Learn About the Beautiful Art of Portuguese Tiles

Blue and White Portuguese Azulejos

Picture: Inventory Photos from Tupungato/Shutterstock

If you’ve at any time frequented or found pics of the stunning cities of Portugal, you have possible discovered the exquisitely painted tiles that adorn the buildings’ façades. These luminous and charming embellishments are known as azulejos, and they are just one of the most exclusive features of urban Portuguese architecture and structure. Gracing the exterior as properly as the inside of numerous edifices, they serve as each a practical and beautifying addition to just about every city’s landscape.

Nevertheless azulejos did not originate in Portugal, it is there that the craft has really blossomed and continues to be alive however to this day. Coming from origins of a purely attractive operate, the tiles have developed into an art type of their very own. And as they have been adapted and evolved there about the generations, they’ve grow to be one particular of the most iconic areas of the country’s heritage, architecture, and culture.

Colorful Portuguese Tiles

Photograph: Inventory Pictures from Andrei Nekrassov/Shutterstock


The Origins of Azulejos in Europe

However the 1st identified glazed tiles originated in the regions of Egypt and Mesopotamia throughout the 27th century BCE, it was not until the 13th century CE that the technique was released to the Iberian Peninsula by way of the Moors from the Center East. The craft was at first made to imitate Byzantine and Roman mosaics, and it is for that motive that the tiles are identified as azulejos—a word derived from the Arabic phrase “zellige,” which means polished stone. Some of the earliest productions of tile in Europe began in Seville, Spain—where the tiles have been glazed and slash into scaled-down items then reassembled to variety geometric patterns.

Portuguese king Manuel I fell in like with this technique after a stop by to Seville in 1503, and he later released the craft to his house country. Azulejos have been utilised thoroughly in the Sintra Countrywide Palace—just outdoors of Lisbon—and from there, the Portuguese love affair with azulejos only grew. This was so much so that they even adopted the Moorish tradition of horror vacui (or the dread of empty place) and began to include walls completely with the glazed tiles.

The Portuguese use of azulejos developed significantly all over the several years, and just about every area of the place created its very own unique and attribute way of glazing and employing the tiles. However azulejos came to Europe primarily as an artisanal self-control, in Portugal, it developed into a significant art sort in its possess right.

Azulejos Inside Sintra National Palace Portugal

Interior of the Sintra Countrywide Palace (Picture: Inventory Shots from Sopotnicki/Shutterstock)


The Evolution of Portuguese Tiles

Throughout the early to mid 16th century, the Portuguese largely relied on overseas imports of tile from Seville in the south, and on a more compact scale from Antwerp in the north. It was during this time that potters from Italy experienced recognized workshops in Seville, and they introduced with them the maiolica techniques—a sort of tin-glazing pottery that authorized them to stand for a lot more different and figurative topics and themes on their tile compositions—and also the impact of the Italian Renaissance and Mannerist styles.

This advancement in the procedure sparked a change from exclusively repetitious patterns and elevated it into a variety of inventive generation in which the tile was painted on as if it had been a wood panel or canvas. As a result, most of the tiles began to depict allegorical and mythological portrayals of the life of saints and scenes from the Bible as well as hunting scenes. Now, instead of craftsmen making repetitive styles with the tiles, artists were portray them as large-scale panels and signing their names to the creations.

Azulejo Panels on Cloister Walls Inside Porto Cathedral Portugal

Cloister Partitions of Porto Cathedral (Image: Inventory Shots from Vladimir Korostyshevskiy/Shutterstock)

In the latter component of the 16th century, azulejos began to be employed to embellish massive empty areas, these kinds of as individuals in church buildings and monasteries, and also as decoration for the front of the church altars. It started off with basic diagonal tiles, which ended up then changed with horizontal polychrome tiles—usually displaying interweaving designs and motifs of bouquets and garlands—in the 17th century. These tiles have been typically the border to tiny votive scenes from the lifestyle of Christ or one of the saints. Arrangements these kinds of as these commenced to be known as “azulejo de tapete” or carpet compositions because of the inspiration from the rich shades and patterns from materials and carpets imported from the East.

At the finish of the 17th century, the Dutch began to produce monochromatic blue and white tiles, imitating the considerably-coveted style of Chinese porcelain. This assortment of azulejos turned incredibly well known between Portuguese aristocrats, and they started to fee them in fantastic quantities to adorn their palaces and churches. Portuguese tile painters also began to duplicate the strategy, and after King Peter II place a halt to all imports of azulejos from 1687 to 1698, they quickly only applied tiles made, designed, and painted by Portuguese artists. The blue and white design and style experienced grow to be the most dominant pattern, and this is pretty apparent in its frustrating existence all more than the state these days.

Portuguese Tiles at the Palace of the Marquis of Fronteira

Azulejo Panels in the Gardens of the Fronteira Palace in Lisbon (Photo: Stock Pictures from WorldPhotosadanijs/Shutterstock)

In Portugal, the late 17th and early 18th centuries grew to become acknowledged as the “Ciclo dos Mestros” or the Cycle of Masters—also recognised as the Golden Age of the Azulejo. Throughout that time, they started to create tiles en mass, in significant portion thanks to an increase in desire within the country as perfectly as from Brazil (then a Portuguese colony). The variations and motifs employed in tile portray ongoing to modify as they have been influenced by the ornate Baroque and a lot more delicately decorative Rococo styles.

Soon after the destruction of the good earthquake of 1755 and the subsequent reconstruction of Lisbon, the use of azulejos began to take on a more practical part, which spurred a return to more simple models and motifs. This became acknowledged as the Pombaline style—after the Marquis of Pombal, who had been set in cost of the rebuilding efforts.

Pombaline Style Architecture and Azulejos

Picture: Stock Shots from Dace Kundrate/Shutterstock

In the 19th and 20th centuries, azulejos continued to evolve less than the affect of prevalent artwork actions of the time. In the 19th century, there arose a transition to a far more subdued Neoclassical design, which was also accompanied by industrialized solutions of generating uncomplicated stylized designs. All through the 20th century is when the prominent Artwork Nouveau and Artwork Deco models commenced to affect the type of Portuguese azulejos.

In the course of the 20th century, the get the job done of various artists sparked a seeming revival and present-day update to the regular artwork of the azulejo. The artwork kind even expanded from just gracing the facades of structures earlier mentioned ground to adorning the walls of the Lisbon Underground. Many present-day artists during the 70s and 80s were being commissioned to produce azulejo panels decorating just about every unique subway station all over the city.

Azulejo Mural in the Lisbon Underground Portugal

Azulejo Mural by Erró in Oriente Metro Station, Lisbon (Image: Stock Pictures from Marina J/Shutterstock)


Azulejos in just Portugal’s Present-day Cultural Landscape

Right now, the art of the azulejo is nevertheless alive and well in Portugal. There are a number of of the authentic factories from the 17th and 18th generations that are nevertheless in procedure now, duplicating regular kinds of decades previous as nicely as generating new kinds. And artists go on to categorical themselves in several sorts by way of this amazingly flexible medium.

In buy to maintain the Portuguese record and heritage of this unbelievable artwork, the Museo Nacional do Azulejo (National Museum of the Azulejo) was founded in 1965. And due to the fact of their reputation and normal vulnerability to theft and vandalism, as properly as neglect, the country’s azulejos are less than many protecting guidelines enacted by the national governing administration. There are also several defense and preservation groups that occupy themselves with the issue of retaining this critical portion of Portuguese cultural inheritance.

If you ever get the prospect to check out Portugal, acquire the time to genuinely search at your surroundings and absorb the ever-shifting historic tapestry—wrought in painted tiles—that surrounds you. Maybe even take part in a workshop to discover some of the traditional procedures oneself and consider the completed merchandise household as a memento. The generations-aged artwork sort is truly an outstanding mode of creative expression that has come to determine the spirit of the country. It is certainly one thing you have acquired to see!

Portugues Tiles on Street in Lisbon

Photo: Stock Pictures from karnavalfoto/Shutterstock


Check out this video to learn more about the approach of generating azulejos.

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