Crafting Medieval Spain: the Torrijos ceilings in context

Mariam Rosser-Owen, Curator Middle East, Victoria and Albert Museum,, @mrosserowen

Anna McSweeney, Lecturer in History of Art and Architecture, Trinity College Dublin,

This session will explore the legacy of Islamic art in Europe through its medieval ceilings, many of which are dispersed as architectural fragments in contemporary museums. It will focus on the case study of the Torrijos ceilings, four monumental wooden ceilings that were commissioned in the 1490s by a couple close to the Catholic Monarchs, for their palace in Torrijos near Toledo (Spain). The ceilings were separated in 1904 when the Torrijos palace was dismantled, and they are now dispersed across collections in Europe and the USA. Despite their significance to histories of both Islamic and European art, these important objects remain under-explored. As objects made using techniques and motifs associated with Islamic craftsmanship, the Torrijos ceilings are not considered European enough to sit within western art history; on the other hand, their commission for a Christian-owned palace using a style adapted to Gothic taste means that neither are they considered within Islamic art history.

Drawing from a new interdisciplinary BA/Leverhulme funded research project with these ceilings at its heart, this panel invites papers that more fully contextualise the ceilings and their role in understanding the complex history of Islamic art in Europe. We seek to discuss the circumstances of the ceilings’ original making and decorative choices; the relationship of their carpentry techniques to earlier traditions, especially in the wider Islamic world; their fragmentation and acquisition, in the wider context of the dispersal of Spain’s cultural heritage in the late 19th and 20th centuries; their modes of display, and the potential for these ceilings to foster a new understanding of Spain’s medieval craftsmanship among contemporary museum-going publics.

Instagram: @craftingmedievalspain

Information about the speakers and papers on this panel will be posted shortly.



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