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Lesson Plan: Court Arts of Islamic Spain

A textile woven with an intricate geometric pattern of yellow, purple, white and green

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Textile fragment
14th century
Silk, lampas; 40 3/16 x 14 5/16 in. (102 x 36.3 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Fletcher Fund, 1929 (29.22)

Collection Area: Islamic Art
Subject Areas: Visual Arts, World History
Grades: Middle School, High School
Topic/Theme: Art as a Primary Resource


Students will be able to:
  • identify shared visual characteristics among several works of art from Islamic Spain;
  • recognize ways designs are adapted across a range of media; and
  • cite strengths and limitations of various materials.

National Learning Standards

Visual Arts
NA-VA.K-12.1 Understanding and Applying Media, Techniques, and Processes
NA-VA.K-12.4 Understanding the Visual Arts in Relation to History and Cultures
NA-VA.K-12.6 Making Connections between Visual Arts and Other Disciplines

World History
NSS-WH.5-12.5 Era 5: Intensified Hemispheric Interactions, 1000–1500 c.e.

Common Core State Standard

English Language Arts
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.1 Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.

Questions for Viewing

  • Describe the various shapes you see. What patterns do you notice? What skills or tools might someone need to create these designs? What do you see that makes you say that?
  • Artists in Islamic Spain often employed the same or similar motifs across a range of media. Compare and contrast this textile with tile panels from Spanish palaces of the same period such as the Alhambra (fig. 24). What similarities do you notice? What visual elements (colors, shapes, designs, etc.) are common in your community?
  • Close cultural ties between Muslim states in Spain and North Africa led to the sharing of styles across the Strait of Gibraltar. Compare the featured work of art with the Patti Cadby Birch Moroccan Court, a space created in 2011 in the style of late medieval Islamic Spain and Morocco, with original Nasrid columns. What details, if any, suggest close ties between these two regions?
  • This textile was likely used as a furnishing or space divider in Islamic Spain. In neighboring Christian lands, however, works such as this often lined reliquaries (containers to hold relics of holy individuals such as saints). Create a list of goods or ideas from other countries or regions that inform your life today. How, if at all, have people modified these items to support local interests, tastes, or needs?


Activity Setting: Classroom
Materials: Pencils (graphite and colored), paper, images of tilework from the Alhambra, magazines for collage work, glue, and an assortment of found objects or recycled materials such as bottle caps and cardboard boxes
Subject Areas: Visual Arts, World History
Duration: Approximately 90 minutes

A comparison of the featured textile and tile panels from the Alhambra, a Spanish palace of the same period (fig. 24), reflects the ways in which artists applied similar designs across various media. Explore the strengths and limitations of various materials as you translate a detail from this textile into another medium.

  1. Identify a small area of the design you would like to concentrate on.
  2. Before selecting the materials you plan to use, create a list of the potential strengths or limitations of two (or more) options—for example, colored pencil, collage, or an assemblage of found objects/recycled materials. Imagine translating the design into each medium; consider what aspects of the design might prove challenging and how, if at all, you would need to adapt the design.
  3. Select one material and use it to recreate the design.
  4. Compare and contrast your work with that of your peers. Discuss the challenges that emerged during the process and the strategies you used to overcome them.
  5. Revisit your initial list of strengths and limitations for each material and update it as necessary.

Fig. 24 Detail of a tile panel from the interior of the Nasrid palace, the Alhambra, Granada, 1354–91


Department of Islamic Art. "The Art of the Nasrid Period (1232–1492)." In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–.

———. "Geometric Patterns in Islamic Art." In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–

———. "The Nature of Islamic Art." In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–.

Dodds, Jerrilynn D., ed. Al-Andalus: The Art of Islamic Spain. Exhibition catalogue. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1992.

Ekhtiar, Maryam D., and Claire Moore, eds. Art of the Islamic World: A Resource for Educators. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2012.

Building the Moroccan Court. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–.

Objects in the Museum's Collection Related to this Lesson

The Patti Cadby Birch Moroccan Court
Created onsite at The Metropolitan Museum of Art by the Naji family and their company, Arabesque, Inc., Fez, Morocco, in 2011
Polychrome-glazed and cut tilework, carved stucco, carved cedar wood, carved marble

14th century
Earthenware, tin-glazed; Overall: 2 5/8 x 12 3/8 in. (6.7 x 31.4 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, H. O. Havemeyer Collection, Bequest of Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer, 1929 (29.100.96)

14th century
Spain, Toledo
Wood; carved and painted; L. 10 in.; W. 5 5/8 in.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Dr. Walter L. Hildburgh, 1951 (51.45.8)

Deep Dish (brasero)
About 1430
Spain, Valencia
Tin-enameled earthenware; Diam. 17 3/4 in. (45.1 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, The Cloisters Collection, 1956 (56.171.162)

Tile with heraldic device of the Nasrid kings
First third of the 16th century
Spain; probably made in Seville
Earthenware, impressed and glazed; 7 1/2 x 41 5/16 x 1 3/8 in. (19 x 12.5 x 3.5 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, The Cloisters Collection, 2011 (2011.153)

Author: Adapted from a lesson by classroom teacher Jesse Johnson
Date: 2012


After reading Unit Five, Chapter One, you will be able to identify how the court art of Islamic Spain reflects a convergence of cultures and understand the ways in which royal patronage of the arts reflected the visual identity and opulence of two dynasties in Islamic Spain.