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"Admiral" Heraldic Carpet
"Admiral" Heraldic Carpet, c. 1429-73
Spanish, possibly woven by Muslim craftsmen
19 feet 3/4 inches x 8 feet 9 1/8 inches (586.7 x 475 cm)
The Joseph Lees Williams Memorial Collection, 1955
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Looking and Discussing

Initial Observation
  • Have students work together to create a list of everything they see in the admiral carpet: colors, lines, patterns, textures, shapes, animals, people, etc.
Open Discussion
  • Begin an open discussion of the carpet by asking students to share their impressions of the work and find visual evidence for their statements.
Directed Looking
  • What are the largest shapes in the carpet?
    The three golden squares in the center are the largest shapes in the carpet.
  • What designs are inside each square?
    Each golden square contains a shield, two anchors, and two ropes. Inside each shield are a lion and two castles.
  • Each golden square is the coat of arms of Fadrique Enríquez, the man for whom this carpet was made. He was the admiral (commander of the navy) of a Spanish kingdom called Castile. How is his high position represented by the symbols in his coat of arms?
    Regarded as the king of beasts and commonly used as a symbol of royalty, the lion represents Enríquez's status as an officer of the king. The castles represent the kingdom of Castile; "castile" means castle in Spanish. The anchors and ropes refer to the navy that Enríquez commanded.
  • Find some of the areas of geometric pattern in the carpet. What shapes make up the patterns?
    The center of the carpet is composed of octagon and diamond shapes. Surrounding this area is a border of diamond shapes made of crisscrossing, zigzagging, yellow lines.
  • How are the outer borders on the sides of the carpet different from the rest of the carpet?
    They are full of scenes of animals and people. Explore these scenes by having students come up close to the poster and find where the details (shown to the left of the carpet in the picture on the front of this poster) come from in the border of the rug.
  • Can you find white, angular lines that separate the scenes in the outer border?
    Explain that these lines are based on Arabic calligraphy (decorative writing).

Time Line

  • 1238 Mohammed I establishes the dynasty that will rule Islamic Spain—by the mid-1240s reduced to the small southern province of Granada—until its demise in 1492
  • c. 1400 Chinese traders join Arab and Indian merchants trading in East Africa
  • 1402 Mongol conqueror Timur (Tamerlane) defeats the Ottoman Turks near Ankara, threatening their empire
  • c. 1412 Italian architect Filippo Brunelleschi sets down rules of linear perspective
  • 1415 Henry V defeats the French army at Agincourt, enabling England to conquer much of France
  • 1429 Joan of Arc leads French forces against the English at Orléans; two years later she is burned at the stake in Rouen
  • Mid-1400s "Admiral" Heraldic Carpet is woven
  • 1453 Ottoman Turks conquer Constantinople, ending the Byzantine Empire
  • 1455 The Gutenberg Bible is the first large book printed with movable type in Europe
  • 1469 Spain's Christian kingdoms of Castile and Aragon are united through the marriage of Ferdinand and Isabella
  • 1477 Japan's ten-year civil war ends indecisively; a century of internal conflict ensues
  • 1478 Ferdinand and Isabella persuade Pope Sixtus IV to authorize the Spanish Inquisition
  • 1480 The Inca Empire reaches its zenith; fifty-two years later it is vanquished by Spanish conquistadors
  • 1492 Ferdinand and Isabella conquer Granada, the last Muslim stronghold in Spain;
    Christopher Columbus reaches the Americas; the beginnings of Spain’s colonial empire are established in the New World
  • 1498 Portuguese navigator Vasco da Gama establishes a sea route around Africa to India
  • 1609–10 Philip II expels all Muslims from Spain

For more information, please contact The Division of Education by phone at (215) 684-7580, by fax at (215) 236-4063, or by e-mail at .

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