November 14, 2018 getLISBON 0Comment

The rare exemplars of Italian mosaic in the streets of Lisbon can be considered a hidden treasure in plain sight.

The mosaics that we’re talking about today date back to late 1800s, beginning of the 1900s. They result from an eclectic revivalist taste characteristic of the romantic movement of this period.

Other mosaics of identical quality can probably be appreciated inside mansions, but the ones we’ve found in public spaces are the ones we want to reveal to you.

Brief Approach to Artistic Mosaics

Mosaics are decorative coatings of movable and fixed surfaces used indoors or outdoors, composed by small colourful pieces that juxtaposed form a drawing more or less detailed. The pieces or tesserae can be of different materials: clay, stone, glass, vitreous enamel, among others.

The origin of this artistic form of expression is probably Mesopotamia, but was widely spread across the vast Roman Imperium. There are countless exemplars of panels and pavements of roman mosaic a bit all over Europe and the North of Africa.

Later on, the art of the mosaic became the main form of expression of the first Christians, being the grandiose works of the Byzantine churches famous.

Throughout the time, the mosaic started being replaced by paintings, falling into decline from the Renaissance.

However, in the Baroque period the decorative arts gained new strength and we even dare to say that the most elaborate and perfect mosaic projects are from this period.

This is the case of the magnificent Italian mosaics of the 18th century of the São João Baptista Chapel, in the São Roque Church, in Lisbon.

In the 19th century the eclectic and revivalist taste recovered this art, just like the case of the rare exemplars of Italian mosaic in the streets of Lisbon that we bring to you.

Italian Mosaic in the Streets of Lisbon

In order to find this decorative art you need to walk a bit through this city of the Seven Hills. The exemplars are few but are spread between the Santana Hill, the Avenida da Liberdade, Campo de Ourique and the Avenidas Novas. These are privileged zones when it comes to rich buildings decoration-wise, from the late 19th century and beginning of the 20th century.

Small Palace Virtus, Rua de Júlio de Andrade

Italian mosaic of the Small Palace Virtus, Rua de Júlio de Andrade, Lisboa
Italian mosaic of the Small Palace Virtus, Rua de Júlio de Andrade

In Rua de Júlio de Andrade, no.5 we can find the small palace Virtus, a construction of eclectic taste projected by the Italian architect César Janz.

This architect came to Portugal in the late 80’s of the 19th century, recruited through an international contest, whose aim was to fight the lack of qualified teachers for the Industrial and Commercial Technical Education that was being developed.

The small palace was built for the residence of Júlio Andrade, a rich banker of Lisbon. In a classic style, it later suffered new transformations by the architect Norte Júnior.

Between two windows, there is a round arched niche with a big panel constituted by Italian mosaic.

We can see a barefoot feminine figure represented over a golden background, surrounded by flowers and dressed in Greek clothing. Armed with bow and arrows, she presents the attributes usually associated to the Greek goddess Artemis, or to Diana, the roman goddess of the hunt. In her left hand she holds a bunch of grapes and in her right a glass of wine. This representation reminds us of a welcoming figure that exalts the fertility of nature.

Lambertini House, Avenida da Liberdade, no. 166

Italian mosaic of the Lambertini House, Avenida da Liberdade, Lisbon
Italian mosaic of the Lambertini House, Avenida da Liberdade

The no. 166in Avenida da Liberdade corresponds to the Lambertini House, property of Michel’Angelo Lambertini (1862-1920), an important pianist, maestro, composer, musicologist, editor and merchant of musical instruments.

It is a building projected in 1901 by the Venetian architect Nicola Bigaglia (1841-1908). We are once again before an Italian architect, recruited in 1888 by the Portuguese government as a teacher.

This architect developed countless projects in Lisbon, having won important prizes, from which we highlight the Valmor Prize of 1902 (Valmor Prize – established in1898 according to the testament left by the 2nd Viscount of Valmor to reward the architectural quality of the new buildings built in the city of Lisbon) with the Lima Mayer Palace, and an honourable mention of the same prize of 1904 with this project that we’re talking about.

The construction of this building had a big impact in Lisbon, being appreciated and mentioned in publications of the media of the epoch.

This building of eclectic taste, in a neovenetian style, displays in its façade mosaics especially imported from Venice.

Over a golden background, an ivy border, symbol of permanency, circles two cartouches suspended by blue ribbons and bows where the expressions DOMUS QVIETA/FACULTAS CERTA, that is Tranquil House/Prosperity inscribed. Next to the cartouches, white roses and pomegranates that symbolise purity and fertility respectively, complete the composition and the idea.

Although it suffered important alterations in 1927 and 1939, with the addition of one more floor, the exterior of the building hasn’t lost its character and the mosaics are well preserved.

Tomb of the Franco Mantero Family, Prazeres Cemetery

Tomb of the Franco Mantero Family, Prazeres Cemetery, Lisbon
Tomb of the Franco Mantero Family

In order to amaze yourself with the best of these exemplars of Italian mosaic in the streets of Lisbon that we’re sharing with you, you have to go to the Prazeres Cemetery in Campo de Ourique and look for the tomb no. 4920 of the Franco Mantero family.

Francisco Mantero (1853-1928) born in Spain, with roots from Genova, was an owner and explorer of big rural properties in São Tomé, Angola, Mozambique and Timor. In 1916 he started living permanently in Lisbon, where he died.

His family tomb, also from the authorship of the architect Nicola Bigaglia, is one of the most beautiful ones in the Prazeres Cemetery. This revivalist neo-byzantine construction catches our attention for its big dimension and for the colourful and impressive mosaic that we can observe in the main façade above the door. The composition occupies the entire tympanum, representing a portrait of Christ inserted in a circular cartouche, surrounded by white lilies over a golden background.

Italian mosaic of the tomb of the Franco Mantero Family, Prazeres Cemetery, Lisbon
Italian mosaic of the tomb of the Franco Mantero Family, Prazeres Cemetery

António Bravo House, Av. 5 de Outubro, no. 209

António Bravo House, Avenida 5 de Outubro, Lisbon
António Bravo House, Avenida 5 de Outubro

From the authorship of Porfírio Pardal Monteiro (1897-1957), one of the architects that marked the city of Lisbon in the 1st half of the 20th century, we can find in the Avenida 5 de Outubro a magnificent single-family house that displays in its mainfaçade, three identical panels of colourful mosaics.

Projected in1926 and rewarded with the Valmor Prize of 1929, it consists of an innovative proposal in Art Deco style. In this project is highlighted the volumetric balance and harmony of the shapes and decorative elements.

The Art Deco movement marks the shift of the traditional constructive processes to the modern architecture. But if it aesthetically approaches this by proposing straight lines and simplicity in forms, it still maintains the taste for decoration and the use of traditional practices of know-how.

The mosaic panels present colourful multilobed frames with representations of red roses and green leaves over a golden background. We don’t know the origin of the execution of these panels but, and although its date and aesthetics are from later on, by the colouring and the use of irregular tesserae, we think that itis similar to the previous examples and we couldn’t not mention them in this context.

Mosaic of the António Bravo House, Avenida 5 de Outubro, Lisbon
Mosaic of the António Bravo House, Avenida 5 de Outubro

Curiosity

The use of noble woods, crafted stucco, marble coatings or mosaic tiles wasn’t for everyone’s wallet. But taste and creativity have always overcome this difficulty.
The technique of Trompe-l’oeil is old and when executed by quality artists sometimes leads us to embarrassing mistakes. Who hasn’t been confronted with a marble wall that after all is just lime, or a painted ceiling that can be mistaken for a magnificent stucco work?
This is an old artistic technique but that was very used and perfected in the Baroque period. It consists of creating optical illusions though perspective tricks using the sensation of depth and openness of space, reproduction of architectonic elements like doors and windows, or even the imitation of different materials.
These illusory techniques were common in churches, mansions, buildings for renting or shops.
When it comes to the simulation of mosaic we found a very curious one. It is a painting in glass in a shop window in Rua Garrett, in the heart of Chiado
Do you know any others?
Share with us your findings 😉
A painting in glass simulating Italian mosaic, in a shop window in Rua Garrett, in the heart of Chiado
A painting in glass simulating Italian mosaic

We hope you liked our approach to the Italian mosaic in the streets of Lisbon, the city that getLISBON wishes to continue revealing to you.

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