Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Invention of Glory: Afonso V and the Pastrana Tapestries

The Siege of Asilah, 1475-1500 (detail), probably produced under the direction of Passchier Grenier, a tapestry agent
dallas. From the 15th until the 18th century, tapestry was the status symbol par excellence.

Far more costly than painting or sculpture, it had the benefits of being portable, multi-purpose and spectacular, especially when large.

The Burgundian court, whose territories included Flanders, the main area of production, set the standard for display, which was taken up by every European court and many wealthy religious institutions.

This exhibition is a chance to see the results of a two-year restoration of the 15th-century, four-piece set The Expedition of the Portuguese in North Africa, woven in Tournai under the direction of Passchier Grenier (1447-93), the international tapestry agent.

Since the 17th century, these tapestries were carefully preserved in the collegiate church of Nuestra Señora de la Asunción in Pastrana, near Guadalajara, Spain.

Their restoration was paid for by the Fundación Carlos de Amberes (the foundation that promotes the study of the history of 16th- and 17th-century relations of Spain and the Low Countries), with the support of the Belgian Inbev-Baillet Latour Fund, the Spanish Fundación Caja, Madrid, the Region of Castilla-La Mancha, the Provincial Council of Guadalajara and the Diocese of Sigüenza-Guadalajara.

The work was carried out by the Royal Manufacturer de Wit in Belgium. These monumental tapestries (11m by 4m) were commissioned by Afonso V, king of Portugal and the Algarves (1432-81), who reigned from the age of six until he retired to the monastery of Sintra in 1477.

They commemorate his conquest of North Africa in a series of crusades for which the Pope Nicholas V had granted him the hereditary right to enslave the conquered Muslims.

The depiction of contemporary events was fairly unusual in this medium, which was generally reserved for historical, biblical or mythological subjects.

The wars lasted from 1458 until 1471 and the four tapestries consist of The Landing at Asilah, The Siege of Asilah, The Assault on Asilah, and The Conquest of Tangier, the last event depicted being crucial to the control of traffic in and out of the Mediterranean.

The tapestries, which are rich in military details, are displayed in a single gallery. It is not known how the tapestries left the Portuguese royal collection and came to the church in Pastrana. Categories: Medieval

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