Art: When Spain Was Islamic

An exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum evokes the vanished culture of the Muslim conquest of Iberia

Auden had it right about Spain: "That arid square, that fragment nipped off from hot/ Africa, soldered so crudely to inventive Europe." One thinks of this while visiting "Al-Andalus: The Art of Islamic Spain," the new | contribution to the 500th anniversary of Columbus by New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art. For a long time, Spain and North Africa were one.

Power abhors a vacuum. At the close of the 7th century A.D., Iberia had almost become one. Its central administrative order, that of the Roman Empire, had long since dissolved. Over it, Visigothic laws and Christian rites had been...

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