Disembarkation of King Afonso V with his troops in Asilah
Origin: Real Fábrica de Tapices, Madrid, Spain
Material: Wool & Silk
Dimensions (cm): 482 x 1084
Inv. no.: PD0059
The disembarkation of King Afonso V in Asilah, in 1471
This first Tapestry represents the disembarkation of the Portuguese troops in Asilah and should be “read” from left to right, and from bottom to top. On the upper part, there is an extensive Gothic legend, written in Latin, which describes, in general terms, what is shown in the Tapestry. The Tapestry represents three different scenes. In the first one, one witnesses the arrival of the vessels, visible beyond the Flagship – which bears the royal banner of Afonso V (a water mill – with a horizontal wheel – sprinkling drops of water) and a fleet of other ships plentifully adorned.
The second scene shows the departure of small boats towards land. In this scene, one may see the future King João II. The Royal banner and the Portuguese Coat of Arms are easily identifiable. This scene also represents the wrecking of “those who got into the boats with their weapons, not thinking about the weight that they would be carrying”, therefore, “the sea claimed them”.
In the third scene, one may witness the disembarkation of the King. His presence is again detected through the Royal banner and the Portuguese Coat of Arms. The king is followed by the Prince and other expedition members who came to join the Counts of Monsanto and of Marialva who had landed that morning with their hosts. All are depicted heavily armed, facing a fortified city where some Muslim soldiers are standing. “The Portuguese took the city by surprise and everyone inside was led back to Portugal as prisoners”.
The ‘Pastrana Tapestries’ are known by this name for they are the unique copies of the ones made during the last quarter of the 15th century. The original ones may be found in the Pastrana Collegiate, in Spain.
The series narrates Portuguese exploits in the North of Africa, in 1471, during the reign of Afonso V: the conquest of Asilah (three tapestries) and the taking of Tangier (one).
It is believed that they were made by royal command during the third quarter of the 15th century in one of the Manufacturing Centres in Flanders.
According to Maria Antónia Quina, these tapestries would take between 3 to 5 years to be made, on four looms operating simultaneously, overseen by 16 to 20 craftspeople.
In Europe, as well as in the whole world, these tapestries are considered to be unique for they retract, with documented historical accuracy, the military events that occurred.