Spain and its Muslim heritage. Culture in Conflict?


Essay, 2017

8 Seiten, Note: 8,0


Leseprobe

C ulture in Conflict: Spain and its Muslim heritage

Carolina Gerwin

The year 1492 plays an important role in the country of Spain and especially the region of Al-Andalus. On the 2nd of January 1492, the last Islamic kingdom in Spain, the Nasrid dynasty, surrendered to King Ferdinand of Aragon and Queen Isabella of Castille, also called the Catholic Monarchs[1], in the Alhambra of Granada. Over the next ten years, Muslims who had stayed in Spain were forced to convert to Christianity, were relocated and finally, in the early 17th century, banished from Spain.[2] This point already shows that the conflict between Muslims and Christians in Spain did not stop in 1492 but continued to remain. According to McSweeney and Hopkins, even nowadays, the events that happened over 500 years ago, still evoke problems as there is a discussion going on in Spain on how to incorporate its Muslim heritage with Spain’s identity nowadays as a European and mostly Christian country.[3]

This essay will focus on the Alhambra, the setting of the „drama of this surrender “,[4] as it played a key role in the transition process from Muslim to Christian rule in Al-Andalus, and nowadays it is the most visited building in Spain.[5] Since 1984, the palaces of Alhambra in Granada are part of the UNESCO World Heritage[6] and its buildings reflect the history of Al-Andalus: The Alhambra served as the residence of the Nasrid sultans for 250 years and after Ferdinand and Isabella had conquered Al-Andalus, the Alhambra became their domicile.[7] Consequently, the building is a mix of Moorish and Christian buildings[8]: During the 14th century, the Nasrid palaces of Comares and the Lions were built under Muslim reign, while the Renaissance palace of Charles V (r. 1516-56), which shows the Christian influence, was added after 1492.[9]

As the Alhambra came under the rule of Spanish Christians and became part of what is nowadays Spain, the Spanish population was and is responsible for the “dominant discourse” of the representation and preservation of the Alhambra and therefore decide what parts of its history to stress, ignore, etc.[10] This discourse can be observed on the painting “The surrender of Granada” which was painted by Francisco Pradilla y Ortiz in 1882 and which will be observed in this paper under the following research question: “How does the orientalist painting “The surrender of Granada” by Francisco Pradilla y Ortiz represent the capitulation of Granada in 1492?” This essay argues that the painting is an example of the 19th century Orientalism in Spain as it stresses the dichotomy between Christianity and Islam by emphasizing the weakness of the Muslim “other” while highlighting the triumph of the Christian Monarchs. Firstly, the reasons for Spain’s conflict regarding its Muslim heritage will be given. After that, Pradilla’s painting will be analysed and put into the context of 19th century Orientalism. Finally, the contemporary situation in Spain will be examined.

Regarding the reasons for Spain’s identity and cultural conflict, Spain has, as Said argues, a complex relationship regarding Islam as it was long a part of Spain’s culture and an internal power, rather than an external one. That is why Spain’s Orientalism is different from, for example, the British or French Orientalism.[11]

Furthermore, Sweeney and Hopkins state that the paradox of Spanish Orientalism has emerged out of Spain’s double position as both a subject and object of Orientalism: On the one hand, the Western view of Spain, especially Andalusia, and its inhabitants as being the “Orient” and therefore being “exotic” was included in Spain’s identity. On the other hand, for the Spanish, Muslim Morocco was the “Orient.”[12] Regarding the capitulation of Granada, Castro claims that after 1492, the Muslim “Other” became a target of Orientalism in Western images and was mostly portrayed in images that showed a clear dichotomy between Islam and Christianity and that highlighted the Christian victory.[13]

The analysis of the painting “The surrender of Granada” reveals that this picture is no exemption:

“The surrender of Granada” was a commissioned work by the Marquis of Barzanallana to be part of the paintings displayed in Madrid in the Palace of the Senate. According to Castro, who translated a letter by the Marquis to Pradilla from 1878, the Marquis wrote that the intention of the picture was “to immortalize the surrender of Granada and the delivery of its keys by King Boabdil to Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand on January 2, 1492, as a representation of the unification of Spain and as a starting point for the great deeds achieved by our ancestors under those great monarchs.”[14] This intention already shows that the purpose of the painting was not an objective illustration but rather one in favour of the Spanish Christians.

-ne can observe a clear difference in the space the Muslim ruler, King Boabdil, and his people occupy in the left part of the painting, and the right one that portrays King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella and their companions. While King Boabdil, riding on his horse towards the Christian Monarchs, is accompanied by not even ten people on foot and therefore only takes up one third of the picture, the Christian rulers have a whole army behind them. Consequently, they take up approximately two thirds of the painting and become the centre of attention. Furthermore, this imbalance suggests an “internal unity”[15] on the site of the Christians as well as more military power, while the Muslim site appears separated and weaker.

It is also noteworthy that, according to Castro, the Queen herself was not present at the event portrayed.[16] Therefore, one can argue that Pradilla added her person to idealize the picture to serve its purpose to represent the Spanish unification that the Marquis intended to show with this painting.

Moreover, the “celebration of Christian power against the depiction of Moorish declining authority“[17] is further stressed by the body language of the persons portrayed: On the site of the Christians, everyone is holding up their heads, looking straight to King Boabdil. On the Muslim side, the man holding King Boabdil’s horse and the man with the yellow tunica and green trousers incline their heads towards the Christian rulers and therefore look down. The last one also crosses his arms which can be interpreted as a gesture of humility. Only King Boabdil sits straight on his horse, holds up his head and looks straight towards King Ferdinand.

Another point is that King Boabdil is the only Muslim person riding on a horse. Compared to the accompaniment of Ferdinand and Isabella, where most people ride a horse, the Muslims seem again to be weaker and poorer.

[...]


[1] Todd Willmert, “Alhambra Palace architecture: An environmental consideration of its inhabitation “, Muqarnas Online, Volume 27, Issue 1 (2011): 157. http://booksandjournals.brillonline.com.ezproxy.leidenuniv.nl:2048/content/journals/10.1163/22118993-90000163.

[2] April Najjaj, „ Collective memory and the Alhambra: Two differing perspectives”, The Levantine Review Volume 4 Number 1 (2015): 117. https://ejournals.bc.edu/ojs/index.php/levantine/article/view/8722/7847.

[3] Anna McSweeney and Claudia Hopkins, “Editorial: Spain and Orientalism”, Art in Translation, 9:1 (2017): 2, http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/17561310.2017.1316039?needAccess=true.

[4] Najjaj, „ Collective memory and the Alhambra: Two differing perspectives”, 117.

[5] José Antonio González Alcantud, „Social memory of a World Heritage site: the Alhambra of Granada ”, International Social Science Journal, Volume 62, Issue 203-204 (2011): 180. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com.ezproxy.leidenuniv.nl:2048/doi/10.1111/j.1468-2451.2011.01802.x/epdf.

[6] „Alhambra, Generalife and Albayzin, Granada“, UNESCO World Heritage Center, last modified 2017, http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/314.

[7] Najjaj, „ Collective memory and the Alhambra: Two differing perspectives”, 117.

[8] González Alcantud, „Social memory of a World Heritage site: the Alhambra of Granada ”, 180. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com.ezproxy.leidenuniv.nl:2048/doi/10.1111/j.1468-2451.2011.01802.x/epdf.

[9] Todd Willmert, “Alhambra Palace architecture: An environmental consideration of its inhabitation “, Muqarnas Online, Volume 27, Issue 1 (2011): 157. http://booksandjournals.brillonline.com.ezproxy.leidenuniv.nl:2048/content/journals/10.1163/22118993-90000163.

[10] Najjaj, „ Collective memory and the Alhambra: Two differing perspectives”, 119.

[11] Edward Said, “Prólogo a la nueva edición española,” Orientalismo (Barcelona: DeBolsillo, edition 2008), 9–10. Said’s prolog is dated 2002. Cited in Anna McSweeney & Claudia Hopkins, “Editorial: Spain and Orientalism”, Art in Translation, 9:1 (2017): 2, http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/17561310.2017.1316039?needAccess=true. See also Carolina Gerwin, “Culture in conflict: The example of the Alhambra in Granada, Spain”, October 9th, 2017.

[12] McSweeney and Hopkins, “Editorial: Spain and Orientalism” , 3. See also Carolina Gerwin, “Culture in conflict: The example of the Alhambra in Granada, Spain”, October 9th, 2017.

[13] Maria A. Castro, „Separation and Displacement in Francisco Pradilla’s orientalist paintings : La Rendicion de Granada (1882) and El Suspiro del Moro (1892), published in One World Periphery Reads the Other: Knowing the „Oriental“ in the Americas and the Iberian Peninsula, edited by Ignacio Lopez-Calvo (Newcastle upon Tyne : Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2010): 249. http://web.b.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.leidenuniv.nl:2048/ehost/ebookviewer/ebook/bmxlYmtfXzU1MzQ0OV9fQU41?sid=d6e65f52-124c-4f98-a782-877333d601d9@pdc-v-sessmgr01&vid=0&format=EB&rid=1

[14] Castro, „Separation and Displacement in Francisco Pradilla’s orientalist paintings : La Rendicion de Granada (1882) and El Suspiro del Moro (1892),” 244.

[15] Ibid., 246.

[16] Ibid., 247.

[17] Ibid., 247.

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Details

Titel
Spain and its Muslim heritage. Culture in Conflict?
Hochschule
Universiteit Leiden
Note
8,0
Autor
Jahr
2017
Seiten
8
Katalognummer
V510900
ISBN (eBook)
9783346079251
Sprache
Deutsch
Schlagworte
Alhambra, Spain, Muslim heritage, Christianity, Islam, painting “The surrender of Granada”, Francisco Pradilla y Ortiz, Orientalism, 1492, Spanien, Muslimisches Erbe, Orientalismus, The surrender of Granada, Christenheit
Arbeit zitieren
Carolina Gerwin (Autor), 2017, Spain and its Muslim heritage. Culture in Conflict?, München, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/510900

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