11030 A RARE SMOKING ROOM CARPET IN THE NASRID TASTE PROBABLY DESIGNED BY RAFAEL CONTRERAS Madrid. Third Quarter Of The Nineteenth Century. Measurements: 122″ (310 cm) x 89″ (226 cm)
Of colored wools.
This spectacular carpet twice bears the motto of the dynastic sultans of Grenada “There is no conqueror but God” (figure 1).
The increasing 19th century fascination with the Nasrid palace of Alhambra led to the creation of Moorish style rooms in the great Spanish houses from 1850 onward, variously known as ‘Cabinet Arabe’ or ‘sala de fumare’.
The Grenadine family of Contreras obtained the contracts for the restoration of the major reception rooms of the Alhambra in the 1840s, and the architect Rafael Contreras was appointed by Queen Isabel for the construction of a Smoking Room in the Moorish taste for the summer Palace of Aranjuez in 1851. This magnificent room, the apogee of Contreras work as an interior designer, has been carefully and splendidly conserved by the Patrimonio National (figure 2).
The Spanish nobility immediately followed the taste of their sovereign, resulting in the creation of similar rooms in many palaces of importance in the second half of the century.
Few of these rooms have survived the twentieth century, but the Quinta de Vista Alegre, also by Contreras and once the property of the Marques de Salamanca, possesses an excellent example (figure 3).
The extreme climate of Madrid, scorching in the summer and frequently dropping to freezing during the winter months, resulted in the extensive use of deep-piled carpets, rolled out in the autumn and carefully beaten and stored away during the summer months. The sophisticated design of this carpet would suggest a direct intervention by a talented architect, possibly Rafael Contreras. The strong palette of pink, yellow, rust, black and peppermint greens would have faithfully reflected the decoration of the walls and upholstery of the fumoir. The excellent conservation of the colors is due to the Spanish custom of carefully excluding sunlight from any room of importance when not in use, by folding wooden shutters to avoid fading.