Culture and traditions survive historical upheavals in often astounding ways. The special presentation The Pull of the Alhambra in the Buchkunstkabinett of the Museum für Islamische Kunst reveals how the culture of the Muslim world enriched the western Mediterranean long after the end of Muslim Spain in 1492. With intricate book pages, fine ceramics, photographs and other fascinating objects from the 15th to the 20th centuries, the exhibition demonstrates the endurance of traditional cultural practices.
The Alhambra in Granada is one of the most significant monuments of Islamic art in the south of present-day Spain. Like almost nowhere else, this palace fort is synonymous with the evolution of the arts in al-Andalus – as the Iberian Peninsula was known in Arabic. The Alhambra was the seat of the ruler of the last Muslim emirate in Spain, which was conquered by the Christian kings in 1492. However, the political end of this era in no way severed the region’s connection with its cultural roots.
Cultural Heritage as a Living Part of the Culture
This special presentation begins by showing how vibrant this culture still is, bringing together 55 objects that provide striking evidence of the persistence of Islamic cultural practices and artistic forms on the Iberian Peninsula. This is particularly evident in the kinds of ceramics that can often still be found in the south of Spain today. Artistic forms of expression were not simply passed down, they were carried on and adapted, with the post-Moorish population making them their own, allowing them to remain a living part of the culture.
In the Maghreb as well, however, the cultural heritage of al-Andalus continued to be maintained. The Iberian Peninsula and Northwest Africa continued to develop a shared ornamental tradition, and similar fonts and design aesthetics in bookmaking illustrate how cultural heritage also lives on outside of clearly defined geographical boundaries.
In particular, the still-young discipline of photography placed a spotlight on the culture of al-Andalus in the 19th century, sparking worldwide interest in the cultural heritage of Islamic Spain. In what are perhaps the oldest photographs in the collection of the Museum für Islamische Kunst fom 1858, Felix Alexander Oppenheim captures the Alhambra and other cultural monuments of Spain in pictures. In dialogue with images taken some 50 years later by a local photography studio, the changes in the Alhambra become visible, illustrating how strongly the 19th century continues to shape our view of the history of al-Andalus.
A special exhibition by the Museum für Islamische Kunst of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin.