Tile mania in Portugal – Tile museum in Lisbon
Tiles, tiles, tiles, everywhere. Portugal’s unique decorative feature is the azulejo. Shiny ceramic plates that adorn about every building in Portugal.
Azulejo is derived from the Arabic word azzelij or zuleycha, which means small polished stone and refers to a squared ceramic piece, with one side glazed.
Tiles are used as decorations for everything, from the walls of halls, chambers, staircases or making up whole building façades to the lintels above doors or holy pictures at the entrance… they enter about every level of life here.
Inside and outside, private and public places are adorned with traditional blue, but sometimes more colourful tiles.
You might be lucky and find a tile on the street. Or be (unlucky) hit by a falling one.
Know the threats on Lisbon’s streets.
Hence a visit to the National Tile Museum.
Museo Nacional del Azulejo
Location: Rua Madre de Deis 4, Lisbon.
Admission: 5 Euros.
The National Tile Museum provides a tile stunner, showing off massive tile panels the chapel area.
The museum is set in a 16th century convent, created in the era’s prevalent Portuguese Gothic – Manueline – style.
The former convent has a pretty yard, dotted with some roses in full bloom. In marvellous pink.
There are restored and imported tile panels from Portugal’s residences, but clearly the most impressive tile arrangement is lining the huge walls of the chapel. And clashing with fantastic gold overloaded.
I have never seen tiles used like that before.
In fact, in our times, apart from kitchens and bathrooms I am not sure where else I would usually find tiles. In Portugal this is not a problem. Noblemen and clerics made generous use of tiles as decorative elements.
The art and history of the tile in Portugal over the past five centuries is well explained.
Raw clay is pressed into moulds with ridges (to isolate colours) and carved motives. Then the piece is dried and fired. To learn more about traditional tile handicrafts, you can sign up to do tile painting workshops at the museum.
You can clearly see the gradual change of depictions on the tiles over time. In the beginning, Arabic looking patterns were chosen, which became less and less abstract, finally becoming canvass images of landscapes, portraits or saint’s devotion.
No taboos for tiles.
In the 16th and 17th century, with the cultural exchange in the Far East and foundation of Macau in 1557, Chinese ornamentation was en vogue.
Documenting superb hairdos and fancy dress in the 18th century. The famous Dance Lesson by Willem van der Kloet for a nobleman’s palacio, from 1707.
The Infamous PT Lesson.
Flowery art nouveau in the late 19th century.
Modern tiles by Eduardo Nery from 1998. I liked these. Gold is great.
The Museum also holds an interesting panorama of Lisbon from the early 18th century, depicting the city before the destructive earthquake of 1755.
A fun introduction to our visit was a coincidental find on our way to the museum, at a military point in Belem.
Paper doesn’t blush. Nor do tiles.
Love Portugal’s tile mania.