Edwin Lord Weeks | Interior of La Torre des Infantas, The Alhambra

American, 1849–1903

Interior of La Torre des Infantas, The Alhambra

Signed E.L. Weeks
Oil on canvas
10 x 12¼ inches (25.4 x 30.5 cm)
Framed: 13¼ x 16 inches (33.5 x 40.6 cm)

Painted circa 1880, this is a study for Weeks' important painting Interior of La Torre des Infantas [oil on canvas, 32 x 40 inches], which was exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in 1882 and was most recently sold at Christie's, New York on April 19, 2006.

Weeks described the exhibited painting as "an attempt at rendering one of [Washington] Irving's Legends of the Alhambra, 'The Three Moorish Princesses'- and the interior itself is the identical spot where the --- was laid. I have attempted a restoration of the original color as the arabesque work is now partially destroyed." (Letter from Edwin Lord Weeks to George Corliss, 6 September 1882; Archives of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts).

One of the best known legends of the Alhambra was that of the three captive princesses, in which a tyrannical Moorish king fathered beautiful triplet daughters, Zayda, Zorayda, and Zorahayda, by his young Spanish wife, whose Christianity he had forced her to renounce. To protect them from suitors when they became of "a marriagable age," as Irving describes it, the king imprisoned the three princesses in a tower in a palatial room, connected to the world beyond only by a window with a view across a ravine toward the gardens of the Generalife on a nearby hill. Entranced by three captive Christian Spanish cavaliers, whom they could see from their window, the princesses eventually conspired with their duenna to elope with the virile and handsome young men, as they themselves fled their Muslim captors. At the last moment, one princess decided to remain behind, as her two sisters lowered themselves out of the great window on a rope ladder and galloped off with their suitors to a new life in Christian Spain. Tragically, the third princess, too timid to join her sisters in escape, pined away in the tower and died at an early age.

This painting will be included in the forthcoming Weeks catalogue raisonné being prepared by Dr. Ellen K. Morris. We are grateful to Dr. Morris for her assistance in the cataloguing of this study.

EDWIN LORD WEEKS,  Interior of La Torre des Infantas

EDWIN LORD WEEKS, Interior of La Torre des Infantas