- Place of origin:
Granada (City), Spain (made)
- Materials and Techniques:
- Credit Line:
Given by Dr W. L. Hildburgh
- Museum number:
- Gallery location:
This circular roundel with a scalloped edge shows the type of decoration of the Alhambra Palace in Granada, built in phases during the 14th century by the Nasrid dynasty who ruled Islamic Spain until 1492. In the centre of the roundel is a heraldic shield which bears the motto of the Nasrid dynasty, "Wa la ghalib ila Allah", or "There is no conqueror but God". This motto is found in the decoration all over the Alhambra Palace, however roundels like this one form part of the decoration of the Comares Palace, which was the main throne and reception area of the Alhambra complex. They are found in the stucco wall decoration of the Court of the Myrtles, and in the façade of the entrance to the Comares Palace, in the court known as the Patio del Cuarto Dorado. These both date from the remodelling of the Comares Palace under the Nasrid Sultan Muhammad V (1354-1359 and 1362-1391), which was completed in 1370. This roundel is probably a plaster cast, made during a period of great scholarly interest in the Alhambra.
Circular roundel with scalloped edge, forming sixteen lobes, made in carved stucco. In the centre is a heraldic shield bearing the motto of the Nasrid dynasty, "Wa la ghalib ila Allah", or "There is no conqueror but God". From the bottom of the roundel, two scrolling motifs branch to either side of the shield. The scrolls contain three large flowers which each have five petals. The petals and leaf forms have a characteristic spiky appearanace.
Roundels like this one form part of the frieze of stucco decoration which adorns the walls of the Court of the Myrtles in the Comares Palace, which was the main throne and reception area of the Alhambra Palace complex. The stucco frieze runs along above the dado of coloured tile mosaic in geometric patterns ('azulejos'). The stucco decoration consists of long cartouches containing poems about the beauty of the palace by the Nasrid courtier Ibn Zamrak (1333-1392). The inscribed cartouches alternate with lobed roundels containing shields and flowers which are very like the roundel in the V&A, though they contain eight flowers rather than six, of which six of the flowers have an elongated spiky petal.
This makes it more likely that the roundel in the V&A comes from the façade of the entrance to the Comares Palace, in the court known as the Patio del Cuarto Dorado. The whole façade is encrusted with carved stucco decoration and there is a wide frieze about halfway up the façade below the windows of the upper storey which contains eleven such lobed roundels. Only three of them contain shields. The roundels are arranged in groups of two with the shield-roundels in between them. It has not been possible to find a clear enough photograph of the decoration of these roundels, so positively identifying the original location of the V&A roundel will have to await further research.
Both types of roundel are found within the decoration of the Comares Palace (also known by the names 'the Court of the Myrtles' and 'the Hall of the Ambassadors'). The original Comares Palace was built under the Nasrid Sultan Ismail I (1314-1325), but it was extensively remodelled under his grandson Muhammad V (1354-1359 and 1362-1391). This work included redecorating both the Court of the Myrtles and the entrance façade in the Patio del Cuarto Dorado. It was completed in 1370, and this is when we can date the V&A roundel. It was probably removed from the Alhambra during restoration work in the 19th century, which is when it was acquired by Dr Hildburgh, who subsequently gave it to the V&A.
Place of Origin
Granada (City), Spain (made)
Materials and Techniques
Marks and inscriptions
'wa la ghalib ila Allah' 'There is no conqueror but God'
Height: 21.7 cm, Width: 22.6 cm, Depth: 2.8 cm
Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)
Antonio Fernández-Puertas, La Fachada del Palacio de Comares / The Facade of the Palace of Comares, Vol.I: Location, Function and Origins (Granada, Patronato de la Alhambra, 1980)
Antonio Fernández-Puertas, The Alhambra (London, Saqi Books, 1997)
Michael Jacobs, with photographs by Francisco Fernández, Alhambra (London, Frances Lincoln Limited, 2000)
See the pictures on pp.32-33 and pp.86, 88 for the original context of these roundels.
The original Comares Palace, where this roundel comes from, was first built under Ismail I (1314-1325), but it was extensively remodelled under his grandson Muhammad V (1354-1359 and 1362-1391). Muhammad V added the Patio of the Myrtles and redecorated the façade of the entrance to the Palace, in the court known as the Patio del Cuarto Dorado. This work was completed in 1370.