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Azulejos as Decorative Art

Altarpiece of our Lady of Life. c1580
This altarpiece was partially destroyed during the 1755 earthquake. It is composed of 1,498 tiles in a multitude of hues. The top section with missing pieces is the Annunciation. The Adoration panel in the center is flanked by the images of St. Luke on the left and St. John on the right. The arrangement of this altarpiece resembles that of a retablo. It is attributed to Marçal de Matos, one of the masters of Portuguese azulejo painting.

Franciscan scenes, Manueline Hall
Tiles were introduced to Portugal from Southern Spain by King Manuel I after his visit to Seville in 1503. The Portuguese imported tiles until the 17th century when they started to produce their own. Churches, palaces, houses were decorated with blue tiles. A fine example of these adorn the walls of the Manueline Hall in the Madre de Deus, the church within the Museu Nacional do Azulejo. This tile composition depicting St. Francis with the crucified Christ and angels came from the Convent of St. Anne and is attributed to Manuel dos Santos who is considered one of the masters of the Cycle of the Masters (1690-1725), the Portuguese golden age in azulejo painting. 

Monumental Silhar for a Staircase. c1640
Yellow glaze was mixed with blue glaze to create the Monumental Silhar. The tile motifs on the Silhar above deviate from the traditional Arabic floral and geometric patterns to include human and animal figures.

Dutch tiles. c1700
The smaller tiles in the center of the panel are Dutch in origin and are bordered by Portuguese tiles in brown glaze. 

Apartments in Lisbon 
It is common to find buildings in Portugal that are ornamented with tiles. Here are some examples of apartments in the Bairro Alto whose façades are coated with tiles.

A Panel from the Panoramic View of Lisbon before the 1755 Earthquake
This panel showing the Castelo de São Jorge in the background is only a small section of this 23 meter long (77ft.) panoramic view of Lisbon. Completed in the 18th century, it is the work of Spanish tile painter, Gabriel del Barco and was created for the former palace of the Counts of Tentúgal. 
Small Altar by Hein Semke
Hein Semke was a German sculptor and painter who lived in Portugal where he created ceramic art compositions such as the Small Altar above. Teresa Balté recently gifted the museum with two hundred of Semke's works which are now on permanent display at the museum. The Small Altar is made in red clay with polychrome glaze.

Azulejos continue to evolve securing its place in ornamental design.

The Museu Nacional do Azulejo is on 4 Rua da Madre de Dios. Please check their website for opening hours and admission fee: The museum is a long uphill walk from the Santa Apolonia metro station. Best to take a taxi if you're not up to it or take the bus. 


Images by TravelswithCharie

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