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the traditional ceramics of Coimbra

The traditional ceramics of Coimbra.

The art of Coimbra ceramics has been present since the 16th century, featuring cobalt blue monochrome tones along with other hues such as yellow, green, and ochre. This art form, which is native to the Northern Portuguese city of Coimbra, has been globally acclaimed for several centuries.


Coimbra is a city that provides favorable conditions for the development of ceramics.

The first pottery factories were established near the banks of the Mondego River, owing to the proximity of clay soils. These factories gradually congregated around the "Bota Baixo" square, with the main factories of that time being located in "Rua dos Oleiros," "Rua da Louça," and "Largo das Olarias". These streets' names still exist in the city today.

Ville de Coimbra au Portugal
Coimbra view from Modego 


In addition to providing a ready supply of clay, the proximity of the Mondego River also facilitated transportation of ceramic products towards the port of Figueira da Foz. This allowed for easier shipping and selling of the finished ceramic pieces.


In the 16th century, the "Malegueiros" bring out Coimbra ceramics

The "Malegueiros," named for their origin in the Spanish city of Malaga, were the pioneering artists who introduced ceramic techniques to the Coimbra region during the 16th century.


Coimbra Ceramic

During that era, becoming a ceramist required passing an examination and succeeding in a practical test, which involved the de-moulding of dishes after the first firing.

Following this, the "judges of the Office" issued an official letter granting permission to manufacture and sell Coimbra ceramics, subject to regulations governing the profession and manufacturing conditions.


The apogee of Coimbra ceramics in the 17th century

The Malegueiros amassed significant wealth and even acquired titles of nobility. In response, the city council imposed a work permit, a contribution to the city's festivals, and the renunciation of their privileges.

As a result, the ceramic industry began to spread to the working class, although certain families such as Costa Brioso, Paiva, Vandelli, and Oliveira continued to dominate the local earthenware industry. These families are among the most well-known in the region.

Ceramic dish from Coimbra - 17th century - Credit Museu Quinta das cruzes

The decline in the 19th and 20th centuries

In the 20th century, Coimbra ceramics underwent large-scale industrialization with the establishment of the ESTACO factory, which employed over 1,000 people, not including its production unit in Mozambique.

Estaco Factory - Credit JV Queiros Photography


However, like much of the ceramic industry, the ESTACO factory declined and eventually went bankrupt in 2001. Presently, the enormous Pedrulha industrial park, which spans over 60,000 square meters, lies in ruins with missing roofs, broken walls, and shattered windows.


The revival of artisanal ceramics

Coimbra ceramics continue to hold a prominent place in the collective imagination, evoking a sense of attachment, respect, and curiosity. Although rare, pieces from the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries are still in demand and feature in private collections and auctions.

The resurgence of interest in Coimbra ceramics has provided an opportunity for talented craftsmen to rediscover ancestral manufacturing processes and recreate historic pieces. Luisa Paixão is among those who seek to contribute to the revival of this art and has chosen a small workshop that spares no effort in offering entirely handmade ceramic pieces made using 17th-century techniques.

What sets this workshop apart is the freedom given to decorators to interpret the original 17th-century motifs, making each piece absolutely unique.

Feel free to discover the entire collection by clicking on the image below.

Coimbra Ceramic Plate - Luisa Paixão collection

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