Of the vast array of patterns employed in the 17th century several stand out for the proliferation of examples, their dissemination on national and even overseas territories, and for the extended chronology of their application. As with altar frontals, with their evident references to Chinese porcelain items and to Indian cloth, this taste for the exotic was also shown in the patterns. One such case is precisely that of the so-called Camellia pattern, which was given this name by João Miguel dos Santos Simões in the 1960s. According to this investigator, what appeared to be a stylisation of an oriental flower – a rose or possibly a magnolia – was designated a camellia to aid in its identification. It should be said that this decorative element has raised various queries over the years as to whether it might be a peony, conveyed by Chinese porcelain, but understood at the time as being a rose. In fact, the peony, symbol of wealth and prosperity, as was the lotus, is one of the flowers that is most often represented on Chinese ceramics. On this panel the central flower has a rounded shape with simple leaves and berries or flower buds, which makes it more closely resemble a camellia. This type of representation would conform more to the image of a rose as portrayed at the time. This idea conveys us to the fact that in the majority of the cases these patterns were applied in places dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Furthermore, the relationship of the rose with Marian iconography is very well-known, illustrating the paradigm of the Mystical Rose. Whether they were camellias, peonies or even magnolias, these decorative motifs clearly refer to an Oriental influence, with Chinese porcelain being the most likely iconographic source. Lisbon production.


  • Title: Pattern azulejo panel with camellia
  • Date Created: 1660/1680
  • Physical Location: MNAz, Museu Nacional do Azulejo, Lisbon, Portugal
  • Physical Dimensions: 172 cm x 114 cm
  • Provenance: Convento de Nossa Senhora da Esperança, Lisbon
  • Type: Glazed tiles
  • Medium: Polychrome faience

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