Ana Valentina Angelo
Good afternoon, Figueira. The weather is good for walking …. I take Rua José Silva Ribeiro towards the historic center. A curious fact in Portugal is that the same route can have different denominations; This is one of them. I believe that each name relates to occasionally emerging personalities or even as historical facts are happening in the place. But today, in addition to the flowers and peculiarities of Figueiran customs, what I am looking for are the famous Portuguese tiles on the external façades of the buildings. There aren’t many on this street. Don’t worry, Figueira! I know where to find them.
I walk for five hundred meters and pass by the Senior University. I continue in the same direction. Another three hundred meters and I am in front of the oldest church in Figueira da Foz, the Matriz de São Julião. I reach Rua do Paço, which gives me access to the large Professor Antônio Vitor Guerra. By number 4 I find Casa do Paço: six thousand seven hundred pieces of hand-painted Dutch tiles!
“Figueira da Foz would become the place chosen by D. João de Melo to build Casa do Paço, next to the Mondego river. In the words of JM dos Santos Simões, there is one of the largest collections of Dutch tiles of loose figure in situ in the world. ”¹ João Miguel dos Santos Simões (1907/1972), was Portuguese, Art Historian, specialist in the field of tiles.
So, let’s go to History: D. João de Melo, born in 1624 in Évora and died in 1704, built Casa do Paço. His nephew, canon D. José de Melo e Mendonça, who in 1735 instituted the morgue of Figueira da Foz (in which the Casa do Paço was located) in favor of his nephew D. Pedro José de Melo Homem. Thus, after several generations, the property passes to Manuel de Santos Júnior, who, in 1881, receives the title of First Baron of Figueira.
Currently, Casa do Paço is owned by the Municipality of Figueira da Foz. The monument’s preciousness was not enough, there are thousands of pieces of Dutch art. These are the tiles from Amsterdam.
In these facts, more than the uniqueness of the historical events presented, it is interesting to realize that you, Figueira, offer figueirenses and their visitors the unique opportunity to “star in”, even if it is for the short time of a visit, the direct contact with genuine cultural values of Dutch art from the early years of the 18th century. It is not necessary to be an art technician to delight in a show of talent and seduction presented in this exhibition. The works speak to the soul.
I say “protagonize” since it is impossible not to get involved with the peculiarities of the pieces presented! Being for some time, in four centenary environments – others are not open to the public – that make up Casa do Paço, in which the old and robust walls were covered by six thousand seven hundred Dutch tiles (produced in the Delftsevaart pottery, Rotterdam) delicately hand-painted by several artists, valued by the unique lyricism of each author, fascinates the observer and he wants more and more …
These works focus on three themes: biblical passages, knights and landscapes that depict historical events and cultural values of the Dutch, with specific and pre-conceived colors, endowed with meanings. It is not uncommon to portray established canvases, however the vestiges of the tile painter are almost always present.
However, a question remains: How would such Dutch tiles reach Figueira da Foz? As history progressed, several theories emerged in order to justify the fact. The prevailing one says of the possibility of a Dutch frigate, which transported the tiles, having sunk at the mouth of the Mondego in 1706. The cargo was recovered by the Customs and later auctioned and sold to the owners of Casa do Paço.
The beauty of the work and the lyricism of the artists make the exhibition worthy of several other visits so that you can enjoy the rich details of each piece, not least because on this occasion Casa do Paço offers accompaniment by an employee that surprises by the versatility in the subject, in addition to impressive dedication and respect it provides to the visitor.
Figueira, you always surprise me!
Man sought the reason for things
sought God in the infinite
in the ocean, in the greatness
– did not see God!
Unbeliever from beyond things
turned to the world
and abstractly portrayed him
– only the real painted!
in color, in his brush
not Portinari, nor Rafael,
– painted God!