COLOURFULWORLD

Thursday, 25 January 2018

The art and history of Azulejos in Portugal

Azulejos (glazed ceramic tiles) are an essential part of Portuguese architecture.
As you wander around Lisbon, Sintra, Porto or any other small village, you will always find older buildings covered in beautiful tiles. 
I became obsessed with tiles (..and doors and windows) during my last two trips to Portugal and noticed that there are so many patterns, colours and designs in azulejos that it's difficult to find another building with the same tiles. Just on my last trip I took close-up photos of nearly 100 tiles in Porto and Lisbon and I don't have a single repetition.

Isn't it funny that when I lived there and didn't blog I noticed them but didn't really pay much attention? Now I do!!


Tile panel at Mercado da Ribeira, (Cais do Sodre), Lisbon
Derived from the Arabic word that means "polished stone", the idea was to imitate Roman mosaics, and most azulejos show the Arab influence in their design. 
Introduced by King Manuel I to Portugal after a visit to Seville in 1503, they were applied on floors, walls and even ceilings. Their colours were then mainly blue and white with sometimes a bit of yellow and green. These were used to tell stories about history, religion and culture.

The 17th and 18th century saw the mass production of azulejos due to internal demand as well as exports to the Portuguese colony of Brazil, when churches, palaces and even houses were covered inside and out with tiles.
After the earthquake of 1755 and the reconstruction of Lisbon, the tiles became more utilitarian and many houses had small devotional panels on their building's facades as protection against future disasters.

Sao Bento Station in Porto has some magnificent panels covering its lobby, consisting of over 20 thousand tiles that convey historical moments.
Traditional blue and white (and some yellow) cover the Sao Bento Station in Porto, Church facades, houses and Pinhao Station (panel w/yellow tiles)



















Surrounding doors, fountains, names of town, buildings, and the Pena Palace in Sintra






Town names, street names or even restaurant names in azulejos
Since the 20th century many artists started using the art of the azulejo to design panels for some of Lisbon underground stations, murals, etc., thus bringing about a revival of the art which had gone into decline.

A tiled wall/ mural in Porto
Azulejo mural at Orient underground station, Lisbon


















Since August 2017 across the country, (and since 2013 in Lisbon) it's illegal to demolish tile covered facades and interiors to protect the cultural heritage, and an effort is being made to recover and repair old tiles.
Apparently there is a lot of theft of old tiles, and it's estimated that from 1980 to 2000, 25% of artistic tiles have been removed from buildings, with the highest number occurring in Lisbon, tiles which are sometimes sold to tourists on the black market.
There is also a tile protection group - Banco do Azulejo (bank of tiles) - that has collected tiles from buildings that were demolished or are undergoing restoration, so those tiles can be saved and re-used.
If you visit Lisbon, you can always visit the Museu Nacional do Azulejo housed in a 16th century former Monastery, which houses the largest collection of Portuguese tiles in the world. I haven't visited, but it's on the wish list!

And here is a sample of the many fabulous tiles I photographed - blue and white, blue and yellow and various other colours.





In Portugal production of azulejos began in the 18th century, and there are still factories in existence in Lisbon, such as  Viúva Lamego and Sant'Anna and other smaller artisans where you can even order your own design and they'll make it for you.


The Sant'Anna factory in central Lisbon, a panel on side of the shop and blue and white pieces at the window
Hope you enjoyed learning about the art and history of the Azulejo in Portugal.


28 comments:

  1. A azulejaria portuguesa é dotada de uma beleza absolutamente extraordinária.

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  2. Same here, before blogging I noticed but didn´t really pay attention, let alone take pics!
    I sure do love that blue-white style (my parent´s wedding tableware had these colors, too, and was used way too seldom).

    It´s great young artists pick it up, too!

    Wow. I understand people want such tiles to take home, but stealing or even destroying?!
    Support those who produce, I mean... you can get your own design even? Wonderful.

    I did enjoy, thank you!
    Once my work situation is cleared I might ask you for directions, if that´s OK.

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    1. Not the only one then, now I take far too many photos, lol. I love blue and white tableware and ornaments and have some from Portugal.

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  3. I really enjoyed this look at those awesome tiles. I love the blue and white, which would go well in my kitchen. However, I would NEVER condone stealing tiles, and think it's a good thing the law finally stepped in before more tiles were lost and stolen. Unfortunately, that is not something you see here in the states in any great way. We simply don't seem to have the know-how or desire to create and display them. Thanks for this art and history lesson. I loved it!

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    1. Thanks Elizabeth. I have a lot of blue and white kitchen kitchen stuff too. I'm glad laws were put in place to protect this art.

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  4. Houve um dia que tirei fotos dos símbolos de um do lados da Estação do Rossio (falta-me o outro lado). São verdadeiras obras de arte, muitos deles com pintura à mão. Belissimas escolhas!

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    1. Há tanta coisa bonita quando chega a azulejos. Obrigada Paula.

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  5. I loved the azulejos tiles in Portugal very much when I was there. We have the Delft Blue tiles here, they look a bit simular. I never liked them, a kind of "kitch" I always thought. But the older the wiser I like those outings of heritage now much more. :)

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    1. Isn't it strange how our tastes change Marianne. I also didn't like certain types of furniture or construction and now I think they are wonderful pieces of art made by great masters.

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  6. These are truly works of art in their own right! So fabulous to see in the municipal buildings and then to see how they can be used in contemporary art murals too!

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    1. Thanks Christine, it is nice to see how they were adapted to a modern art form, the mural.

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    1. Obrigada Francisco, realmente somos bons artistas em azulejos.

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  8. Have always loved these tiles Sami, what treat to see them here and more so for you to actually see them.. fabulouso!
    P.s. did you climb the Sydney Harbour bridge? Oh wow! Looking forward to hearing all about it ☺

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    1. Thanks Grace. Don't know if I'll ever climb the Sydney bridge a bit scary for me.

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  9. This is just STUNNING, Sami. I never knew much about tile and I really appreciate your narrative on this. I'm so glad that it is now prohibited to take these tiles down or destroy the facade. I know little about Portugal too, but if this is any indication, I am wildly impressed. Some of those exteriors are fabulous and your photos are just terrific!

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    1. I'm glad you enjoyed learning about the tiles and enjoyed my photos Jeanie.

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  10. Que post maravilhoso!
    Bom fim-de-semana!

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    1. Obrigada Sandra. Bom fim de semana para si também.

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  11. Enchanted to have contact with this wonderful art of your post.
    Thanks for sharing.
    Happy Sunday.
    Bjins
    CatiahoAlc.

    Encantada por ter contato com essa arte maravilhosa de sua postagem.
    Grata por compartilhar.
    Feliz domingo.
    Bjins
    CatiahoAlc

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  12. I love that you can just go on and on finding more, Sami. Seldom a day passes by here that I don't see another. :) :)

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    1. It's true Joanne, there are so many different ones, it's quite amazing!

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