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History of Art

Cornell University Cornell University Cornell University History of Art and Visual Studies

Cynthia Robinson

Amazon Cast Danielle Mericle


Detail: Aids for the Deaf

Indonesian Clay Dolls

Tapestry by Pieter van Aelst


Detail: Battle between the conquering Mongols and the Muslim population of Iran


Detail: Beyond the Taj


Detail: Eave hanging (ider-ider) with scenes from Butterfly L

japan detail

Detail: Three Laughers of the Tiger Glen


Detail: Le Ventre Legislatif


Detail: El Regreso del Canibal Macrobiotico


Forgotten Dream


Detail: Moche Panel Fragment with Four Figur

sea gods

Detail: Battle of the Sea Gods

The dream and lies of franco

Detail: The Dream and Lie of Franco


Fields in the Month of June

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Cynthia Robinson

Department Chair, History of Art
Mary Donlon Alger Professor of Medieval and Islamic Art

phone: 607-255-9502
room: Goldwin Smith Hall, G33

Cynthia Robinson

Imagining the Passion in a Multiconfessional Castile

Medieval Andalusian Courtly Culture in the Mediterranean

In Praise of Song

Under the Influence

Islamic Art and Literature

Medieval Encounters

Medieval Encounters: Courting the Alhambra

Muqarnas: An Annual on the Visual Culture of the Islamic World


Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania

Research Focus

Medieval and Islamic art

Research Overview

I am committed to an interdisciplinary investigation of the visual, literary, courtly and religious manifestations of cultural and confessional contact and interchange in the Mediterranean world, between 1000 and 1500 A.D., with particular focus on the Iberian peninsula.

Recently Taught Courses

ARTH 2350 Intro to Art History: Islamic Art and Culture
ARTH 4311/6311 The Multi-Cultural Alhambra
ARTH 4312 The Late Medieval Art of Devotion
ARTH 3300 Romanesque and Early Gothic Art and Architecture: Europe and the Mediterranean, 900-1150
ARTH 3301 Gothic and the Medieval World
ARTH 4305 Looking for Love: Visual & Literary Cultures of Love in the Medieval Mediterranean 1100-1400 AD

Select Publications

Books (Monographs)

A Sufi Aesthetic? Images, Devotion, Power and Mysticism in the Nasrid Kingdom of Granada (working title, in preparation)

Imagining the Passion in a Multi-Confessional Castile: The Virgin, Christ, Devotions, and Images in the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries (Penn State University Press, 2013).

Three Ladies and A Lover: Mediterranean Courtly Culture through the Text and Images of the “Hadîth Bayâd wa Riyâd,” an Andalusî Manuscript (London: Curzon-Routledge, 2006).

In Praise of Song: the Making of Courtly Culture in al-Andalus and Provence, 1065-1135 A.D. (Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers, 2002).

Edited Collections

Invited by Editor in Chief Sol Miguel Prendes to guest-edit a volume of the peer-review journal La Corónica: A Journal of Medieval Hispanic Languages, Literatures, and Cultures, produced by Project MUSE. The volume will deal with devotional imagery and culture in late-medieval Castile (2011), and will include essay by Robinson.

Under the Influence: Questioning the Comparative in Medieval Iberia. Coedited with Leyla Rouhi (Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers, 2005).

Special edition of the peer-reviewed journal, Medieval Encounters 14.2-3 (December 2008), dedicated to the “Christian-style” ceiling paintings of the Hall of Justice of the Alhambra’s “Palace of the Lions,” with articles by historians of art and literature. Coedited with Simone Pinet; introductory essay by Pinet and Robinson.

Special edition of the peer-reviewed journal, Medieval Encounters 12.3 (December 2006), coedited with María J. Feliciano and Leyla Rouhi. Based on conference proceedings of the symposium, “Interrogating Iberian Frontiers: A Cross-Disciplinary Research Symposium on Mudéjar History, Religion, Art and Literature,” held in November, 2004.

Islamic Art and Literature. Coedited with Oleg Grabar (Princeton Papers, 2001).

Academic Articles and Book Chapters

“Emanationist Thought and the Almoravids: Patronage, Power and the Pierced Stucco Dome of Tlemcen,” for a volume in honor of Prof. Renata Holod’s 65th birthday, edited by Profs. David Roxburgh and D. F. Ruggles. (in preparation)

“Where Have All the Boys Gone?: Toward a Nasrid Poetics of Sacred and Profane Love,” in Francesca Leoni and Mika Natif, eds., Desired Images: On the Erotic and the Sensual in Islamic Art. (in preparation)

“Contested Territory: The Visual Polemics of “Mudéjar” Ornament,” for special edition of Medieval Encounters (2011), at the invitation of the guest editors, Profs. Jill Caskey and Adam Cohen of the University of Toronto. (in preparation)

“El Retablo de Miraflores romanzado o, ¿qué significa ser un Van der Weyden en Castilla?,” in Rocío Sánchez Ameijeira, ed., Gótico y Frontera. En busca de nuevos paradigmas para el estudio del gótico hispano (col. Medievalia, Murcia, forthcoming, 2010). Murcia: Nausícaa.

“In One of My Body’s Gardens: Space and Sacred Disembodiment in Late Medieval Iberian Devotions,” in Suzanne Akbari and Karla Mallette, eds., Proceedings of “The Persistence of Philology:” A Symposium in Honor of the 20th Anniversary of the Publication of Maria Rosa Menocal’s ‘The Role of Arabic in Medieval Literary History,’ the University of Toronto (University of Toronto Press, forthcoming, 2010).

“El poder de la luz, la luz del poder,” for an edited volume in memory of Prof. Fernando Galván, formerly of the Art History Department of the Universidad de León, forthcoming 2010.

"Genre Switching: The Hadith Bayad wa Riyad and Mediterranean Courtly Narrative in the 13th Century," in Frédéric Bauden, Aboubakr Chraïbi and Antonella Ghersetti, eds., Medieval Arabic Story-Telling: Transmission and Receptivity (Liège, Belgium, 2008).

“Love in the Time of Fitna: The Banû `Âmir, `Courtliness’ and... Still More on the ‘Córdoban Ivories’.” In Revisiting al-Andalus: Perspectives on the Material Culture of Islamic Iberia and Beyond. Ed. Mariam Rosser-Owen and Glaire Evans (Brill Academic Publishers, 2008). Edited volume of studies on the state of the question concerning the art of al-Andalus.

“Preaching to the Converted: Valladolid’s ‘Cristianos Nuevos’ and the ‘Retablo de Don Sancho de Rojas (1415 A.D.),” Speculum v. 83, no. 1 (Jan. 2008).

"Toward a Poetics of Ornament in Granada's Alhambra: Allegorizing Metaphor," Muqarnas XXV (2008), pp. 185-214. Special issue of Muqarnas in honor of Oleg Grabar's 80th birthday.

“Arthur in the Alhambra? Stories, Pictures and Nasrid Royal Self-Fashioning in the Ceiling Paintings of the Sala de Justicia,” Medieval Encounters 14.2-3 (December 2008), pp. 164-198.

“El manuscrito Bayad wa Riyad y las relaciones con las distintas culturas mediterráneas, cristianas e islámicas en la Península Ibérica,” in Manuel Valdés, ed., Actas del Simposio “El legado de al-Andalus. El arte andalusí en los reinos de León y Castilla durante la Edad Media" (León, Spain, 2007).

“Hadîth Bayâd wa Riyâd: Problems in Text and Image,” in Arab Painting: The State of the Question, ed. Anna Contadini (I.B. Tauris, 2007).

“La Orden Jerónima y el Convento de Clarisas de Santa María la Real de Tordesillas,” Reales Sitios (Madrid, Spain) XLIII, no. 169 (2006), pp. 18-33.

“Trees of Love, Trees of Knowledge: Toward the Definition of a Cross-Confessional Current in Late-Medieval Iberian Spirituality” in María Feliciano, Cynthia Robinson, and Leyla Rouhi, eds., Interrogating Iberian Frontiers: A Cross-Disciplinary Approaches to Mudéjar History, Religion, Art and Literature, special edition of Medieval Encounters 12.3 (December 2006).

“Les Lieux de la Lyrique: Pour une Esthétique “Jardinière” de la Lyrique Mystique Andalouse du XIIIème et XIVème siècles,” in Espace lyrique méditerranéen, ed. Dominique Billy (Nantes, 2006).

"Going Between: Literary Types and the Fabrication of Female Identity in 13th-Century Spains," in Robinson and Rouhi, eds., Under the Influence: Questioning the Comparative in Medieval Iberia (Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers, 2004), pp. 199-230.

"Arts of the Taifa Kingdoms." In Al-Andalus: The Islamic Arts of Spain, exhibition catalogue, ed. Jerrilynn D. Dodds (The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Harry Abrams Inc., 1992).

"Seeing Paradise: Metaphor and Vision in Taifa Palace Architecture," Gesta XXXVI/2, (1998)

Conferences Organized

"Interrogating Iberian Frontiers: A Cross-Disciplinary Research Symposium on Mudejar History, Religion, Art and Literature," organized with Maria J. Feliciano, with the collaboration of Profs. Ross Brann and Salah Hassan, Cornell University (November 2004).

Academic Presentations

Plenary lecture at a conference entitled “Religion and Castile in the Fifteenth Century,” organized by Prof. Sol-Miguel Prendes, Wake Forest University, Title TBD, 18-19 October 2010

NEH Summer Workshop on Mediterranean Cultural Interaction during the later Middle Ages, to be held in Barcelona, Spain, organized by Profs. Brian Catlos and Sharon Kinoshita of the University of California at Santa Cruz, “The Problem with Style: Models, Methods and Two Case Studies in Contextual Specificity.” 18-23 July 2010

The University of Wisconsin, Departments of Spanish and Portuguese and the History of Art, "Towers, Birds and Divine Light: The Contested Territory of Nasrid and “Mudéjar” Ornament," 20 April 2010

Ohio State University’s Medieval and Renaissance lecture series, “Mementoes and Objects of Memory,” “Invented Pasts: Memories of Muhammad and Visions of the Virgin between Granada and Castile, 14th-15th centuries A.D.” 8 April 2010

Workshop-style lecture to Prof. Marilyn Desmond’s class on society and literature in the Medieval Mediterranean at SUNY Binghamton, “Birds, Thrones and Blinding Light: `Misticismos Encontrados' Between the Nasrid Sultanate of Granada and the Christian Kingdom of Castile,” 18 November 2009

Light, Surface, Spirit: Phenomenology and Aesthetics in Byzantine Art, Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, D.C., “Light, Falsafa, Power and Polemic between Tlemcen and St. Denis (with a stop at Zaragoza along the way),” 12-13 November 2009

Colloquium in Honor of Prof. Renata Holod’s 65th Birthday, Harvard University, “Emanationist Thought and the Almoravids: Patronage, Power and the Pierced Stucco Dome of Tlemcen,” 9-10 October 2009

Harvey Stahl Memorial Lectures, sponsored by the International Center for Medieval Art, held at the University of Missouri and the University of Illinois at Chicago, “Court, Literature, Devotion and Society at the Alhambra (Granada, 14th century),” 30 September and 1 October 2009

University of Arizona Museum of Art, Tucson, Arizona, “Pomegranates and Pietàs: Conflict and Contact between Islam and Christianity in the Age of the Retablo de Ciudad Rodrigo,” 6 March 2009

Grupo de Estudios Árabes, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, Madrid, Spain, “Granadas y Pietas: La polisemia en la cultura devocional castellana, ss. XIV-XV,” 17 October 2008

Medieval Studies Group, University of California at Santa Cruz, “Virgo Patiens, Virgo Triunfans: Pomegranates, Pietas and Polysemy in Devotions to the Virgin in Late Medieval Castile,” 27-28 April 2008

Medieval Studies Group, University of California at Santa Cruz; Workshop Presentation in Prof. Sharon Kinoshita’s class, “Senior Seminar: Medieval Mediterranean Literature,” “Hadith Bayad wa Riyad,” 27-28 April 2008

The Meadows Museum/Southern Methodist University, Symposium for the Exhibition, “Fernando Gallego and His Workshop: The Altarpiece from Ciudad Rodrigo,” “Last Stop before Portugal: Some Considerations on the Retablo de Ciudad Rodrigo, the Virgin, and Conversion,” 19 April 2008

Grupo de Estudios Medievales/Departamento de Historia del Arte, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, “El Manuscrito Vat. Ar. 368: El Hadith Bayad wa Riyad y la Cultura Cortesana en el Mediterraneo (s. XIII),” 5 April 2008

Department of Art and Art History, Indiana University, Bloomington, “All About My Mother:’ Christ, the Virgin, Images and Devotion in a Multi-Confessional Castile (14th-15th centuries),” 3 December 2007

Curso de Verano 2007, Universidad de León, “Funciones, Usos y Simbolismo del Agua en la Edad Media,” “El agua en el mundo medieval del Islam: poesía, metáfora, imagen y devoción,” 10-13 July, 2007

Stanford University, `Abbasi Program for Islamic Studies, “Marginal Ornament: Poetics, Mimesis and Devotion in the Age of the Alhambra (14th-15th centuries A.D.),” 10 January 2007

Universidad de León, “La Influencia del Arte Islámico en la Cultura Visual de Castilla-León,” “Imágenes y Texto de Vat.Ar.Ris. 368, el Hadîth Bayâd wa Riyâd y los Contactos con Castilla,” 27-30 November 2006

Kolb Society Annual Faculty Symposium, The University Museum, The University of Pennsylvania, “Imag(in)ing Passions: The ‘Iberian Particularities’ of Devotions to Christ and the Virgin in Late Medieval Castile,” 6 November 2006

Medieval Studies Series on Medieval Gardens, Loyola University, “Jinnat al-Ard: The Andalusî Garden from Metaphor to Analogy in Late Medieval Iberia,” 13 March 2006

Vizcult Series, Department of Art History, SUNY Binghamton, “Trees and Passions,” 30 November 2005

Department of Art History, Syracuse University, “Multiple Alhambras,” 14 October 2005

Department of Islamic Art and Architecture, Oxford University, “Arthur in the Alhambra?” 27 May 2004