Towards Objectivity

Girault de Prangey

While John F. Lewis and David Roberts chased picturesque views of Spain in 1832-33, the French aristocrat Joseph-Philibert Girault de Prangey visited Granada, Seville and Cordoba, investigating the country’s Islamic monumental heritage. The results of his studies appeared in Monuments Arabes et Moresques de Cordoue, Séville et Grenade (1837-39) followed by Choix d’ornements moresques de l’Alhambra (1842). In 1841, he had published the sum of his researches in Essai sur l’architecture des arabes et des mores, en Espagne, en Sicilie et en Barbarie, in which he tried to build up a global history of Islamic architecture, being the first to compare the monuments of Andalusia with those of the Maghreb and Egypt. His depictions combine the Romantic tradition, full of picturesque details and characters, with a new sense of visual precision that opened the path to a renewed appreciation of Spain’s Islamic architecture and decoration (Figs. 1-3). – AVB

Girault de Prangey 1837-39. Girault de Prangey 1841. Girault de Prangey 1842. Galera 1992. Quettier 1998. Mauron/Dutoit 2008.
Alhambra Jones

In spring 1834, Welsh architect Owen Jones and French Jules Goury arrived in Granada. For six months, they lived inside the Alhambra, studying in depth its architectural and decorative system. After Goury had died from cholera, Jones returned to London determined to publish the results of their survey, which appeared in parts as from 1836, under the title Plans, Elevations, Sections and Details of the Alhambra. Their examination of the monuments’ architecture is remarkable for its quality (Figs. 4-5). Following the example of contemporary Orientalist architects, such as Pascal Coste in Egypt, they approached the Alhambra as a major work of architecture, looking beyond the popular vision of a fairytale palace and demonstrating that its ornamentation was based on mathematical and geometrical rules. – AVB

Goury/Jones 1836-45. Darby 1974. Grabar 1978. Ferry 2004. Flores 2006. Calatrava 2011.

Scientific Precision

Goury and Jones’ elevations and sections of the Alhambra palace were made with extreme precision. It is surprising and highly significant that they are still among the best available to this day, being used and referred to in modern scientific publications. Goury and Jones not only provided a detailed analysis of the monument’s architecture and decoration, they also published precise plans of the entire fortress and the Nasrid palaces (Figs. 6-7). They were among the first to apply a modern scientific approach to an Islamic building. Their intention is clearly expressed in the title of their publication: Plans, Elevations, Sections and Details of the Alhambra, as they used a terminology that was restricted to mostly classical architecture until that time. – AVB

Goury/Jones 1836-45. Fernández-Puertas 1997. Ferry 2004.
Fig.1 (en)

Fig. 1. Picturesque view of the Mosque of Cordoba (Girault de Prangey 1837-39, Cordoba, Pl. 4).

Fig.2 (en)

Fig. 2. View of the Hall of the Two Sisters in the Alhambra (Girault de Prangey 1842, p. 33).

Fig.3 (en)

Fig. 3. Historical fantasy in the Hall of the Ambassadors in the Alcazar of Sevilla (Girault de Prangey 1837-39, Sevilla, Pl. 7).