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Mudéjar revisited A prologoména to the reconstruction of perception, devotion, and experience at the mudéjar convent of Clarisas, Tordesillas, Spain (fourteenth century A.D.)! CYNTHIA ROBINSON Oh, Garden ofthe Valley, there do | find the Mistress ofthe Sanctuary! Valley Garden, she who enfolds the shining blade! Rest fora while in her shade, rest from your cares, Rest until the dew settles upon her. ‘Muhyr al-Din Ibn ‘Arabi, Tarjumén al-Ashwq? Since the nineteenth century, the history ofthe visual culture of the tberian peninsula has included the category of mudéjar art, architecture, and omament. The term is derived irom the Arabic mudayyan, which refers to those Muslimrs who “remained behind” after Christian ‘conquest of the lands they inhabited. As a descriptor, however, referring to a particular category of omament ‘oF object which “looks Islamic” but was commissioned and used by Christians, the term owes its existence to nineteenth-century Spanish art historian José Amador de los Rios.? The currently accepted mudéjar model posits the appropriation of Islamic art by Christians, and suggests @ notable intensification of the phenomenon following the (re-]conquest of the Muslim teritories of al-Andalus by Christians, with the fourteenth century constituting, for many specialists, the zenith of the style or aesthetic.* 1. | would lke to take this opportunity to thank the already considerable number of colleagues whowe Insights have enriched this ject: Gonzalo Bords, Jods Castro Toledo, Maria). Feliciano, Fernando Gutiérrez Bafos, Oleg Grabr, Renata Holod, Michelle Lamprakos, Teresa Prez Higuera, Francisco Prado Vl, José Miguel Puera Vilchez, Naser Rabbat, and jun Carls Ruiz Souza. am also {tefl forthe enthusiasm of Brendan Branley, Damon Montclae, Efzabeth Olton, Richard Pere, and Jsica Sti the students who ‘made up a seminar on mudejr art and culture which I ught atthe Univesity of New Mexico during the spring semester of 2002. Their Insights and contributions are present throughout this esay; some are footnoted where appropriate. 2. thn ‘Arabi, Tarjumin alAshwig (Bert: Dir Sider, 1998), pp (8-89. My translation 3. See José Amador de los Rio, Pero de Madraza, El extilo smudéjar en arqutectura:discuso (1872; reprint Valencia: Librertas “ParisValencia” 1996), 4. Specialists ae not in agreement as to whether the mudjar [Phenomenon constitutes a style, or merely an aesthetic choice. The ‘There are two paths generally taken to the interpretation of visual phenomena characterized as ‘mudejar. The fist entails the reading of structure and/or ‘ornament through an agonistic lens inspired by reconquista ideology, with islamic art being appropriated by Christians into their “language of power.” Alternately, this agonistic interpretation is suppressed and attention 's focused on a generalized and rather uninformed fascination on the part of Christian royalty and elites with Muslim culture, and in particular with its palatine aspects. In the case of the fourteenth-century royal convent of Clarsas, or Poor Claires, at Tordesillas (province of Valladolid, Spain), most interpretations have been made through the ‘generalized “fascination” lens.® The accepted model manifests itself in the famous friendship which existed a, 1359-1362 between Pedro | of Castile, the patron to whom we most probably owe the existence of a significant part of the structure as it stands today, and Muhammad V, Nasti sovereign of the kingdom of Granada. Implicit is that, without this friendship and the (undocumented) interchange of artisans believed by many to have resulted from it, the Islamic motifs could history ofthe debates surrounding this question are discussed in succinct detail in Goneelo Bara Gualn “late mujer: extado de la cuestion” in Mudjar bevoamericano: Una expresién cultural de dos mundos (Granada: Universidad de Granade, 1993), See alo ‘idem, “| mudejar como consante attic” Aas del! Simposio Internacional de Mudejarismo Cerel:Diputacign Provincial, 1981) 5. Whichever ofthe two inerpretive acts is chosen, most ofthe ‘exant scholashlp communicates the idea that all muda atthe Same. This assumption has resulted in a notable peucty of ‘monographic studies of individual buildings: cathe, the fs inclination ‘the art of scholars of mudjar art appears tobe to establish relationships between buildings or regional schoo. 6. For ths interpretation of Tordesils and of mudjar palaces in general, See most recently Mara Teresa Perez Higuera, "Lo alcazares ¥ palacioshispano-musulmanes:paradigmas consructives de a arqutectura mudjarcasellana” in Miguel Ange Castilo Oreja, ed 10s Aledzares Reales: Vigencia de los modelos tradiconales en la arquitecturadulcacrstana (Madtic: Fundacién Banco Bilbao de Vizcaya, 2001), pp. 37-57. 52. RES 43 SPRING 2003 ‘not have been incorporated into the Christian building's ‘omamental program.” Rather than enriching the monument’ interpretation, however, Tordesillas’ association with “Islamic art” would appear to have stymied it. The majority of extant studies seem to be in tacit agreement that, once an object or a building has been accorded the label of ‘mudéjar, no further interpretation is required: the motifs in question—architectural forms and types, “pseudo”- kufic inscriptions, vegetal ornament, geometric interlace, etc —acquire their meaning through their association with Islamic art, but in paradoxical fashion this association until recently has constituted license to consider those very elements to be without meaning * Moreover, the widely accepted characterization of the 7. This direct connection cannot t present be deftly