The Entalados of the 1950s Lisbon
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The entalados of the 1950s Lisbon are sculptural elements that were present in the decorative stonemasonry of the new buildings from the second expansion of Avenidas Novas.
In order to enrich these new rental buildings, small spaces were left on the façades, usually on the top or side of the main doors, to be decorated.
The aesthetic options of the time were, predominantly, sculptures or reliefs of figurative character.
Did you know that these decorative works were a response to an imposition of the city’s urbanisation plan?
But what’s the origin of the entalados of the 1950s Lisbon? Where can we find them? What are the predominant themes and what is its meaning?
We’ll try to answer these and other curious questions throughout this article.
Origin of the Name Entalados
It was in 1969, in the book Lisboa em Transformação (Lisbon in Transformation) that the architect Keil do Amaral (1910-1975) criticised the high valuation of properties, due to the presence of sculptures that he considered strange and that had proliferated, in Lisbon, years before as an epidemic.
These were criticised for often having dubious quality and always being framed in a conventional academic aesthetic. And they were even mocked by the proposal to create a “Protective Association of Lisbon and of the Stuck Women between the Doors and Balconies”.
In fact, there are so many female figures leaning back to fit in the small space that was intended for them that the term became popular and took shape in the masculine, entalados (stuck). This term started to designate all these decorations, whether or not they represent women.
The Entalados of the 1950s Lisbon
After having found, registered and analysed more than 100 entalados and aware that we are far from having carried out an exhaustive collection, we can nevertheless draw some conclusions with regard to its preferred location, status and the topics they address.
With regard to locations, we can say that the highest concentrations are evident, as expected, in Avenidas Novas and neighbourhoods built in the 40s and 50s in rental buildings for the middle/upper class and also in some new buildings in older neighbourhoods.
These latter ones are the cases of Campo de Ourique, Campolide or Benfica where there are entalados but in much smaller quantities.
Thus, if you want to see the entalados of the 1950s Lisbon you’ll have to visit João V Avenue and its surroundings, the area of Arco do Cego and Alameda D. Afonso Henriques, Almirante Reis Avenue, the Colónias Neighbourhood…
But the greatest concentration in number and quality is found in Roma Avenue and surrounding areas.
These decorations responded to a provision of the urbanisation and expansion plan of the city that required new buildings that exceeded a certain value to have a decorative element on its façade.
Very tight norms conditioned the location and size of these decorations. Thus, the architects would leave the free spaces for this purpose and it was the civil builder who’d be in charge of hiring artists of different statuses according to the available budget, to execute the pieces.
These are mostly sculptural elements although there are some examples of polychrome ceramics, in tiles or ceramic tile, on which we’ll focus in due course.
Many of these sculptural elements weren’t carved in stone, which would at least give them the character of a unique piece. It is not uncommon to find white or colourful painted cement pieces, which at a distance don’t allow us to ascertain, with certainty, what material they’re made of.
This molding process and type of material allow not only to make the piece cheaper, but also to make several copies to which, in general, they would make sure to add or subtract elements so that they wouldn’t look the exact same.
Thus, we can say that creativity isn’t a notable feature of these creations, which is surprising since the sculptors actually had the freedom to be creative to a certain degree, taking into account the strict control of public powers at the time.
For all these reasons, its quality is very variable and its status ambiguous because they can’t be considered pieces of full sculpture nor simple artistic stonework.
Themes of the Entalados of the 1950s Lisbon
If we look at the decorations in the avenues Sidónio Pais and António Augusto de Aguiar that we’ve seen in The Português Suave Architectural Style in the 1940s Lisbon, created by renowned artists such as the sculptor Leopoldo de Almeida, we can verify that the entalados of the following decade are limited to repeating the themes found there, as if they were a catalog.
In the entalados of the 1950s Lisbon we find a balanced number of representations of fish, caravels, doves, flowers with ears and men. But as for the number of women, we see that its number grows to about five times more.
Men are represented with strong and angular lines, muscular as Greek heroes, almost always in direct relationship with the world of work or in the role of father.
Women, on the other hand, always appear half-naked, leaning back in a peaceful and languid attitude, holding doves, boats, apples … or impersonating allegories.
These representations convey the vision of the role of women in a conservative society. On the one hand, her beauty and sensuality is exalted through nudity, the tempting apple and the representation of mermaids with their seductive and destructive character. On the other hand, the ideal of chastity and passivity is symbolised in the presence of the dove or, not infrequently, in the role of mother.
Perhaps the entalados that best summarise this are two discreet coloured reliefs that we found in a building in Rua da Horta, in Príncipe Real.
These examples created by the sculptor Soares Branco and dated 1956 represent, in one case, a woman and a child protected under the same pink cloak, and in another, a more complex composition that refers to the creation of the woman. From a phylactery appears the hand of God where a naked woman is sitting beside the tree of Paradise and surrounding all elements are the wings of a stylised dove. The outcome of this story is known to all!
Highlighting Two Sculptors: Soares Branco and José Farinha
Some of the entalados of the 1950s Lisbon were signed.
We find, for example, in Andaluz Square, two reliefs in a corner building by Euclides Vaz. Or in Duque de Loulé Avenue and Rua da Infantaria no. 16, two elegant female figures carved by Stela Albuquerque.
But the pieces that stand out in number are, without a doubt, by two artists of very different statuses: Soares Branco and José Farinha.
Soares Branco (1925-2013), disciple of Leopoldo de Almeida, was for many decades a prestigious professor at the Fine Art Academy and author of pieces such as: Vento Garroa in Eduardo VII Park (which we believe is the origin of the women with boats that are very often represented in entalados), Santo António in Santo António da Sé Square, or Monument of Sá Carneiro in Areeiro Square.
This sculptor produced many entalados, we dare say, the most interesting ones. These are the cases, among many others, of the most emblematic women that can be seen at numbers 103 and 105 of Roma Avenue and the only one that we observed of an abstract character in Marconi Avenue.
José Farinha (1912-1979) is the paradigmatic case of a self-taught sculptor, who wasn’t allowed to attend higher education in art due to his physical condition, a disease that affected him in his childhood.
However, he was the author of countless sculptures, medals and coins, he worked with the architect Pardal Monteiro and today his name is part of the toponymy of Lisbon.
He created countless entalados spread throughout the city, which were more elaborate productions that represent women or smaller elements such as doves and flowers.
In this sculptor, we can observe as differentiating elements the delicate rounded shapes and, often, the introduction of small stars that constitute, as it were, the signature of the author.
The entalados of the 1950s Lisbon are not exactly art pieces but they’ve marked the city and today they’re part of its character.
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