Tradition. History. Heritage. Culture.

The AZULEJO is a characteristic element of Portuguese culture, revealing some of its deepest roots.

The ability to establish dialogues with other peoples, as shown by a taste for exotic items in which European cultural themes are mixed with those from Arabic and Indian cultures.

An expeditious practical sense revealed in the use of a conventionally humble material, the tile, as a means of aesthetically enhancing the interiors of buildings and urban spaces.

An awareness that, in Portugal, more emphasis is placed on sensual than on conceptual values, as shown by a preference for a coloured material that reflects light, the immediate expression of painting, and a choice of images that focus more on describing reality.

Portuguese Azulejos
  1. Alicatado


    Technique: Alicatado
    Monochrome glazed plaques that are cut out and subsequently rearranged to form a design.
  2. Corda Seca

    13th-14th century

    Technique: Dry cord
    Grooves are created and then filled with a mixture of manganese and vegetable fat to ensure that the various enamels are kept separate.
  3. Azulejaria hispano-mourisca

    15th century

    Hispano-Moorish tile-making
    Moorish motifs intertwine and repeat themselves in radial geometric arrangements to form a pattern.
  4. Relevo e Aresta

    15th-16th century

    The decoration of Sintra National Palace and the dominant presence of the tile in Portugal under the influence of King Manuel I.

    Technique: Relief
    Moulds are used to mark motifs in relief in the tile body.
    Technique: Aresta
    Moulds are used to imprint aresta designs in raw clay. The arestas that are created allow the enamels to be kept separate during the firing process.
  5. Majólica

    16th century (1st half)

    The beginnings of tile production in Portugal.

    Technique: Majólica
    A white base is applied to the tile, allowing it to be painted without the colours mixing.
  6. Maneirismo

    16th century (2nd half)

    The arrival of ceramists and potters from Flanders. The definitive establishment of majolica techniques.

    The ceramic-making centres of Portugal are highly active.

    Erudite compositions appear along with the first tiles to feature geometric compositions or plant motifs, specifically, diamond-point patterns.
  7. Reforma da Igreja Católica

    16th century (last quarter)

    Reform of the Catholic Church
    The widespread creation of religious motifs painted on tile panels.
  8. Influência Oriental. Frontais de Altar

    17th century (1st half)

    Increase in Portuguese output
    Lisbon is considered to be the nation’s largest tile-production centre.
    Eastern Influence
    Exotic flora and fauna and depictions of eastern spirituality.
    Altar Frontals
    Patterned tiles including the camellia pattern, chequered tiles and emblematic and hagiographic panels.
  9. Renovação Temática. Barroco

    17th century (2nd half)

    End of the War of Restoration

    Construction and artistic renovation of Palaces

    Thematic Renovation
    Tiles are used as a means of expressing social criticism and in secular themes (classical mythology), representations of customs, albarradas (tiles depicting vases with flowers), free-standing figure tiles.
    Movement, expression, drama and complexity.
    Trends and Influences
    Cobalt-blue and manganese-violet Dutch tiles, large Chinese influenced, blue and white panels.
  10. Azulejaria de autor e figurativa

    17th - 18th century

    The era of artist-created tiles and figurative tiles.

    Tile painting is restricted to formally trained master craftsmen.
    Learning about perspective.
  11. Grande produção Joanina

    c. 1725

    Large-scale production in the era of King João V
    Sumptuosity, extroversion and theatricality in the court of João V.

    Simplified storied parts, the use of decorative framings such as cut-out headpieces.

  12. Rococó. Insinuação da cor.

    c. 1740

    Framing becomes less important in compositions, decoration becomes less dense, asymmetric shell forms are used.
    Insinuation of Colour
    Yellow is used to suggest the gold of costumes and gilt woodwork sculpted to create a drapery effect.
  13. Azulejaria Pombalina


    Post-earthquake period
    Economic crisis and the need to rebuild Lisbon.
    Construction of the Fábrica do Rato, the first mass-production unit, in 1767.
    Chromatic Explosion
    The reprise of the complete palette of colours.
    Pombaline tile-making
    Storied panels (depictions of facades or ‘shrines’), ornamental compositions, increased use of patterns.
  14. Período D. Maria. Neoclacissismo


    Combination of industrial and artisanal techniques
    Stamping, mechanical stamping, high-relief, mechanical pressing.
    Queen Maria period
    Severe lines and decorative refinement. The use of neo-classical elements, floral garlands, bows, feathers.
  15. Romantismo e Revivalismo. Fachadas de Azulejos

    19th century

    Romanticism and Revivalism
    Storied panels and diverse patterns.
    Tile Facades
    The need for intensive tile production.
    New factories are set up in Lisbon, Porto and Aveiro.
  16. Época de Rafel Bordalo Pinheiro. Paredes de Azulejos

    20th century (1st half)

    Trends and Influences:
    Historicism, Nationalism, Naturalism, Art Nouveau, Art Deco.
    The work of Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro.
    Tiled Walls
    Development of the practice of covering walls with industrially
    produced tiles.
  17. Uma nova abordagem

    20th century (2nd half)

    A new approach
    The emergence of new aesthetic proposals designed to integrate the tile into modern architecture and town-planning projects.
    Jorge Barradas, Manuel Cargaleiro, Querubim Lapa, Maria Keil,
    Eduardo Nery.