FROM THE MOORISH CONQUEST TO UNIQUE HANDMADE BESPOKE LAMPS (PLUS 7 FASCINATING PORTUGUESE TILE FACTS)

The Looma Azulejo Bespoke Lamp Collection was inspired by the beautiful tiles that decorate buildings and monuments all over Portugal. We are so enchanted by them that we spent a day soaking in the beautiful tiles at the Museu Nacional do Azulejo (Lisbon’s National Tile Museum in the Xabregas district).

 

It is housed in a beautiful old convent (Convento Madre de Deus, founded in 1509 – it has a beautiful cloister), and takes you through the history of Portuguese tiles, right from the moment the Moors introduced Islamic mosaic and tile art to the Iberian Peninsula in the 8th Century.

 

We were blown away by the design, colours and evolution of this artform. And we returned to our Silves workshop bursting with ideas, photos and notes – a concept was born.

 

To celebrate this wonderful decorative craft, we thought we’d share some nuggets of wisdom we gleaned while at the museum.

 

7 fascinating Azulejo facts:

 

  1. Contrary to what you may think, the word ‘azulejo’ does not derive from the word ‘azul’ in Portuguese or Spanish. It actually comes from the Arabic word az-zalayi, aljulej or azulej, which translates as small polished stone.

 

  1. They arrived in Portugal when the Moors occupied the area in the 8th

 

  1. The King of Portugal (King Manuel I, who reigned from 1495-1521) first saw them in the Alhambra palace in Granada, and in Seville. He was dazzled by them and brought some back to decorate The Arab Room in his palace in Sintra.

 

  1. Early examples of original Moorish tiles found in Portugal and Spain did not feature any human figures (due to Islamic law which prohibits the use of human depiction in its artwork) – they mainly featured symmetric patterns.
    In the 16th and 17th Centuries, as Portuguese makers started creating their own designs, other elements started appearing, such as the depiction of historic, religious and cultural events.

 

  1. Tiles were mainly used to decorate buildings, but they also had the added benefit of temperature control – insulation in the winter, and a cooling effect in the summer.

 

  1. COLOUR - The use of blue and white was influenced by the Age of Discovery (15th – 18th Centuries). Prior to this, azulejo tiles featured other natural colours like yellows, reds and greens.

 

  1. TILE TRENDS – By the early 20th Century, there was a fall in the perceived value of tiles, and they came to be considered as a material used by the poor. However, this changed in the 1950s when tiles were used to decorate the newly constructed metro line in Lisbon, and again in 1998 during the World Exhibition.

 

Today, it is wonderful to see that the love of Portuguese tiles is very much alive and a big part of contemporary design and current trends. It is wonderful that a craft that has such a long history in Portugal continues to evolve and be appreciated by so many. Our very own designer Azulejo Collection is just a little homage to this beautiful Portuguese tradition.

 

Long may it continue!

 

For more information about the Museu Nacional do Azulejo, you can visit:

http://www.museudoazulejo.gov.pt/