The palace and gardens of the Marqueses de Fronteira, an exemplary piece of Portuguese civil architecture of the 17th century, find their model in the programs of the Triumphal Entries, in which the cities celebrate the enthronement of a new monarch or the royal weddings.
In the main building, on the blue tile panels depicting military battles, we witness the representation of the various victories of the Portuguese weapons that, between the years 1644 and 1667, ended up confirming the Spanish defeat and the restoration of the kingdom’s independence. They also represent the battles of Elvas, in which the D. João de Mascarenhas, the Count of Torre, was wounded in the head. For this heroic service, D. Pedro II will award the owner of the house, the new title of Marquis of Fronteira.
Despite the naive figuration and the lack of a unique perspective, the painter took great care to identify the key players in the battles. As narrated in the official chronicles of the kingdom, this public identification was a fundamental strategy for the consolidation of the prestige of the main actors of the new Portuguese court.
The doors of this room, which probably housed the D. João Mascarenhas’ collection of paintings, open onto a beautiful balcony decorated with tiles and sculptures. At the top, half stucco bodies represent the 12 Roman emperors, wrapped in a wreath of flowers and fruits, imitating the famous Italian medallions of the Della Robia.
In this architectural configuration, they recall the laurel wreath award given by the Romans to the victorious commander, in a public ceremony that served as a model for royal entrances throughout Europe. Here at the Marqueses de Fronteira Palace, the emperors’ busts reproduce the engravings made from Raffaello Schiaminossi’s drawings that illustrate the work The Lives of the Twelve Caesars of Suetonius, republished in the early 17th century. For this same reason, D. João IV was also represented with a laurel wreath on the balcony of the kings, which overlooks the formal garden of the villa.
The same festoons of flowers and fruits involve the portico of the chapel and the tile panels in the gardens, transforming architecture into a gorgeous setting for the wedding of the elderly Marquis of Fronteira’s son, D. Fernando de Mascarenhas, with D. Joana Leonor, celebrated in 1673.
MANGUCCI, Celso. Curso: Azulejos de Lisboa, obra coletiva. O azulejo e a arquitectura. Lisboa: Museu de Lisboa, 2019.