Every month a different piece selected from the permanent collection of the museum of the Alhambra is shown.
The piece of the month for October is a Caliphate era marble basin from the country house known as Dār al-Nāūra or House of the Waterwheel. This was the favourite country residence of the first Caliph of Al-Andalus Abd al-Ramān III, known as al-Nasir, and was used as a rural estate for leisure and relaxation.
The first interesting findings at this country residence were made in the 1950s in land on an estate known as the Cortijo del Alcaide, which is about 3 km west of Cordoba near the palace city of Madīnat al-Zara’. Ever since it was first built, this country residence had close links with various generations of the Ummayyad Dynasty and played a key role in the representation of the new state.
Various arabesque panels of enormous artistic quality were found. These rapidly bring to mind the decoration of the Salón Rico (Rich Hall) at Madīnat al-Zara’, in terms of both the quality of the workmanship and the plant motifs used as decoration.
In the al-Andalus era, the use of marble basins was closely related to the idyllic perception of water and gardens, in both private gardens and large palace complexes. In the latter, original pieces sculpted out of marble were used to decorate internal spaces and to show off the wealth of the owner.
The ornamental aspect of Umayyad art owes a great deal to the classical tradition via Roman, Byzantine and Visigoth art from which it took its models, and also to the Oriental style, which it reinterpreted to create its own new ornamental style that became characteristic of the official art of the Umayyad Dynasty. This piece is an example of this form of art and gives us some idea of the splendour of the Cordoba Caliphate era within the history of Al-Andalus.