The Moorish Alcove was simply known as The Alcove in the Russell-Cotes' day, the later title having been in use for almost eighty years. It is a dark area originally enclosed by three doors, leading to the Study, Boudoir and Yellow Room which were removed in 1922 when the Museum first opened. The door to the Study, which was permanently closed, was blocked by furniture and works of art.
Much of the design influence for this area undoubtedly came from Owen Jones’ Grammer of Ornament, published in the 19th century. The book contained designs from the Alhambra in Granada and it appears that some of these were simply copied, as was Jones’ intention, such as the inscription from the Koran that can be seen running twelve times below the dome, which translates as ‘There is no Victor but God’ in Arabic. The fretwork is actually the design for the floor mosaic in the “Hall of Two Sisters” in the Alhambra, with the addition of swallows that are found throughout the house.
The originally fully glazed dome was not intended to house a central light - the central section was found in the attic. Although a table lamp was situated on the ledge outside the Yellow Room we can assume that it would have given very little light to the main area. It may well be that the dome was completed during the summer when the sun lit the area quite nicely. However, at night or on dark winter days the Russell-Cotes may have realised that this area was too dismal and added a Moorish style lantern which could easily have been bought from a local store.
The painting of the tiles are a good example of trompe l’oile. However the initials ‘JM’ which have been painted on the cove just above the moulding, are only visible by using a step ladder, and are assumed to be those of the artist. The swallows and the jugs in the centre panels appear to resemble the work of Oliver Thomas, resident artist at the Royal Bath Hotel in the 1920’s. Thomas often copied objects from the collection, the yellow faience jug is almost on a 1:1 scale.
Click on the floorplan for the virtual tour to explore Moorish Alcove further.