Wood and Lacquer
Triangular Ceiling Panel With Interlacing Geometric Designs
Materials and technique
Wood, carved and painted
each panel 151 cm
The long tenure of the Nasrid dynasty (1230-1492) in the Andalusian state of Granada was remarkable considering the frequency of political and military challenges that existed in the region while they were in power. As the centre of authority shifted more towards the eastern Islamic lands in the Middle Ages, the western regions began to develop their own more uniquely regional styles: Spain and North Africa were no exception. In Spain, the coexistence of Muslims, Christians, and Jews led to a synthesized style which would distinguish the art and architecture of this region from the rest of the Islamic world. The three architectural panels (one shown here) probably originally belonged to a ceiling made of wood, a popular medium for the representation of interlacing geometric designs appearing in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Each equilateral triangular panel is subdivided into smaller panels that form a radiating design starting from an eight-pointed star shape at the centre. The eight-pointed star, produced from the superimposition of two interlocking squares at a forty-five degree angle, appears on wall decoration at the Alhambra fortress of the Nasrids in Granada. Heather Ecker has described this design principle as the “lazo of eight,” which consists of geometric designs built from various interlocking combinations involving the eight-pointed star. This design appears on several different media during the Nasrid period, including wood, stucco, and textiles (for textile and wood examples, see Ecker 2004, pp. 47-51 and 139-40, cat. nos. 42-44, from the Hispanic Society of America, New York, although there are several more in other collections). Each panel includes a floral or foliate design painted on a brown ground and divided from other panels with borders in high relief, painted in light blue outlined by bright yellow and red. Although wooden ceilings from al-Andalus often survive in fragments, it is rare to find a coherent group of ceiling elements, such as these three panels.
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