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Palaces and Water in the Early Alhambra

Anna McSweeney, Lecturer in Art History at the University of Sussex

21 June 2018, MBI Al Jaber Building, London Middle East Institute (LMEI), SOAS

On 21 June Anna McSweeney, Lecturer in Art History at the University of Sussex delivered a lecture on ‘Palaces and Water in the Early Alhambra’ as part of the MBI Al Jaber Foundation Lecture Series. The Partal Palace in the Alhambra has often been described as the damaged remnants of what was once a larger palace – a stunted portico of a lost, courtyard residence from the early fourteenth century. In this reframing of the architectural patronage of the early Nasrids, Anna McSweeney examined the Partal as a complete pavilion structure, an important building in the new landscape of the Alhambra that was laid out under the reign of Muhammad III (r.1302-09). The Partal was a pavilion with a mirador and wide views of the city and palace, with an enormous pool of water in front of it that turned it into an illusionistic palace floating on water. It was situated between the new mosque and the palace residence, as a stopping-off point in the formal palace gardens. This lecture on one of the earliest and most neglected palaces of the Alhambra, revealed the Partal as part of a long tradition of water pavilions in the Islamic palace architecture of the western Mediterranean.

Anna McSweeney is a lecturer in art history in the University of Sussex. With a PhD in Islamic art history from SOAS, University of London, her work focuses on the art and architecture of the western Mediterranean with a particular interest in Islamic Spain. She was an Art Histories fellow at the Forum Transregionale Studien in Berlin (2013-14) based at the Museum für Islamische Kunst in Berlin. From 2015-2018 she was a Bilderfahrzeuge fellow at the Warburg Institute, School of Advanced Study. Her book on the Alhambra will be published by the KHI Florence and the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (2019).

Click here to view a video of the lecture.