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Azulejo Research for the candidacy to UNESCO World Heritage status
Estudos no Azulejo Português para Candidatura a Património da Humanidade

> The Project > Literature Review

Santos Simões in his corpus on azulejos reviewed the state of the knowledge about the early azulejo productions [1]. Though more than 40 years have gone since his death, his synopsis of 1969, remains modern.

There are, as pertains majolica azulejos in Portugal, two clear chronologic markers: one is the order put by Duke Teodosio I of Braganza to the workshops of Antwerp, dated “1558” [2; 3; 4]. The order strongly suggests that there was no local production at the time worth considering as alternate suppliers.
The other marker is offered by the Saint Roch azulejo panels in the church of the same devotion in Lisbon signed “FRCO (Francisco) DE MATOS 1584” [1;5] and bears testimony of a local production without clear ancestry.

As markers of 16th to early 17th century foreign production there are the aforementioned panels in Vila Viçosa (Flemish) and Spanish productions at the same location from Talavera (circa 1605) and from Seville (1596) at Church St.Roch in Lisbon [1].

The matter of the presence in Portugal of both foreign azulejos and foreign technical knowledge (and its carriers) was addressed by Alexandre Pais in [28] while the same author discussed the chronology of the early production of faïence in Portugal [29] based also on the archaeological 1981-82 findings of Portuguese ceramics in domestic dumps of the Vlooyenburch area of Amsterdam, where Jewish families expatriated from Portugal in the16th century lived. These were a key element to determine a more accurate chronology for the first productions of Lisbon. Afterwards other excavations in others cities of the Netherlands and Belgium have been conducted helping to define products and establish changes in aesthetical motives present in these ceramics.

An important work on the comparative analytical characterization of early Portuguese azulejos is the MSc dissertation by Marzia Fares [7] developed in Lisbon under the supervision of J.M. Mimoso. She characterized the white majolica and blue pigments used in azulejos and found that a compound rich in zinc was seemingly added to the pigment of azulejos of purported Spanish origin. Mimoso et al [8] made an extensive study of two Flemish renaissance azulejos from Vila Viçosa and concluded that the glaze had characteristic inclusions not found in Portuguese specimens and the composition showed a characteristic excess in phosphorus. Whether that is representative of the whole Flemish production or of the specific workshop involved in the production, remains uncertain.

Abroad, Viti et al. addressed the microchemistry of glazes in late Italian Renaissance [13], Tite reviewed what is known about the technology of ancient majolica [14] and Iñañez et al. characterized chronologically Iberian majolicas from the 14th to the 18th centuries [15], while Padilla et al. microanalysed the surface decoration in Spanish majolica pottery [16].

As for the use of semi-industrial azulejos on urban façades, the matter has been largely neglected by the first researchers who studied Portuguese azulejos, e.g. Reynaldo dos Santos [6]. In Portugal, Santos Simões considered the origin of the tiling of urban façades and concluded for a Brazilian origin [17] while, ironically, the Brazilian researcher Dora Alcântara concluded that it had actually originated in Portugal [18]. José Meco [5] considered briefly the 19th century factory productions but centered rather on art panels, than on the repetitive industrial patterns used on whole façades. These were treated by A.J.Barros Veloso and Isabel Almasqué (e.g. in [19]) but without researching the early chronology or the factories behind the oldest patterns. Besides the important surveys made by those two authors, particularly in Lisbon, there are other regional surveys, both in Portugal (e.g. [20]) and in Brazil.

The most relevant works that we know for the purpose of the research proposed are, however, José Queirós’ book surveying all the Portuguese workshops until the early 20th century, including those manufacturing industrial façade azulejos [21]; Luisa Arruda’s book on the azulejos of the Oriental part of Lisbon, covering the history and productions of Fábrica Roseira [22] and, particularly, Margarida Portela’s PhD thesis which considered all the factories known to have manufactured azulejos during the Romantic period [23]. Pais et al. discussed the earliest urban façades tiled in Lisbon [24].

Systematized characterization studies of Portuguese azulejos are scant. A MSc dissertation by J.Farinha Antunes [25] includes data on the physical and mineralogical characterization of 17th century azulejos. More recently Pereira & Mimoso also reported on the chemical and physical properties of Portuguese azulejos [26] while Coroado and Guilherme et al. published analytical studies on Portuguese lead-glazed faience and azulejos [10, 11, 12] including chemical and mineralogical characterizations.

Two of the most important and comprehensive works on the analytical characterization of Portuguese azulejo glazes and pigments are that by Fares, already mentioned [7] and the research by Coentro et al. [9] who reported a full analytical and morphological study of the pigments used in 17th century azulejos involving the use of SEM-EDS, μRamanS, μEDXRF and optical microscopy on polished sections. As pertains the characterization of Portuguese façade azulejos, the most comprehensive study is that of Sanjad & Costa [27] who published both analytical data and SEM images of 16 Portuguese 19th century façade azulejos.

The study by Mimoso et al [8], although made on Flemish tiles, exemplifies the comprehensive data that, in time, we aim to make available for a representative set of Portuguese productions.

Bibliographic References