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Architects and Tiles

The tiles made for the stairways of 18th-century palaces in Lisbon are one of the most evident examples of the close relationship between the design of architecture and the ornamentation that ennobles these spaces. They are also evidence that the hand of architects often guided the renovation of tiles.

The tiles made for the stairways of 18th-century palaces in Lisbon are one of the most evident examples of the close relationship between the design of architecture and the ornamentation that ennobles these spaces. They are also evidence that the hand of architects often guided the renovation of tiles.

It is on the staircases that the extravagant welcoming figures that represent the servants, richly dressed, have always been ready to receive guests from palaces and villas, even in the absence of the owners.

As the Lisbon painter Jerónimo de Andrade tells us, his professional colleague Vitorino Manuel da Serra (1692-1747) has specialized, like many of his generation, in painting ceilings in perspective, with representations of invented architecture.

Palácio Souto Mexia, Nicolau de Freitas, c. 1740. CM
Palácio Souto Mexia, Nicolau de Freitas, c. 1740. © CM.

Manuel da Serra was also one of the main responsible for the introduction of rocaille ornamentation, when making the drawings that served as models for tile painters:

He was the first to introduce the exquisite French ornament in Lisbon, as can be seen elegantly performed at the Marques de Cascais Palace, where the Honorable Duke of Souto Mayor, Ambassador of Castile lives. He painted a lot of this new style in Vieira’s houses and gave him the draws for tiles, the model of his idea, and the new success of his brush.

In the magnificent staircases of the Lisbon palaces, iron handrails were often decorated with gilded bronze applications. As can be seen in the Sousa Mexia Palace, the current headquarters of the Lisbon Museum, the design of these handrails was inspired by the treatise De la distribution des maisons de plaisance, et de la decoration des edifices en general, by French architect Jacques-François Blondel, published in 1737. In a mirror with the surrounding space, the tiles repeat the ornamental vocabulary and also suggest gilded applications.

Jacques-François Blondel. De la Distribution des Maisons de Plaisance, 1737
Jacques-François Blondel. De la distribution des maisons de plaisance, 1737.

The indication that Vitorino Manuel da Serra worked at Vieira’s house might be a reference to the royal architect Custódio Vieira (1690-1744), and thus we could establish a link between the activity of the architect and the drawing of decorative panels by the painter.

ESSENTIAL BIBLIOGRAPHY

MANGUCCI, Celso. Os arquitetos e a direção das campanhas decorativas com azulejos in ARTis ON, n. 6, Junho 2018, pp. 25-31.

Lisbon, Museu de Lisboa

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