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.


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.

Project Outputs

Project updates
13 September 2023
Torrijos and the tradition of Arabic epigraphy in Castilian architecture
Epigraphy is the word we use for the study of inscriptions. Two of the ceilings from the Torrijos palace were originally associated with a plaster frieze containing legible Arabic inscriptions. The sections of original plaster...
21 June 2023
Carpentry in colonial spaces: The Viceroyalty of Peru
Francisco Mamani-Fuentes The techniques of carpentry that were used to make the Torrijos ceiling are also found in ceilings far beyond Iberia’s shores in colonial South America, where they were brought by craftsmen who combined...
31 March 2023
From One Palace to Another – the Torrijos ceiling at the Château Villandry
Anna McSweeney In our blog series so far, we have described the histories of three of the four Torrijos ceilings – at the V&A in London, the Museo Arqueológico in Madrid, and at the Legion...
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

This lecture at the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies introduced the V&A’s Torrijos ceiling, summarised the scope and aims of the research project, outlined our findings, and presented the context of its redisplay at V&A East Storehouse.

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.

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 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.

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.

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.

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.

Header 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