Brief Identification Edit


The Alhambra Cupola is a decorative ceiling dome created in the Granada Alhambra in Spain during the 14th century. As a pleasure palace to the local sultan, the Granada Alhambra was home to many ornate and luxurious decorations, which is the purpose of this cupola as well (Foret, 10). The cupola is a prime example of the architectural design of Muslim buildings around the 14th century that could be found throughout Spain and North Africa. It is currently held in the Museum of Islamic Art at the Pergamon Museum in Berlin, Germany (Kröger).

Technical Evaluation Edit

The cupola is made primarily of cedar and poplar wood and consists of a variety of symmetrical geometric patterns, which were commonly found in other Muslim architecture of the time (Foret, 8) (Ghmelnizki, 1-3). What sets this particular cupola apart from the ones found in other Islamic buildings is its extreme complexity of geometric shapes. An unknown master craftsman used simple shapes such as basic squares and triangles as a base to form increasingly complex shapes which fit together perfectly to form the cupola seen above. The craftsman responsible for this work had to have used incredibly precise methods for each piece of carved wood, which were then fit into the whole dome. Additional analysis of the shapes and layout suggest that the base pattern used to create the cupola changed as the craftsman moved further up, being more complex near the bottom and less complex at the top (Ghmelnizki, 4). It was acquired through the donation of Arthur von Gwinner’s descendants in 1978, after removal from the Granada Alhambra in 1892 (Kröger).

Local Historical Context Edit

The cupola was commissioned by the local sultan of Granada during construction of the Alhambra as a sign of opulence. This time period saw an exchange of Christian and Ottoman forces all throughout Spain, and the invading Muslim forces wanted to build a palace as a symbol of their power, leading to the construction of the Granada Alhambra (Jayyusi et al., 71). Not much is known about the exact individual or group of individuals who created the cupola, which suggests that they were socially less important the the owner of the Alhambra itself, the sultan.

World Historical Significance Edit

The Alhambra Cupola is one of many similar, but not completely identical, architectural features found throughout Islamic buildings built around the 14th to 16th centuries. Similar constructions can be found in most of the large palaces of significant rulers, such as the famous Taj Mahal (Foret, 21). While the exact methods of construction and decorative patterns are unique to Muslim buildings around the same time, the need for grandiose decoration in the palaces of leaders is a trend that can be seen in just about every major culture before and since. The cupola's greatest significance as an item of decoration is to signify the rise of Islam as a major religion that could actually compete with Christianity on a worldwide scale (Jayyusi et al., 115).

Bibliography Edit

Foret, Amanda Sharon. "Reflections on Pleasure: The Fourteenth-Century Alhambra." PhD diss., Faculty of the Louisiana State University and Agricultural and Mechanical College in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in The School of Art by Amanda Sharon Foret BA, Southern Methodist University, 2009 (accessed April 18, 2015).

Ghmelnizki, Sergei. "Methods of Constructing Geometric Ornamental Systems in the Cupola of the Alhambra." (1989). (accessed on April 18, 2015).

Jayyusi, Salma Khadra, and Manuela Marín, eds. The Legacy of Muslim Spain. Vol. 12. Brill, 1992. Print

Kröger, Jens. "Alhambra Cupola." Discover Islamic Art. Accessed April 18, 2015.;ISL;de;Mus01;17;en.

"The “Reyes” Hall (Alhambra)." Accessed April 18, 2015.