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Architectural model

Architectural model

  • Place of origin:

    Granada (City) (probably, made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1865 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Contreras, Don Raphael (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Painted stucco and marble

  • Credit Line:

    Presented by the Countess von Bothmer

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 125c, case 3

Object Type
This model of an arch from the Moorish palace the Alhambra at Granada was probably made by the Granada model-maker Don Raphael Contreras. Such models were frequently sold to tourists, many of them British, during the 19th century. On one level they were high-class souvenirs, but on another level they were well-made miniature versions of a celebrated monument that was widely admired all over Europe.

The Alhambra Palace in Granada was built during the Nasrid dynasty (1232-1492), the last period of Moorish (or Muslim) rule in Spain. Granada was the last surviving bastion of Islam in Spain until captured by Ferdinand and Isabella in 1492. The Spanish did not demolish the Alhambra, but protected and enriched it. In the 16th century Emperor Charles V built his own palace within the site.

Materials & Making
Plaster reproductions were made in great numbers during the 19th century. Plaster was a fairly cheap material and could be cast in moulds, so that copies could easily be made of the original sculpture or architectural detail, and further identical reproductions could be made to be sold more widely. Often, as here, the plaster model would then be embellished with colour or finer detailing.

Physical description

Architectural model of an arch from the Moorish palace the Alhambra at Granada , a large lateral arch in the hall of the Comares. Coloured stucco, framed and glazed.

Place of Origin

Granada (City) (probably, made)


ca. 1865 (made)


Contreras, Don Raphael (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Painted stucco and marble


Weight: 18.02 kg, Width: 51 cm, Depth: 10 cm, Height: 92 cm

Object history note

Probably made by the firm of Don Raphael Contreras in Granada, Spain.

The delicate Islamic decoration of the fourteenth century Moorish palace of the Alhambra in Spain inspired the Alhambresque style of the nineteenth century, especially associated with Owen Jones (case 41). This is a model of one of the large side arches in the Hall of Comares.

Descriptive line

Architectural Model of a large lateral arch in the hall of the Comares, Palace of the Alhambra, probably made by the firm of Don Raphael Contreras in Granada, Spain, about 1865

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Leslie, Fiona. 'Inside Outside: Changing Attitudes towards Architectural Models in the Museums at South Kensington'. In Architectural History 47. 2004. pp. 159-200
Baker, Malcolm, and Brenda Richardson (eds.), A Grand Design: The Art of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London: V&A Publications, 1999.
Rosser-Owen, Mariam, Islamic Arts from Spain, London: 2010, pp. 117-9.
Baker, Christopher, David Howarth, Paul Stirton and Claudia Heide, The Discovery of Spain: British Artists and Collectors, Goya to Picasso, Edinburgh: National Galleries of Scotland, 2009.

Labels and date

British Galleries:
The decoration of the Palace of the Alhambra in Granada, Spain was known to designers through photographs, illustrated books and plaster casts. These casts were acquired for teaching purposes and bought by visitors as souvenirs. [27/03/2003]
The Discovery of Spain:
Detailed models of this type were readily available in Spain for purchase by wealthy visitors as souvenirs; many were produced by the company run by Don Rafael Contreras, who in 1847 was appointed director of restoration at the Alhambra. They complemented Charles Clifford's photographs and the illustrations provided by Owen Jones' books to convey a vivid sense of the original splendour of the Alhambra palace. Tourists removed architectural fragments of the decorative features of the Alhambra as memento during their visits. [18/07/2009-11/10/2009]

Subjects depicted

Mosaic; Buildings; Architecture; Doorways; Columns; Tile; Floral patterns; Arches; Palaces


Architecture; Islam


Sculpture Collection

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