Friday, November 12, 2010

TENTH ENTRY: Spain, Hispano-Moorish

NOTE: Around 700 CE - 1800 CE

Above Great Mosque of Cordoba, the dome in front of the mihrab.

*SYNOPSIS OF HISTORY: The Moors were Islamic people from North Africa (now today Morocco and surrounding area) who captured the Christian sates of Iberia in 711 AD, where they maintained control until 1492. In 1085 King Alfonso of Aragon and Navarre captured the city of Toledo from the Moors and began a long struggle to push them out of Spain. In 1492 the kingdom of Granada (the last one) of the Moors fell to the Christians, where foreign influence came from 2 Royal Families: the Hapsburgs from Austria who ruled from 1516-1700 and Bourbons from France who ruled from 1700-20th century.

*GEOGRAPHY & INFLUENCE: Spain and Portugal both culturally influenced this period. Portugal freed herself from the Moorish control in 1140, 3 1/2 centuries before Spain. Portugal's contacts abroad included India and China, whereas Spain's were largely in the Netherlands and America. The Moorish influence is thus less strong in Portugal than in Spain, while the Eastern influence is far stronger in Portugal. Officially Spain was unified for centuries under a single king's rule, but politically it long remained a collection of small states within the winkles of its topography.

Map of Moorish period, North ^

*RELIGION: The 2 main religions were Islam and Christianity who experienced violent struggles between each other. Spanish design combines both influences, but Spain was dominated by the Roman Catholics who displayed this in the architecture of their churches along with interiors and decoration. A main example of this would be the medieval church of Santiago da Compostela.

Above ^ Santiago de Compostela Church

*The Islamic faith encouraged rich design in other ways with (at times) forbidding the use of the human figure and other natural forms in decoration; this encouraged intricate geometry and multiplicity of small motifs in flat patterns. The greatest of Spanish mosques is the one at Cordoba, it is larger than any Christian church built.


Roughly followed the same progression styles of Italy with more complexities at times moving back and forth between very ornate and very plain styles. There were many different styles during this period, I will touch on all 6.

1. Hispano-Moorish Style (700-1400)

Main developments in design:

* horse shoe arch, pointed arch
* high ceilings, busy patterns and colourful
* walls: ornamentation detailed and bumpy, wainscoting
* scalloped arch: broken outline with half moon design

Exterior bird's eye view of Cordoba, one can see the arches*

*See the ornamental detailing on the facade of the building, exhibiting Moorish design and style.

*Horse shoe arch

Interior of the 2 -tired arches of the Great Mosque, Cordoba.

*Scalloped arches

The two-tired arches

In the Great Mosque of Cordoba, the dome in front of the mihrab

2. Mudejar & Christian Gothic (1250-1500)

The Moors we no longer the powerful rulers at this time resulting in eastern and western styles combined. The 2 groups were now the Mudejars (Moors who converted to Christianity) and the Mozarabs (Arab rule) who both shared characteristics of Islamic and Christianity cultures. First started with Romanesque styles then later on Gothic*

Aerial view, La Mota Castle, Medina del Compo, 15th century.

* Romanesque influence from Christian believers
* Round turrets, inner rectangular towers
* Interior Courtyard 3 floors high

The Court of the Lions in the Alhambra, Granada

* Gothic influence & style
* Moorish decorative materials and patterns
* Fused styles of Islamic & Gothic

Baths in Gerona, built in 1194 and restored a century later

* Communal baths for religious complexes; ritual ablutions and cleanliness
* Also referred to as hammam meaning hot steam bath that were modeled after the Romans
* Elements included an entrance hall, domed roof (with small glazed windows), and a hot room with a pool

Gothic Vaulting in the cathedral of Seville, almost 100 ft. above finished floor

* Built on the site of a grand Almohad Mosque
* The original Tower, the Giralda still occupies the site standing at 197 feet height built in the 12 century as the mosque's minaret
* Took more than a century to build
* Third largest cathedral in the world (St. Peter's on Rome being the largest)
* Holds the tomb of Christopher Columbus

Design Traits:
* Divided into a nave with double aisles
* 32 large clustered piers
* Stained glass windows with bright bold colours
* Between ribs on the ceiling are fields of textured projected bosses or pendant ornaments (typically used at the intersections of the ribs)
* The rejas or iron grills are highly decorated
* The retablos (alter screens) are great examples of medieval woodwork

Exterior view of Seville Cathedral

3. Renaissance Style: Platerseco (1500-1556)

Spain and Portugal were powerful influences on design and with Queen Isabella I ruling, she was an inspiration for a certain decor style. The development of covering wide surfaces with rich, small scale ornamentation was in demand. This taste came from 2 origins: the myriad details of Moorish decor and the wealth of exotic goods (Isabella funded) from foreign countries like America that Columbus sought out. We will see an influence of Gothic arches, architectural features from Arabia and India, and marine ornaments from Portugal's seafaring destiny.

Sacristy doors and adjacent pilasters in an anteroom of the chapter house of the Cathedral of Toledo. This displays the Plateresco style, carved by Gregorio Pardo in 1549.

Design Traits:
* Decorative precious metals designed in a style called platero
* Ornaments include: heraldic shields, portrait medallions
* Italian motifs: rinceau, acanthus leaf, and anthemion

The Plateresco Style was primarily used for exterior architectural treatments like: patios, formal rooms in churches and public buildings, and for furniture and accessory design.

*Famous Architect of this time- Sebastiano Serlio

4. Renaissance Style: Desornamentado

The meaning of this style "ornamented" unlike Plateresco that was over the top. Desornamentado was a powerful style that was characterized by austerity. The style was limited to court, ecclesiastical (churches, etc.), and public buildings. It was never considered fully suitable for domestic use. Plain surfaces appeared with refined proportions. *NOTE: There are not too many examples of this design that is opposite of its preceding, Plateresco.

* A monument of this era is the El Escorial, built by Hapsburg ruler Philip II. The Hapsburg were the ruling house of Austria, who had gained control of the Spanish throne.

Bird's eye view of El Escorial, near Madrid

Design Details:
* Hardly matched for its plainness and simplicity because of new rulers
* Built of solid gray granite
* Measurements of building are 570 ft x 740 ft
* Architect: Juan Bautista de Toledo but was completed by his assistant Juan de Herrera in 1584

Floor plan of El Escorial

Interior of Nave

The famous library inside

Design Traits of Desornamentado:
NOTE: These traits are found in the private apartments of Phillip II
* Door & window frames in a pale gray marble
* Floors are clay tile
* Walls are whitewashed
* Wainscoting of glazed Talavera tile

^Above is the only example I could find of the Desornamentado Style. This is one of Phillp II's room.

5. Baroque Style: Churrigueresco

This is style expresses the Spanish character at its most passionate because of its riotous enrichment. Influenced by France and England with the extravagant Baroque and Rococo Styles; the name Churrigueresco came from a family of sculptors, wood carvers, and architects named Churriguera. This style was known for its surface decoration rather than structural changes. Main features were applied to exterior doorways and church retables ( decorative screens or panels behind alters). It reached some houses where it was more seen in the furniture and accessories.

The Transparente retable of the Cathedral of Toledo, designed by Narciso Tomé added to the cathedral in 1721-32.

Design Traits:
NOTE: Baroque known to be more of a "heavy" design style
* Nude figures (made from plaster) appeared under heavy clouds called Cherubim & Seraphim
* Silver Tortoise shells and ivory inlays for wall decor.
* Doric capitals now sprouted Corinthian acantus leaves
* Columns with angel heads along the shafts and capitals
* Bronze sunbeams & marble figures sweeping upwards near a large window in the cathedrals vault
* Fresco work as well

6. Rococo & Neoclassical Styles:

Known as more light (in weight and colour) and feminine but still highly decorated as the Baroque Churrigeuresco style. Influenced by France with "C" shaped & "S" shaped curves.* Architect of style: Juan de Villaneuva

Porcelain Room in Madrid's Palacio Real, surfaced with Rococo porcelain plaques. Interior Designers: Filippo Juvarra & Giovanni Battista Sacchetti. Architect: Francesco Sabbatini.

The Gasparini Room in the Palacio Real, designed by Matteo Gasparini


* Used frequently in monasteries aka the Monk's Chair & "modern" Dante chair from Italy
* Wooden frame of square rectangular members, sometimes with turnings
* Back separate from seat and commonly upholstred in leather with embroidery with tack heads

Spainish Bed:
* Both made with and without corner posts
* Fabric valences: silk damask with fringes and tassels
* Headboards sometimes elaboratly painted
* Carved with a pattern of intricate scrolls


* Storage chest (for papers, valuables) with hinged lid to fold down into a desk
* Wood trestle base, turned legs with wrought-iron fiadores
* Inlayed patterns made of ivory, mother of pearl, and wood


Yeseria: Stuccowork around and within arches. Above ^ at the Alcarzar Palace, Seville

Artesonado: woodwork on the ceilings of the family dining room of Seville's Alcazar Palace

Carpet with arabesque design.

***Next History Period Style: France -Renaissance to Neoclassical

1 comment:

  1. this isa great website but it would help alot more if each pic. had a date