Arts of Intimacy? Jews, Christians and Muslims in Medieval Spain - The Courtauld Institute of Art

Arts of Intimacy? Jews, Christians and Muslims in Medieval Spain

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Arts of Intimacy? Jews, Christians and Muslims in Medieval Spain


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.

Courtauld Course Lecturer

About the lecturer

Tom Nickson read Art History at Cambridge, and it was while walking the roads to Santiago de Compostela on a cheap student holiday that he first discovered his love of Spanish medieval art and architecture. He moved to the Courtauld Institute for his MA (2005), and in 2009 received his PhD from the Courtauld. He was lecturer in medieval art and architecture at the University of York from 2009, and then returned to the Courtauld in 2012. He is co-editor of the visual arts issue of the Hispanic Research Journal and Chair of ARTES, a charity dedicated to raising awareness and understanding of Iberian and Latin American visual culture.

Tom investigates two areas that intersect in the Iberian Peninsula. Research in the early stages of his career focused on gothic art and architecture across Europe, particularly its relationship to sacred and profane uses of space. Recent work interrogates the connections between art and belief in medieval Iberia, particularly as a consequence of encounters between Christian, Islamic and Jewish traditions. Multilingual inscriptions have been a topic of particular interest. Tom’s book, Toledo Cathedral: Building Histories in Medieval Castile will be published by Penn State University Press in January 2016. This work provides a new history of Spain’s primatial cathedral, analysing its architecture, urban setting, decoration and liturgy as a way of addressing issues of wider significance for the Iberian Peninsula.

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