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The Power of Symbols

The Alhambra in a Global Perspective

Edited By Francine Giese and Ariane Varela Braga

This volume intends to foster a re-interpretation of the Nasrid architecture of the Alhambra in Granada and its post-Islamic appropriation and global diffusion. Taking into account the current debates on otherness, cultural exchange and artistic transfer, hybridization, stylistic renewal and national identity building, this collection of essays explores the significance of the Alhambra from the Nasrid period to the present time. Built as a military fortress and gradually enlarged to a multi-functional palace city, by the 19th century the Alhambra became a symbol of exoticism and reverie. As one of the most important legacies of the Islamic heritage of al-Andalus, its role as a mediator between East and West is more important than ever.

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The History of the Alhambra Models Collection in Russia (Ludmila Kondratenko / Ekaterina Saviona)

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The History of the Alhambra Models Collection in Russia

Ludmila Kondratenko and Ekaterina Saviona

The Museum of the Russian Academy of Arts in Saint Petersburg preserves a rich collection of models, plaster cast and graphics of Hispano Islamic architecture, on which this contribution focuses on. The history of academic art collections in Russia began more than 250 years ago during the reign of Catherine the Great (Catherine II, r. 1762–1796), who played a major role as one of the patrons of the Academy of Arts in Saint Petersburg. With the help of excellent advisers, she acquired some of Europe’s best artworks. For instance, Prince Dmitri Alekseyevich Gallitzin (1728–1803), the Russian ambassador in Paris from 1765 to 1768 and in The Hague from 1769 was of great help to Catherine, since he was one of the most educated people of his time, a great art connoisseur and friend with Denis Diderot, Étienne Maurice Falconet, Geneva-­based art collector François Tronchin and writer Melchior Grimm. Catherine II also had an advisor in Rome, the agent Johann Friedrich Reifenstein, deemed one of the best art connoisseurs in Europe.

During the 1770s, the age of Neoclassicism, when the arts of antiquity had become an aesthetic ideal for artists, Catherine II bought a collection of altogether 34 cork models of ancient Roman monuments from Italian architect Antonio Chichi (1743–1816)1. Chichi and other artisans had produced these miniatures on request of Catherine II. She had...

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