The welcoming figures were a way to characterize the majestic stairs and the atriums of the palaces and villas. With an illusory effect, they reconstitute the functionality of a given architectural space in the more general context of the building.
On the tiles of the Espírito Santo College of Évora, the welcoming figures receive students and teachers for classes and solemn acts. In Vila de Azeitão, the guards, dressed in a French style, maintain order at the fountain in the rustic village. In the main chapel of the Livramento Church of Angra do Heroísmo, in the Azores, the priest with the young acolyte are always available for the service of the mass. At first glance, these images are immediately associated with decency and civility. They represent, for all intents and purposes, an organized and polished society and indicate the way that the social life properly should take place.
Although we do not know the provenance of the set of tiles, the representation of a black slave woman tending a fish in the kitchen at the Sousa Mexia Palace, currently the headquarters of the Lisbon Museum, follows this same order of ideas. At the table, with the knife, she scrapes the scales while a cat tries its luck. With its lack of manners, typical of the lower strata of society, the scene always calls for some laughter.
Just as the gentle servants, commonly chosen among the gentry, populate the stairs, the healthy slave, with her teeth exposed, is an essential supplement to the preparation of food in the kitchen. It is also an indispensable complement of the noble, who, as is known from the various chronicles, was accompanied by numerous servants both at the house and in the city.