There are many ways to tell the history of tiles in Portugal. Influenced by ideas of the Romantic era, historians have preferred to emphasize the contribution of painters to mark Portuguese originality. Here, at Portuguese Tiles, we intend to show another path, which has gone through the continuous incorporation of the universe of classical culture in the iconographic programs that defined the images for the decoration of gardens, churches, and classrooms.
It is hard to find an area of erudite culture that is not on the tiles. With the episode of the Angel and Balaam, the iconographers illustrated one of the fundamental theological ideas associated with the sacrament of the Eucharist, as defended by Counter-Reformation. With portraits of kings and queens, they pictured the history of Portugal and the ideological principles that defined the social structure. With the representation of the mathematical language of Archimedes’ theorems, a starting point of pedagogical renewal of the Portuguese educational system.
To disseminate these ideas, iconographers and painters used the main tools of the Fine Arts arsenal. Iconographic programs can assume a symbolic discourse through the language of the emblems, historical realism in the representation of miracles and battles, or even appropriate the principles of biblical exegesis and create images where the moral sense and the redemption sense of the words of Christ overlap.
With the help of guest historians, we will try to reconstruct this vibrant cultural universe that, thanks to tiles, qualifies Portuguese architecture.