Sunday, January 9, 2011

Moorish Tile History

Lately, I’ve been thinking about history… and, you know me--

I’ve been pondering Moorish influence in Spain and how the region inherited rich traditions from Islamic artists and craftsmen who worked in cities such as Cordoba, Granada, and Seville from the 8th to the 15th centuries. Towards the end of this era, Moorish art combined with the Christian culture, and this mixed art form is called the Mudejar style. The result of this cultural marriage is that southern Spain became a mecca for gorgeous wall tile.

In Seville, the Alcázar has many fine examples of Mudejar style tile.
This panel was commissioned by Peter the Cruel in the 14th century.
There are several differences between tile that was manufactured in the rest of Europe and Moorish tile. Islamic art forms do not use figurative motifs, making the Moorish designs purely abstract. Also, the color range is much broader and brighter than with European inlaid tile, which was prevalent during this time period.

In addition, the method of production was also very different. Whereas the rest of Europe cut the tiles from raw clay before firing them, in Spain the tiles were fired first as a large slab, and then cut. Because this method eliminated shrinkage, Moorish craftsmen were able to lay the tiles with very thin grout lines, allowing for a high level of intricacy.

The Alhambra in Granada is an example of the Mudejar style, an artistic mélange of Moorish and Christian culture.

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