"Admiral" Heraldic Carpet

Artist/maker unknown, Spanish, possibly woven by Muslim craftsmen

Made in Spain, Europe

c. 1429-1473


19 feet 3/4 inches x 8 feet 9 1/8 inches (586.7 x 475 cm)

Curatorial Department:
European Decorative Arts and Sculpture

* Gallery 206, European Art 1100-1500, second floor

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
The Joseph Lees Williams Memorial Collection, 1955

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Shortly after the Muslims of North Africa introduced the art of making twisted-pile carpets into Spain, the weaving of this armorial carpet was undertaken. It was probably made for the founder of the royal house of Castile, Fadrique Enríquez, who held the titles of Lord of Medina and Admiral of Castile and was the grandfather of King Ferdinand of Spain. His coat of arms—an upright lion beneath two triple-towered castles bordered by anchors and ropes—is repeated three times in the center field. A decorative pattern in the main border at each end, formed by designs that resemble Arabic script, indicates its Mudéjar workmanship.

Additional information:
  • PublicationPhiladelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections

    It was the Muslims of North Africa who brought the craft of rug weaving to Spain, where it became an important industry in the twelfth century. This rug is one of the most distinctive early Spanish types: long narrow carpets with coats of arms woven into the design. It belongs to the famous group known as the admiral" carpets because they bear the arms of Don Fadrique Enríquez de Mendoza (c. 1390-1473), twenty-sixth admiral of Castille. The Enríquez family donated this and other "admiral" rugs to the convent of Santa Clara in Palencia, which had been founded by Don Fadrique's father and was to be the burial place of the admirals of Castille. In this well preserved carpet the shields with the Enríquez arms stand out clearly against the shimmering patterned background. The top and bottom borders show illegible Arabic script in the angular Kufic style. Delightful secondary elements are provided by the unexplained designs in the long side borders that include birds, bears, wildmen combating animals, and women wearing enormously wide skirts. Dean Walker, from Philadelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections (1995), p. 117.

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