Saturday, October 15, 2016

Portugal 2016 - Portuguese Pavement

ISSUE DATE: 28 July 2016
STAMP SIZE:40 x 30.6 mm

Several civilizations have come and gone on Portuguese territory, having left a varied aesthetic legacy — also on the ground and on its walls. This was true of the Romans, until the first century with the tesserae. It was also true of the Arabs, until the twelfth century with their geometric designs. Later religious orders also introduced mosaic design around their temples, such as the Discalced Carmelites in the seventeenth century.

In a later phase, major humanitarian currents developed in Europe, especially in the nineteenth century, at the peak of the promotion of great travel and Revivalism. Lisbon, the capital, seized the moment to reinvent itself in the Art Nouveau style. Eusébio Cândido Pinheiro Furtado, Lieutenant-at-Arms at the Prison of São Jorge Castle, a benefactor and a connoisseur of Roman arts, promoted a new concept to pave the ground in mosaic style, with only black and white stones, which has come to be called mosaic-pavement.

In his first experiment, he used the atrium of the prison itself and subsequently, on a new scale, proposed the paving of the iconic Praça Dom Pedro IV (Rossio) to the City Council, work performed mainly with resident prisoner labour, nicknamed grilhetas (“shackles”) due to the heavy iron shackles that they brought strapped to their legs. The result was the 8,712 square metre cobblestone public square, covered with waves of black and white which was designated Mar Largo, an expression taken from Canto IV of The Lusiads, in a tribute to the Portuguese Discoveries.

The city grew and with it, new streets were paved with this concept, which, due to the unique characteristics of the stone and its laying, was definitively termed Portuguese Paving. The Public Promenade became a reality for the enjoyment of its inhabitants. Graphic elements linked to the city’s history were the main motifs applied in the designs, such as caravels and dolphins.

In the 1940s, it had its greatest expression in the development of large paved areas such as those at the Portuguese World Exhibition and at the National Stadium. Later on, in the 1960s, the art became much more widespread, and came to be admired by everyone. In the late twentieth century, Expo ‘98 invited some of the new visual artists to create designs for the paving, who developed more daring designs, where a new aesthetic would break the concepts of a formalism that the city was accustomed to on its pavements up to that point.

Portuguese paving is mainly created with black and white stones that provide maximum contrast, but other colours are also employed using, for example, pink or yellow limestone. Many Portuguese cities followed the example of Lisbon and started using this method to pave the ground. In some parts of the world, where the Portuguese presence has influence, this concept of carpeting the ground as a way of celebrating and fully enjoying the public spaces of cities was also applied. Crossing the Atlantic, it was first taken to Manaus in 1905, in front of the iconic Teatro Amazonas. The following year, it appeared in Rio de Janeiro, applied to its famous Promenade, along Copacabana Bay (animated by Walt Disney in the 1942 movie, Alô Amigos), which went on to influence many other Brazilian cities. In the 1980s, the territory of Macau adopted this paving technique on their main pavements and to decorate the ground.

Author: Ernesto Matos  

Stamp images thanks to CTT Correios de Portugal

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