MA History of Art

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

Dr Tom Nickson

i The mihrab in the Great Mosque of Cordoba, c. 960s. Photo Tom Nickson

This MA course re-examines Iberian 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, the Almohads and Nasrids), the Christian territories (including early medieval, Romanesque and Gothic material), and the manuscripts and synagogues of Spain’s Jewish communities. Highlights include the Great Mosque of Córdoba and its multiple transformation; carved ivory caskets and their place in Andalusi court culture; Santiago de Compostela and the arts of the pilgrimage roads; the Gothic art and architecture of Toledo, León and Burgos cathedrals; the synagogues of medieval Toledo; illuminated manuscripts, both of the Cantigas de Santa Maria and for Jewish Passover rituals; the Alhambra in Granada and the art of the Nasrids; San Juan de los Reyes and connections between Spain, Italy and the Netherlands.

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. We take advantage of London’s collections, notably those at the Victoria & Albert Museum and British Library, but there will also be a study trip to Spain. This course will be of interest to anyone fascinated by Spanish language and culture; entanglements between Christian, Islamic and Christian visual cultures; and the significance of the Middle Ages for politics and culture in the modern era.

Course Leader: Dr Tom Nickson

In the event that a course leader is on sabbatical, takes up a fellowship, or otherwise is not able to teach the course, they will be replaced by another experienced course leader either for a semester or, in some cases, the academic year.

Please note: whilst many Special Options will include site visits within the UK and further afield, these are subject to confirmation.

Option Full MA History of Art

Special Options 2024/25

You can either make a general application for the MA, or you may indicate your preferred Special Option(s). Many applicants choose to make a general application for the MA in History of Art at the Courtauld. If you do this we will match your application to a Special Option that matches your interests and has space. Alternatively you may indicate your preference for up to three Special Options, tailoring personal statements in relation to each Special Option.

Our Special Options change from year to year as we seek to refresh and expand our offer.

We aim to confirm these at least twelve months in advance, and will always contact applicants immediately in rare instances where changes have to be made. In 2024/5 we are especially pleased to include new or returning Special Options, including Art and Empire in the Indian Ocean World, c.1800–1900, Architectural Legacies of Empire at Home and Abroad, c.1620- c.1920, Violent Materials: Art and War in the Early Modern World, ca. 1500–1800, Court and Commerce: Arts of Islam and the Great Mongol State, 1206-1368 and The Surrealist Century: Mediums, Madness, Magic and the Manifesto of Surrealism (1924).