Arches in Alhambra

by Louis Comfort Tiffany

Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848–1933)

Arches in Alhambra

 

  • Gouache over pencil on paper

  • Inscription in artist’s hand

  • Circa 1880

The awe-inspiring Alhambra in Granada, Spain, takes its name from the Arabic al-qala’a al-hamra (the Red Castle). The Nasrid emirs built this fortress-palace in the 13th and 14thcenturies. Tiffany first encountered Moorish architecture in person on a six-month trip abroad in 1870/1871 in which he traveled to parts of Europe and North Africa but not to Granada. The Islamic culture he witnessed would influence him throughout his career. Tiffany visited the Alhambra in an 1875/1876 trip abroad based on his many paintings, watercolors, and pastels of its architecture from this period.

A mile of walls and thirty towers of varying sizes enclosed the original Alhambra complex. The twenty-six acres included various structures, which were connected by paths, gardens, and gates. The interior spaces were highly ornate in contrast to the plain walls of the fortress exterior. Water was integral to the design in gardens, courtyards, marble canals, and elsewhere. Today, the restored site exhibits Spain’s most significant and well-known Islamic architecture.

The Alhambra was most likely the inspiration for the Fountain court or entrance hall at Tiffany’s Laurelton Hall estate. In 1913, Samuel Howe, an architect and associate of Tiffany’s, compared the room to the courts at the Alhambra where “the Moors show their scholarly realization of the decorative value of water—a precious fluid.” The Fountain court was known for its grandeur and lofty three-story ceiling. Two upstairs balcony galleries surrounded this soaring space. Tiffany called the court the “soul of the house.”

On display in the Treasures of Louis Comfort Tiffany Gallery.

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