The taking of Tangier (Toma de Tánger)

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The taking of Tangier (Toma de Tánger)
Thanks to an agreement, the Portuguese took the city of Tangier without engaging in combat. The sea, represented in a simplistic way, splits the composition in two: the entry of the Portuguese and the exit of the Africans, with the city of Tangier in the middle of the tapestry.

The surrender of Tangier and the exit from the city

Following the conquest of Asilah, the Portuguese army marched into the city of Tangier, taking it without a fight on 28th August, 1471 on account of an agreement reached with the governor of Asilah. Despite his defeat, he surrendered the city to the Portuguese in order to continue his fight against the governor of Fez. The tapestry shows the entry of the Portuguese and the exit of the Tangerines. On the left we can see the advance of the Portuguese army, arriving at the gates of the town. The middle of the composition is taken by the strongly-defended city and its bay, represented very simplistically and almost in a two-dimensional style, like the rest of nature in this series of four tapestries. Other fortresses appear on the landscape far away. A soldier waves the coat of arms of Portugal from the top of the walls, and the defeated inhabitants of the city leave it on the right, taking along their belongings. The presence of women and children and the careful representation of Moorish robes are noteworthy.

No king or prince

The absence of the emblem of Afonso V in this tapestry, the rodizio or cogwheel, indicates that the monarch did not partake in this action, nor did his son Prince John, since their presence was unnecessary given the lack of confrontation. Furthermore, only a few insignia with St George’s cross are to be seen. Everything in this tapestry contrasts with the rest of the series: the action and hustle of the combat in Asilah yield to the quiet taking of the city of Tangier.

A heroic feat

Nonetheless, this was in no way a less heroic or important action for Portugal. The ancestors of Afonso V had attempted to conquer the city on several occasions with no success at all. It was even the case that Ferdinand, commonly known as the Saint Prince, an uncle of the king, died after becoming a prisoner when he tried to take the city in 1448. The triumph of Afonso V favoured the celebration and enhancement of the prestige of the royal dynasty, the House of Aviz, and of Portugal in the European context of the time.

Series Conquest of Asilah and Tangier by Afonso V of Portugal (The Pastrana tapestries)

Fourth tapestry in the series

Manufacture Tournai workshops, a likely manufacture by Passchier Grenier, c. 1471-1475

Fabric Silk and wool

Size 404 (left) / 387 (right) x 1082 cm

Location Museum of the Collegiate Church of Pastrana (Guadalajara)

Origin A bequest in 1667 by the 4th Duke of Pastrana and 8th Duke of the Infantado


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