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Photo Album: The Decorative Arts of Iberia, May 2015


HALI Tour brochure – Decorative Arts of Iberia May 2015

The HALI Decorative Arts of Iberia Tour took place from 19 – 31 May 2015. HALI’s editorial guides were Ben Evans in Portugal and Rachel Meek in Spain, each of whom recounts the highlights of their leg of the journey in HALI 185. An extract follows. Read the full article in the issue.

The HALI tour to the Iberian Peninsula was a first in many ways, the most important of which were that it marked the beginning of a partnership between HALI and Martin Randall Travel, one of the world’s leading cultural tour operators, and that this was the first tour to take an in-depth look at the textile arts of Spain and Portugal. Hispanic-art historian Gijs van Hensbergen guided thirteen participants for thirteen days through the textile arts of the region, with unique access to works of art, personal guided tours with curators and meetings with directors – themes common to all HALI Tours.

Pashmina carpet fragment with scrolling vines and blossoms, northern India, Kashmir or Lahore, circa 1620-25, 1.25 x 5.70 m (4’1 “x 18’10”), Museu Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisbon (T72)


Our first visit was to the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga, opened specially for the group who had the run of the museum for the whole morning. The museum is perhaps best known for its important Safavid carpet fragment that may have once belonged to Queen Caterina of Portugal (HALI 152, p.72), but retired textile curator Teresa Pacheco Pereira and current curator Ana Kol also guided us around the galleries filled with Indian cottons and embroidered quilts from Bengal and Goa, carpets from India and Persia and the museum’s large collection of embroidered Arraiolos rugs.

The next day was perhaps the highlight of the whole tour as the morning was dedicated to the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum and its peerless carpet and textile collection. As if that was not enough, textile curator Clara Serra had prepared a private view in the stores of a number of exceptional items, including two Mughal pashmina pile carpets, and two unpublished fine silk rugs of Ottoman textile design made by Hagop Kapoukdjian who records show was paid by Gulbenkian to make the rugs in his home, thus making the attribution secure even though they are unsigned.

‘Alcaraz’ rug with gothic design, Spain, circa 1500, 1.28 x 1.99 m (4′ 2″ x 6′ 6″). Instituto de Valencia de Don Juan, Madrid, no. 3.860


Visits to Madrid, Toledo, Pastrana, Cuenca, Zamora, Burgos, Segovia and El Escorial built up an in-depth picture of the design heritage and influences of Roman, Visigothic, Coptic, Moorish, Mudéjar and Renaissance inhabitants past. We bypassed the Moorish strongholds of Murcia and the cities of Cordoba and Granada, instead taking in the finest historic Spanish carpets and textiles that remain in the country today.

Three Madrid institutions hold rich textile collections with many works that have emerged from this melting pot. Cristina Partearroyo, director of the Instituto de Valencia de Don Juan, guided us around a 19th-century ‘neomudéjar’ building, which houses one of the most important collections of decorative art in Spain. At the Museo de las Artes Decorativas, rugs from the weaving centres of Alcaraz, Letur and Cuenca were found, and a linen Alpujarra was brought from the stores by curator Ana Cabrera Lafuente. At the Lazaro Galdiano Museum, curator Amparo Lopez arranged a special display to trace the development of silk weaving in Spain. The importance attached to precious fabrics by Muslim and Christians alike was reiterated at the Monasterio de Santa María la Real de Huelgas, Burgos.

Tapestry of the Astrolabes ‘Motions of the Universe’ (detail), Colegio de Infantes Museum of Tapestries and Textiles of Toledo Cathedral.

The head of textile conservation at the Patrimonio Nacional, Concha Herrero, met us twice, whisking us behind the ropes and into underground stores at the Royal Palace. But her enthusiasm really shone at La Granja, the 18th-century summer palace near Segovia that holds the royal tapestry collection. In Toledo, what appeared to be a carpet sculpted from inlaid marble was spotted at the foot of an altar in the vast cathedral, while at the Synagoga del Tránsito, similarities between stucco decoration and decorative forms on a 14th-century Spanish carpet in Berlin’s Islamic Art Museum were observed.

A 15th-century ‘Holbein’ carpet has survived in almost unbelievable condition at the Monasterio de Santa Clara, Medina de Pomar (see Last Page HALI 185). Throughout the tour, sights surrounding the textiles that first drew HALI to Iberia were brought to life by the consistently insightful and entertaining guidance of Gijs van Hensbergen.


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