Nasrid Silk

Fragments of resplendent silks are on show in both Granada and Madrid

The Nasrid kingdom of Granada is naturally known for its fantastic art and architecture. Less well-known is perhaps the textiles, which of course has been less prone to survive the last 1200 years. Nevertheless large pieces do exist and are currently shown at two locations: the Alhambra in Granada and Museo Lázaro Galdiano in Madrid.

The preserved pieces of Nasrid silk are of course those of royals, nobles, clergy and merchants; and especially those with a connection to the Royal Nasrids in Alhambra. Nevertheless they do give a unique introduction to the colours and richness of the people who lived in Medieval Spain – whether Muslims, Christians or Jews.

Illustration from the Cantigas de Santa Maria 1250

From the 10th century onwards many of the textiles were produced in the protected workshops under the direct control of the reigning caliph and regulations ruled the quality, the aesthetics as well as prices and the textiles were marked with the royal “marsam”.

The textiles were also prized for their comfort. For instance Rodrigo Jiménez de Rada, who took personally part in the crusade, which ended at Las Navas de Tolosa 1212, prided himself in wearing Islamic clothing as probably did the royals, who were entombed in swashes of silks in Las Huelgas at the same time. From the same time the luxurious richness of the textiles are witnessed in The Cantigas de Santa Maria.

However, not all textiles were made of silk. Cotton was introduced to Sicily and Spain in the beginning of the 9th century, while wool and linen had been known since Antiquity. Silk was the premier material and silk production was ubiquitous in most of Al-Andalus. In 1154 Al-Idrisi reported that 3000 villages in Jen and 800 in the Alpujarras were cultivating mulberry trees and growing silkworms.

During this period weaving techniques became constantly more innovative and refined tissues and textiles were sought after all over Europe and Northern Africa.

Naturally textiles were used for clothing. However, other uses were curtains, carpets, covers for pillows and large pieces to wrap the dead in their graves as well as tents and blankets for horses and men going hunting or warring.

The exhibitions are accompanied by a beautiful publication plus a webpage with lots of content.

A la Luz de la Seda

 Vido about how the famous Lampas silk was made – and still is

Museo Lazaro Galdiano
2806.2012 -15.10.2012

Museo de la Alhambra
28.06.2012 – 31.12.2012

Catálogo de la colección de tejidos nazaríes del Museo Lázaro Galdiano y el Museo de la Alhambra.
Amparo López Redondo and Purificación Marinetto Sánchez.
Madrid 2012