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Art

Geometric Tile Patterns with Gilded Ornaments

Green and white or blue and white tile sets often received a gilded decoration, applied on the walls, with no relation to the ceramic manufacturing process. These relatively fragile golden ornaments have faded over the years, but traces remain on the Chapter House of Beja.

In the Convent of Nossa Senhora da Conceição, the entire church, including the choir and part of the Chapter House, were covered with geometric tile patterns, probably in the first decade of the seventeenth century.

These ensembles began to be removed by the campaigns of the years 1740-1741, but were rearranged later, in the clumsy intervention of 1895. That is why the cloister now displays antique tiles with some modern geometric arrangements of intense rhythms.

Regardless of the relative technical simplicity of execution, the geometric compositions are a direct manifestation of the ornamental culture conveyed by architects, which sought to provide the designs to adjust with the classical orders.

Convent of Nossa Senhora da Conceição. Chapter House, c. 1610. © CM.

It is important to remember that diamond-tipped tiles, a pattern probably created in the Talavera workshops around 1560, were inspired by the influential treatise of Sebastiano Serlio, once again attesting the role of a specific architectural culture. This is also the result of a sensible change from the mid-16th century, when architects assumed themselves as coordinators of all decorative campaigns of the edifices.

More importantly, green and white or blue and white tile sets often received a gilded decoration, applied on the walls, with no relation to the ceramic manufacturing process. These relatively fragile golden ornaments have faded over the years, but some traces remain on the Chapter House of Beja.

The gilded tiles gave the decor a truly opulent character, completely subverting the alleged severity and simplicity of these geometric compositions.

ESSENTIAL BIBLIOGRAPHY

SILVA, Libório Manuel & CARVALHO, Rosário Salema. Azulejos, Maravilhas de Portugal. Vila Nova de Famalicão: Centro Atlântico, 2017. ISBN 978-989-615213-0.

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