Conquest of Asilah and Tangier by Afonso V of Portugal Series (Conquista de Arcila y Tánger por Alfonso V de Portugal) (the Pastrana tapestries)

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Conquest of Asilah and Tangier by Afonso V of Portugal Series (Conquista de Arcila y Tánger por Alfonso V de Portugal) (the Pastrana tapestries)

This unique set of Gothic tapestries is comprised of four tapestries depicting the African campaign of King Afonso V of Portugal in 1471. The so-called ‘Pastrana Tapestries’ are remarkable for their size – each tapestry is up to 11 metres long and 4 metres high – but also for their quality their role as a true war chronicle of the time, reflecting real facts rather than the traditional mythological or religious themes.

They are currently on a tour of several American museums, organized by the Carlos de Amberes Foundation. By July 2013, they will be back in their usual location, the Museum of the Collegiate Church of Pastrana, currently being restored.



The Collegiate Church holds two other tapestries dedicated to the African conquests of King Afonso V of Portugal in 1471. They were probably woven in Brussels but, despite their shared theme, they are separate from the main series described here.

In August 1471, the troops of the king of Portugal, Afonso V, known as ‘the African’ precisely because of his military success in the north of the continent, took the cities of Asilah and Tangier. The Pastrana Tapestries reflect in minute detail the development of this campaign, and were probably woven in Passchier Grenier’s workshop in Tournai, an important production centre for Flemish tapestries in the 15th century. The author of the cartoons is unknown, although the style is similar to other tapestries made in Tournai around the same time, such as the Trojan War series kept in the Cathedral of Zamora.

There is clear evidence that the tapestries were a direct commission by the Portuguese king. However, the set is linked to the Dukedom of the Infantado, in Spain, without any clear connection. Several unconfirmed hypotheses have been put forward. They could have been a present from King Afonso to Cardinal Pedro González de Mendoza, or to his brother Diego Hurtado de Mendoza, the first Duke of the Infantado. Alternatively, the tapestries could be part of the booty obtained after the Battle of Toro (1476), in which Afonso, married to Joanna la Beltraneja, was defeated in his confrontation with the Catholic Monarchs. Other historians relate them to the possessions of Philip the Handsome, who died in 1506. What we do know is that the series was part of the collection of the Dukes of the Infantado by 1532 at the latest. The occasion on which the 4th Duke of Pastrana and 8th Duke of the Infantado made the donation of the four pieces to the Collegiate Church of Pastrana in 1667 is documented.

Following an initiative of the Carlos de Amberes Foundation, the tapestries were recently restored at the Royal Manufacturers De Wit in Malinas (Belgium), winning the 2011 Europa Nostra prize for the Foundation in the conservation category. They have since been exhibited in Brussels, Guadalajara, Toledo, Madrid, Lisbon, Washington, Dallas, San Diego and Boston.</p> <p><b>References

M. Á. Bunes Ibarra, Y. M. De Wit and D. Rodrígues, Los tapices de Pastrana, Madrid, 2010.

J. Sánchez González, Á. Rodríguez Rebollo and G. Dueñas Beraiz, Las hazañas de un rey: tapices flamencos del siglo XV en la Colegiata de Pastrana. Historia y armamento, Toledo, 2010.


Series <i>Conquest of Asilah and Tangier by Afonso V of Portugal (The Pastrana Tapestries)

Manufacture Tournai, probably at Passchier Grenier’s workshop, c. 1471-1475

Fabric Wool and silk

Origin A bequest in 1667 by Rodrigo de Silva y Mendoza, 4th Duke of Pastrana and 8th Duke of the Infantado

Location Museum of the Collegiate Church of Our Lady of the Assumption, Pastrana (Guadalajara)



MAZ and JPM



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