This MA course re-examines Spanish visual culture in a period when relationships between Christians, Jews and Muslims were radically renegotiated. Beginning with the Great Mosque of Córdoba, first built in the decades following the Muslim conquests of 711, we end in Granada shortly after 1492, the year of Columbus’ landings in America, the expulsion of Jews from Spain, and the conquest of Granada, Spain’s last Muslim stronghold. Following a broadly chronological framework we examine the material culture of Islamic al-Andalus (including caliphal Córdoba, the taifa kingdoms, and the Nasrids), the Christian territories (including early medieval, Romanesque and Gothic material), and the manuscripts and synagogues of Spain’s Jewish communities. There is a strong focus on architecture, but we also look at textiles, inscriptions, metalwork, sculpture, painting and manuscripts, and their intersection with different rites and rituals. Throughout, we analyse critically questions of religious and regional identity, paying close attention to the ways in which politics has shaped scholarly approaches to this material.
The course is taught through a combination of thematic seminars, case studies and site visits across two terms, and culminates in a closely-supervised dissertation. In London students benefit from world-class libraries at the Courtauld, Warburg Institute and British Library, together with the Courtauld’s photographic libraries. The course includes visits to important material in London collections, notably the Victoria and Albert Museum and Blythe House, and it is anticipated that there will also be a trip to Spain.