Screen in passageway of the Paço dos Infantes
Queen Leonor Regional Museum
End of the 15th century
Screen, brick, terracotta
Probably constructed at the behest of João de Arruda (active from 1470), who was involved in building the extension of the ducal palace of Beja in 1485.
Brick (in the supporting and opaque areas); terracotta (in the sections with ornamentation and openwork).
Height 322 cm, length 363 cm, depth 22.8 cm
The arrangement in the museum today was based on a design made in 1894, with the screen still in situ, by the artist Rosa Mendes Junior, the original of which is in the museum.
This screen came from the south wall of the passageway which linked the ducal palace of Beja to the monastery of Nossa Senhora da Conceição, above the Viela dos Infantes alleyway,and has been reconstructed with great accuracy, although only some of the materials are original. Great care was taken in the reconstruction to rebuild one of the sections (the one furthest to the left of the onlooker) entirely using original pieces.
The whole piece is made up of six small pillars made of brick, octagonal in section, which have grooves on two of their faces into which the pieces of terracotta are fitted. These pieces, three in each of four sections and seven in the other, are framed to give the whole screen a sense of consistency and to ensure less visibility and greater seclusion to any person in the passageway, with compact bricks in the lower part and upper part up to the ogee arches at the top which join the pillars to one another. Above these arches, the cornice is decorated with a scheme of arches grouped in threes (with greater emphasis given to the central one) and linked by a small dentil, imitating a Lombardy frieze. The overhang of the double pitched roof which covered the passageway is reconstructed above the cornice.
Two of the sets of terracotta panels have quatrefoils, with the foils spiralling out from a central eye (like the sgraffito work of the S. Brás chapel at Évora, dating from around 1485), and in one of these groups, the one in the central section, the eye and the plant designs form openings to provide the interior of the passageway with natural light. The same happens with all the panels of the other three sections: two are ornamented with very stylised plant motifs and one (the one furthest to the onlooker's right) with seven sections on top of one another decorated with intersecting pointed arches.
Duke and Duchess of Beja, Dom Fernando and Dona Brites, (infante and infanta). The screen gave the duchess direct yet secluded access to the upper choir of the Monastery of Nossa Senhora da Conceição
As the nuns were relocated to this monastery in 1475, the passageway cannot predate that year. Master builder João de Arruda was working at the palace in 1485, which means that it is possible that his campaign of work included the building of the passageway. When the palace was demolished in 1895, architectural pieces were salvaged which match this screen in stylistic terms. The infanta, Dona Brites, died in 1506, and it is unlikely that she would have commissioned the building of the passageway near the time of her death.
The passageway was demolished in 1895 and some of its materials were collected in the former Town Hall. The screen was reconstructed in 1927 in the museum, where it is housed today, which is the former monastery of Nossa Senhora da Conceição.
There is a photograph and drawing of the passageway in situ. There are records of the dismantling and conservation of the materials which were salvaged from the passageway itself, some of which were used for the fairly rigorous reconstruction – the decorated bricks of the panels, clay bricks of the flooring, cyma mouldings [type of cornice mouldings], shafts, etc.
Dias, P., “Arquitectura Mudéjar Portuguesa: Tentativa de Sistematização”, Mare Liberum, 8, Lisbon, 1994, pp.49–89.
Espanca, T., Inventário Artístico de Portugal: Distrito de Beja, Vol. I, Lisbon, 1992.
Viana, A., “Mosteiro da Conceição e Palácio dos Infantes”, Arquivo de Beja, 2, 1945, pp.423–31.
Manuel J. C. Branco "Screen in passageway of the Paço dos Infantes" in Discover Islamic Art , Museum With No Frontiers, 2019. http://www.museumwnf.org/thematicgallery/thg_galleries/database_item.php?itemId=objects;ISL;pt;Mus01_C;38;en&id=architectural_elements
Prepared by: Manuel J. C. BrancoManuel J. C. Branco
Manuel J. C. Branco, mestre em História da Arte pela Universidade de Lisboa, foi responsável pelo Centro Histórico de Évora (1994-97) e director da revista de cultura A Cidade de Évora (1994-2001). É autor de entradas do Inventário de Monumentos Nacionais da Direcção-Geral de Edifícios e Monumentos Nacionais (Portugal) e de numerosos estudos: "A Fundação da Igreja do Bom Jesus de Valverde e o tríptico de Gregório Lopes", in A Cidade de Évora, n.º 71-76; "Évora, Centro Histórico Patrimonio de la Humanidad" in La ciutat històrica dins la ciutat (Girona, Universitat de Girona, 1997); "Renascimento, Maneirismo e Estilo Chão em Évora", in Do Mundo Antigo aos Novos Mundos (Lisboa, C.N.C.D.P., 1998); "Igreja e convento de S. Francisco de Évora - Evolução do sítio do século XIII ao século XIX", in Revista Monumentos, n.º 17 (Lisboa, DGEMN, 2002).
Translation by: Gilla Evans
Translation copyedited by: Monica Allen
MWNF Working Number: PT 55
On display in
Exhibition(s) Discover Islamic Art
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