Lundström, Marie-Sofie. "Experiencing the Alhambra, An Illusive Site of Oriental Otherness." In International Journal of Islamic Architecture, Volume 1, Number 1 (pp. 83-106), edited by Mohammad Gharipour, Bristol: Intellect, 2012.
Two travellers, the French romantic poet and novelist Thophile Gautier (1811–72) and the Finnish naturalist painter Albert Edelfelt (1854–1905), both visited the Alhambra palace in Granada: Gautier in 1840, Edelfelt in 1881. Their accounts of the palace are strikingly similar, although forty years separate their travels; written several years later, Edelfelt's narrative is imbued with a romanticism related to Gautier's. The aim is to show that the ambiguity of Gautier's and Edelfelt's statements of the Alhambra is due to their romantic preconceptions. I will compare their experiences by analysing what they saw during their journeys and how it was expressed in their texts; Gautier published his Voyage en Espagne in 1843, while Edelfelt's impressions are recorded in his letters to his mother. The result is that the Alhambra represented a dream world, which in many senses did not live up to the visitors' expectations. While Gautier was in constant search for the authenticity of the place, Edelfelt was deeply touched by the magnificence that met him in a labyrinth of fabulous beauty. However, the preconceived mental image they both held resulted in an experience that in many ways fell short of the idea they had formed of it in advance.