This volume offers a reconstruction of the court culture of the taifa kings of al-Andalus (11th century A.D.), using both visual and textual evidence. A focus of particular attention is the court of the Banū Hūd at Zaragoza, and that dynasty's palace, the Aljafería. Principle written sources are not histories and chronicles, but the untranslated poetic anthologies of al-ḥimyarī and al-Fatḥ ibn Khāqān.
The first part of the book addresses taifa visual and literary languages, with especial emphasis on connections between the literary and visual aspects of taifa aesthetics. The sections on the Aljafería's ornamental program will be of particular interest, not only to historians of Islamic art, but to students of all visual traditions with strong non-figural components.
In addition, Part One also proposes that taifa court culture has been considered as a culture of "courtly love," and this argument also forms the point of departure for Part Two. The second part of the study uses luxury objects of Islamic and Limousine production as a point of departure for a detailed comparison of the thematics of taifa poetry in classical Arabic on the themes of courtly love and pleasures with those of the better-known Provençal tradition.
This essay seeks to define and explore the significance of trees as a cross-cultural devotional topos in late medieval Iberian spirituality. Through an examination of both visual and literary material from Christian, Islamic, and Jewish contexts, much of which is published here for the first time, trees are demonstrated to be at the center of both polemics and devotions, often—in a Christian context—serving as a stand-in for the crucified body of Christ.
This essay reconsiders the "Arthurian" identification of a number of the scenes that compose the ornamental program of the painted ceilings above the northern and southern alcobas of the Alhambra's Hall of Justice, proposing a reading that privileges Castilian versions of well-known courtly romances over French ones. The scenes are read as representations of the stories of Flores y Blancaflor, as well as Tristán de Leonís. Both tales, however, have been further altered and adapted in order to privilege the ideological concerns of the Nasrid court, both as an Islamic political entity with an agenda of jihād and—in a fashion that could easily be viewed as contradictory—as a participant in medieval Iberia's much-discussed frontier culture, which involved a "marriage of convenience" with Castilian allies.
This essay explores, through the lens of Nasrid poets’ frequent evocations of the lands of Najd, Nasrid culture’s constructions of relationships with the origins of Islam, the origins of poetry, and the origins of the Arabic language itself; it argues that these elements are an integral part of the Nasrid dynasty’s claims to legitimacy in the realms of court, cultural production, and devotion.