Review of the Troops at Barcelona
An international army
Charles V arrived in Barcelona on April 3, 1535. The emperor had gathered together an international army to help him in his North African military and naval campaign. Generals, naval commanders and soldiers were recruited from Portugal, Spain, Germany, Italy and the kingdom of Naples.
Eminent princes and commanders
In the foreground, a cortege of eminent princes and commanders in armor, on horseback, who are depicted with realistic, minute detail: the Duke of Alba (Ferdinand Álvarez de Toledo), the Portuguese Prince, Infante D. Luis, Luiz Hurtado de Mendoza, 2nd Marquis of Mondéjar, Charles V attended by the Imperial guard (in the middle distance), Admiral Andrea Doria, Alvaro de Bazán and the Portuguese commander, Antonio de Saldanha. The crème de la crème of Europe’s military forces at this date.
The city of Barcelona can be seen in the background, while next to the emperor under an orange two seated men keep tally of the muster and troops. In the far distance (to the right), rises a serrated mountain where the famous sanctuary and pilgrimage church of Montserrat was located.
Jan Cornelisz Vermeyen
In June 1535, Charles V set sail from Sardiniaat the head of a fleet comprising over 350 ships and over 30,000 men to recapture Tunis from the Ottoman Turks and Sultan Suleyman the Great. In order to document his campaign (and expected victories) in detail, the emperor invited not only historians and poets, but also by his court painter, Jan Cornelisz Vermeyen.
The imperial propaganda deployed here cannot be ignored: Charles V although depicted here in the middle ground, was a ruler who had the power to move men, horses and weapons across space and time –across the Mediterranean to North Africa.
The creative process
Jan Vermeyen relied upon his vast repertoire of drawings executed during his eyewitness experience in North Africa to create the life-size cartoons. In 1543 he was commissioned by Charles V to draw in color the cartoons for twelve monumental tapestries, identical in size to the tapestries which were to be woven after them. Executed in charcoal and watercolour (gouache), the cartoons are the collaboration of Vermeyen with a fellow Flemish artist, Pieter Coecke van Aelst, who was an experienced tapestry designer employed by the Habsburg court in Brussels. The detailed depictions and exact renditions of locations bring to life the multiple events of this campaign. Each cartoon features one or more scenes, and to avoid repetition the artists placed the horizon line high in the design with Coecke van Aelst introducing the idea of filling the foreground with peoples and action. Ten of the original twelve cartoons by Vermeyen and Coecke van Aelst have survived in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna.
The mark of Brabant-Brussels BdB. And in the guard border (right side) the weaver’s mark of Willem de Pannemaker before 1554
The borders designed to imitate a carved wooden frame with a braided motif, are punctuated by circles set within wreathes of flowers, placed in the four corners which depict the Imperial double-headed eagle above and the Burgundian device of the staves and fire-steel below. Cartouches on either side in the middle show the double coulmns of Hercules in a blue field and Charles V’s motto in French: Plus Oultre.
Longer cartouches contain explanatory inscriptions in Spanish (above) and Latin (below). These inscriptions were added to give the viewer a clearer picture of the complicated events.
Todos estas cosas asy ordenadas y medido el tiempo conforme a lo que el Emperador le parecia que convenia partyr para Barcelona: a la misma sazon que las armadas podria llegar: parte de Madrid y llega a Barcelona, donde reconosciendo los aparejos que ally havia mandado proveer; haze muestra o alarde de los grandes y cavalleros du su casa y corte, y acabadas de junctar las armadas que ally havian de venyr, postrero dya de Mayo, se hizo a la vela: llevando en su compagnia al Infante don Luys, su cuñado, que con muchos cavalleros portogueses, venya a hallarse en la jornada. Toca em Mallorca y Menorca y con tiempo algo rezyo pasa por el golfo de Leon a Cerdeña donde, halla el armada que el marques del Gasto traya de Italia, como se representa en la primera pieça que es la carta de marear, y assy de muchas hecha una: de mas de 350 velas, prosigue el emperador su viaje en Africa.
MADRITI CAMPOS AC TECTA RELINQVIT AVITA
CAESAR ET IN LAETIS BARCINI CONSTITIT ARVIS.
SIGNAQ DVM LVSTRAT. PROCERES TVRMASQ RECENSET.
EN PIA VOTA FACIT EXPANDENS VELA PER AVRAS.
VT FRETA BINA SECANS BALEARES EXPLICET VINDAS
SARDOASQ SIMVUL: QVO CLASSIS IVSSA COIRE
GERMANOS ITALAMQ MANVM
PORTAT IBERORVM ET LIBYCIS ADVERIR ARENIS.
Series The Conquest of Tunis
Second tapestry in the series
Model Jan Vermeyen and Pieter Coecke van Aelst, 1543-1548
Manufacture Real Fábrica de Tapices de Santa Bárbara, Madrid, 1731-1744
Fabric Silk and wool
Size 525 x 712 cm
Location Royal Palace of Madrid
Origin The Conquest of Tunis set was comissioned by Charles V and it is not on display. These two panels are from the replica cycle comissioned by Philip V and finished by 1744
On display Royal Armoury