The National Museum of the Azulejo, occasionally known as the National Tile Museum, is an art museum in Lisbon, Portugal dedicated to the azulejo, traditional tilework of Portugal and the former Portuguese Empire, as well as of other Iberophone cultures. Housed in the former Madre de Deus Convent, the museum’s collection is one of the largest of ceramics in the world.
The National Tile Museum’s mission is to collect, conserve, study and disseminate representative samples of the evolution of Ceramics and Tiles in Portugal, promoting the best practices of Inventory, Documentation, Research, Classification, Disclosure, Conservation and Restoration of Ceramics and, very much. in particular, the tile. The mission of MNAz also integrates the patrimonial safeguard of the church and the other spaces of the former Mother of God Monastery.
MNAz seeks to constitute itself as a national and international reference, either by the specificity of its collections and its musealised spaces, or by the excellence of the knowledge that it is responsible for producing and supporting.
The center of its activities is Coating Ceramics, so it should be a reference and support institution for academic and professional training, scientific and technological research in the areas of coating ceramics, and it should support public and private entities. that protect heritage built with ceramic tiles, all over the country.
Through its activities, the museum makes known the history of Azulejo in Portugal trying to draw the attention of society to the need and importance of the protection of what is the differentiating artistic expression of Portuguese culture in the world: Azulejo.
The National Tile Museum was established in 1965 and became a National Museum in 1980. It is located in the former Convent of Madre Deus, founded by Queen D. Leonor in 1509. The Museum went through different building campaigns that involved transformations such as in its 16th-century mannerist cloister; the church which is decorated with remarkable sets of paintings and tiles; the sacristy featuring a Brazilian wood display cabinet and carved wood frames with paintings; the high choir with rich carved gilt wood embellishments; the Chapel of Saint Anthony with an 18th-century Baroque decoration and a significant number of canvases by the painter André Gonçalves.
The National Tile Museum is one of the most important national museums, for its unique collection, Azulejo, an artistic expression that differentiates Portuguese culture, and for its unique building, the former Madre de Deus Monastery, founded in 1509 by Queen D. Leonor (1458-1525).
Attachment of Casa Pia the Annex to the National Ancient Art Museum
Following the interventions of José Maria Nepomuceno and Liberato Telles, the buildings of the Convent and Church of Madre de Deus have been the subject of numerous repairs and alterations of the spaces as an integral part of the D. Maria Pia Asylum. For the place were being led and stored tile panels, from other places, which were initially intended for decoration of the interior of the building, but eventually there kept in crates.
Then, the hypothesis arose to place under the tutelage of the National Museum of Ancient Art several monuments, so that their patrimonial safeguard could be made, being established, in a letter of its director João Couto dated 15 December 1954, that the Madre de Deus church and dependencies in Xabregas should be considered as annexes of the National Museum of Ancient Art.
The 500 anniversary of the birth of Queen Leonor
In order to hold a commemorative exhibition of the 500th anniversary of the birth of Queen D. Leonor, the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation funded the cost of major restoration work, namely in the cloister and paintings of the Madre de Deus Church.
In 1957 the preparatory work began and it was considered necessary to classify the whole as a national monument , and by ministerial order of homologation on November 12, 1957, it was determined its integration into the National Museum of Ancient Art through specific policy guidelines for safeguarding assets.
When, on January 7, 1958, the exhibition ended, the buildings were handed over to that museum, and the question of the use of space for the installation of a Tile Museum was immediately raised.
A tile museum
Proceeded to the transfer of the tiles to the Mother of God, having been busy assembling and organizing the Engineer João Miguel dos Santos Simões , effective vowel of the National Fine Arts Academy , responsible for Tiles Studies Brigade Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation and conservative assistant to the National Museum of Ancient Art.
In 1965, the Director-General for Higher Education and Fine Arts, concluding that he would study the possibility of opening the Museum to the public as part of it, considered it necessary to create certain conditions for its realization.
In an information dated December 12, 1967, Santos Simões refers to the exhibition, which took place on 30 September, about the Azulejo Museum, stating that even if it can be opened to the public, as it stands, it should be abbreviated. the work of minor repairs and finishing.
On February 3, 1971, Santos Simões, in a letter addressed to the director of the National Museum of Ancient Art, requested the need for an urgent meeting between all the institutions involved in the Convent of Madre de Deus / Museu do Azulejo, in order to the problem of its imperious inauguration be reviewed. In order to continue the tasks initiated by Santos Simões, Rafael Salinas Calado was invited in 1973 by Maria José Mendonça to take charge of the Ceramics Section of the National Museum of Ancient Art, located since 1959 in the former Convent of Madre de Deus.
Decree-Law No. 404/80 of 26 September granted the Tile Museum emancipation, making it national and autonomous from the National Museum of Ancient Art, which was an annex since December 18, 1965.
Founded at the initiative of Queen D. Leonor (1458-1525), wife of D. João II and sister of D. Manuel , the convent space of the Mother of God began to consist of some houses and vegetable garden bought by the widow of Álvaro da Cunha , which formed a modest nucleus with the purpose of housing a small group of Discalced Franciscan nuns from the first Rule of Santa Clara, newly arrived from the Convent of Jesus in Setúbal. The church, a fundamental space for the community, was only later completed.
The place where the monastic ensemble of the Madre de Deus grew, was one of the most pleasant places in Lisbon, bordered by the river and populated with gardens and orchards that supplied the city. Little is known about the primitive nucleus of the monastery today, although it is safe to say that its plant repeats that of the Monastery of the Rose, and only an iconographic record that reports the arrival of the relics of Santa Auta to the convent, a fact that actually occurred in 1517, shows us a building with inaccuracies in architectural representation visible at the level of proportions, and a certain decorative exaggeration.
The architectural ensemble left by D. Leonor at the time of his death was truly small, and the nuns’ complaints led to a major remodeling campaign by D. João III.
The campaign of John III
According to the documentation of the time, D. João III ordered the architect Diogo de Torralva to draw a new church for the Mother of God, of larger dimensions and with a new choir. Conventual chronicles also report that the old church of D. Leonor was adapted to the chapter room. Also from this campaign dates the cloister with its stone balconies and devoted chapels.
Thus was born a classic-rooted building with a square-framed chancel, covered by a dome, whose drum would be torn by windows that the nuns asked the King to close, for they felt very wanton. The very articulation of the chancel with the single-nave church body refers to the Serlian models. Similarly, the cloister reflects classical models not only at the new scale level but also in the architectural language.
The devotion to the convent was so felt by D. João III that he built a bridge from the adjoining palace to the church so that he could attend the mass of the royal gallery. In the words of Friar Jerónimo de Belém to better express his love “he was sent to portray himself, and to the Queen his wife and in two pictures his portraits will be found in the choir.”
“An all stitched in gold church”
At the end of the seventeenth century, King Pedro II came back to the Poor Clares of the Madre de Deus Monastery and ordered him to repair almost all over again. To this end, he called João Rebello de Campos, Bishop D. Jerónimo Soares’s Miter Prosecutor and holder of a great genius for outlining plans for buildings, according to Diogo Barbosa de Machado.
This campaign was especially felt at the decorative level, as it dates from this time (cª 1670-1690) the execution of the paintings of the church ceilings, high choir and church body of the workshop of Marcos da Cruz and Bento Coelho da Silveira. The Dutch tile panels were laid in 1686 at the expense of Luís Correia da Paz, a deputy of the Brazilian Trade Junta court who, in return, was given permission by the nuns to bury himself and his family members in a ram and grave in the convent church. In addition to the paintings and tiles, the church received gilded altars, as well as gilding in the frames of the paintings that decorated the church and the high choir.
In 1707, Friar Augustine of Santa Maria gave his testimony before the seventeenth-century Baroque works: the church has an open sky; not only for the spiritual consolation received by all their souls, but also in the ornaments, aceyo and richness of it, which is all cooked in gold; and adorned with rich and excellent paintings.
The reign of King John V brought new decorative campaigns to the Monastery. Under the supervision of Father José Pacheco da Cunha a new sacristy was built (1746-1750), where the painter André Gonçalves, the master carver Félix Adauto da Cunha, the carpenter António da Silva, the Master Locksmith Manuel da Rocha and the farmers Luís João and Amaro Gonçalves. In parallel, the carving of the high choir and the church (arch of the cruise) also began to be renewed during these years. To this sexton is also due the decorative campaign of the House of the Ante-choir with paintings depicting the Life of St. Anthony attributed to the workshop of André Gonçalves.
The 1755 earthquake caused some ruin in the building, in particular the church with the collapse of half-choked walls, the destruction of the high altar, the fall of paintings from the church ceiling and the high choir.
King D. José funded the arrangement works that consisted of the execution of a new gallery, restoration and production of new paintings. This campaign again featured painter André Gonçalves and carver Félix Adauto, as well as gilders Vicente Ribeiro, José Joaquim and carpenter Mestre Bernardino. Early artists documented the painting of three new oil panels for the church and the execution of the gilded pulpit, respectively.
All this set produced in the faithful great emotion due to the total decoration of the spaces, characteristic of the Baroque, and the richness of the materials (blue of the tiles, the golden of the carving, the polychrome of the oil paintings) contributing to exemplify the concept of total art.
The Asylum Maria Pia
The nineteenth century brought to the building profound institutional and functional changes, and the extinction of religious orders in 1834 put an end to the cultural activities of that institution.
Beginning in 1896, extensive restoration works were begun to convert the available spaces and adapt them to a new civil use – the installation of D. Maria Pia Asylum, according to a historicist attitude that was understandable in a late-romantic culture that was in force. at the high.
For the place were being led and stored tile panels, which initially were intended for decoration of the spaces, but eventually remained there in crates.
In the early twentieth century, in order to be safeguarded, several monuments were placed under the tutelage of the National Museum of Ancient Art, establishing that the Church and dependencies of the Mother of God in Xabregas should be considered as attachments to that national museum.
With the commemorations of the fifth centenary of the birth of Queen D. Leonor, the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation funded major works in the cloister of the convent in order to hold a grand evocative exhibition there. When, on January 7, 1958, the exhibition ended, the question was immediately raised of the use of these spaces for the installation of a Tile Museum.
Under the attentive and knowledgeable guidance of Eng. João Miguel dos Santos Simões, the Tile Museum grew, room by room, conquering the space occupied by the D. Maria Pia asylum workshops.
Finally, on September 26, 1980, the Tile Museum emancipated itself, becoming National and becoming autonomous from the National Museum of Ancient Art, which had been an annex since 18 December 1965.
Like any organism, buildings also need to grow, to change, to value themselves, concentrating on themselves memory places and past experiences, thus becoming living spaces.
The museum collection features decorative ceramic tiles or azulejos from the second half of the 15th century to the present day. Besides tiles, it includes ceramics, porcelain and faience from the 19th to the 20th century. Its permanent exhibition starts with a display of the materials and techniques used for manufacturing tiles. After this the exhibition route follows a chronological order.
The permanent exhibition of the museum is displayed in the rooms of ancient monastery and shows the history of tile heritage in Portugal from 16th century till the modern times. The church, the chapels of Saint Anthony and Queen Leonor, and the choir are parts of this exhibition as well.
A number of exhibitions are displayed in the museum for a certain period, as “The Art of Tiles in Portugal” in 2000, “Ana Vilela tells her stories about tiles” in 2008, “Me and the Museum” in 2016,”From the Shadows of Kyoto to the Light of Lisbon” in 2017.
The Inventory and Collection Management department is responsible for the inventorying, preventive conservation and movement of the Museum collections. The Research and Documentation department collects and treats information about Tiles and Faience, with special attention to that of production and use in Portugal, with the aim of developing the necessary knowledge for the correct classification of heritage and its dissemination in permanent exhibition, temporary exhibitions, catalogs and other publications.
The Department of Conservation and Restoration develops, through its practice and theoretical reflection, the methods and principles leading to good conservation and restoration practices of Azulejo heritage, as a museum object or heritage integrated in architecture, also dealing with related problems. with ceramics. The Educational Service systematically develops pedagogical and cultural activities aimed at specialized care, and for the production of unique events and dissemination tools of the Museum and its Collections for different audiences, inside and outside the Museum.
Conservation and Restoration
The Department of Conservation and Restoration develops, through its practice and theoretical reflection, the methods and principles leading to good conservation and restoration practices of Azulejo heritage, as a museum object or heritage integrated in architecture, also dealing with related problems. with ceramics.
It prepares diagnostics, treatment proposals and performs conservation and restoration interventions on tiles and sets of tiles integrated in the architecture of both public and private entities, resulting in the preparation of technical opinions and specifications for the interventions, and can follow up. and supervision.
It supports training through academic and professional internships and continuing education for Tile Conservation and Restoration professionals. tile panel restoration
The Conservation and Restoration service has dry and wet treatment workshops, a Physics and Chemistry laboratory, painting and tile manufacturing rooms, and a documentary archive of the treatments it performs and coordinates.
In conjunction with the Department of Exhibitions and Museography, it promotes the implementation of the Museum’s Preventive Conservation plan.
The Research and Documentation department collects and treats information about Tiles and Faience, with special attention to that of production and use in Portugal, with the aim of developing the necessary knowledge for the correct classification of heritage and its dissemination in permanent exhibition, temporary exhibitions, catalogs and other publications.
To this end, documentary records of in situ tiles , tiles and other ceramic productions in public and private collections have been recorded , and archival funds and documentary spoils related to production centers, factories and authors have been searched. Ancient and contemporary tiles and ceramics.
The great Tile researcher, João Miguel dos Santos Simões , founder and first responsible for the Tile Museum, pointed to the need for a Center for Tile Studies, supported by a thematic Library and a Bulletin for the dissemination of research work.
In honor of Santos Simões was created in 2006, the Thematic Network in Tiles and Ceramics Studies João Miguel dos Santos Simões , with the support of the Foundation for Science and Technology.
From 1987 onwards, research became one of the museum’s priorities and began to be sustainably developed with the creation of the Library.and Documentation Center, the start of research projects on Portuguese Tile and Faience, studies made public in temporary exhibitions with the respective catalogs, and by the publication of Azulejo magazine, open to national and foreign researchers.
Knowledge has been progressing in this area, developing research projects that cover thematic and chronologically diverse studies on centers of production and taste directions of Portuguese Tile and Faience from the 16th to the 20th centuries, the work of contemporary authors, the survey of iconographic sources of tiles and the establishment of standards and terminology for ceramics.
The Library specializes in Tiling, Ceramics, Conservation and Restoration of Ceramics, and there are titles on Art History, Iconography, Museology, bringing together over 6000 titles including monographs, exhibition catalogs and periodicals.