Researching the Alhambra Palace
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
firstname.lastname@example.org // Instagram: @mrosserowen
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
email@example.com // Instagram: @mcsweeney.anna
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
Taking the Torrijos ceilings as a case study, this paper will consider the mobility of craft techniques within medieval Spain, why particular woods were chosen, and what impact this material had on the structures and designs of these ceilings.
Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte, Munich
24 March 2023
This panel will discuss two large-scale wooden object types that are currently the subject of live museological projects: wooden ceilings from Spain, and ‘Damascus Rooms’, discussing the challenges and opportunities that these pose.
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and Rice University, Houston
3 March 2023
The research into the Torrijos ceilings opens up the question of the Islamic origins of this carpentry technique. This seminar explored ideas and suggested ways forward for a wider project on the use of wood in Islamic interiors.
Research Seminar in Islamic Art (ReSIA), School of Oriental and African Studies (online)
2 February 2023
This lecture at NYU Abu Dhabi Institute introduced the V&A’s Torrijos ceiling, summarised the scope and aims of the research project, outlined our initial findings, and presented the context of its redisplay at V&A East Storehouse.
NYU Abu Dhabi Institute
7 December 2022
This lecture to the Islamic Art Circle introduced the Torrijos ceilings and their collecting histories, summarised the scope and aims of the research project, outlined our initial findings, and presented our future plans for the project.
Islamic Art Circle, School of Oriental and African Studies
12 October 2022
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.
The British Academy, 10-11 Carlton House Terrace, London SW1Y 5AH
17 June 2022
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.
7 April 2022
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.
1 November 2021