Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Azulejo, or tiles to go before I sleep

These are all azulejo, or hand-painted, tin-glazed tilework, and the Portuguese have been making the stuff for five hundred years.

(Photos by your
 humble blogkeeper)
Today it's everywhere: on the exteriors of the humblest houses and the grandest pubic and private buildings, in museums and metro stations and souvenir shops. Azulejos are applied art, they're decorative art, and contemporary artists have turned them into fine art. There's even a National Museum of Azulejo in Lisbon, and it's very much worth a visit. No need to look for azulejos if you visit Portugal; they'll find you.

Azul is the Portuguese word for blue, and when I first heard of azulejos, I thought of Delft blue tiles, and I figured the Portuguese must have learned the art from the Dutch.

Nope. it transpires that azulejo is from the Arabic al-zuleijah, which means tilework. The Portuguese learned the art from the Moors, though they eventually did produce examples in the Dutch style.

And now, goodnight.

© Peter Rozovsky 2011

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14 Comments:

Blogger seana said...

Very nice. And I of course liked the mistaken etymology.

November 29, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana, I knew you would like that. I was going to apologize in the post for trespassing on your territory.

I'd like to call it a folk etymology except that I don't know if anyone but me has ever made that mistake.

November 29, 2011  
Blogger seana said...

Hey, ain't you folk?

The realm of error is public domain, by the way. I think there's room for everyone.

November 30, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I'm just folks, but it takes more than one person to make music or anything else "folk." If a nation or a tribe or a city or village goes around telling a fanciful tale, it's folklore. If just one person tells it, he's what anthropologists call a "bullshitter," an "eejit," or a "nut."

November 30, 2011  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Peter

Dont know if this a problem at my end or with blogger but my comments on this and the bookshop have been eaten.

November 30, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Well, that sucks. I shall investigate. Your complaint appeared. at least.

November 30, 2011  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Peter

I'll just summarise my bookshop comment then: I'm sure you and Guinness are right but the Cambridge University Bookshop operates on a site on Trinity Street which has continuously sold books since the 1580s. Yes its had several names and incarnations but there has been a bookshop on that site for 430 years.

November 30, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I wonder what criteria the Guinness folks used. Is or was it formally affiliated with the university and thus perhaps not a commercial enterprise?

November 30, 2011  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Peter

I suspect continuity is important.

Significantly the oldest pub in Cambridge is at least 100 years older than the bookshop which shows that the students had their priorities right even back in the 1500s.

November 30, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Stephen Leacock wrote that if he were starting a university, he would set up (I forget the details) a pub, living quarters, a good place to smoke and, if he had any money left over, hire some professors.

November 30, 2011  
Blogger seana said...

I often felt in college that I'd be happy to keep the professors, but I could do without the other students.

This was Santa Cruz, post sixties, and expression was encouraged. Sometimes the more vocal students were interesting, but more often they were not. Or they were "interesting", but not in the way that added a lot to the discussion.

In one class, I remember being treated to a perfectly earnest discussion of the book of Urantia. Of course we were all sitting out on a hillside, looking at the Pacific Ocean in the background, so it wasn't all bad.

November 30, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Hmm, maybe Leacock said that if he had extra money, he'd put up a library and some classroom buildings.

December 01, 2011  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

If you want to read a bit about the investigation and conservation of azulejo, you might like to visit [shameless advertisement] AATA Online.

December 09, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I'll be intersted in all things azulejo for a while, so I may take a look. Thanks.

I even brought home two small samples of azulejo that I bought in a crafts shop.

December 10, 2011  

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