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The art of the Alicatado

October 6, 2009

A while back I promised I would tell more about my Andalucian trip. The highlight of that region for me is the great synchretism between various styles, with truly astonishing Moorish influences that create a rather unique Hispano-Arabic style (mudejar art).

The art of alicatado, a decorative art based on the inlay of various pieces of glazed ceramics, was for me one of the most eye-catching examples of this unique style. In the Moslem world where God cannot be portrayed, the Holy is represented not in human-like form but through the rhythmic repetition of patterns. Symmetries, rotations, multiplications of very simple shapes can create amazingly complex pictures. Here’s some.

These belong to either the Alhambra (Granada) or the Reales Alcazares (Sevilla).

I find them a lot more effective to convey a message of divinity: they recall eternity, the unity of One with Many, they call for a creation that is at once ordered and transforming. Apart from being just beautiful.

Maurits Escher was clearly inspired by the Andalucian alicatados which he saw on two occasions, in 1926 and 1936. Here is one of my favourite tile-based Eschers, although one with a slightly more complicated (or just mathematically more advanced?) way of replicating images to cover the surface.

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