Portuguese ceramics has a rich history dating back centuries, marked by a variety of techniques, styles and cultural influences. Over time, it went through several phases of development, reflecting the country’s social, economic and political changes. In this article, we will explore the history of ceramics in Portugal, from its origins to its most prominent traditional examples.



Origins and Early Influences

The roots of ceramics in Portugal date back to Antiquity, with archaeological evidence of ceramic production dating back to prehistoric periods. However, it was during the Roman occupation that its production reached a significant level of development and sophistication. The Romans introduced advanced ceramics-making techniques, such as the use of the potter’s wheel and the production of glazed ceramics.


After the fall of the Roman Empire, ceramic production in Portugal continued to evolve under the influence of various cultures, including the Visigoths and the Moors. During the Middle Ages, Portuguese ceramics began to develop distinctive characteristics, often influenced by Islamic ceramic production in the Iberian Peninsula.


Expansion and Rise

Ceramics in Portugal flourished during the Middle Ages with the emergence of several production centers across the country. One of the most notable was the Coimbra region, which became famous for the production of decorative ceramics, including tiles. These painted ceramic panels have become a distinctly Portuguese art form, adorning churches, palaces and private homes across the country.


During the Age of Discoveries in the 15th and 16th centuries, Portuguese ceramics played a crucial role in the cultural interaction between Portugal and the discovered lands. The introduction of new techniques and styles, brought from the Portuguese colonies, further enriched the country’s ceramic tradition. Hand-painted tiles with exotic motifs and oriental influences became popular, reflecting the spirit of adventure and discovery of the time.


Decline and Revivalism

In the late 18th century and throughout the 19th century, the Portuguese ceramics industry faced significant challenges due to foreign competition and changing aesthetic tastes. Many traditional ceramics factories closed their doors and ancient techniques were gradually lost.



However, the late 19th century saw a resurgence of interest in traditional Portuguese ceramics, driven in part by the nationalist romanticism movement. Artists and artisans rediscovered and revitalized ancient techniques, thus preserving the country’s rich ceramic tradition.

Nowadays, Portugal has several locations where the production of ceramics is very present in people's daily lives and in the economy, namely the cities of Aveiro, Ílhavo, Redondo and Reguengos de Monsaraz, Lisboa, Barcelos, Caldas da Rainha and Porto de Mós.


Traditional Examples of Portuguese Ceramics



Tiles are perhaps the most emblematic example of Portuguese ceramics. Since the 15th century, tiles have been widely used in Portuguese architecture, decorating building facades, church interiors and even train stations. They often feature geometric patterns, historical scenes, floral motifs and Moorish influences.


Clay-ceramics ware

Clay ware is another traditional form of ceramics in Portugal. Made primarily by hand, it includes a variety of household items such as plates, dishes and pots. Some regions of Portugal are known for specific styles, such as the black ware from Bisalhães and the ware from Estremoz.


Clay-ceramics Figures

Clay or ceramic figures representing people and animals are a popular art form in Portugal. These figures are often handmade and vibrantly painted, depicting scenes from everyday life, folklore and local traditions.



Portuguese Ceramics at LoveItPortugal

LoveItPortugal has a wide range of Portuguese ceramic pieces, of which we highlight:


Ceramic Doll, Tile costume 35cm (13.8in):

It is a ceramic doll, crafted and painted by hand, lined with a cotton half-panama fabric skirt with blue Portuguese tile motif. In addition to the 35cm (13.8in) model, a smaller model is also available, measuring 25cm (9.8in) in height.


Lovers Swallow 13cm (5.1in):

It is a ceramic swallow, handcrafted and hand-painted, in faience, in white, with a pattern alluding to lovers. In addition to the 13cm (5.1in) wide (between wings) model, we also offer a larger model, 16cm (6.3in) wide, as well as a smaller model, 10cm (3.9in) wide.


Yellow Sardine 19cm (7.5in):


It is a ceramic sardine, crafted and painted by hand, in faience, with details in orange, yellow, white, dark blue and red. In addition to the 19cm (7.5in) long model, we also offer a smaller model, 12cm (4.7in) long.


Final Thoughts

Portuguese ceramics represent an integral part of the country's culture and history, reflecting centuries of tradition and innovation. From the beginnings of Antiquity to the present day, ceramics in Portugal has continued to evolve and adapt, keeping a rich artistic and artisanal heritage alive. Through traditional examples such as tiles, earthenware and clay figures, Portuguese ceramics continue to enchant and inspire people around the world.


Good choices!