“The character of the people who produce it is reflected in ceramics...
… in its forms is the poetry of each nationality, in the color the different aspects of each country.” (José Queirós, Portuguese Ceramics)
It is impossible to think about Portuguese traditions without thinking about ceramics. This, which is the oldest of the industries, has been accompanying humanity since its inception, from tiles, porcelain, earthenware, stoneware, and vases, this is one of the most versatile materials.
Despite having been used very early in Portugal to make vases and pots, pottery as we know it today arrived in Portugal from Spain, influenced by the Arab presence in the Iberian Peninsula. So, the tiles started to be used – al zulej, “slippery and shiny stone” – with neutral colors and Arabic patterns. It was only in the 16th century that stronger colors and more delicate paintings began to be used, with the creation of metallic enamels.
With the return of Portuguese navigators from China, in the 17th century, porcelain painted in blue and white appeared, becoming the traditional colors of the ceramic industry. The Baroque period brought the custom of portraying images and stories on tiles in order to immortalize important scenes in history, widely used in churches and convents.
Currently, the largest Portuguese tile brand is called Viúva Lamego and has been present in the country since 1849. More than producing tiles, it produces architectural works.
In the 20th century, Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro made his mark in this industry, being recognized as one of the great names of Portuguese and world ceramics. To this day, it is a brand valued for its richness of detail and its naturalistic style.
In 1824, Vista Alegre, the most internationally known Portuguese tableware brand, was born. The crockery of this brand is officially used in royal and official houses all over the world, from the Portuguese Presidency, to the White House and Buckingham Palace. Vista Alegre is thus one of the most renowned and emblematic brands in our country, with its factory being the oldest in the Iberian Peninsula.