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Special Exhibition Arab Weavers – Christian Kings. Medieval textiles from Spain 11 May to 8 November 2020

From the 8th century until 1492, large parts of Spain were ruled by Muslim dynasties. Despite their on-going conflict with them, the Christian kings in the north gladly availed themselves of the magnificent cloth woven by Muslim weavers. They had these sumptuous textiles made up into robes both secular and sacred. The silks exhibited here are important historical source materials and attest to a lively cultural exchange. Download Press Release

 

Silks from Almería

Their praises were sung as much by chroniclers of the Muslim world as by poets from Christian Europe. The silks are patterned with large medallions containing eagles or chimeras, often accompanied with an Arabic blessing. They changed hands as war booty, diplomatic gifts or merchandise. They have survived primarily as precious wrappings for the relics of Christian saints. | Eagle Silk, Almería, 1st half of the 12th century, inv. no. 2655a-e/2659

Heraldic Cloth

The Kingdoms of Castile and León were finally united in 1230. The members of the royal family used exquisite heraldic cloth to visibly assert their hegemonic claims. Woven by Muslim weavers, the heraldic beasts often look very oriental indeed. | Relic from the burial mantle of King Ferdinand III, Spain, 1st half of the 13th century, silk tapestry, inv. no. 3967

Textile Decorations from the Alhambra

The Muslim elite had their interiors decorated with ornamental stucco, colourful wall tiles, intricate wood carvings and brightly coloured silk hangings. Many combine poetic text passages with sophisticated geometric patterns. In a nod to the famous palace of the Nasrid Dynasty in Granada, these textiles are known as “Alhambra silks”. | Fragment of a silk hanging with geometric patterns and inscriptions, Granada, 14th to 15th century, inv. no. 211

Ecclesiastical Magnificence

The Catholic Monarchs, Ferdinand II of Aragón and Isabella I of Castile ceremoniously entered Granada in 1492, shortly after the last Emir, Muhammad XII, had vacated the Alhambra. They commemorated their conquest by bestowing extravagant gifts on the church. Cathedrals, convents and parish churches all over Spain were given luxurious textiles. | Annunciation angel, Barcelona (?), c. 1410–1430, gold and silk embroidery on linen, inv. no. 100