Royal Real Estate – The Queen’s Peinador in The Alhambra

Hofdame Note: Please enjoy this entry from our Baguette Iselen, all about a very old and small palace few people know about, even Spaniards! Most tourists ignore it while taking pics in La Alhambra. 

The Queen’s Peinador means literally, the place where the queen combs her hair. Can be translated as the queen’s boudoir, powder room, dressing room… but it’s not one room, it’s a tiny palace inside a tower where the queen slept, ate, had fun with her ladies in waiting and enjoyed the view of the gardens. She lived there, basically. The nice weather in Granada allows to enjoy life outdoors, so palaces didn’t need to be that big, and when the heat became unbearable, the smaller rooms with high windows allowed the circulation of fresh air. 

The Alhambra is a palace and a fortress, from the 11th century, and the home of the kings of the last Muslim state in Al-Andalus, now Andalusia. This Nasrid dynasty continuously modified the site and, after the Christian conquest in 1492, Ferdinand and Isabella partially altered the buildings to suit their taste. So basically, the Alhambra is a mix of styles, from Gothic to Flemish and Italian Renaissance mixed with the gorgeous Nasrid Muslim decorative style.

Isabella and Ferdinand

Emperor Charles, their grandson, did the same but he had a good reason to improve the fortress because he had just married Empress Isabella of Portugal. He was madly in love with her and they spent their honeymoon in Granada. He modified portions of the Nasrid palaces to serve as royal apartments. The Peinador was one of them. 

Isabella of Portugal, wife of Emperor Charles V

It was built around 1537 on the Tower of Abu l-Hayyay, which was part of the military fortress in the 11th century, and decorated to become part of the residential palace in the 14th because the parapet overlooked the river Darro valley and these are the best views from the Alhambra over Granada. Empress Isabella loved the area and Charles was willing to give her whatever she wanted. 

The narrow tower has a rectangular plan with dimensions of 8.10 meters x 5.75 meters and two floors: the original Muslim and the second one that was built for Isabella on top of it. There’s a big white marble slab on the first one pierced with tiny holes because below, in the basement area, there’s an incense burner. The wonderful smell was supposed to drift through the entire pavilion. The walls are covered with fresco paintings depicting the Emperor’s successful military campaign in Tunisia and the room has original carved wood ceilings. The entrance to the tower has a carved wooden lintel and, above it, plaster voussoirs and a rectangle with stars in relief. Unfortunately, the inscriptions that existed around the door have not been preserved in their entirety, but at least we know that they are praises to God and to Mohammed V. The cobalt blue tiles on the windowsills are original from the 14th century. 

This photo shows the two floors perfectly, the Muslim one below and Isabella’s cupola with windows on top of it. The two decorative styles are totally different.

The second floor has a semicircular arch that opens to a cupola with tiny windows that allowed air circulation and outside, surrounding it, there’s a gallery overlooking the valley. The walls are painted with allegories and vegetal motifs by Julio Aquiles and Alexander Mayner, disciples of Rafael. The tower is connected to the Emperor’s rooms by a gallery and there’s a small, almost secret, staircase to connect it to the gardens too. 

The windows of the second floor overlooking the city.

Due to the fragility of the paintings, carved wood and tiles, the Peinador is not open to public visits. The Alhambra Board is the regional agency in charge of managing the monuments. Its responsibilities include the conservation and custody of the monumental complex, the management of visitor access, the preparation of research projects and studies, and the training of craftsmen in specialties related to the maintenance of the monumental complex.

A closeup shows the carved ceilings.

Paintings of the Emperor’s military campaign
Semi-circular arch
View from the gallery