Portraits have some tradition in Portuguese tiles and are often associated with a historical narrative, where the characters stand out for representing the best qualities of a monastic order or political power. For the Arraiolos convent, the Spanish painter Gabriel del Barco made a series of portraits of the illustrious men of the Congregation of Lóios accompanied by a gallery of popes and cardinals associated with the Congregation of São Jorge of Venice. Almost a century later, the painter Francisco de Paula e Oliveira, at the Royal Tableware Factory, made a collection of portraits of the kings of Portugal, now placed in the gardens of the Palácio Galveias, in Lisbon.
Rarer, the equestrian portraits belong to this same historical matrix, with the addition of representing the military chief in command. In the case of the young Fernando Mascarenhas, the successor to the first marquis of Fronteira, the tiles place him alongside the twelve mythical knights who, as the poet Luís de Camões wrote, rescued the honor of so many other maidens in England.
A genuine genealogic history, the portraits of 11 ascendants of the future marquis are represented in the panel frame. The family tree begins with D. Francisco Mascarenhas, 1st Count of Horta, who, after fighting in Ksar el-Kebir, alongside D. Sebastião, was commissioned by Philip II of Spain to make him swear as a new monarch throughout the Portuguese State of India. They are followed by D. Martinho Mascarenhas (2nd Count of Santa Cruz), D. João Mascarenhas Castelo Branco da Costa (2nd Count of Palma), D. Vasco Mascarenhas (1st Count of Óbidos), D. Francisco Mascarenhas (1st Count of Castelo Novo), D. Fernando Mascarenhas (1st Count of Torre), D. Fernando Mascarenhas (1st Count of Serém), D. Francisco Mascarenhas (1st Count of Coculim), D. João Mascarenhas (3rd Count of Sabugal), and D. Jorge Mascarenhas (1st Marquis of Montalvão). Finally, at the top, the circle closes with the portrait of his father, D. João Mascarenhas, 1st Marquis of Fronteira, one of the main supports of Regent D. Pedro II.
Made after engravings by naive painters, we cannot expect verisimilitude in the physiognomic traces of Fernando Mascarenhas, by then only 15 years old. Inserted in a program of aggrandizement of the Portuguese aristocracy, the portrait makes use of a consecrated model. It represents the vigor of the knight through the projection of the horse towards the observer. A bright future is in the hopes of the young nobleman and the new Bragança dynasty.
NEVES, José Cassiano. The palace and gardens of Fronteira: seventeenth and eighteenth century Portuguese style. 3rd rev. ed. by Vera Mendes and Fernando Mascarenhas. Photography by Nicolas Sapieha. Lisboa: Quetzal Editores, 1995. ISBN 978-0935748987.