Bringing Water to the Table

There are centuries of history behind the Portuguese expression “set the table”. A linguistic reflection is enough to understand it doesn’t make sense to “set” a table if there is one already there. The reason for the expression is actually centuries old. In the absence of tables in rooms, royal attendants would set boards on top of supports and “set the table”, which would then be removed after the meal. Today, we don’t have to “set” the table, but we have to enhance it, decorate it and make it a welcoming space in the house, since this is where the meals are taken. When it comes to choosing the best tableware, there are naturally different tastes and preferences. But we’ll come back to table decoration later.

Water can bring a wide range of delicacies. Sea fish, river fish, seafood: there is no shortage of choice. But that’s not all. The depths of the sea and the beauty of rivers can be an inspiration for various arts.

In addition to the iconic sardine, Bordallo Pinheiro brings many pieces from the water that have become a hallmark of his work. From sardines to cod, from frogs to clams and cockles, there are plenty of aquatic references in Bordallo’s ceramics. References that can be the perfect choice for your dining table.

The master ceramic artist

Raphael Bordallo Pinheiro is one of the most important figures in 19th-century Portuguese culture, particularly in the areas of humorous drawings, caricatures and ceramics. His work is indeed a central figure in the political, social, cultural and ideological study of his day.

Raphael developed a taste for the arts at an early age, and even attended the school of fine arts. As a theatre enthusiast, it was there that he started publishing his humorous newspapers, achieving great success with some of them, which became valuable documents due to the artistic quality of his drawings, as well as interpretations of the political and social events of the time.

In 1884 he began his ceramic production at the Faianças Factory in Caldas, creating pieces of great technical skill, artistic quality and creativity, including tiles, panels, pots, centrepieces, bust vases, fountain washbasins, jugs, plates, perfume burners, vases and oversized animals, and more.

Most notable are the figures of Zé Povinho, Maria da Paciência, the Caldas caregiver, the policeman, the snuff-taking priest, the sacristan with an incense burner in hand and many others. He held exhibitions in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, where he presented the majestic Beethoven Jar, a piece measuring 2.60 metres in height, as a symbol of the artist’s exuberance and talent.

Bordallo also boldly modelled characters from Portuguese daily life with a remarkable critical sense, and in his tiles he created patterns with influences as vast and diverse as naturalism, renaissance, art nouveau and the Hispanic-Arab legacy.

His remarkable work in ceramics earned him gold medals at international exhibitions in Madrid, Antwerp, Paris and St Louis in the United States.

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