Every month a different piece selected from the permanent collection of the museum of the Alhambra is shown.
Ceramic decoration has been used in architecture since ancient times. The pieces we will be looking at demonstrate the mastery of the Nasrid craftsmen. Ceramics can be found in wall panelling, floor tiles and even in exterior doors, as in this case.
These panels were often embellished with geometric and epigraphic designs, and Arabesque plant motifs called atauriques, from the Arabic tawriq (leaves, foliage). Professor Fernández - Puertas defined them as “…stylized shapes that were developed from an abstraction of a classical plant theme, acanthus leaves”.
The most frequent plant motif is the palm, formed by one, two or three leaves, with very varied designs (lens-shaped, serrated, etc.). They were used to fill the spaces between the lattice decorations and the background spaces between the epigraphic inscriptions.
The piece we will be looking at today (with Museum of the Alhambra reference nº 1270) is a piece of tile panelling with glazed relief, made with a mould. It belonged to one of the spandrels situated in the inner door of the Gate of Justice, the B?b al-Šar??a or Gate of the Esplanade, which was named after the large esplanade that stretched out in front of it. This esplanade was the place where all the inhabitants of Granada came together for the city’s most important celebrations, both religious and military.
The Gate of Justice was finished in June 1348, as stated on the epigraphic inscription on the plaque commemorating its foundation (as translated by Professor Fernández- Puertas). It was built during the reign of Y?suf I and is one of two towers in the exterior wall on the southern side of the palace city.
This tile fragment is made up of six pieces (made out of an orangey clay), shaped with a mould, and with a hollowed-out area on the underside that enabled the pieces to be fitted together.
The decoration comes in the form of a panel of sebka (diamond-shapes) made up of mixtilinear (mixed line) arches, produced by the intersection of the blue perimeter stripes on each piece. Within this perimeter, there is a white background with a vertical central section made up of three double palm motifs: the first are green, the ones in the centre are blue and there is another more stylized green design at the top.
The decoration is completed with some fine stems, with some buttons and two peppers in the central area.