Robert Irwin – Andalusia, the orientalist portal

Event Date: 29 & 30 April 2011
The Latimer Room
Clare College, Cambridge


Department of Spanish and Portuguese
Modern & Medieval Languages Present:

Norman MacColl Symposium Easter Term 2011

Sites of Power: The City of Granada as Cultural Icon

Dr Robert Irwin (School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London): Andalusia, the orientalist portal

The writers — among them, Henry Swinburne, Potocki, Chateaubriand and Hugo -– discovered Andalusia before the painters did. Influenced in some cases by Vollney on ruins or by Burke on the sublime, they tended to present the region as gloomy or even menacing. The artists came a little later and David Roberts and John Frederick Lewis were among the first. Those two pioneered the trail that led from Andalusia to Morocco, Algeria, Egypt and the Holy Land. They were followed on that trail Dauzats, Dehondeeq, Bridgman, Fortuny Regnault, Clairin, Benjamin-Constant and many others. However, the Alhambra also served as a hand-me-down all-purpose source of scenery for artists who never went further than Spain and for some indeed who never left their studios in Paris. Though the slaughter of the Abencerrages and the surrender of Granada by Boabdil were popular topics with the painters, the architecture of the Alhambra also stood in for the palaces of Herod, Harun al-Rashid, Shahriyar and Saladin. To this day it remains part of the bogus oriental repertoire of film makers. The nineteenth-century cult of Moorish architecture should be seen in the context of the growing interest in coloured architecture and sculpture promoted in the first instance by classicists. The development of chromolithography also had a role in popularising Moorish art and architecture. The earliest individuals to build up collections of Islamic art, among them Davillier, Fortuny and Goupil, began their collecting in Spain.








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