Azulejos I~


Portugal’s iconic blue and white hand painted tiles are called azulejos.

Arabs brought the art of tile making to Portugal, and to Spain, along with the artistic tradition of “horror vacui,” the disdain for empty or plain spaces. The result of this Islamic Arabic artistic influence can be seen in the stunningly creative tile work covering the empty spaces of both Spain and Portugal.

The first classic blue and white tiles were made in Portugal in the 1500’s.

By the 17th century, yellow was added to create the stunning blue, white and yellow combination.


Purple and green were added next, along with geometric designs. (See Azulejos II for more of these multi-colored tiles.)


In the 18th century a formal tile making school opened in Lisbon.

The proliferation of historic tile work throughout Portugal creates a unique and distinctively Portuguese visual experience.

Cheers to you from Portugal’s beautiful azulejos~

http://www.the-art-minute.com/just-a-second-horror-vacui/

150 thoughts on “Azulejos I~

  1. Hi Cindy, since I just recently discovered my Iberian Peninsula roots via Ancestry.com, your lovely blogs are timely! I was not factually aware of this part of my heritage until now. When I visited Venice, I was so taken with the Arabic architecture and I adore mosaics. How wonderful to see such beauty associated with the home of some of my ancestors. thank you!

    hugs, Linda

  2. I love the early blue/white and added yellow… later centuries seem almost mandela-like (though the earlier symmetry remains). Was there ever Hindu/Buddhist influence in Portugal?

    • That is an interesting question to which I don’t know the answer. Portugal was an incredibly advanced sailing and exploring culture back throughout much of it’s history, and of course sailing and exploring would expose Portugal to diverse cultures, religions and art. Islamic and Buddhist and Hindu art definitely influenced each other, and the Arabs occupied Portugal for a long period, so my guess would be yes, but I can find no references to this in a quick online search. Maybe an expert will weigh in here and answer this interesting question for both of us!

      • Hi Cindy! I don’t think we have direct Hindu influences, although I’m not na expert, but we were in the XVth century in India, so it’s possible that some influence could come. About tha arabs, yes, they came to Iberian Peninsula in 711 and remained in the south of Portugal until middle of 1200. Your photos are wonderful, thank you for sharing one of our most genuine things of our culture!

  3. Beautiful. It reminds me a little of the delft tiles of the Netherlands, which were all over our house when I was growing up. The Portuguese murals are beautiful and the building is stunning.

  4. I learn something every time you post, Cindy — thank you! This is such beautiful tile work, especially the third photo of the white building.

  5. This is stunning, Cindy. ‘Horror vacui’ – what a terrific term. I’ve made note of this. Surely I can reference this in my writing somewhere! I believe this describes some houses in the neighborhood completely devoid of landscaping, color or any interest whatsoever!

    Beautiful photos. Interesting commentary. Thanks for posting!

    • Yes!!! I resonated completely with the concept. I often have this sense of let-down returning to the blandness of too many American neighborhoods. The current decorating trend towards beige, white and no color, creates horror vacui in me!

  6. I’ve seen these! They are wonderful. But the detals in your pictures make them even more beautiful. I now see how well the the pictures on the tiles are composed and how much light and dark does in these monochromatics. This is great art.

  7. Beautiful Portugal tiles! And I love that the ones you chose to highlight here are depicting women 😉 I’m including this one in my Friday roundup post xx

    • The women were so compelling. They were portrayed with such sensitivity. They were not sexualized, or placed on a religious pedestal, but seemed like real, everyday women with feelings you could sense, painted on tiles from so long ago. I am so appreciative and glad you noticed this!

  8. Interesting. I have never heard of the fear of empty space before. They sure fill it beautifully. Although it makes me think of the opposite idea. We spent time in Tokyo this year and were struck by the amount of blank space in their art – this is the concept of space between things, which becomes part of the artwork.

  9. Bright and beautiful post Cindy!! We lived in Spain for several years and the azulejos we saw there were more geometrical/plain than these decorative Portuguese tiles! So pretty even after all the years they’ve been up. thanks for thinking of sharing them! Happy weekeknd ahead Cindy– have plans??

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  11. I have cobalt blue accents in my kitchen, with usually white or pale yellow walls. I’ve always loved the combination. Beautiful pictures and I loved the history behind them as well.

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