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date: 29 September 2023

Faith and Devotion: Reading the Ceramic Architectural Programs of the Baroquefree

Faith and Devotion: Reading the Ceramic Architectural Programs of the Baroquefree

  • Rosário Salema CarvalhoRosário Salema CarvalhoIntegrated researcher at ARTIS - Institute of Art History of the School of Arts and Humanities, University of Lisbon


In Portugal, the use of azulejos (glazed ceramic tiles) in architecture has a long history, extending uninterruptedly from the late 15th century to the present 21st century. For more than five centuries, the azulejo reinvented itself periodically to meet the demands of different historical periods, and one of its most expressive transformations took place in the Baroque period (1675–1750). Baroque azulejos stand out not only for the almost exclusive use of blue and white painting, but above all for the exploration of narrative programs, which were displayed in vast ceramic walls. These decorations covered the interiors of different buildings, but mostly churches.

The use of azulejos, dominating the interiors or in connection with other arts, was instrumental in creating a unique spatial form, which echoed Baroque spirituality by appealing directly to the senses and exploring the brightness and color of the tiled surfaces within majestic and lusciously decorated settings. But the azulejo was also a medium for religious painting and, as such, a vehicle for the doctrine and values of the Counter-Reformation, which were dominant at the time. Therefore, these ceramic architectural programs resort both to devotional and visual discourses. On the one hand, azulejo compositions relate to central aspects of Christian faith and liturgy, and particularly to the religious discourse and practice of the Baroque period. On the other hand, their visual features add new layers of meaning, mostly related to the organization of azulejos within a church’s architecture, the frames and inspirational sources, as well as issues linked with the creation and running of azulejo workshops.


  • Christianity
  • Religion and Art

The Azulejo in Portugal: A Brief Introduction

Vergílio Correia, one of the most celebrated names in the historiography of Portuguese azulejos, claimed that

. . . Portugal is the country of polychrome ceramic coverings, of magnificent frames and high plinths of variegated faience, the land of wonderful churches that a coating of enamelled clay fills with soft reflexions, enriching them with an unmatched decorative art . . . .1

Since then, the idea that Portugal is the country of the azulejo and that the latter is one of the arts that most identifies the Portuguese patrimonial inheritance has emerged and is now at the heart of the debate led by art historians and several institutions.2

The azulejo is deeply rooted in Portuguese culture and has been periodically reinvented from the late 15th century to the present 21st century. Mural applications of azulejos date back to the late 15th century, inspired by imported Castilian examples—the so-called Hispano-Moresque azulejos, which were mostly executed using the cuerda seca and cuenca techniques. In the 16th century, and with the majolica technique, other works were imported from Flanders, Italy, and Seville. The Portuguese productions are traditionally situated in the second half of the 16th century. From then on, the azulejo was continually produced in workshops in Lisbon (and later also in Coimbra, Oporto, and Vila Nova de Gaia, among others). Throughout several centuries, patterned, figurative, and ornamental compositions gradually assimilated both each decade’s particular taste and the multiple influences acquired through European and extra-European contacts, in a constant renewal of motifs, tendencies, and ornamental schemes sharing an interdependent relationship between the tile applications and their architectural base. In fact, the combination between azulejos and architecture is one of the main reasons why Portuguese tiling stood out in relation to its European counterparts. More than a merely decorative practice, the azulejo gradually became a vehicle for the transformation of space and how it is perceived.3 It is a form of heritage with a long history, but also with a promising future and a wide variety of dimensions—historical, cultural, iconographic, aesthetic, material, technical, functional, archaeological, etymological, political, social, religious, anthropological, emotional, and so on.

The Baroque Azulejo in Context: The Sacred Spaces

The appeal, charm, exuberance, and rhetoric typical of the Baroque period found in Portugal’s azulejos a particularly effective medium, which was skillfully explored by painters and commissioners, especially in sacred interiors. From the last decades of the 17th century to the first half of the 18th century, temples all over the country (and later in overseas territories such as Brazil) were covered, in varying degrees, with these glazed blue and white squares, full of potential.4

Figure 1. António de Oliveira Bernardes (signed), Masters’ Cycle (1700–1725). Peniche, Shrine of Our Lady of Remedies, nave.

Photograph by Patrick Micheletti, licensed under Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0) (Flickr).

Figure 2. António de Oliveira Bernardes (signed), Masters’ Cycle (1700–1725). Peniche, Shrine of Our Lady of Remedies, nave, composition depicting the Adoration of the Shepherds, and detail of the pillars decorated with “architectural sculptures.”

Photograph by Rosário Salema de Carvalho.

Inside the temples—whether chapels or parish churches, cathedrals or churches within conventual complexes—the azulejos stand out, covering the naves’ entire walls, the sanctuaries, the side chapels, or the presbytery. A good example is the Shrine of Nossa Senhora dos Remédios, in Peniche (fig. 1), where the azulejos are practically omnipresent. The whole nave, whose design is very simple, seems to acquire a new dimension, introduced by the tile covering as it interacts with the architecture, dematerializes the walls, and creates an ethereal atmosphere. The azulejos follow, reinvent, and enhance the rhythm set by the architecture through a game of simulations that appears to redesign the borders separating the different materials. Note the cross-shaped pillars, profusely decorated with “architectural sculptures” (fig. 2); the enhancement of what would otherwise be a simple, rectilinear main portal; the lower part of the walls (wainscoting) determined by the archway of the chapel, carved in the rock where the image of the Virgin was found (fig. 3); the magnificence added to a simple round arch; the recreation of a fictitious architecture on the ceiling, complete with simulated windows, paintings, and sculptures (fig. 4); the frames of the windows on the Epistle side, perfectly aligned (except the pulpit, opened later); the fake marble inlays on these windows (fig. 5); and the similarities with the gilt woodwork vocabulary. In the main chapel or sanctuary, the ceiling offers a good example of the imagination of Baroque artists, with a starry “sky” where the Pentecost, within an octagonal frame surrounded by volutes, and various symbols of the Virgin are revealed by large angels (fig. 6).

Figure 3. António de Oliveira Bernardes (signed), Masters’ Cycle (1700–1725). Peniche, Shrine of Our Lady of Remedies, nave, wall of the Gospel side and detail of the archway of the side chapel.

Photograph by Patrick Micheletti, licensed under Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0) (Flickr).

Figure 4. António de Oliveira Bernardes (signed), Masters’ Cycle (1700–1725). Peniche, Shrine of Our Lady of Remedies, nave, ceiling.

Photograph by Rosário Salema de Carvalho.

Figure 5. António de Oliveira Bernardes (signed), Masters’ Cycle (1700–1725). Peniche, Shrine of Our Lady of Remedies, nave, detail of the simulated marble inlays in the window of the Epistle side.

Photograph by Rosário Salema de Carvalho.

Figure 6. Bernardes’ workshop. Peniche, Shrine of Our Lady of Remedies, main chapel, ceiling.

Photograph by Patrick Micheletti, licensed under Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0) (Flickr).

Tiled vaults are not very common, and only a few examples are known. However, fully tiled walls are fairly frequent, with varying degrees of interaction with the architecture, usually on the doors, windows, and chapel archways (the chapels being decorated with gilt woodwork and painting). Consider two very different examples: the decoration of the Church of Saint Victor, in Braga, dating from 1690 to 1693 and signed by Gabriel del Barco (fig. 7), and that of the Church of Misericórdia (Mercy), in Viana do Castelo, dating from 1719 to 1721 and signed by Policarpo de Oliveira Bernardes (although the decoration of the nave was ascribed to his father, António de Oliveira Bernardes) (fig. 8).5

Figure 7. Gabriel del Barco (signed), 1690–1693. Braga, Church of Saint Vitor.

Photograph © Libório Manuel Silva.

Figure 8. Policarpo de Oliveira Bernardes, 1719–1721. Viana do Castelo, Church of Misericórdia, nave.

Photograph © Libório Manuel Silva.

In other cases, the azulejos are confined to a specific area, usually the lower part of the walls (wainscoting). This entails a different kind of interaction with the surrounding space, as the decoration follows not only the rhythms and motifs of the architecture, but also those of the gilt woodwork, easel painting, mural painting, and marble inlays so as to create a unified space comprising a wider range of materials—the artistic totality typical of the Baroque period.

Figure 9. António de Oliveira Bernardes (attributed), 1715–1716. Évora, Church of Misericórdia.

Photograph © Libório Manuel Silva.

In Évora’s Church of Misericórdia (Mercy) (fig. 9), for example, the different episodes (organized in two levels), with the corresponding frame, are separated by simulated pilasters with Corinthian capitals. These elements follow the exact rhythm of the gilt woodwork frames, which overlap at the top. In the Church of Nossa Senhora da Conceição, in Loulé, the indented pilasters align with the capitals of the entablature that runs through the whole interior (fig. 10).

Figure 10. Great Joanine Production (1725–1750). Loulé, Church of Our Lady Conception, nave.

Photograph by Jorge Guerra Maio.

In Baroque tile decorations, the painting is usually figurative, conveying a doctrinal and edifying discourse that is often organized in narrative cycles. These follow a rhetorical and multisensorial program that can also include other art forms. Regarding the azulejo, the different episodes are based on Christian iconography and enclosed by frames, which delimit the compositions and act as a scenic device for the whole decoration. As argued elsewhere,

frames stand for order insofar as they help structure the decorative sections, organizing them within the tiled surfaces—even when they become more complex or when their frontiers are unclear. On the other hand, seeing as these works are not independent, they cannot be separated either from the composition they are meant to enclose or from the space to which they were designed (a very specific characteristic of the azulejo). Each frame thus ends up playing a unique role, by no means neutral, influencing the wider decorative system it is part of.6

Indeed, the interaction with the architecture (or with the woodwork) and the characteristics of the artistic period in question determine the organization of tile decorations within a given space. The rectilinear, lavishly decorated frames bring together the figurative compositions and the scenic device and dilute their borders in an increasingly theatrical style that is typical of the reign of King João V (1706–1750). The frames also condition the way in which the compositions are perceived, and their degree of complexity has a direct influence on the effectiveness of the decorative message. While in the Church of Saint Victor (Braga) and in Évora’s Church of Misericórdia the compositions are enclosed by rectilinear frames with well-defined borders, in other examples, such as Chaves’ Church of Misericórdia and Church of the Third Order of Saint Francis (Braga), the dilution of the borders between the figurative scenes and the frames makes it harder to “read” the iconographic program (fig. 11). The visual effect overshadows the message, as so often in Baroque art.

Figure 11. Nicolau de Freitas (signed), 1743. Braga, Church of the Third Order of Saint Francis, main chapel.

Photograph © Libório Manuel Silva.

Baroque azulejos are part of this compromise between a devotional and a visual discourse, comprising different art forms. They constitute an integrated form of heritage, envisaged and created for a specific location, and should thus be recognized as a vehicle for the transformation of architectural space and the way it is perceived.

For about 70 years, azulejos were almost exclusively blue and white, granting a certain abstraction to the Christian representations. These were carried out by painters who were no longer anonymous craftsmen executing repetitive patterns, but masters capable of creating figurative and narrative ensembles, who brought to ceramics their knowledge of other arts (ceiling and easel painting). They explored the possibilities of ceramic painting (different compositions, painting a la prima) and were aware of the azulejo’s physical characteristics, namely, its glazed surface, its reflective properties, and the limitations of its square shape. The painters contributed, therefore, to the pictorial and iconographic sophistication of these decorations, often derived from prints, with an increasing confidence and the ability to incorporate tiled murals within different spaces and in dialogue with the other decorative elements.

During the Baroque period, tile coverings were not uniform and the differences, especially as regards the decoration and conception of the frames, as well as the painting’s characteristics, led researchers to single out three main artistic periods (which must now be clarified, as they are central operative concepts):


The Transition Period corresponds to the last quarter of the 17th century, which coincides with the emergence and expansion of blue and white painting.


The Masters’ Cycle corresponds to the first 20 to 25 years of the 18th century, coinciding with part of King Pedro II’s reign and reflecting the artistic taste of the period. Initially known as the age of the painting workshops or the Great Painting period, it was later called the Masters’ Cycle. The interest raised by the quality and sophistication of the period justified the use of a new designation.7


The Great Joanine Production corresponds to the second quarter of the 18th century and to the reign of King João V, renowned for a more theatrical and scenographic style. Yet this designation, linked to the exponential growth in commissions, is somewhat derogatory, alluding to the fact that the painting in this period is more stereotyped when compared to that of the Masters’ Cycle.

Regarding the study of iconographic programs, various approaches to Baroque tile decorations have been proposed, as discussed in detail in the section “Review of the Literature on Azulejos and Iconography.” However, the idea of a complementarity between different art forms

. . . raises issues of considerable importance to the historian. If a work of art is now fundamentally a bel composto, a separate study of each of its parts (architecture, painting, sculpture) may not be very relevant, since it is precisely through the combination of these parts that the work is constituted and that it creates and conveys different meanings.8

Still following the perspective of Luís de Moura Sobral, also shared by other authors:

. . . the bel composto is structured according to the individual meanings of certain units, which might be called simpler (pictures, sculptures), and the discursive character of others, which might be called composite or complex (retables, as well as canvas, azulejo or embossed decorative cycles, among others). All of these elements are combined and intermingled within a highly complex conceptual web, entering into dialogue with one another through their contiguity, juxtaposition, alternation, opposition, overlapping, etc., which the historian must organize in order to reconstruct the narrative or symbolic itinerary or itineraries envisaged by each author.9

Accordingly, research approaches of a monographic nature are absolutely essential for a correct understanding of the programs of each space. This is not to say, however, that other research methodologies should be excluded. On the contrary, they can reveal reading levels and research perspectives on wider issues regarding the faith and devotion of a given population during a specific period of time. This article adopts a more globalizing approach, drawing on a systematization of information that allows for a study of the visual and iconographic discourse based on emerging “patterns.” This approach suggests future working and research hypotheses related to the meaning of decorations, but also new research subjects such as the connection between decorations and the surrounding space, the way in which they “manipulate” the occupants’ experiences, the construction of a total work of art, or the different levels of involvement of the various intervening agents.

Baroque Azulejos as a Mirror of Faith and Devotion

Given the large number of temples decorated with azulejos during the Baroque period, only some of them were the object of detailed iconographic studies. Borrowing Erwin Panofsky’s levels of meaning, it might be said that, regarding the vast majority of Portuguese tile decorations, only an iconographic analysis was conducted—or rather an iconographic identification and description—while more profound studies on the meaning of the images were rarely undertaken.10 This means that there is still a vast set of data waiting to be examined.

It is not known exactly how many churches and chapels existed in Portugal in the 18th century, but it can be said that between 1675 and 1750, at least 440 churches received a figurative azulejo covering.11 Bearing in mind the same temple can contain different programs, a total of about 470 narrative cycles were identified, of which 9 percent (c. 40) belong to the Transition Period, 27 percent (c. 130) to the Masters’ Cycle, and 64 percent (c. 300) to the Great Joanine Production. The distribution according to building type is the following: churches (42 percent), conventual churches (18 percent), chapels (15 percent), chapels inside churches (15 percent), and private chapels (10 percent).

As shown by the analysis of the iconographic themes, the episodes related to the lives of saints are by far the most numerous, with a total of about 170 decorations. This can be explained by the direct relationship between these ceramic decorations and the dedications of the churches and chapels in a country where the worship of saints was particularly popular. Apart from the parish churches and chapels dedicated to specific saints, the temples located within conventual complexes also contributed to this hagiological trend, favoring the saints belonging to the devotional universe of the various religious congregations. This relationship would merit a more detailed investigation. In the meantime, it is worth noting the enormous diversity of existing dedications. Unsurprisingly, the list of narrative cycles is headed by Portuguese-born Saint Anthony (12 percent) and Saint Francis (11 percent), followed by Saint John the Baptist (8 percent), Saint Peter (5 percent), Saint James (5 percent), and Saint Sebastian (5 percent). Overall, however, Saint Anthony’s representativeness amounts to only 12 percent, and that of the other saints does not even correspond to 50 percent of the existing dedications.

There are also 140 miscellaneous themes, among which are episodes from the Old Testament, Works of Mercy related to the Confraternities of Misericórdia (Mercy), the lives of hermits, allegories, emblems, and many others. However, there are never more than twenty examples of each theme.

Apart from the patron saints, Baroque iconographic depictions favored above all scenes from the lives of the Virgin and Christ, although with a clear preference for the former, with about 120 decorative programs—twice as much as those dedicated to Christ.12 A more detailed analysis revealed that about 30 percent of these decorations are clearly focused on the Virgin, 12 percent exhibit related themes, and 58 percent include scenes from Christ’s childhood—which shows that these divisions are not clear-cut, since Christ is also part of the Marian programs. The episodes referring to the Song of Songs, however, can (and should) be included in the group of topics allegorically linked to the Immaculate Conception. Concerning the life of Christ, the Passion cycle is very frequent, with a percentage of 55 percent, but the other episodes are only residual (31 percent), although 14 percent include themes from Christ’s childhood.

The different moments of the Flight into Egypt (c. 72), among which the Flight itself, the Rest and the Return, lead the list of representations, followed by the Annunciation (c. 61), the Adoration of the Magi (c. 49), the Visitation (c. 47), the Adoration of the Shepherds (c. 42), the Marriage of the Virgin (c. 39), the Presentation of the Virgin at the Temple (c. 37), the Birth of the Virgin (c. 35), the Circumcision (c. 18), the Nativity (c. 17), the Holy Family (c. 14), Jesus among the Doctors (c. 13), and the Coronation of the Virgin (c. 12).

In light of the compiled data—which, as mentioned in the section “Primary Sources and Methodology,” are not exhaustive—it is possible to conclude, at least for now, that the cycle depicting Christ’s childhood, in which the Virgin Mary plays a decisive role and which underlines her importance as the Savior’s mother, was clearly favored over the others, with a special emphasis on the Flight into Egypt. In the 18th century, the episodes of the Flight seem to have lost their previous political connotations, linked to the Cistercian Order and to the figure of King João IV as restorer of Portugal’s independence, acquiring instead “a purely devotional meaning, related to the general problem of the exile of the human soul before its encounter with God.”13

Nevertheless, this and the other episodes of Christ’s childhood coincide with the Seven Joys and the Seven Sorrows of the Virgin.14 Moreover, the apocryphal themes of Mary’s history are frequently found in these decorations in conjunction with other themes, providing a visual translation of the sparse references to the Virgin in the canonical Gospels. It is the case of the Annunciation and the Visitation, which are complemented, as seen earlier, with the first moments of the life of Christ. These episodes highlight Mary’s role as a mother and hence as a special intercessor regarding her son.

Most of these themes can be found, for example, in the Meditaçoens sobre os Principaes Misterios da Virgem Santissima Senhora Nossa, Mãe de Deos, e Rainha dos Anjos, e Advogada dos pecadores, by Father Manuel Bernardes (1644–1710), published in 1737.15 Bernardes highlights the Virgin’s role as a mediator with regard to Christ and chooses as main topics for meditation the Immaculate Conception, the Birth of the Virgin, the Presentation at the Temple, the Marriage, the Annunciation, the Visitation, the Nativity, and the Purification of the Virgin (or the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple). These episodes are joined by others related to the Passion and the Resurrection of Christ and culminate in the Death, the Assumption, and the Coronation of the Virgin. Except for the Passion, these are the themes found in Baroque tile decorations, which seem to evoke this and many other works and sermons from the 17th and 18th centuries dedicated to the Virgin Mary, focused on the articles of faith related to the divine motherhood of the Virgin, the Immaculate Conception, and the Virgin’s role as protector and intercessor with regard to Christ.

In Portugal, the devotion to the Virgin Mary is an old one, following (and building on) a European trend expressed through prayers, feasts, celebrations, the building of temples dedicated to the Virgin, images of the various dedications, or the depiction of miracles. The development of the Marian cult during the Middle Ages was followed by a reinforcement of the Catholic cult, motivated by the condemnation of Protestantism. The idea of the Immaculate Conception (it only became a dogma in the 19th century), considered “the most important and popular theological controversy of the Baroque period,” was widely accepted in Portugal and clearly associated with the political propaganda aimed at legitimating, both nationally and internationally, the first monarch of the Braganza dynasty—King João IV (r. 1640–1656), the restorer.16 On March 25, 1646, the king proclaimed Our Lady of Conception to be the patroness of Portugal, a gesture that harks back to the first Portuguese king, Afonso Henriques, and the Cistercian Order.17 Regardless of the political actions of the 17th century, the devotion to the Immaculate Conception was still widely present in the 18th century, both through a decree by Pope Clement XI making it obligatory to celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Conception and through the recommendation, expressed by King João V in 1717, that the festivities be carried out with the utmost solemnity and magnificence.18 The king also sponsored other actions indicative of a truly national devotion, such as religious feasts held every month in honor of the Virgin Mary.

In short, tile decorations display a religiosity based on the worship of the temples’ patron saints and, above all, a very special devotion to the Virgin Mary, deeply rooted across the country. Even though the compiled data do not allow for more definite conclusions, the depiction of Marian cycles, with an emphasis on the childhood of Christ, seems to be a clear trend.

Figure 12. Master P.M.P. (attributed), Masters’ Cycle (1700–1725). Montaria, Mother Church of Montaria.

Photograph © Libório Manuel Silva.

Finally, it is also worth mentioning the programs depicting courtly scenes and hunting parties, which might be considered less suitable for church interiors. They can be found in the sanctuary of the Church of Montaria (fig. 12), in the nave of the Shrine of Nossa Senhora da Esperança, in Abrunhosa do Ladário, signed by Teotónio dos Santos, and on the wainscoting of the Church of Nossa Senhora da Ajuda, in Peniche (1723), among many other examples.19

The Experience of the Faithful

In church interiors, many decorative programs have become hard to interpret.20 Nonetheless, it is easy to see how the vast blue and white ceramic walls endowed sacred interiors with a subjective and fantastic atmosphere, full of brightness and colored hues sparked by the sun or by candlelight, in close connection with the brightness and colors of the other art forms—in keeping with the rhetoric, appeal, and commotion typical of Baroque art.21 By looking more closely at a given composition or stepping back until only stains and sparkles were visible, the faithful oscillated between sacred images that were familiar to them and a more sensorial appeal. The latter resulted in a certain dematerialization of the architecture, achieved through the use of a shade of blue that researchers have claimed to be identical, from a perceptual point of view, with that of the sky.22

There are not many known descriptions of how the faithful perceived the tiled spaces in which they lived their devotion. The following is one such description, revealing of the enchantment produced by the azulejos. It dates from the 1720s and refers to the Cathedral of Braga, whose walls were covered by a vast tile decoration that is now mostly gone:

All of this highlights the singular perfection with which the walls and ceilings of this metropolis [actually Metropolitan, in reference to the ecclesiastical dignity of Braga Cathedral] are so masterfully adorned, with its excellent paintings and fine azulejos well brought out by the extremely bright sun rays that come in through the crystalline window panes, enhancing its wonderful features and perfections in a remarkable manner.23

Standing, kneeling, or sitting on pews or on the floor—on mats that had to be removed after the celebrations24—the faithful could experience the temples’ azulejos in many ways, and the different decorative levels were undoubtedly linked to these dynamics, which were further enhanced by the railings (balusters) placed around the nave, many of which are now missing. Usually, the base or a high wainscot corresponded to the first level, containing inscriptions or small-scale paintings, as though meant to be admired up close. The following levels featured different scales, depending on the observers’ distance.

But how did the faithful, who experienced the spaces in different ways, apprehend the discourses and narratives conveyed by art? In the case of tile decorations, did they look for a familiar guiding thread? Or did they simply observe the images that were close by, independently, even though all decorations were naturally related to the wider theme of Catholicism?

As for mural paintings (which display clear affinities with tile coverings), it should come as no surprise that the placement of narrative decorations within a given architectural space should have followed, at least for a period, precise decorative schemes. Indeed, not only were these patterns known to the commissioners, the programs or ideologists, and the artists, but they were also an important part of artists’ training processes. The responsibility for each work was shared by a group whose patron explained what he or she wanted. Intellectual ideologists would articulate the ideas and the artist would then turn them into the actual visual solution.25 With the rise of the Baroque, these codes grew increasingly complex.26 They were analyzed by Marilyn Aronberg Lavin in the context of Italian mural painting (431–1600), and systematic studies focusing on this kind of decoration have hardly progressed ever since.

In Portugal, as regards the azulejo, different studies aimed at determining the existence of predefined patterns for the distribution of narratives in the same space were not very conclusive, which highlights the need for a wider-ranging systematized approach, extending to other decorative media. This indexation or thematic georeferencing has yet to be carried out, and the first steps are only now being taken.

For example, the analysis of very specific iconographies commissioned by similar institutions, such as the depiction of Works of Mercy in the spaces occupied by the Confraternities of Misericórdia, did not uncover placement patterns within those spaces, but only thematic sequences that confirm the use of the same literary sources.27 In the Church of Misericórdia in Viana do Castelo, however, the Works of Mercy, numbered from 1 to 7, form a parallel route along the nave, with the depiction of spiritual works, based on episodes from the New Testament, placed on the Gospel side, and the depiction of bodily works, based on episodes from the Old Testament, placed on the Epistle side. Yet despite this separation between bodily and spiritual elements, the numbering reveals a circular organization, which begins and ends on the back wall. The sanctuary (fig. 13) also contains a symmetrical scheme, opposing scenes from the life of the Virgin and from the life of Christ, but structured according to two visual levels: from left to right and from top to bottom. The same logic is found in smaller spaces where similar themes are brought together, such as the Adoration of the Magi and the Adoration of the Shepherds, for example (fig. 14).

Figure 13. Policarpo de Oliveira Bernardes, 1719–1721. Viana do Castelo, Church of Misericórdia, main chapel.

Photograph © Libório Manuel Silva.

Figure 14. Bernardes’ workshop. Safara, Mother Church of Safara, Adoration of the Magi.

Photograph by Rosário Salema de Carvalho.

Other examples are organized chronologically in circular routes, encompassing the entire nave, or in a spiral, as in the Shrine of Nossa Senhora dos Remédios in Peniche, already mentioned. But the distribution of the decorations in space is not always chronological and there are many “leaps,” which render current interpretations more difficult. How, then, did the faithful experience these decorations? Is it reasonable to suppose that “when viewers saw that the story was ‘out of order,’ they looked for new relationships and juxtapositions of scenes, knowing they would constitute new meanings”?28 And to what extent were this and other relationships emphasized in the sermons?

Considering that the naves, sanctuaries, and chapels have different functions, it would be tempting to look for specific themes for each space. Several authors note that spaces with a small number of episodes tend to favor conventional associations (such as Justice and Truth, the three theological virtues, the four parts of world, the four evangelists, the five senses, the seven sorrows of Mary, and the twelve apostles), that themes related to ascent or triumph are usually found on the ceilings, and that baptism scenes are more common in baptismal chapels.29 However, apart from the mentioned examples, the available data show that the same themes are repeated anywhere. The episodes from the Old Testament are a noteworthy albeit residual exception in that they are more frequently found in the sanctuary during the Great Joanine Production.

The Rationale Behind the Appeal

It is not possible, at least for now, to identify specific rules for the spatial distribution of the narratives. However, in decorative systems, including azulejos, some predetermined decorative models were definitely known to the commissioners and to all the intervening agents. These models may be summarized as follows: (a) tile decorations covering entire walls (sometimes extending to the ceiling) (fig. 1); (b) tiled wainscoting interacting (or not) with gilt woodwork and easel painting (fig. 9); and (c) tiled wainscoting with indented upper edges (fig. 15 showing a later example from Rococo).30

Figure 15. Tavira, Church of Misericórdia, 1760.

Photograph © Libório Manuel Silva.

In the first of these models, the tile decoration is integrated with the surrounding architecture, either adapted to a preexisting space or conceived during the building’s construction. The narratives were initially planned or structured within straight geometric frames, but the murals slowly assumed a greater internal and external complexity, often simulating fictitious or fanciful architectures with a wide variety of volumes and shapes.

In model (b), there is some articulation with the surrounding architecture, but a stronger relationship is established with the other art forms—especially gilt woodwork through a direct interaction that appears to have been introduced during the Baroque period.31 The third model, representative of the Great Joanine Production, amounts to a renewal of the concept of mural decoration as such, independent of the juxtaposition of figurative sections or woodwork.32

In short, models (a) and (c) testify to the importance of tile decorations as an independent medium and not as dependent on a decorative scheme involving woodwork or other architectural features, as in model (b).

Regarding the sample under analysis (reduced, due to the lack of data, to the Transition Period [1675–1700] and the Masters’ Cycle [1700–1725]), among the total of around 170 narrative cycles found in churches and chapels, decorations covering entire walls (a) were widely favored (c. 100) when compared with the use of wainscoting in isolation (c. 30) or in connection with gilt woodwork and paintings (b) (c. 25). These solutions are joined by ten examples of all-encompassing decorations, covering both the walls and the ceilings.

The reasons for the predominance of full coverings can be very different, and since there are no testimonies from the period, the following ideas have to be understood as working hypotheses. From an iconographic point of view, the construction of a program involving only one medium (and thus only one workshop) would be not only simpler but also more economical.33 Furthermore, in larger spaces, the program might be wider and contain more episodes. However, the dematerialization of these interiors would be more easily achieved through the azulejos’ brightness and hues (sometimes involving the ceilings!). Finally, this was the scheme habitually used in 17th-century patterned decorations: the walls were divided into different decorative levels, conditioned by the architecture. However, the degree of difficulty would rise considerably because, unlike patterned azulejos which could be interrupted at any time, figurative compositions required a previous and much more careful planning in which the frames were an essential part of the scenic device.

In the near future, it will hopefully be possible to combine the thematic georeferencing approach with these three covering models in order to clarify how they have influenced or conditioned the distribution of narratives in space.

Gilt Woodwork and Azulejos: “Gold and Blue” or the History of a Hierarchy

In all the previously discussed models—(a), (b), and (c)—the areas destined to the various arts were perfectly identified, which led to a juxtaposition of the different artistic modes and only seldom to an actual interconnection. That is, the various arts were articulated with one another, engaged in a dialogue, but almost always in specific areas and with well-defined borders.34 Moreover, in what concerns model (b), the azulejos are usually confined to the lower half of the decoration, whereas the gilt woodwork is placed on the upper half. Even when easel painting is part of a gilt woodwork decoration, it is perfectly delimited by frames. In the majority of known examples, the azulejos are integrated with the architecture through simulations that highlight the building’s openings (e.g., windows, doorways, pulpits, and tribunes) and grant them a scenographic nature. However, they rarely intermingle with the gilt woodwork, whose rhythm might follow the tiled wainscoting or be continuous, and therefore independent. This latter contrast is particularly visible in the Church of Saint Augustine in Marvila (in Lisbon) (fig. 16) or in the sanctuary of the Church of Saint Francis of Horta (in the island of Faial), to mention only a few examples.

Figure 16. Master P.M.P. (attributed), Masters’ Cycle (1700–1725). Lisbon, Church of Saint Augustine in Marvila, nave.

Photograph by Jorge Guerra Maio.

Despite the scarcity of documents referring to an entire decorative campaign (such as bills or contracts), in the churches where tile coverings were used as wainscoting (model b), the woodwork and painting commissions seem to predate that of the azulejos by a few years.35 Two well-known cases show a precise articulation between azulejos and gilt woodwork. The first is the Church of Nossa Senhora dos Prazeres (Beja), built and decorated between the 1670s and 1698.36 The woodwork covering the upper area of the nave’s walls was executed by the woodcarver Francisco da Silva from 1694 to 1698, and the easel painting from 1695 to 1698 by António de Oliveira Bernardes (fig. 17). The tile covering signed by Gabriel del Barco is dated 1698. The different artistic interventions were commissioned and applied sequentially, especially on the nave, even though the azulejos were apparently the last element to be added.

Figure 17. Gabriel del Barco (signed), 1698. Beja, Church of Our Lady of Pleasures.

Photograph by Rosário Salema de Carvalho.

The second example is the Church of Misericórdia (Évora) (fig. 9), renovated during the first decades of the 18th century.37 The main altar and the gilt woodwork decorating the nave were also executed by Francisco da Silva, as recorded in a contract dating from November 17, 1710. Near the end of 1714, Francisco Lopes Mendes, a painter from Évora, provided a canvas representing Our Lady of Mercy for the main altar. The commission was completed after the seven Corporal Works of Mercy were placed along the nave (of which only two are left; the other five, by the painter José Xavier de Castro, date from 1737). The contract with the tiler Manuel Borges dates from the following year, more precisely from September 21, 1715, and mentions a “paper” (unknown today) with emblems and details about which episodes of the Works of Mercy were to be included in the decoration. The date 1716, painted on the azulejos next to the main altar, is consistent with the deadlines stipulated in the contract. The painter remains unknown, but a comparison between these azulejos and others signed by António de Oliveira Bernardes confirmed that his workshop was responsible for the work. Finally, the woodwork was gilded many years later, between 1728 and 1729.

Once again, the woodwork placed alongside the azulejos was commissioned in 1710, while the azulejos themselves were only commissioned in 1715. The campaign’s final result only became visible in the late 1720s. The succession of decorative campaigns, signed by different brotherhood boards, followed the previous sequence: woodwork, easel painting, azulejos.38

Other examples, albeit not as well documented, exhibit different relationships between the azulejos and the gilt woodwork. It is the case of the Chapel of the Third Order of Saint Francis (Santarém), also known as Golden Chapel (fig. 18). The azulejos were commissioned in 1717 to the Lisbon-born tiler Manuel de Oliveira and the woodwork was ascribed to Manuel da Silva, a master woodcarver then active in Torre Novas.39 According to recently discovered documents, Manuel da Silva was in Santarém in 1692, called by Tristão Nunes Infante, member of the Confraternity of the Third Order. The framing devices differ from the previous ones: the paintings and their frames correspond exactly to the figurative tile section and not to the tile frames (except for the back wall).

Figure 18. Santarém, Chapel of the Third Order of Saint Francis.

Photograph by Jorge Guerra Maio.

The known examples are clearly insufficient to determine whether this working model was assumed as such and used throughout the Baroque period, but they do show that this happened in certain cases, which means either that there was a predetermined plan for all the decorative campaigns or that the azulejo, being the last element added to a decoration, faced different challenges and had to develop new ways of interacting with the other art forms, mainly through their frames. Therefore, tile coverings were dependent, to a certain extent, on the woodcarvers and their designs—and this conclusion, although focused only on one of the models in question, raises the next issue.

Is There a Total Work of Art?

The answer to this question is a clear yes if a fluid concept of total work of art, which reflects the interconnection between the arts, is considered.40 But how does this process take place? The aim of this article is not to answer this question, but only to discuss a few formal aspects.

Indeed, these spatial organization schemes—(a), (b), and (c)—with their well-limited frontiers, seem to allow for the possibility of independent campaigns, not subordinated to a single decorative commission, but rather establishing open-ended models that could be used in a total work of art, in the true sense of the term, or in additive solutions without compromising the final coherence of the ensemble.41

Both the payment methods, particularly in the case of works financed by alms, and the financial difficulties of the commissioners might have contributed to the endorsement of an open-ended model. This left to the commissioners the choice between a single commission or successive campaigns, based on the assessment of the different variables under consideration (economic, political, social, or artistic).

Accordingly, two different levels in these interiors can be distinguish: (a) iconographic coherence, and (b) visual unity. The first one can be imputed mainly to the commissioners, who need to know which specific message they want to transmit, but the second is up to the artists themselves, whose role is to organize the different “working areas” and ensure their global coherence. But how did this process come about?

Some authors consider the architects to be the main creators or artistic directors of these programs, but the available records are not clear in this regard.42 Equally unclear is the degree to which the artists could choose and plan these works.43 Flávio Gonçalves, who examined the renovation of the Church of Nossa Senhora da Ajuda, in Peniche, writes:

on that day [February 2, 1717], in the sacristy of the confraternity’s church, the board members charged with running the confraternity during the following year took office. It happened, however, that immediately after the ceremony, the board members met with the artists to whom the project of the church’s renovation had been commissioned . . . .44

The identity of these artists remains unknown, but the document mentions a meeting between masters, artists, and commissioners and suggests the existence of a global plan previously known to all.45 Although the church’s renovation went on until the 1730s, it seems to have followed this global plan, approved by the visitador.46 Moreover, the very figure of a visitador might have added coherence to the commission process, guaranteeing the successful completion of a specific idea even when its execution was delayed or enforced by different boards or board members.

Nonetheless, multidisciplinary workshops, such as the one led by António de Oliveira Bernardes (1662–1732), widely acknowledged as Lisbon’s leading name in tile painting, oil painting, fresco, and tempera, were rarely called upon to combine different art forms.47 But if multidisciplinary workshops did exist, would it not have been easier, and possibly quicker and more economical, to assign the decoration of a whole interior by means of a single commission? Should the division of a global commission into smaller sub-commissions, assigned to different workshops, be interpreted as an argument for the idea that total works of art result from successive orders, based on an additive system?

Whether the result was subordinated to a global strategy (often materialized in a global, albeit generic plan) or to a methodological model tacitly acknowledged by different agents, it was always an integrated and coherent result, since the mode of distribution of the different art forms was widely known and could be delayed without losing its coherence.48 All elements were instrumental in achieving this coherence: an underlying iconographic plan, the prints that determined the artistic style to be adopted, the architecture that compelled certain divisions, the surveillance of the visitadores, and the majesty pursued in each temple’s decoration.


The systematization of the available information regarding iconography and the formal cataloguing of aspects such as the type of ceramic covering or the frames of figurative compositions helped to corroborate a few research perspectives on iconographic programs in Portuguese Baroque art, in which the azulejo plays a central role, and to widen the inquiry into other issues, such as the construction of spaces and the experiences they promoted. Indeed, data analysis has paved the way to the understanding of how the different art forms (and artists) interacted with one another in a coherent and complex communicational system. And whether or not this system was associated with the notion of a total work of art, its results were experienced by the faithful.

The study of Baroque tile programs should therefore consider not only the iconographic programs, but also their visual coherence through a methodological dynamic that must find a balance between the monographic approaches, which are essential for an accurate recording of the available information, and the approaches implying quantification and, possibly, distant viewing.49

Review of the Literature on Azulejos and Iconography

Historiography has favored different approaches to the iconographic study of Portuguese azulejos, especially from the Baroque period. On the one hand, since tile painters used prints as sources of inspiration for almost all of their works, their identification has become an important research field. Scholars such as Robert Smith and João Miguel dos Santos Simões can be considered precursors in this field, the former underlining the importance of French prints for Portuguese tile decorations and the latter with a general text about 18th-century azulejos, recently updated by Patrícia Roque de Almeida.50

More recently, other researchers revisited the intimate connection between azulejos and prints, identifying the influence of specific artists—such as the Flemish and French painters on the work of the Oliveira Bernardes family51—or highlighting a specific topic, like mythology—and particularly Ovid’s Metamorphoses, studied by Ana Paula Rebelo Correia.52 Other studies, although not specifically focused on the sources of inspiration, end up almost invariably by identifying prints.53

The debates following these identifications show, apart from the evident and recurring use of prints, that the latter were adapted in a transformative way to achieve different solutions to be able to adjust the ceramic compositions to the available space on the walls.54 Thus, and even though the azulejos are based on a European visual language that is sometimes repeated in different works by the same painter, each tile decoration is unique and thoroughly inventive, mainly because of the relationship it establishes with the architecture.

On the other hand, the authors highlight the importance of prints for the interpretation of the decorative themes and regard their identification as a process of visual archaeology, which nonetheless rarely goes back to a state prior to that of the prints themselves, consisting rather in a comparison with similar works.55 Accordingly, the fact that some prints are chosen rather than others does not seem to have, for some authors, a precise meaning: it is the result of a selection, which sees prints as a repository of international forms.

Adopting a wider perspective, other researchers have focused on the study of iconographic programs, examining the sources of inspiration and, above all, the decorations’ visual discourse, directly linked to the religious, political, and social context, to the commissioners and to the prevailing taste.56 This perspective is especially relevant in regard to the relationship the azulejo establishes with other art forms within the same space, creating an artistic whole considered by some as a “total work of art.”57 Flávio Gonçalves and Luís de Moura Sobral were important references in the integrated study of such interiors, based on images and texts, and their contributions were decisive to clarify how these Baroque spaces were communicated and exported to Brazil.58 Yet the wider the perspective, the more complex the interpretations; and most researchers choose not to tread these often shaky grounds, focusing instead on less advanced, scientifically safer stages.59

The current state of the art seems to reveal, therefore, the absence of a series of aspects and perspectives that are essential for a better and wider understanding of the iconographic programs of Baroque tile decorations, some of which were explored in the present article.

The first aspect refers to a global analysis of the depicted themes. Although books such as Azulejaria em Portugal no século XVIII (Tilework in Portugal in the 18th century) include an index of iconographic themes, they do not allow for the quantification or the identification, for example, of the most depicted themes during the Baroque period or of which episodes were favored within a particular theme. To be sure, different authors have put forth general hypotheses, but these are not based on concrete facts and comprehensive data. Likewise, the relationship between the decorative themes and the religious spaces in which they were applied should be determined. This is a crucial aspect, since the program for a sanctuary is different from the program for a nave, with different occupants and a different public.

However, to examine the iconographic programs and determine how the faithful apprehended the representations and experienced the spaces in which they were applied are very important tasks that cannot be overlooked in an iconographic analysis.60 Finally, and just as importantly, the study of the iconography unveils a series of possibilities regarding the organization of work and the way in which these interiors were conceived, which can help expand our knowledge of a period having very little documentation, revealed through baby steps.

Primary Sources and Methodology

The data presented in this article result from the systematization of the inventories created by João Miguel Santos Simões in the 1960s, as well as from Rosário Salema de Carvalho’s PhD dissertation, complemented by recent findings from the 2010s.61 The current work is nonetheless an ongoing investigation, which, given the size of the iconographic programs, requires teamwork and adequate data processing tools. As for the Transition Period and the Masters’ Cycle, all the temples were visited and the iconographic descriptions are precise (because they were based on the direct observations of the tile coverings). The corresponding records are currently being uploaded into the online platform Az Infinitum—Azulejo Indexation and Referencing System, and made available in open access.62 Regarding the Great Joanine Production, the data were compiled almost exclusively from the works of Santos Simões and are also being uploaded into Az Infinitum in the context of Mariana Silva’s master’s thesis. Although the data collection is not exhaustive and not all the data were directly confirmed—which explains the use of approximations rather than exact numbers—the interpretation of the compiled information allows for a fairly accurate substantiation of the research perspectives outlined in this article.

Links to Digital Material

Further Reading

  • Carvalho, Rosário Salema de, and Libório Manuel Silva. Azulejo em/in Braga—O Largo Tempo do Barroco/The Baroque period. Vila Nova de Famalicão, Portugal: Centro Atlântico, 2016.
  • Meco, José. Azulejaria Portuguesa. Lisbon, Portugal: Bertrand Editora, 1985.
  • Meco, José. O azulejo em Portugal. Lisbon, Portugal: Alfa, 1989.
  • Salinas, Rafael Calado. Azulejo, 5 séculos do Azulejo em Portugal. Lisbon, Portugal: Correios e Telecomunicações de Portugal, 1986.
  • Santos, Reynaldo dos. O Azulejo em Portugal. Lisbon, Portugal: Editorial Sul Limitada, 1957.
  • Silva, Libório Manuel, and Rosário Salema de Carvalho, eds. Azulejos—Maravilhas de Portugal/Wonders of Portugal. Vila Nova de Famalicão, Portugal: Centro Atlântico, 2017.


  • 1. Vergílio Correia, “Lisboa dos Azulejos,” trans. Rosário Salema de Carvalho, Atlântida 39 (1919): 340.

  • 2. Alexandra Curvelo and João Pedro Monteiro, eds., Um gosto português. O uso do Azulejo no Século XVII (Lisbon, Portugal: Athena, 2012); Maria Antónia Pinto de Matos, João Manuel Mimoso, Alexandre Nobre Pais, Maria de Lurdes Esteves, and Marluci Menezes, “Portuguese Azulejos, World Heritage,” in Proceedings of International Conference Glazed Ceramics in Architectural Heritage GlazeArch2015, eds. João Mimoso and José Delgado Rodrigues (Lisbon, Portugal: LNEC, 2015), 1–10; and José Meco, “Portugal—país do azulejo/Portugal—Home of the Azulejo,” in Azulejos—Maravilhas de Portugal/Wonders of Portugal, eds. Libório Manuel Silva and Rosário Salema de Carvalho (Vila Nova de Famalicão, Portugal: Centro Atlântico, 2017), 9–13.

  • 3. To learn more about the history of azulejos in Portugal, see “Further Reading.”

  • 4. Cf. Rosário Salema de Carvalho, “Introduction,” in What Is Azulejo o Que é, ed. Rosário Salema de Carvalho (Vila Nova de Famalicão, Portugal: Centro Atlântico, 2018).

  • 5. Rosário Salema de Carvalho, A Igreja de São Victor/The Church of Saint VictorBraga (Vila Nova de Famalicão, Portugal: Centro Atlântico, 2017); Rosário Salema de Carvalho, “A pintura do azulejo em Portugal [1675–1725]: Autorias e biografias—um novo paradigma” (PhD diss., University of Lisbon, 2012), Annex B, 1274.

  • 6. Rosário Salema de Carvalho, “Les Cadres Des Azulejos Baroques Portugais,” in Jeux et Enjeux Du Cadre Dans Les Systèmes Décoratifs de La Première Modernité, eds. Nicolas Cordon, Édouard Degans, Elli Doulkaridou-Ramantani, and Caroline Heering; trans. Rosário Salema de Carvalho (Rennes, France: Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2019), 59–72.

  • 7. José Meco, O Azulejo em Portugal (Lisbon, Portugal: Alfa, 1989), 218.

  • 8. Luís de Moura Sobral, “Un bel composto: a obra de arte total do primeiro Barroco português,” in Struggle for Synthesis: A Obra de Arte Total nos séculos XVII e XVIII/The Total Work of Art in the 17th and 18th centuries, eds. Luís de Moura Sobral and David W. Booth; trans. Rosário Salema de Carvalho (Lisbon, Portugal: MC/IPPAR, 1999), 305.

  • 9. Quoted extract from Sobral, “Un bel composto,” 305; According to Vitor Serrão, it is “always difficult to determine the paths (methodological, conceptual, documental) that the History of Art must tread when aiming to identify, within a work or set of works, a coherent and meaningful organization capable of confirming that a given program was originally conceived by one individual, social group or institution, as a means of expressing a given taste and fulfilling a preconceived idea” (trans. Rosário Salema de Carvalho); cf. Vítor Serrão, Arte, religião e imagens em Évora no tempo do Arcebispo D. Teotónio de Bragança, 1578–1602, trans. Rosário Salema de Carvalho (Vila Viçosa, Portugal: Fundação da Casa de Bragança, 2015), 260.

  • 10. Erwin Panofsky, “Introduction,” in Studies in Iconology: Humanistic Themes in the Art of the Renaissance (New York: Oxford University Press, 1939), 3–17; reprinted with minor changes in Erwin Panofsky, “Iconography and Iconology: An Introduction to the Study of Renaissance Art,” in Meaning in the Visual Arts (New York: Doubleday, 1955), 26–54.

  • 11. Including churches, chapels, and private chapels, as well as churches and chapels within conventual complexes. Despite the differences regarding the building type, some numbers can be found in the topographical tables of works such as João Baptista de Castro, Mappa de Portugal antigo e moderno (Lisbon, Portugal: Off de Francisco Luiz Ameno, 1762–1763), in descriptions of the Portuguese kingdom such as António Carvalho da Costa, Corografia portugueza e descripçam topografica do famoso Reyno de Portugal (. . .) (Lisbon, Portugal: Na officina de Valentim da Costa Deslandes impressor de Sua Magestade, & á sua custa impresso, 1706–1712), or in Memórias Paroquiais de 1758, Arquivo Nacional Torre do Tombo. Some buildings in fact received more than one covering, for there is a record of 470 coverings from this period.

  • 12. Note, moreover, the existence of three programs dedicated to the life of Saint Joseph and several sets with Marian dedications.

  • 13. Luís de Moura Sobral, “A Capela do Desterro de Alcobaça: estilo, narração e simbolismo,” in Cister. Espaços, Territórios e Paisagens. Actas do Colóquio Internacional, ed. Miguel Conceição Soromenho, Maria de Lurdes Perdigão, and Catarina Serpa (Lisbon, Portugal: MC/IPPAR, 2000), 422.

  • 14. The Seven Joys of the Virgin are the (1) Annunciation, (2) the Visitation, (3) the Nativity, (4) the Adoration of the Magi, (5) the Finding in the Temple, (6) the Resurrection, and (7) the Assumption or the Coronation of the Virgin; the Seven Sorrows are the (1) Prophecy of Simeon or the Circumcision, (2) the Flight into Egypt, (3) the loss of the Child Jesus for three days, (4) Christ carrying the Cross, (5) the crucifixion of Christ, (6) the descent from the Cross, (7) the Passion, and the Entombment; cf. Louis Réau, Iconografía del arte cristiano—Iconografia de la Biblia—Nuevo testamento, tomo 1, vol. 2 (Barcelona: Ediciones del Serbal, 2000), 117.

  • 15. Translation: Meditations on the Principal Mysteries of the Virgin, Our Lady and Saint, Mother of God, Queen of the Angels and Defender of the Sinners.

  • 16. Luís de Moura Sobral, “Teologia e propaganda política numa gravura de Lucas Vorsterman II: a Imaculada Conceição e a Restauração de 1640,” in Do sentido das imagens (Lisbon, Portugal: Editorial Estampa, 1996), 146.

  • 17. Sobral, “Teologia e propaganda.”

  • 18. Jean Fournée, La Vierge aux quinze symboles (Paris: Téqui, 1990), 16–17.

  • 19. Further examples are mentioned in Flávio Gonçalves, “As obras setecentistas da Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Ajuda de Peniche e o seu enquadramento na Arte Portuguesa da primeira metade do século XVIII,” Boletim Cultural da Assembleia Distrital de Lisboa III, no. 88 (1982): 21.

  • 20. But also in sacristies, confraternity rooms, and other related spaces.

  • 21. Giulio Carlo Argan, “La Rettorica e l’Arte Barocca,” in Retorica e Barocco, ed. E. Castelli (Rome: Atti del III Congresso internazionale di studi umanistici/Centro Internazionale di Studi Umanistici, 1955), 9–14.

  • 22. João Pernão, AzLab#55 Azulejo: um manto arquitectónico entre o brilho e a cor/Azulejo: an architectural mantle between brightness and colour, 2020; João Pernão, “The Colour of the Sky: From the Cyanometer to Architecture,” in Proceedings of the International Colour Association (AIC) Conference 2018: Colour & Human Comfort, eds. Margarida Gamito and Maria João Durão (Lisbon, Portugal: International Colour Association, 2018), 555–560.

  • 23. Quoted in Eduardo Pires de Oliveira, “A Sé de Braga e Dom Rodrigo de Moura Teles (1704–1728),” in Struggle for Synthesis: A Obra de Arte Total nos séculos XVII e XVIII/The Total Work of Art in the 17th and 18th Centuries, eds. Luís de Moura Sobral and David W. Booth (Lisbon, Portugal: MC/IPPAR, 1999), 249.

  • 24. Maria Marta Lobo de Araújo, “A protecção dos arcebispos de Braga à Misericórdia de Viana da Foz do Lima (1527–1615),” in Igreja, Caridade e Assistência na Península Ibérica (sécs. XVI-XVII), ed. Laurinda Abreu (Lisbon, Portugal: Edições Colibri—CIDEHUS-EU, 2004), 251.

  • 25. Marilyn Aronberg Lavin, The Place of Narrative: Mural Decoration in Italian Churches, 431–1600 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990), 5.

  • 26. Lavin, The Place of Narrative, 239.

  • 27. Carvalho, “A pintura do azulejo,” 560–565.

  • 28. Lavin, The Place of Narrative, 6.

  • 29. João Miguel dos Santos Simões and Maria Alexandra Gago da Câmara, Azulejaria em Portugal no século XVIII, rev. ed. (Lisbon, Portugal: Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, 2010), 43–44; Nigel Llewellyn, “Sacred Spaces,” in Baroque 1620–1800 Style in the Age of Magnificence, eds. Michael Snodin and Nigel Llewellyn (London: V&A, 2009), 219.

  • 30. Carvalho, “Les Cadres Des Azulejos Baroques.”

  • 31. Which differs from 17th-century interactions, where the woodwork is usually confined to the altarpieces. Cf. Celso Mangucci, “Nova História, Novas Imagens: A singular experiência dos programas iconográficos religiosos seiscentistas em azulejos,” in Um Gosto Português. O uso do Azulejo no século XVII, eds. Alexandra Curvelo and João Pedro Monteiro (Lisbon, Portugal: Athena, 2012), 238.

  • 32. Reynaldo dos Santos, O Azulejo em Portugal (Lisbon, Portugal: Editorial Sul Limitada, 1957), 129–131.

  • 33. In any case, an exhaustive comparison between the prices of the different arts in Portugal during the Baroque period has yet to be undertaken.

  • 34. Since very few cases differ from the ones that have just been described, it is worth highlighting these exceptions. For instance, stone plaques and inscriptions are usually integrated in the decoration as well as other elements such as marble washbasins, whose shadows are simulated on the azulejo coverings (see the sacristy of the Church of Coleginho in Lisbon, ascribed to Master P.M.P.). There are other examples in which the azulejo follows or envelops the woodwork, albeit without exceeding its limits (see the Church of Santa Maria in Óbidos, the sacristy of the Shrine of Nossa Senhora da Nazaré in Nazaré, or the Church of Terço in Barcelos). An exceptional case is the Church of Nossa Senhora da Conceição in Beja, where the indented upper frames of the tile covering match the indented lower level of the gilt woodwork. Both interventions were executed in 1741. Cf. Florival Baiôa Monteiro, Azulejaria do Convento de Nossa Senhora da Conceição de Beja (Beja, Portugal: Região de Turismo Planície Dourada, Beja, 2001).

  • 35. The woodwork’s gilding is almost invariably more recent.

  • 36. Cf. the complete study in Vítor Serrão, “As campanhas artísticas da Igreja de Nossa Senhora dos Prazeres (1672–1698),” in A Igreja de Nossa Senhora dos Prazeres em Beja—Arte e história de um espaço barroco (1672–1698) (Lisbon, Portugal: Aletheia Editores, 2007), 27–95.

  • 37. Cf. the complete study in Celso Mangucci, “Francisco da Silva, António de Oliveira Bernardes e Francisco Lopes Mendes na Igreja da Misericórdia em Évora,” Cenáculo—Boletim on line do Museu de Évora 3–18 (2008): 3–18; Celso Mangucci, “Igreja da Santa Casa da Misericórdia de Évora,” in Documentos para a história da Talha dourada e azulejo em Évora (Évora, Portugal: Arquivo Distrital de Évora, 2014), 68–79.

  • 38. The Portuguese word for these specific boards is mesa.

  • 39. Cf. Vítor Serrão, A Capela Dourada de Santarém. Capela dos Terceiros Seculares da Ordem Terceira de S. Francisco (Santarém, Portugal: Santa Casa da Misericórdia de Santarém, 2008), 50–54; Tristão Nunes Infante de Sequeira, António José Lopes Monteiro, and Maria Emília Vaz Pacheco, Livro da fazenda de Tristão Nunes Infante (1692) (Santarém, Portugal: Norberto Infante Pedroso, 2013), 136; Vitor Serrão, “Mecenas e colecções em Portugal na Idade Moderna: dos Castro da Penha Verde aos Basto de Évora, e uma encomenda em Pernambuco,” in Colecções de Arte em Portugal e Brasil nos séculos XIX e XXX. Perfis e trânsitos, eds. Maria João Neto and Marize Malta (Lisbon, Portugal: Caleidoscópio, 2014), 36.

  • 40. For a historical overview of the concept of Gesamtkunstwerk, see Eric Garberson, “Historiography of the Gesamtkunstwerk,” in Struggle for Synthesis: A Obra de Arte Total nos séculos XVII e XVIII/The Total Work of Art in the 17th and 18th Centuries, eds. Luís de Moura Sobral and David W. Booth (Lisbon, Portugal: MC/IPPAR, 1999), 53–72.

  • 41. The concept of Gesamtkunstwerk does not necessarily entail, in every case, a preexisting concetto, as argued in Jarl Kremeier, “The Court Chapel at Würzburg’s Residenz: Creating the Gesamtkunstwerk Step by Step,” in Struggle for Synthesis: A Obra de Arte Total nos séculos XVII e XVIII/The Total Work of Art in the 17th and 18th Centuries, eds. Luís de Moura Sobral and David W. Booth (Lisbon, Portugal: MC/IPPAR, 1999), 195–204.

  • 42. This idea, already mentioned by Flávio Gonçalves, has long been defended by Celso Mangucci; see Flávio Gonçalves, “As obras setecentistas da Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Ajuda de Peniche e o seu enquadramento na Arte Portuguesa da primeira metade do século XVIII,” Boletim Cultural da Assembleia Distrital de Lisbon, Portuga III, no. 89 (1983): 245–270; Mangucci, “Francisco da Silva,” 11; Mangucci, “Nova História, Novas Imagens,” 237–246; Celso Mangucci, “Os arquitectos e a direção das campanhas decorativas com azulejos,” ARTis ON no. 6 (June): 25–31; more recently, Rosário Salema de Carvalho identified another architect of the 17th century, Pero Vaz Pereira, who had total control over the architecture and the decorative campaigns of the Church of Saint Mary of Machede; cf. Celso Mangucci, “Anatomia da Arquitectura da Igreja da Colegiada de Santiago de Évora,” Boletim do Arquivo Distrital de Évora no. 1 (2014): 35.

  • 43. Rosário Salema de Carvalho and Celso Mangucci, “Quem faz o quê: a produção de azulejos na época moderna (séculos XVI a XVIII)” [Who does what: the azulejo production during the Modern Age (16th to 18th centuries)], ARTis ON Special Issue—AzLab 33 Quem faz o quê: processos criativos em azulejo no. 6 (2018): 8–24.

  • 44. Gonçalves, “As obras setecentistas,” 10.

  • 45. The names of the participants remain unknown, but the documents mention the mason João Mateus (and his associates) and the tiler Manuel da Silva, to whom were commissioned, respectively, the restructuring of the church and the tile decorations; cf. Gonçalves, “As obras setecentistas,” 13; Miguel Portela, “Manuel da Silva: mestre dos azulejos da Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Ajuda de Peniche,” O Figueiroense no. 24 (2016): 8–9.

  • 46. The Portuguese word visitador, when used in a religious context, refers to someone (the archbishop, for instance) who visits a church, a chapel, or a convent and inspects its contents (books, objects of worship, etc.), its liturgical practices, and so on.

  • 47. See, e.g., Gabriel del Barco or Raimundo do Couto, both positively identified as tile and ceiling painters; Carvalho, “A pintura do azulejo em Portugal”; this only occurred in the chapel of the Ramada Estate (Loures), where Bernardes painted the azulejos and the ceiling (between 1686 and 1699) and in the old Convent of Nossa Senhora da Conceição (Luz), in Carnide (Lisbon), where he painted the tile decoration (1708–1709) and the ceilings of the sanctuary and the nave (1709–1710). These examples are joined by that of the Church of Misericórdia, in Viana do Castelo (1719–1721), where the decoration of the nave is ascribed by some scholars to the same painter, although the signature of his son, Policarpo de Oliveira Bernardes, was found in the sanctuary. The canvas decorating the main altar is signed by António de Oliveira Bernardes; cf. Vítor Serrão, “A actividade artística de António de Oliveira Bernardes na Igreja da Conceição da Luz: um exemplo de Cripto-História de Arte,” in A Herança de Santos Simões. Novas Perspectivas para o Estudo da Azulejaria e da Cerâmica, ed. Susana Varela Flor (Lisbon, Portugal: Edições Colibri, 2014), 465–466; and Pedro Raimundo, “A originalidade do Barroco português,” Jornal Voz das Misericórdias no. 270 (October 2008): 12–13.

  • 48. This idea has already been proposed by Celso Mangucci when writing about Évora’s Church of Misericórdia. He mentions “the existence of a consensus surrounding a general model, of which artists are highly regarded interpreters.” This view is further supported by the fact that many artists collaborated in several different works. See Mangucci, “Francisco da Silva, António de Oliveira Bernardes,” 10.

  • 49. Resorting to databases with a wide scope, such as Az Infinitum—Azulejo Indexation and Referencing System, ARTIS—Institute of Art History, School of Arts and Humanities, University of Lisbon, Az; and K. Bender, “Distant Viewing in Art History: A Case Study of Artistic Productivity,” International Journal for Digital Art History no. 1 (June 2015): 99–110.

  • 50. Robert Smith, “French Models for Portuguese Tiles,” Apollo no. 134 (1973): 396–407; and Simões and Câmara, Azulejaria em Portugal no século XVIII.

  • 51. Respectively, José Meco, “Algumas fontes flamengas do azulejo português: Otto Van Veen, Rubens,” Azulejo 3–7 (1995–1999): 23–60; and Serrão, “As campanhas artísticas,” 27–95.

  • 52. Ana Paula Rebelo Correia, “Contribuição para o estudo das fontes de inspiração dos azulejos figurativos da Quinta da Bacalhoa,” Azulejo 2 (1992): 9–19; Ana Paula Rebelo Correia, “Palácios, Azulejos e Metamorfoses,” Oceanos. Azulejos Portugal e Brasil 36–37 (1999): 179–210; Ana Paula Rebelo Correia, “As Metamorfoses de Ovídio na azulejaria barroca portuguesa,” in Ovídio: Exílio e Poesia. Actas do Colóquio no Bimilenário da “Relegatio”, eds. Aires A. Nascimento, Maria Cristina C. M. S. Pimentel (Lisbon, Portugal: Centro de Estudos Clássicos, 2008), 127–158; and Ana Paula Rebelo Correia, “Histoires et Mémoire de la Gravure Européenne. Azulejos Baroques à sujet mythologique dans l’architecture civile de Lisbonne. Iconographie et sources d’inspiration” (PhD diss., Université Catholique de Louvain, 2005).

  • 53. Carvalho, “A pintura do azulejo em Portugal”; Diana Gonçalves dos Santos, “Azulejaria de fabrico coimbrão (1699–1801): artífices e artistas, cronologia, iconografia” (PhD diss., Oporto Univeristy, 2013).

  • 54. Painters sometimes took or added figures (even from different prints) and modified the backgrounds. The scale was always readjusted.

  • 55. An idea that must be considered with caution, since the painters constructed their images based on others that were often profoundly altered, both in form and content, as shown here; see the previous note on Ana Paula Rebelo Correia’s work, as well as Simões and Câmara, Azulejaria em Portugal no século XVIII, 47 (note signed by Patrícia Roque de Almeida).

  • 56. On this issue, see Simões and Câmara, Azulejaria em Portugal no século XVIII, 48 (note signed by Patrícia Roque de Almeida); and, more recently, Celso Mangucci, A iconografia de São Lourenço Justiniano nos azulejos dos conventos Lóios de Évora e Arraiolos (Évora, Portugal: Centro de História da Arte e Investigação Artística da Universidade de Évora, 2013); Celso Mangucci, “Sob o império da retórica: os programas iconográficos de São Tiago e São Mamede de Évora,” Invenire 8 (2014): 44–55; and Carvalho, A Igreja de São Victor.

  • 57. The German notion of Gesamtkunstwerk, usually translated as total work of art, as well as the Italian notion of belcomposto, associated with Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598–1680), are two concepts usually evoked in historiography when referring to the interaction between different art forms. This kind of interaction is typical of Portuguese Baroque art, especially during the reign of King Pedro II (and the first years of the reign of King João V).

  • 58. Gonçalves, “As obras setecentistas”; Sobral, “Un bel composto,” 305; Vítor Serrão, “Os programas imagéticos na arte barroca portuguesa: a influência dos modelos de Lisboa e a sua repercussão nos espaços luso-brasileiros,” Boletim Cultural da Assembleia Distrital de Lisboa 4, no. 95 (2009): 149–186.

  • 59. Which also reflects the issues faced today by iconographic studies.

  • 60. Rosário Salema de Carvalho has conducted some research in this field; cf. Rosário Salema de Carvalho, “Por amor de Deus: representação das obras de misericórdia, em painéis de azulejo, nos espaços das confrarias da Misericórdia, no Portugal setecentista” (master’s thesis, Faculdade de Letras, Universidade de Lisbon, Portugal, 2007); and Carvalho, “A pintura do azulejo,” 560–565.

  • 61. Simões and Câmara, A azulejaria em Portugal no século XVIII; João Miguel dos Santos Simões, Azulejaria portuguesa nos Açores e na Madeira (Lisbon, Portugal: Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, 1963); and Carvalho, “A pintura do azulejo.”

  • 62. Az Infinitum—Azulejo Indexation and Referencing System.