The Cantigas de Santa Maria of Alfonso X of Castile contain a vast array of Islamic features, chief among them are the similarities in plant and animal imagery and distinguishing of Arab and non-Arab figures along racial lines. This paper will explore how a diverse Islamic manuscript tradition in the Near East and North Africa - including the Maqamat of al-Hariri, the De Materia Medica of Dioscurides and Kalila wa Dimnah - influenced the figural motifs and natural elements present in Alfonso's Cantigas, as well as how the climate of the thirteenth century and Alfonso's personal taste influenced the construction and inclusion of figural imagery in the illuminated miniatures of the Cantigas de Santa Maria.
By 1280, when Alfonso X, King of Castile, had the Cantigas de Santa Maria commissioned, reconquest efforts on the Iberian Peninsula had all but demolished Muslim land holdings leaving only the southern city of Granada and the immediately surrounding territories left fig.1. The presence of Muslims in Spain since 711 had led to rich cultural interactions and a practice of mutual artistic sharing. This legacy is as apparent in Alfonso's Cantigas as in the Alcazar in Seville or at Las Huelgas in Burgos, and shows an awareness and appreciation for Islamic traditions. In the Cantigas de Santa Maria fig.2 there are two specific relationships to Islamic sources: the first being plant and animal imagery, and the second being the distinguishing of Arab and non-Arab Muslim figures. These two connections may not indicate explicit influential relationships between Alfonso's court and specific manuscripts, but it does highlight and is highlighted by the proximity of Alfonso's court to Islamic traditions and a keen awareness of Islamic manuscript production as well as the insertion of Alfonso's personal tastes into his patronage. This paper will examine the possible Islamic manuscript inspirations by first situating the Cantigas as a body of manuscripts, second by demonstrating the differences the manuscripts present from a French model used to show an European norm, and then by examining the Islamic manuscript traditions in the Mediterranean prior to and contemporaneous to the production of the Cantigas.
The Cantigas de Santa Maria is one of the most notable literary productions of the court of Alfonso X. The Cantigas consist of more than four hundred poems set to music extolling the virtues of the Virgin Mary, and many of the poems derive from events of Alfonso's reign. While the poems were written in 1280, before the illustrations, which were completed on or around 1284, the illustrations have drawn scholars into a world of crosscultural references and literary parallels. There are four surviving Cantigas manuscripts: two live in the Biblioteca de San Lorenzo el Real at the El Escorial palace near Madrid - MS T.I. 1, also known as the Códice Rico1, and the MS B.1.2MS B.1.2, formerly known as j.b.2, has 40 rich miniatures illustrating musicians and a wide assortment of instruments. 2 - the third manuscript is in Madrid at the Biblioteca Nacional, MS 10.069This example is often referred to as To(1) or Toledo due to its previous residence at the Cathedral in Toledo. 3 , and the last example is in Florence, Italy at the Biblioteca Nazionale, MS Banco Rari 20The Florentine example was previously known as MS II.I.23. 4 . While this paper will not be discussing the textual relationships of these manuscripts to one another, but rather the relationship of the illuminated miniatures of MS T.I. 1 (Códice Rico), heretofore referred to solely as Cantigas or the Cantigas for clarity of discussion with other manuscripts, to Islamic manuscript traditions in and outside of Spain, it is important to note that much scholarship exists on the Cantigas as literary and musical achievements.Ellen Kosmer and James F. Powers, “Manuscript Illustration: The Cantigas in Contemporary Art Context” in Emperor of Culture: Alfonso X the Learned of Castile and His Thirteenth-Century Renaissance, Robert I. Burns, S.J., ed. (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1990), pp 46-58. Also see: Walter Mettmann, ed, Cantigas de Santa Maria, 4 vols.(Coimbra, Portugal: University of Coimbra, 1959-1972). For a catalogical listing of Cantigas bibliography please see: Joseph Snow, The Poetry of Alfonso X, El Sabio, (London: Grant and Cutler, 1977). 5 Alfonso's commission of this substantial work, in the vernacular Galician tongue, placed him among other notable thirteenth-century royal patrons: Louis IX of France and his sons Philippe III and IV, southern Italian court of Frederick II and his son Manfred, and Henry III and Edward I of England.Kosmer and Powers, pp 47. 6 While a discussion of the court of Alfonso X in comparison of these other European example sis not suitable within this project, a quick comparison of the Alfonsine Cantigas to the Morgan Crusader Bible of Louis IX of France will show clear examples of how Alfonso's illuminations differed from the European norm and lead this paper to compare them to examples from the Islamic manuscript tradition.
The first theme present in the Cantigas de Santa Maria that I would like to touch briefly upon is the promulgation of Islamic architectural and decorative elements such as poly-lobed arches, tents, fabric with kufic passages woven in, inter-locking geometric patterns, and mosque lamps figs.3-7. While I don't mean to posit that tents are exclusive to Islam, the similarities between these two encampment scenes from the Cantigas fig.8 and the Maqamat fig.9 including the tents themselves, the seated or reclining male figures inside the tents, the manner in which the drapes of the tents are pulled back and expose the inhabitants, the broken joint staggering of the tents across the landscape emphasizing the depth of the landscape and the possibility of more tents. Even the landscapes themselves are similar, in that there is an inclusion of an undulating hilly terrain that rises and falls around the tents. There are more than one hundred occurrences of mosque lamps in the Cantigas de Santa Maria and nearly every architectural frame used to denote interior space and architectural construction utilizes poly-lobed arches as the arch motif, rather than rounded or pointed arches in the Romanesque or Gothic style. At this point in the thirteenth century can we assume that the inclusion of mosque lamps and polylobed arches is anything more than commonplace? Possibly not, but the repetitive nature of the mosque lamp, the layering of the miniatures in a similar fashion as the Maqamat to show movement in and around the architectural plane is something that as a illustrative device is too similar to ignore. This difference from 'traditional' European models is further illuminated, no pun intended, when the Cantigas are placed in comparison, or rather contrast, with a French example from the court of Louis IX.
For example, an scene from the Morgan Crusader Bible - Pierpont Morgan Library, New York, M638 - was created for and likely commissioned by Louis IX between 1226 and 1270 fig.12, shows a battle scene from the Old Testament in which figures engage in combat outdoors but with an architectural trim, a mise en scène, which frames each miniature as if it were indoors. This motif is used in the Alfonsine Cantigas as well, but only insomuch as to frame indoor scenes it is not employed in exterior scenes and narratives. This deviation from the French example is but one element of difference in possible inspirational source material between the French and Spanish manuscript examples presented in this argument. To further enhance this alteration of architectural elements the Cantigas poly-lobed arches as their architectural framing device in the vein of Islamic styles as opposed to the rounded arches of the French Crusader Bible figs.10, 11. Furthermore, the inclusion of lamps in indoor settings reminiscent of mosque lamps further heightens a link between mudejar traditions in Spain and Islamic traditions in and out of Spain as inspirational models rather than the French models employed in the Louis IX Bible. These elements combined with the eschewing of painted parchment ground, used throughout the French example, in the Cantigas add up, to the author, as awareness if not more explicitly an inspiration drawn from Islamic sources.
Noticing a difference between a northern example from France and the Cantigas, is only half the work the second half is locating what else may have served as influences or inspirations for the Alfonsine Cantigas. When considering where to begin with this Cantigas project, manuscripts seem the obvious choice seeing that they are portable and that illustrations transcend language barriers. But which manuscripts and why? While knowledge of an array of Islamic manuscripts existed in medieval SpainIt is noted by Robert Burns and Cynthia Robinson that Alfonso was quite productive as a patron of Islamic manuscript translations. See, Robert I. Burns, 'Stupor Mundi: Alfonso X of Castile, the Learned' in Emperor of Culture: Alfonso X the Learned of Castile and His Thirteenth-Century Renaissance, Robert I. Burns, S. J., ed. (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1990), pp 1-13, and Cynthia Robinson, Medieval Andalusian Courtly Culture in the Mediterranean: Hadith Bayad wa Riyad, (London and New York: Routledge, 2007). 7 it is hard to identify direct relationships to and with specific manuscripts outside the western Christian tradition. And if we can find a specific manuscript to draw a direct relationship to, how do we know which version of a multitude of versions is the one that was cultivated in Spain? Not to demolish this paper before it has even begun, but the parameters within which this paper exists must be clearly stated. Similarly, for the conjecture this paper seems to construct, it does craft a string, a series of references and similarities that when considered as a whole cannot and should not be dismissed as coincidence. If it were contained to a singular event or occurrence of similarity perhaps we could brush it off, but a series of noticeable and striking similarities must be considered as this paper aims to do. Before venturing out of Spain for examples to compare to the Cantigas, let us first look to Islamic manuscript production and reception within Spain. We know that Alfonso X's court as well as Alfonso X personally was knowledgeable of Islamic astronomy and astrological textsRobert I. Burns, 'Stupor Mundi: Alfonso X of Castile, the Learned' in Emperor of Culture: Alfonso X the Learned of Castile and His Thirteenth-Century Renaissance, Robert I. Burns, S. J., ed. (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1990), pp 1-13. 8 , in fact we know that Alfonso had numerous texts translated from their Arabic. These examples point to awareness of intellectual and artistic traditions in Islamic book production within Spain during the reign of Alfonso X as well as more importantly in the court of Alfonso X. Contemporary to Alfonso's reign, thirteenth-century, was the production of an illustrated manuscript of the love story of Bayad and Riyad, Hadith Bayad wa Riyad, in the Almohad court fig.13.Cynthia Robinson, Medieval Andalusian Courtly Culture in the Mediterranean: Hadith Bayad wa Riyad, (London and New York: Routledge, 2007), serves as the preeminent authority on this manuscript and its medieval environment. 9 This manuscript, while of an entirely different nature from the Cantigas, does use illustrations that show architectural elements similar to elements included in the Cantigas as well as vegetal imagery that has similarities, more on this momentarily. While the love-story aspect of the tale of Bayad and Riyad would likely have little interest for Alfonso in the context of the Cantigas, Alfonso's appetite for the translation and dissemination of Arabic knowledge may have led him to consider Bayad and Riyad and to maybe look to the Almohad example for inspiration for the Cantigas illuminated miniatures.See Cynthia Robinson, Medieval Andalusian Courtly Culture in the Mediterranean: Hadith Bayad wa Riyad, (London and New York: Routledge, 2007), for a complete translation of the Arabic text as well as a thorough discussion of the role of the text in Medieval Andalusian culture. 10
As to the first Islamic reference in the Cantigas: plant and animal imagery. For this relationship, as with the other comparative example, Arab and non-Arabness in the Cantigas, this paper will begin with looking at the Maqamat of al-Hariri (1054-1122), an Islamic book trope that was widely popular and widely circulated in the thirteenth century. Similar to the Cantigas the Maqamat is a collection of smaller vignettes, in a manner of speaking the Maqamat serves as a tale of tales in the vein of the Persian Shanama - the book of Persian Kings - and the Arabian Nights. In the case of the Cantigas it is a collection of poems for the Virgin Mary, in the case of the Maqamat a collection of stories that recount the travels of a central character across the Dar al-Islam. To elaborate, the word maqamah (plural maqamat) means, literally, “session,” “séance,” or “assembly” and has come to be applied to a literary genre that developed out of the tenth century that took Arabic literary motifs and applied them to social concerns of the time. For instance, stories concerning the traveling hero, the beggar with the golden tongue, the reemergence of rhymed prose known as saj', moralistic teaching and religious preaching, and a plentiful cornucopia of social and environmental settings cultivated from across the whole of the Dar al-Islam.Oleg Grabar, The Illustrations of the Maqamat, (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1984), pp 2- 3. Grabar’s monograph serves as benchmark for Maqamat studies by providing discussions on each extant illuminated version of the manuscript as well as a discussion the sources for and morphology of the manuscript illuminations. This source has served this project as the prevailing scholarly discussion on the Maqamat as both literary and artistic trope in Islamic art. Also see, Richard Ettinghausen, Arab Painting, (New York: Rizzoli, 1977), pp 59-103; for a brief but encompassing discussion of Arab book art and its sources and roles in Islamic art. 11 While many questions remain as to the origins of the Maqamat illustrations, the origins are not important to this essay, but their importance lies in the impact they had on the manuscripts of Alfonso X. The environmental settings of the Maqamat present the viewer with scenes of cities, caravanserai, camel herders, pilgrim caravans, parades and much more. Similarities emerge when one places an image from Cantiga 165, fol. 221v fig.15, next to 'Horsemen waiting to participate in a Parade' from the Seventh Maqama, MS. Arabe 5847 - Schefer Hariri - fol. 19r, Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris fig.14. Immediately we notice that both scenes are outside images, on unpainted backgrounds depicting a clustering of figures on horseback. The layering of horseman upon horseman is nearly identical in each example providing the illusion of both volume and depth. Both scenes depict Arab men on horseback, with turbans and beards, drums and horns and a repetitive succession of banners and vertical elements spaced out evenly over the sea of horizontal figures. Even the tassels on the edge of the banner are repeated. The close attention to the replication of horizontal figures, the men and the horses, diagonal lines of the horns and the drummers perched on horseback, and the vertical lines of in one instance banners and in the other spears is close enough to warrant the conclusion that this manuscript served as an inspiration for this miniature. While the mention of the repetition of the banner tassels may be slight and relatively insignificant when considering the entirety of the scene, it does show an attention to the Islamic details, which are not evident in the French example, in fact the vertical element of the Morgan Crusader Bible is the inclusion of a catapult to hurl objects of a dangerous sort at the city squeezed into the right hand margin of the image, rather than the stately banners of both the Maqamat and Cantigas examples. In another manuscript, the collection of animal fables known as Kalila wa DimnahAlso known as the Fables of Bidpai. 12 which uses animals as characters in moralized stories based on two main characters, two main jackals, Kalila and Dimnah; this is also picked up and used in the Cantigas.For a close examination of the Kalila wa Dimnah (also seen as Kalila wah Dimnah) text and imagery please see: Esin Atil, Kalila ws Dimnah: Fables from a Fourtenth-century Arabic Manuscript (Washington D. C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1981). 13 The Kalila wa Dimna text was most charmingly depicted in Egypt and Syria during the Mamluk dynasty, though it was introduced to the Near East in the sixth century. The book was brought to Iran from India by a physician named Burzoe.Atil, pp 7-9. 14 In Cantiga 124, fol. 175v fig.16, the use of crows seems to come directly from the 'Council of the King of the Crows' fig.17 from an early 13th c. Syrian example now in Paris, MS. Arabe 3465, fol. 95v, Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris. Not only are the crows themselves replicated, but also so are their stocky rectangular tale feathers and the use of a craggy stone esplanade as their perch and stage. While the birds in the Cantigas example are more natural, having a more natural foot and a more natural curving of the breast, reminding the viewer of the natural puffed nature of a crow's breast feathers, the replication of the rectilinear tail feathers as well and the craggy ground is unmissable. Here too, we see an unpainted background, something very common in Islamic manuscripts, for it is used in all examples of the Maqamat and Kalilah wa Dimnah, but out of place in Spanish ones, as previously noted when comparing the Spanish and French examples.
This collection of animal fables was quite popular in Spain, in fact Alfonso X commissioned a translation of the story, and stems from earlier Indian and Persian traditions of stories for the everyman and kings alike. In this instance the use of animals by the Arabic translator Ibn al-Muqaffa' was done so, specifically, to catch the eye of kings, following in the vain of the Indian example which had served as a “mirror of princes”.For a discussion on the role of and sources for the Kalila wa Dimnah manuscript see, R. Ettinghausen, pp 61. 15 It is known that copies of Kalila wa Dimnah existed in Spain during this time, the connection between the crows in this example and the use of animals in Cantiga 29, fol. 44r, cannot help but to suggest that there was some awareness of the animal characters at least and the context of natural settings. In the case of Cantiga 29 fig.18, also see fig.19 for example from Kalila wa Dimna), Mary stands in the center of the frame flanked on one side by birds and on the other side by an assortment of animals, which include a giraffe, a lion, an elephant, a zebra, and a camel. In this instance we can again return to the animal fables for repeated examples of lions or to the Maqamat for instances of camels, but it might be better to turn to the Chronicle of Alfonso X. In Chapter Nine: How King Alfonso Made the Legal Code, and of the Messengers who Came to Him from Egypt, we read “they [the messengers from the King of Egypt] also brought him an elephant, and an animal called an azorafa [giraffe], and an ass that was striped with one band of white and another of black, and many other kinds of beasts and animals.”José Escobar and Shelby Thacker, trans, Chronicle of Alfonso X, (Lexington, Kentucky: University of Kentucky Press, 2002), pp 46-48. 16 Here perhaps we can make a direct reference to contact between the Spanish court and the Islamic world with additional augmentation of the argument through manuscript occurrences. Similarly, we can consider the vegetal motifs in the Cantigas de Santa Maria as another reference to Islamic manuscripts. For instance, the manuscript of De Materia Medica of Dioscurides, while influenced by Byzantine contact with the Islamic world, also shows or indicates influence of the Islamic world on the Spanish court of Castile. In the Umayyad period, Richard Ettinghausen notes that the two major elements of Arab painting were classical and Iranian.Ettinghausen, pp 67. 17 Ettinghausen goes on to note that during the following Abbasid period the Iranian influence became prevalent and that there was a new flowering of painting at the end of the twelfth-century marked by a return of classical predominance noted in the inspiration derived from Byzantine examples. This is noted in Ettinghausen as being a trend of Greek texts that had a ready supply of images that were translated into Arabic and adapted to accommodate the Muslim way of life.Ettinghausen, pp 67. 18 This is clearly the case for the Dioscurides text, which is from 1229 and currently is held at the Topkapi Saray in Istanbul, which was made for the apparent ruler of Northern Mesopotamia and Syria, Shams ad-Din Abu'l-Fada'il Muhammad. The Dioscurides tradition stems from a manuscript made for the Byzantine Princess Juliana Anicia before 512, Vienna Nationalbibliothek, Cod. Med graec. I. The manuscript presents personifications of a scientific nature as well as the inclusion of medicinal plants and herbs.Ettinghausen, pp 67-74. 19 The connection of this Byzantine manuscript tradition in Arab painting is important to this paper insomuch as it augments the argument on plant imagery. The flat spade-like leaves of a plant in each example are hard to over look. As is the curvilinear growths of vines with pink blossoms. In Dioscurides we see that it is the lentil plant fig.20 that symmetrically sprouts across the page, while in the Cantigas fig.21 it is a thicket of flowers twisting and turning around the image of Mary. In another example in which the Atragalus plant looks remarkably similar to the smatterings of trees and assorted woodland growth throughout the Cantiga miniature, the possible connection between the manuscripts is hard to pass by without a closer examination. The mandorla shaped leaves in both examples evoke a connection, as does the closeness of the Atragalus plant fig.22 and the tree at the far left of the miniature. Both of the plants have the same think trunk and central stalk and adventurous branches winding out from the body of the tree and contorting upwards. The leaves are quite similar as well, each depicting an almond shaped green leaf of a somewhat distinctly textural essence and quality. While the implication is subtle, merely a noting of similarities between leaf style and depiction, the context may be broader. While we know that Alfonso was quite a patron of astronomy and astrology, it is not as clear how he of if he also patronized medical books and translations. Surely Alfonso was aware of the Dioscurides manuscripts even if we cannot pinpoint exactly which of the Dioscurides manuscripts were known to Alfonso. Having examined the vegetal and animal similarities between the Alfonsine and Islamic examples, this paper can now turn to the second of the two distinct comparisons between the Cantigas and the Islamic manuscript tradition, the inclusion of Arab and non- Arab persons in the manuscript illuminations. When we see the clear distinction in the Cantigas between Muslims who are Arabs with facial hair, turbans, and lighter colored skin and non-Arab Muslims who are shown often with clean shaven visages, without a head covering, and with substantially darker skin we must conclude that Spanish Christians recognize the racial and cultural differences as well as the religious similarities. Glick notes the differences in how these population groups are recognized and we must follow this recognition through into an understanding of Islamic source materials.T. Glick, Islamic and Christian Spain in the Early Middle Ages Second Edition (Leiden, 2005), pp 181-219 and 247-371. 20 Returning to the Maqamat of al-Hariri which contains numerous instances in which Muslim Arabs are clearly separate from Muslim or even non-Muslim non-Arabs. In this example we see that in the Maqamat fig.24 there is a clear distinction between the Arab men who are the captain and the guest on the ship and the dark, non-Arab crew. This clear division reflects a growing urban bourgeoisie in Islam as well serve the acute awareness of the Spanish of the differences between Arabs and Berbers in the south. This distinction is not just racial and perhaps religious, it is not clear as to whether or not all figures are Muslim, but also socio-economic. Contemporaneous to the Maqamat was the transition from the Ayyubid dynasty in Cairo to the Mamluk dynasty. The Mamluks were Turks who had been sold into slavery in Egypt for the use of the Ayyubid dynasty. The Mamluks were considered different from the Arab Ayyubids up onto the point of conversion and freedom from slavery. This can be seen reflected in the illustration for the Maqamat which distinguishes slaves from free men with the darkening of the skin, the lack of facial hair - in a few select cases a decrease of facial hair - the lack of a head covering, less formal more minimal dress and the depiction of manual labor. In the Cantigas example fig.23, a similar depiction occurs when there is a clear distinction between the mounted Arab man in a turban and the dark-skinned, shorthaired and unarmed man. It is possible to look at these examples without thinking of a mutual relationship but rather to think of them as the depiction of the “other” in a general context, instead of in an implicitly racial tone. In the instance of the Maqamat we know that the darkskinned men on the boat are the slave crew, manning this boat to Oman while the captain rests in his quarters.This description of the scene is provided by Ettinghausen, pp 109 is corroborated in Grabar, pp 88-89, though Grabar does not make any mention of the crew as being non-Arab he does point out the differences in dress, hair, and their physical labor as opposed to other persons partaking in the voyage who are not laboring. Ettinghausen notes that the ship is staffed by slaves, but Bernard Lewis, Race and Color in Islam, (New York: Octagon Books, 1979), pp ix, notes that the ship is sailing from Basra to Oman and that the crew is Indian while the passengers are Middle Eastern, thus providing a geographic and ethnic reason for a difference in complexion and status as slave versus free man. 21 In the Cantigas examples it is clear that there is a distinction, but not always that that distinction is to show Arabness or lack of Arabness but rather a socioeconomic transplant from Islam in which the classes are divided between high and low that is commonly demarcated by race. Whether or not this distinction is specifically connected to location, such as perhaps the Maghreb versus Arabia or Turkish versus Arab as was the case with the Mamluks, or with conversion is unclear and not answerable in this paper. What is clear and important to note is the awareness of difference that is carried from Islam to Christian Spain and the continuation of this difference in medieval Spanish manuscripts. The art historical discussion on the topic of Arab and non-Arab depiction in the Maqamat and other texts is sporadic and often uneven and frequently contradictory. For instance, Ettinghausen notes that the men in the boat who are of a darker complexion are slaves. He does note why he knows they are slaves or if there is an Islamic motif or trope of depicting slaves or subordinate classes or races in a particular manner. Oleg Grabar is more political in noting a physical distinction between various persons on the boat but not stating a class difference or the explicit naming of the darker complected individuals as slaves. With such as patchy and contradictory discussion from the art historical text, I turned to historical discussions from Bernard Lewis to clarify the Arab-Muslim sentiment towards non-Arabs and non-Muslims and the presence of slaves in Muslim life and culture. Lewis's discussion of race, color, and slavery in Islam is found in two monographs: Race and Color in Islam and Race and Slavery in the Middle East.Bernard Lewis, Race and Color in Islam, (New York: Octagon Books, 1979) and Bernard Lewis, Race and Slavery in the Middle East, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990). 22 To begin, Lewis opens Race and Color in Islam with a lengthy quote from A. J. Toynbee which makes mention of ruling elite in the Umayyad Dynasty who referred to themselves as the “swarthy people” with all the connotations of racial superiority that could possible implied within and their Turkish and Persian neighbors as the “ruddy people” with an equal supply of connotation.Lewis, Race and Color in Islam, pp 1-3, and A. J. Toynbee, A Study of History I, (London: 1939), pp 226. Lewis notes extensive German source material on the topic of historical Muslim racial attitudes in his footnote for Toynbee on pp 2. 23 While Lewis takes this as an “amusing paradox” of differences between fair-skinned neighbors of the early ArabsLewis, Race and Color in Islam, pp 2. 24 , and he subsequently follows up this section with a thorough discussion of a mention in the Qur'an of Arabs and non-Arabs who are both made by God to live amongst each other, I think it speaks to the beginnings of a distinction between races and Muslim identity that is capitalized on in the Maqamat and carried into the Cantigas de Santa Maria.Lewis, Race and Color in Islam, pp 6-7. Here Lewis notes that XLIX:13 states: 'O people! We have created you from a male and a female and we have made you into confederacies and tribes so that you may come to know one another…' The use of the words 'confederacies' and 'tribes,' Lewis notes in a footnote with no citations, comes from the original Arabic shu'ub wa-qaba'il which Lewis says later commentaries note as being Arab and non-Arab groups respectively. 25
This distinction might be better assessed in Lewis second book on the topic, which examines race and its role in the keeping of and trade in slaves during the Middle Ages. Here again Lewis begins with numerous Qur'anic examples demonstrating the Muslim acceptance of slaves and the basic inequality of the relationship of master and slave.Lewis, Race and Slavery in the Middle East, pp 6. Lewis notes the following Qur’anic passages: XVI:71 and XXX:28 for their discussion on the relationship between master and slave, IV:3, XXIII:6, XXXIII:50-52, and LXX:30 for their discussion on concubinage, urged kindness towards slave is mentioned in IV:36, IX:60, and XXIV:58, the freeing of slaves is recommended for the expiation of sins in IV:92, V:92, and LVIII:3, and the freeing of slaves as an act of benevolence in II:177, XXIV:33, and XC:13. 26 While the Qur'an and the innumerable Hadiths note the acceptance of slaves in the Muslim community it extols considerate and at times equal treatment of slaves.Lewis, Race and Slavery in the Middle East, pp 6. Here Lewis notes that the hadiths (traditions) note the Prophet's urging of benevolent treatment of slaves, the denouncement of cruelty, harshness, and discourtesy. Likewise, it also notes that Muhammad’s apostolate is free and slave alike. 27 The slave trade in Islamic lands initially began with the newly conquered territories of the Dar al-Islam, but as conversion and manumission spread the need for save importation from outside the Dar al-Islam was needed to meet the needs of the market. In this later phase, fair-skinned slaves known as Saqaliba, i.e. Slavs, were imported from Europe and the Eurasian steppes while dark-skinned were imported from west and sub-Saharan Africa.Lewis, Race and Slavery in the Middle East, pp 10-11. 28 The slave trade initially took slaves from the Iberian peninsula who were of equal cultural levels to their masters, and later the slave trade expanded to benefit the slave market in Spain. In fact, Lewis notes that Saqalibas were most prominent in Muslim Spain, with lesser markets in North Africa and the east.L e w i s , R a c e a n d S l a v e r y i n t h e M i d d l e E ast, pp 10. 29 The popularity of slave trade in Muslim Spain may have served as part of the inspiration for the presence of figures whom appear to be slaves in the Cantigas. Lewis notes that the presence of the black figure in Islamic art stems from a tradition of the black figure in Islamic literature, such as the stereotyping of the sexually potent black man in the Arabian Nights saga, numerous poets such as al-Sayyad al-Himyari, Ibn Butlan, who wrote of the black woman, and the later the erotic Ottoman poet Fazil Bey, wrote of the distorted and monstrous nature of the black man, particularly.Lewis, Race and Slavery in the Middle East, pp 92-98. 30 There are three examples of the black slave figure in the Maqamat, one has been previously discussed in this essay - the ship sailing to Oman, another is a black slave or attendant bringing food to a group of Arab men, and the last is a scene of a slave market in Zabid, Yemen. All three examples show the black figure in modest or minimal dress, no head covering, though this may be slightly debatable in the sailing ship example, and always performing a subordinate task such as being for sale, a cabin attendant on a ship, or an attendant in a residence for distinctly Arab men, noted by their fair skin, turban, and beards.
It is difficult to construct a more complete argument for the presence of a black figure in the Maqamat and the Cantigas de Santa Maria. Oleg Grabar notes that perhaps the dark-skinned figures were the standard symbol of the foreigner, of whatever variety, and that since it also occurs in fourteenth-century Persian painting it may not necessarily be indicative of a particular racial sentiment.Grabar, pp 146-147. 31 This seems unlikely in the wake of Bernard Lewis' discussion of a clear sense of racial difference and the awareness of racial difference as value judgment, such is the case in the poetry mentioned above. While neither Grabar nor Ettinghausen specifically account for the naming of marginal dark-skinned figures as slaves, the evidence put forward in Lewis seems most accurate, at least in the creation and promulgation of artistic and literary stereotypes.Lewis, Race and Slavery in the Middle East, pp 92-98. 32 While this paper's purpose is not to argue racial tensions in the Mediterranean in the Medieval period, it is important to understanding the use of racial distinguished figures in the Maqamat as a means to understanding there use in the Cantigas de Santa Maria, if nothing else, the creation and use of an artistic racial trope in a pan-Mediterranean context to denote the “other” or the foreigner seems to be prevalent in both the Maqamat and Cantigas manuscripts.
While these relationships may seem like a question of apples versus oranges, when really the question should be about pears, it is important to remember that the purpose of this paper is not to make explicit relationships but rather to emphasize the presence of Islamic manuscripts in the Castilian court and the subsequent similarities present in Alfonso's Cantigas de Santa Maria. In his article “Trade with the East and the Influence of Islamic Art on the 'Luxury Arts' in the West,”Oleg Grabar, 'Trade with the East and the Influence of Islamic Art on the Luxury Arts in the West' in Il Medio Oriente a l'Occidente nell'Arte del XIII Secolo, Hans Belting, ed. (Bologna: Comité International d'Histoire de l'Art, 1979), pp 27-34. 33 Oleg Grabar notes two things, first being the importance of looking at the semantic field of a work of art and the semantic fields of any and all of its parts, and the second being the social and personal environments and motivations surrounding the work.Grabar, 'Trade with the East,' pp 27. 34 In considering the Cantigas de Santa Maria, it is noticeable that the semantic field of the whole and the parts are reflective of a menagerie of Islamic sources covering a sizable spectrum. For in Alfonso's manuscript the semantic field is regressive, reflective of the models and patronage that preceded the production of the manuscript. Similarly, the personal investment of Alfonso into manuscript translation and production in his court is the result of his knowledge and appreciation of Islamic source material.
Lastly, Grabar notes that the thirteenth century is particularly ripe for what he calls “externalization”Grabar, 'Trade with the East,' pp 33. 35 a process in which the taste of the ruler is externalized in the forms and practices that fit his fancy, and that this experimentation was ripe because of the wide variety of cultural and historical possibilities. As the thirteenth century progressed the change is not, as Grabar puts it a formal one, but rather a change of view. The intercultural taste of the ruling class was substituted by or added to with similar or better technical sophistication as well as the localization of the technique.Grabar, 'Trade with the East,' pp 33. 36 This is further enhanced by Grabar's first conclusion on the sources of the Maqamat, that being that the manuscript is a distinctly Mediterranean and almost never, with few sporadic exceptions, a Persian text.Grabar, Maqamat, pp 147. 37 This is reminiscent of the later life of the Kalila wa Dimnah fable which came to Persia first but was translated into Arabic in mid-eighth century and became exceedingly popular as an Arabic text.Atil, pp 9. 38 Therefore, with Alfonso X it may be possible to look to the externalizing of Alfonso's taste for Islamic manuscripts in Castilian houses of production as the catalyst for the use of technique inspired by Islam but added to by distinctly Spanish sources.TOP
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