Camel

Date: first half 12th century (possibly 1129–34)

Geography: Made in Castile-León, Spain

Culture: Spanish

Medium: Fresco transferred to canvas

Dimensions: Overall: 97 x 53 1/2 in. (246.4 x 135.9 cm)

Classification: Paintings-Fresco

Credit Line: The Cloisters Collection, 1961

Accession Number: 61.219

Description

The hermitage of San Baudelio de Berlanga was constructed in the beginning of the eleventh century at the heart of the frontier between Islamic and Christian lands. Its interior was transformed one hundred and fifty years later with the addition of two cycles of vibrant wall paintings. The upper walls of the church were decorated with a series of scenes from the life of Christ, while the lower sections include boldly painted hunt scenes and images of animals, all of which derive from earlier Islamic objects.
Associated with aristocratic power and pursuits, the camel was a subject often seen on the courtly fine arts of the Umayyad caliphate and Ta’ifa monarchies. Islamic court art was known and admired by inhabitants of the Christian kingdoms for its costly materials and unparalleled craft. Though the Christians under Alfonso VII had definitively wrested Berlanga from Islamic forces in 1124, the paintings in the hermitage suggest that they continued to rely on Islamic motifs and the style of the Islamic court when seeking to create a luxurious setting.

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