The Collections of the Ajuda National Palace
The sculpture collection of the Ajuda National Palace embodies about four hundred artworks mostly carved between the first half of the 19th century and the 2nd decade of the 20th century.
Holdings bring together works in marble, bronze, wood, ivory and plaster, representing the Italian, the Portuguese and the French schools.
The displayed sculptural values relate to a 19th century pattern, ranging from neoclassicism to romanticism, naturalism and realism, with touches of modernism.
The glass collection of the Ajuda National Palace covers decorative and functional objects from the 18th century to the early 20th century. It is composed of items of diverse typology, garnished by heraldic elements and multi-style ornamentation illustrating the then prevailing trends, among which the Germanic, the Islamist, or the «façon de Venise». Holdings originate from the leading European glassware manufacture and trade centres, such as Bohemia (Moser), Italy (The Venice Company / Murano, Salviati, Fratelli Toso and M.Q. Testolini), France (Baccarat, Daum, Gallé, The Nanacy School), Spain (La Granja and the Catalunha area), Austria (J&L Lobmeyr), England (Thomas Webb & Sons), Germany and Portugal.
GOLD AND SILVER COLLECTION
The gold and silver collection is mostly composed of civil goldsmithery items and pieces of varied provenance, which were predominantly manufactured in Portuguese and European workshops, their production ranging from the 14th century to the early 20th century. Along the museological circuit mostly 19th century functional and decorative objects are on display, following a historic criterium of restoration of late 19th century ambiences. For safety and conservation reasons the display plate items and the jewellery collection are kept on reserve, their display being confined to temporary exhibitions and specific publications.
The Painting Collection of the Ajuda National Palace may be divided into two core ensembles. One originates in the collections of the Royal Household, with artworks from the 16th to the 19th century, representative of the various European schools. The second one covers pieces offered by European courts and institutions, by individuals, purchased by the monarchs or made by the Royal Family since 1862.
Most of this collection was once gathered at the D. Luís Painting Gallery, in the National Palace of Ajuda, open to the public between 1869 and 1875.
Works by authors such as the Italian Moroni and Guercino or the Portuguese Anunciação and Malhôa are also on display in the Museum rooms.
This ensemble further embodies a significant set of watercolours, among which those painted by the Royal Family's teacher Enrique Casanova, may be highlighted, representing a unique source for the ongoing historical reconstitution of the rooms.
The engraving collection of the Ajuda Palace, generated between the second half of the 18th century and the late 19th century, is formed from works belonging to the Portuguese Royal Household, donations and acquisitions.
The ensemble highlights the artistic trends of the German, English, Italian and Portuguese schools. It features lithographies, etchings and oil engravings of manifold themes – portraits, urban and rural scenes, popular figures, saints and plants – of acknowledged iconographic, artistic and historic value to the study of that period.
Porcelain plays an outstanding role in the decorative arts displayed at the Ajuda National Palace, whose ensemble embodies other categories of ceramic, such as faience and soft paste porcelain, and stoneware. Of European or Eastern provenance, used either in utilitarian or in decorative ware, porcelain was a prominent feature in the Royal Household's day-to-day life.
Representative of the stylistic trends and technical novelties of the 18 hundreds, the ceramics collection covers pieces from the 16th century to the early 20th century. It features Crown pieces, mainly Chinese export porcelain, diplomatic gifts and European ceramics, mostly German and French, purchased from the very best suppliers.
Witness to the Queen's time and taste, the Saxe Room displays an abundance of porcelain from the Meissen factory, ranging from furniture to figurines, an unquestionable resonance of the porcelain rooms of the 17 hundreds.
The textile collection of the Ajuda National Palace is drawn from property of the old Portuguese Royal Household. This set of exhibits is composed of 17th and 18th century works of art as well as a manifold set of artefacts connected with the Royal Family's daily life over the 2nd half of the 18 hundreds. Among the former we may point out the collections of French, Flemish and Spanish tapestries from the 17 hundreds as well as 17th century Chinese portieres – a Portuguese commission – confiscated by the Crown to the Távora family. The second ensemble chiefly displays the Royal Family's military uniforms as well as a few of their pieces of civilian clothing, liturgical textiles, linen cloths and the objects that decorate the Palace rooms to our days: curtains, carpets, wall linings, etc.
Gathered by the Royal Household during the 2nd half of the 19th century, the furniture ensemble of the Ajuda Palace is nowadays, much as it was before, a mirror of related European collections. Unceasingly enriched in a prosperous era, when copy reached its peak, this collection bears witness to the then ruling eclecticism: several European styles blended with oriental, exotic and naturalistic influences. A fondness for contrasts, combined with a demand for comfort and functionality in all pieces of furniture, stands out in this collection by Portuguese and foreign authors, among which Leandro Braga, Sormani, Lelarge, I. Lebas, C. Chevigny, Giroux, Quignon, Boudet, M. Krieger and Escalier de Cristal may be highlighted. About 80% of the collection is displayed in ambiences created by the Royal Family, whose lay out is backed by historic criteria.
The metalwork collection gathers a broad, heterogenous ensemble of a functional, decorative nature, covering/encompassing both strictly household-oriented objects and ornamental items of great refinement and technical quality. The pieces are made out of bronze or brass alloys, but metals such as copper, iron or steel are also used, among others. They are frequently alloyed with other materials, such as enamels, hard stones or even gold and silver. This collection mainly displays pieces of the 18 hundreds, among which French decorative bronzes may be highlighted. It is representative of historic revivals as well as the influence of Orientalism in Decorative Arts, also witnessing to a growing industrialisation of metal-working craftsmanship in the 19th century.
EQUIPMENT AND UTILITIES COLLECTION
This collection harboured by the Ajuda National Palace covers a wide variety of decorative and functional objects, dating back mainly to the 19th century. Artefacts that were part of the rich room decoration prevailing in that period, such as game or snuff boxes; table set cases, jewellery, sowing and shaving sets; fire tools, among others. A few pieces bear King Luis and Queen Maria Pia's royal arms or monogram and were either offered as gifts by monarchs and significant figures of that time or purchased in specialized shops in Portugal and around Europe.
The drawing collection of the Ajuda National Palace is composed of over 400 works mostly made by members of the Royal Family – Luís, Maria Pia, Carlos, Afonso and Amélia. Those belonging to Queen Maria Pia's note albums put together during the trips she made through the country, are particularly interesting.
On display are yet a few other works by other artists, such as Royal Family teachers António Manuel da Fonseca and Enrique Casanova, mostly sketches for later oil paintings.
Due to the variety of authors and genres it covers, it is an emblematic collection whose itinerary makes it possible to outline the history of photography. It covers a wide range of typologies, from the albuminen process to the cyanotype, the daguerreotype, photoengraving, miniatures, glass plates, painted and enlarged items, albums, etc., in countless shapes and types of mounting material – cardboard, porcelain, cloth and enamel, among others.
Three hundred photographers were identified among the c. 12.000 collection exhibits, though most of these are unsigned. In Portugal, A. Fillon, A. Bobone, Novaes, Camacho, C. Relvas, Cifka, E. Biel, F. A. Gomes, Fritz, H. Nunes may be pointed out, along with several members of the Royal Family. As to foreign authors, Nadar, Disdéri, Chanaz, Le Lieure, J. Laurent, Montabone, Numa Blanc, M. Balde, Otto and Reutlinger are worth mentioning, among many others.
06 December 2009
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