The Former Capital of the Nasrid Kingdom

Granada – frequented by many a writer, artist or architect in the 19th century – also lured Wilhelm Meyer. In a pencil drawing made during his stay in the former capital of the Nasrid Kingdom, the Zurich painter familiarizes us with local topography (Fig. 1). At the foot of the Alhambra, the actual city centre spreads, dominated by the soaring cathedral in the middle of the image. Studies of that impressive building are not included in the Zurich group of drawings. However, the pencil drawing Chapelle royale à Grenade allows a view of the royal burial chapel (Fig. 2). We recognize the monumental tombs of the Catholic Kings Fernando II and Isabel I (back), as well as those of their daughter Juana I and her spouse Felipe I (front). The sheet attests the 19th century’s growing interest in medieval architecture. – FG

Redondo Cantera 2010.

A Much Coveted Subject

The Lion Court was one of the most coveted Spanish subjects of the 19th century, as is documented by many pencil drawings, watercolours and oil paintings. Barely one publication of the time would do without depicting the meanwhile world-famous patio (Figs. 3-5). Meyer also followed this trend, as one can see in a pencil drawing dated 1845. As opposed to the shown book illustrations, Meyer chose his standing point within the Sala de los Reyes (Fig. 6). The resulting vista intensifies the image’s effect even more. The sheet is singled out by the artist’s monogram on the lower right and missing title amongst the rest of the Zurich studies. This suggests the assumption of the sketch being a study for a later oil painting. It is plausible that Meyer resorted to the Zurich sheet for his painting Der Löwenhof der Alhambra commissioned by William I of Wurttemberg. – FG

Lewis 1835. Girault de Prangey 1837-39. Taylor 1853.

The Sala de los Reyes

Nearly as popular with artists and architects as the Lion Court was the Sala de los Reyes adjacent to its Eastern end (Figs 7-8). Meyer presents his version of the shown scenes with the watercolour La Sale du tribunal à l’Alhambra de Grenade from October 1846 (Fig. 9). Through a cascading muqarnas arch in the foreground, we gaze upon one of three room compartments crowned by minutely detailed muqarnas vaults. The aid lines for depicting the geometric décor are still visible and bear testament to Meyer’s layout technique. The partially rendered painting in colour documents the Nasrid architecture’s polychromy, which is widely lost today. The Zurich sheet possibly was the template for Heinrich von Pourtalès’s painting Das Innere vom Saal des Gerichts in der Alhambra made in Paris. – FG

Girault de Prangey 1837-39. Taylor 1853. Meyer 1855.
Fig.1 (en)

Fig. 1. Wilhelm Meyer, "Vue de l’Alhambra prise sur le chemin de la fontaine de l‘Avellano" (View of the Alhambra taken from the way to the fountain of Avellano), pencil on paper, 31,5 x 43 cm, Granada, not dated (Kunsthaus Zürich, Collection of Prints and Drawings, L. 73, Fol. 09).

Fig.2 (en)

Fig. 2. Wilhelm Meyer, "Chapelle royale à Grenade" (Royal chapel of Granada), pencil on paper, 31,5 x 43,5 cm, Granada, 27 October 1845 (Kunsthaus Zürich, Collection of Prints and Drawings, L. 73, Fol. 17).

Fig.3 (en)

Fig. 3. "Entrée de la cour des Lions" (Entrance to the Lion Court), Alhambra (Girault de Prangey 1837-39, Pl. 4).