Monday, 8 June 2015

Figueira da Foz, Casa do Paço - 18th century glazed tiles from Delft - The 6th of June 2015

Being in Figueira da Foz, I decided to venture into Casa do Paço together with my brother, so as to revisit one of our childhood memories, the glazed tile covered walls that had impressed us so much in the past.

We didn't understand the importance of what has been considered one of the largest collections of Dutch figurative tiles in the world then, despite having been told so, because what did seem to catch our attention at the epoch was the Dutch vessel shipwreck story reinforcing the idea as to why they were housed at Casa do Paço.
Whether it is true or not those who defend this theory base it on the fact that they were recovered from a shipwreck involving a Dutch vessel off this coast in 1706 having been subsequently auctioned by the Customs Authorities, and in turn acquired by the owners of Caso do Paço. 
The almost 6700 Dutch tiles decorate four of the seven rooms in the so called noble floor, being assembled by themes - the walls of two rooms  are covered in tiles depicting typical Dutch landscapes, the walls of another room, believed to have been a chapel precint, in Biblical scenes from both the Old and New Testament and the other ones covered in horsemen engaged in battle.
There were quite a few remarkable aspects to note, amongst which was the arrangement of the colours of the glazed tiles - walls fully covered in cobalt blue glazed tiles bordered by manganese coloured ones depicting horsemen and the opposite in some of the other rooms - manganese coloured glazed tiles covering the walls bordered by cobalt blue painted ones.

There are 89 different scene oriented glazed tiles in total, from landscapes depicting everyday life activities related to herding, fishing and hunting to typical Dutch landscapes with views of seaports and cities. The designs on the tiles are said to have been based on well known engravings by Anthonie Waterloo and Esaias van de Velde.

A rather curious aspect seems to have been the fact that despite not having been randomly placed on the wall one of the glazed tiles was put upside down whilst fitting in the colour sequence and some seem to have been cut to adapt to the corner or to fit the size of the wall, which in the last case seems to be a real pity though. 

In the room where the rarest collection seem to have been housed, once more covering the walls, one could see glazed manganese oxided tiles depicting horsemen (both male and female princes and warriors) brandishing their weapons and heraldic flags. A few could be seen falling from their horses or clearly wounded in battle.
To create the idea of movement on the battlefield some of the tiles were done using the same design in a mirror-like mode and having subsequently been placed on the wall facing one another, thus creating a line of combat approach.
The glazed tiles depicting princes were placed on the outside edges of the walls, as if to show the warriors they represented were positioned in the rear part of the fighting group, as in accordance with their lineage rank.
Many have been identified as representing well known figures such as Cyrus, the great, Julius Caeser and Alexander Magnus, amongst others. They have been apparently based on existing sketches made by Antonio Tempesta (1555-1630).

Prince van Orange (left).Cyrus, the Great - The King of Persia during the VI century B.C. (right)

Alexander Magnus - The King of Macedonia during the IV century B.C. (left). Julius Caeser - the well known Roman Emperor  in the I century B.C. (right)



Cassandane, the wife of Cyrus, the Great (left). Mary the Second from England.

Ninus, the legendary King of Assyria Semíramis, the legendary Queen of Assyria, who married King Ninus in the XX century B.C. (right)

(To be continued) 

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