In May 1649, the impressive war booty from when the Swedes stormed Prague finally arrived in Stockholm. Queen Christina had been waiting for nine long months to finally see all the sculptures, crafts, paintings and books.
Among all the priceless articles unpacked, the so-called Alhambra Vase was one of the most remarkable. According to legend, the vase was one of the vessels that were present at the wedding of Kana, where Christ turned the water into wine. Queen Christina was sceptical towards the link between the vase and the biblical story. Could this be the reason for her leaving it behind after abdicating and leaving Stockholm for Rome?
The vase is made of red clay. The shape, the wing-like handles, and the opaque, light, tin glaze is characteristic of the gigantic vases manufactured in the Spanish-Moorish Malaga in the 1300s. The Alhambra Palace outside Granada was decorated during this time with several large vases similar to this one. The entire area was then under Arab rule. If you study the ornamentation, you will see that it consists of Islamic calligraphy. Calligraphy gained a unique position among the Islamic art forms, as it was associated to the writing of the Koran. It has, in other words, a spiritual dimension to it.
Shortly after it was made, the vase was taken to Cyprus, where it was revered as a holy relic. When the Osmans conquered Cyprus in 1571, the Turkish commander Mustafa Pasha took the vase to Istanbul. After his death, it was purchased by an ambassador to Emperor Rudolf II. The Emperor placed the vase in his treasury in Prague, which was, in turn, plundered by the Swedish army towards the end of the 30 years war.
The Alhambra vase has been a part of the Nationalmuseum collection since the1860s. It has fascinated countless visitors and inspired several manufacturers. The Gustavsberg porcelain factory, for example, made small-scale replicas of the vase in the late 1800s.