Sculpted Muqarnas: The Five Capitals in the Alhambra as a Case Study for the Proportions of Western Profiles

In: Muqarnas Online
Ignacio Ferrer Pérez-Blanco
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Marie-Pierre Zufferey
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In the Alhambra of the Nasrid era (1230–1492), a transformed type of capital emerged that incorporated muqarnas to materialize the transition from the column to the abacus. Although the Alhambra contains the most muqarnas compositions from the Occident (Iberian Peninsula), the present understanding of “Western” muqarnas is based upon two carpentry manuscripts from the 1630s, from different authors on each side of the Atlantic (López de Arenas and Fray Andrés de San Miguel). In this research, the proportions of the muqarnas profiles from each manuscript are studied and compared to each other to articulate the formal consequences of their differences. By sculpting four examples of muqarnas capitals in the Alhambra, this study assesses whether the results correspond to the information provided in the manuscripts. The particularities that arise from these simple muqarnas capitals shed light on the proportions of the Alhambra muqarnas, generate new profiles that are distinct from those of the manuscripts, and establish geometrical relationships that have hitherto been unclear. These observations offer a basis for future tests on other muqarnas compositions in Nasrid palaces, therefore advancing the definition of the formal language of the Alhambra muqarnas.

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