 1). The starting point of this research had been the success achieved by the publication of the Antigüedades Árabes de España in 1787 and 1804, which included several plans and drawings of the Alhambra of Granada and the Mosque of Córdoba. Both projects, the Monumentos and the Antigüedades, contributed to the reassessment of the artistic legacy of the Christian and the Islamic periods. The fact of including the architecture of al-Andalus in Spain’s Art History confronted especially during the nineteenth century two factions of the Academia’s scholars. While one part of the scholarship defended Spain’s Catholic Volksgeist and denied the artistic value of the Islamic legacy, the other part argued for the national’s tolerant character and saw in the medieval legacy the expression of a diverse society and of the peaceful coexistence of ethnicities and religions. – HLK

Monumentos 1858-80. Almagro Gorbea 2015.

Analysing Islamic Monuments

The Academia de Bellas Artes assumed the edition of the Monumentos Arquitectónicos de España (1859-1880), which combined series of technical and scientific illustrations of Spain’s main monuments and art historical analyses, following the current state of knowledge. For this purpose, several scholars elaborated accurate plans and elevations and depicted the façades and details of ornamentation of monuments like the Great Mosque of Córdoba or the Alhambra of Granada (Fig. 2-8). The analytical approach to the architectural structure can be seen, for example, in the depiction of the Lion’s court pavilion’s vault (Fig. 2): the muqarnas of the vault’s tromps are divided into its basic structural elements. In doing so, the technical composition of the muqarnas appears to be more comprehensive. The ornamental detail of the Mirador of Lindaraja reconstructs the medieval polychromy according to the current historiographical thesis of the 19th century (Fig. 4). – HLK

Monumentos 1858-80. Almagro Gorbea 2015.
Fig.1 (en)

Fig. 1. Front page of "Monumentos Arquitectónicos de España, Palacio Árabe de la Alhambra" (Monumentos 1858-1880, cuaderno 6).

Fig.2 (en)

Fig. 2. Pavilion´s dome in the Lion Court of the Alhambra (Monumentos 1858-1880, cuaderno 6).

Fig.3 (en)

Fig. 3. Floor plan of the Alhambra in Granada by José de Hermosilla (Monumentos 1858-1880, cuaderno 62).