Crafting Medieval Spain: the Torrijos Ceiling in the global museum

Rethinking the legacy of Islamic art in Europe // Instagram @craftingmedievalspain

About the Project

This interdisciplinary project focuses on four monumental wooden ceilings from the Torrijos palace, near Toledo. It investigates how Islamic techniques were adapted to Gothic taste and how artistic heritage was dispersed in the 1900s. It addresses issues of display, conservation and restoration.

Context

The four wooden ceilings from the Torrijos palace, created in the 1490s, demonstrate how Islamic artistic features were assimilated to a Gothic taste. Dispersed in the early 20th century, the ceilings are now at the V&A, in Madrid, the Loire, and San Francisco. Taking advantage of the plans to redisplay the V&A ceiling at V&A East, this project brings together an interdisciplinary and international group of experts to answer questions about materials, craftmanship, patronage and dispersal. This project offers an opportunity to rethink the legacy of Islamic art in Europe.

Aim

The project will engage in a detailed study of the V&A's Torrijos ceiling while it undergoes conservation to prepare for redisplay, and through conversations and collaborations with specialists in different aspects of these ceilings' materiality and historical context. It aims to investigate the Torrijos ceilings as a group for the first time since their dispersal, and to engage in an international and cross-disciplinary dialogue about such ceilings and other objects produced at a turning point in European history, when Muslim rule in Spain came to an end in 1492.

Outcomes

This project will bring together international specialists to share their knowledge about the Torrijos ceilings and their wider context, and to encourage future research into objects of this type. Information will be shared across the collections housing the other Torrijos ceilings, allowing a fuller understanding of the creation and history of these spectacular objects, and the circumstances of their dispersal. A public engagement workshop will discuss how we can use the ceilings to work with communities within London and in Torrijos.

Project updates
8 September 2022
From Spain to California: the odyssey of a fifteenth-century artesonado
An outstanding example of architectural woodwork displayed at the Legion of Honor, part of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, is a painted and gilded wooden ceiling, or artesonado, from the lost palace in...
Read more...
21 July 2022
Voices from Torrijos
From the beginning, we have been keen to use this research project to connect with local specialists in Torrijos, to learn from them about their town’s history, and to speak with them about what the...
Read more...
27 June 2022
Exhibit 8 at the Summer Showcase
Last week the Torrijos ceiling project was one of twelve pop-up exhibits in the British Academy Summer Showcase, a three-day festival of ideas ‘for curious minds’. The entrance to the British Academy. Photo Anna McSweeney...
Read more...
The Team
Project's Principal Investigator, Curator Middle East, Asia Department

Mariam Rosser-Owen looks after the V&A's collections from the Arab World. She specialises in the material culture of the medieval Mediterranean, especially Islamic Spain and North Africa. She wrote "Islamic Arts from Spain" (V&A Publishing 2010).

Project's Co-Investigator, Assistant Professor, Trinity College Dublin

Anna McSweeney is a lecturer in Islamic Arts and Architecture at Trinity College Dublin. She specialises in the art of Islamic Spain and North Africa. She wrote a book on the Alhambra ceiling in Berlin. (From Granada to Berlin: the Alhambra Cupola, Ve ... Read more

Project's Research Assistant

Maria Teresa offers research support and collaborates in the organisation of the project's dissemination activities. Her research investigates how patronage was used to shape historical memories in the late medieval and early modern periods, with a sp ... Read more

External Partners
Thomas Organ
- Arte Conservation Ltd
Beatriz Campderá Gutiérrez
- Museo Arqueológico Nacional, Madrid
Henri Carvallo
- Château de Villandry, Loire
Elisabeth Cornu, Jane Williams and Thomas Wu
- Fine Arts Museum San Francisco
Enrique Nuere Matauco, Javier de Mingo and Elena Franco
- LoBlanco
Ana Carrassón
- Instituto de Patrimonio Cultural de España
Elena Correa
- Patronato de la Alhambra y Generalife
Nicolás Torres Camacho and Fernando de Miguel Cuesta
- Ayuntamiento de Torrijos
Julio Longobardo Carillo and Justiniano de la Peña
- Asociación Amigos de la Colegiata, Torrijos
Jutta Maria Schwed
- Museum für Islamische Kunst, Berlin
Mecka Baumeister
- Metropolitan Museum of Art
V&A Team
Victor Borges
- Lead Conservator Sculpture, Ceramics and Glass
Nick Humphrey
- Furniture Curator, Dept of Furniture, Textiles & Fashion and Theatre & Performance
Georgia Haseldine
- Lead Curator, V&A East Project
Events

At the BA Summer Showcase (17-18 June 2022), the Torrijos ceiling project will showcase a scaled model of the V&A’s 15th-century ceiling, with master woodcarver Naseer Yasna demonstrating traditional Islamic techniques and geometry.

This session at the Association for Art History Annual conference in April 2022 focuses on the four Torrijos ceilings. Papers will discuss conservation, historical and social context, and collecting activity in the 20th century.

This session at the Association for Art History Annual conference in April 2022 focuses on the four Torrijos ceilings and invites papers that contextualise them and their role in understanding the complex history of Islamic art in Europe.

Background image: Detail of the carved and gilded wooden ceiling from the Palacio de Torrijos, prov. Toledo (Spain), about 1490, V&A: 407-1905 © Victoria and Albert Museum, London