A Look at the Portuguese World



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If plates could talk

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The decorative arts in the Portuguese royal houses were of high importance, not only as a matter of taste, but because it showed the best of what was produced in terms of pieces of porcelain, tableware and glass or crystal, over the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and It was above all a sign of power, as described by expert of Palace of Ajuda, Cristina Neiva Correia.

At a dinner of the eighteenth century people had a symmetrical table, tidy very full and the meal unfolds as a play for a covered ranging presenting food sets on the table that are discovered, even the napkins were presented in various forms of animals and possessed many silver pieces, all this is the theater of eating, has to do with a sense of power through objects as a coded label and exposure of the artists who worked these pieces are ceremonial of the type of Louis XIV.


With the rise of Napoleon to power comes the taste for gold, the conquest of the territories, wars, forced the delivery of silver. In Portugal we have sets that are a reference, pieces that marked the center of the table and we will adapt pieces in gold, where you place the candlestick and even with some biscuit notes, but only to illustrate, because silver is no longer used. But as our country did not walk to conquer territory, we consider these as special pieces that keept as treasures and there are hardly any French tableware outside their country of origin. They did not went away, have been converted into money, this was what served the silver pieces to treasure the vaults, when the French crown needed money for the war effort would request the noble contribute and so the pieces were melted, the artistic work is not considered relevant. So, today, to study goldsmiths of the eighteenth century, which was what I studied, it is imposed a visit to the Portuguese museums, which is interesting.
These golden centers will also have a lot of color through flowers and fruits, which are often presented in small pyramids and staying throughout the meal.
Dom João VI has had extraordinary services in the Palace of Queluz, but most of this are in Brazil, mainly coming from England and has some French services are very simple and will cross all the century, in concentric circles all marked, which will iradiar with decorative elements. In the nineteenth century dishes began to be asymmetrical, with botanical motifs, in particular wildlife, portraits of regional costumes are taken from prints circulating by all Europe and we are not an exception, since these style circulate by the other royal houses because all they want to reach the same level, although the English royal house has brighter and bigger pieces, but are small details, generally all are supplied in the same factories and maintain these styles.

Dona Carlota Joaquina services were absolutely absolutist, this lady had a fantastic taste and the palace Ramalhão has an extraordinary rich filling. She had the so called black legend, which already come from her mother and there was an interest to blacken her, she was special, had a peculiar personality, but had very good taste just see the enrollment of Ramalhão. In the Palace of Ajuda there are two deposits, the museum can sometimes buy parts of these other kingdoms, as is the case of refreshing cups that were on the table, they are pieces that fell into disuse, but allowed to keep the glasses fresh.

Dona Maria II at the Palace of Necessidades in 1840, the inventory is an endless of table sets, there are two windows in Vila Viçosa Palace, which serves to show the dishes with flora and fauna, landscapes, with dense colors are very decorated where you do not see a lot of porcelain, although it is much appreciated by the white, the more white and less defects the better it is.


There are some kingdoms in which the pieces are scarce and what interests me is to talk about Dona Maria Pia and Dom Luis I, because the collection was much larger. We have reached a certain height and the table centers are invaded by flowers, in this period, the silver pieces support the flowers are sometimes glass or ceramics, candlesticks, which we have an extraordinary collection, with about 16 000 ceramics, table and decorative remainings. The collection is great because it is a royal house, the queen for twenty years goes shopping, she has a reputation for being a big spender, but gradually I notice that she does a remarkable effort with an economy of means to be able to maintain the representation of cutlery with dignity. The layout of the table is made according to João Mata has a great importance to the Portuguese court, a private party table is always made with the simplest services, with the Venetian glass, which had a menu, people always knew what they were eating, in the eighties, but not after. The napkin is placed in a shallow dish, called napkin plate, only arises to the left in what is called hotel service, the French, the chic is the center. The cutlery is place as the English growing by the side, it occupied much space, so maybe the tables are more spacious.

In the late nineteenth century the services had names, because they were produced by artists, but already sold in catalogs, are cheaper and Maria Pia follows the European taste, we have pieces of Vista Alegre and Limoges. She notes all that is broken, what is missing, to replace it in the Palace of Pena and Estoril, which require functional services. This queen has French porcelain, with neo-Gothic pieces, and velvets, silver is always a symbol of wealth. The coffee table is what she brings in her wedding trousseau, the crockery Berran, a French silversmith, are pieces designed for fruits, or flowers, or that is capable of a globe with fishes. The glases have various streams are Venetians, called Marguerita a tribute to her sister in law, with color for the white wine and Madeira wine was always used to accompany the soup, everything is on the table, and when the dessert arrive all dishes are replaced. The royal house has oriental porcelain in extraordinary amount and each production helps underwrite the reigns.

The dining rooms at this time earns a fixed place, until then people put it where they wanted and it is at this time it also gets the attention of architects and becomes the central axis of the house, in fact the aristocracy and the royal house will have Renaissance tasting rooms, which are already made in the 60s and 80s, Dona Maria Pia enjoys this rooms, we have the leather chairs drawn up at the bottom of a fireplace, large sideboards where they prepare the dishes they are served on the plate, what was expected of a quality dining room?
There were four young boys for the silver, black dresses in black, they had to bring in and take it all, there was no conversation with the lady of the house, it was coded, planned and executed at the millimeter. The cleavage of the eighteenth century to the next is crucial the French service and we have the memorialists witnesses, among them Tomas Melo and Breiner which is almost a bible, because he writes everything in detail of what was happening, he talks about the cook of the palace, Custódio who grace the puddings with deer legs, make cakes, which is strange because it appears to do everything and the pastry was a separate section, these dishes take hours to prepare and also gave the idea of wealth. It is he who said that the Queen Maria Pia had great elegance, never eat more than was put on her plate, never refused what was served and strangely ate fruit by hand. King Luís I, on the other hand, ate diet and still other dishes and bread and butter, according to the testimony of Vital.
Mainly the the table objects reflect the place of power, especially in the nineteenth century, as a social brand to distinguished who's who by the way of being on the table, knowing also handle a finite amount of objects that are created for this same purpose to hinder those who do not belong to the group, but all the pieces have a mark of possession, have a royal monogram, has the heraldry of their kings, this allows us to date, register and study the evolution of taste in these period.


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