National Treasures

The Soares dos Reis National Museum possesses a set of 10 pieces classified as goods of national interest, also known as National Treasures. This classification is attributed to objects of undeniable national value due to their antiquity, authenticity, creativity, exemplarity, memory, originality, rarity or singularity.


Representing Portuguese tin-glazed earthenware production since the 16th century, ceramics is one of the Soares dos Reis National Museum’s most important collections, both in terms of the number of pieces and their significance.

Among the many works making up this collection, northern Portuguese tin-glazed earthenware predominates, particularly from Viana do Castelo, Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia. From other regions, ceramics from Coimbra, Lisbon (Rato) and those attributed to Aveiro are similarly outstanding. The collection also includes three other valuable groups: Dutch Delft tin-glazed earthenware (17th and 18th century pieces); Chinese and Japanese porcelain (16th to 20th century), and European porcelain (19th and 20th century). The porcelain collection consists mostly of Chinese pieces from various periods, ranging from the Jiajing period (Ming dynasty - 16th century), to the 19th century.

Other pieces related to those shown in the long-term exhibition are kept in reserve, as well as other sections relating to the 20th century. The collection also includes the donation of João Castel Branco Pereira and Paulo Henriques, as well as a particularly fine set of ceramics by the German sculptor and painter, Hein Semke (1899-1995).


Most museums have a section in their inventory in which they have pieces considered sundry. This is either because of their singularity or because there are not enough of them to constitute a category of their own.

At the Soares dos Reis National Museum, whose collection incorporates those of the Museu Portuense and the Museu Municipal do Porto, there are two parallel miscellaneous sections, bringing together a very broad typology of outstanding objects, either due to their rarity or bizarreness, their symbolic character, or their artistic quality. The collection designated ‘Miscellaneous’ previously included pieces that today would be classified in categories such as Goldwork and Sculpture, among others, but which, in the period and context in which they were catalogued, formed a section of their own. For example, the first objects that arrived from the Monastery of Santa Cruz de Coimbra in 1834 joined this collection. Charismatic objects, always surrounded by an almost mythical aura: the sword of King Afonso Henriques (today on display at the Museu Militar in Oporto), a series of Limoges enamel plaques depicting Christ’s Passion or a tortoiseshell and gold desk. The Miscellaneous section contained high-quality pieces that, in the early days of the Museu Portuense, were donated by people from the city, such as a small 16th century Dutch oratory in boxwood. The Museu Municipal’s collection, which was deposited in the Soares dos Reis National Museum in 1937, led to various subcategories under the  umbrella term ‘Miscellaneous’, such as curiosities, historical objects, archaeological items or simply odds and ends. This set of exhibits functions today as a time capsule in which the essence of the eclectic and encyclopaedic spirit of 19th century collecting, materialised in João Allen's collection, is preserved. Here one can find the most extravagant curiosities alongside the most highly sophisticated artwork.


The Soares dos Reis National Museum’s Sculpture collection features works by Soares dos Reis and, in particular, his famous The Exiled. Following the line of this Portuguese artist, the Museum includes pieces by Teixeira Lopes and various alumni of the Porto School of Fine Arts. There is also a section that brings together various Modernist artists and the estate of the German sculptor-ceramist, Hein Semke.

Soares dos Reis was prominent in the last quarter of the 19th century, a time when European relations in art education came to fruition through the awarding of scholarships. It was through such a scholarship that Soares dos Reis conceived O Desterrado (The Exiled, Rome, 1872), a work based on nostalgia that became a national icon. Other highlights include Flor Agreste (Wild Flower), the statues of the Count of Ferreira and the Brotero plasterwork. In the area of portraiture, the Busto da Inglesa, Mrs. Leech (Bust of the English Lady, Mrs. Leech), also attracted wide renown. One of Soares dos Reis’s most outstanding disciples at the Porto School of Fine Arts was António Teixeira Lopes, whose Infância de Caim (Cain’s Childhood) (1890) precedes the transition to Naturalism. This current includes Cabeça de Velha (Head of an Old Woman) by Fernandes de Sá, revealing the influence of Rodin, sketches by Alves de Sousa and pieces by Oliveira Ferreira, Pinto do Couto, Américo Gomes and others. In the 1920s, modernism featured in the works of António Azevedo, Diogo de Macedo and Francisco Franco, who were similarly influenced by the distilled treatment of portraiture, whilst Canto da Maya explored the ideal of a return to the origins of European art in pieces such as Baiser. There was a return to the Porto School with works by Gustavo Bastos and Irene Vilar, following Master Barata Feyo. In a non-figurative vein, there was also Abstração I (Abstraction I) by Arlindo Rocha (1949). Finally, the Hein Semke collection presents ideals of Peace and Justice in works that are transcendental in their appeal. The Sculpture collection also covers the Romanization of the Peninsula, as illustrated by a Sarcophagus, alluding to the Four Seasons, from Reguengos, in the Alentejo. There are also remarkable works from the Modern and Medieval Ages, in which an articulated Christ, dating from the 13th or 14th century between Valladolid and Palencia, is a particular highlight.


The Soares dos Reis National Museum’s engraving collection covers a period between the 17th and 20th centuries, and includes a diversity of Portuguese and foreign artists.

Ancient engraving in Portugal includes artists in the transition from the 18th to the 19th century. The lithographic technique in the first half of the 19th century is essentially found in portraiture.

Representations of local iconography present late 18th century Porto. Valuable records for the history of town planning feature its main buildings, with the city surrounded by the old defensive wall. The panoramic aspects multiplied in the first decades of the 19th century highlight river views, the riverside routine and the river port. In the thematic line of Historical Iconography, the collection also includes interpretations of political and military events in the city during the first quarter of the 19th century.


The Soares dos Reis National Museum’s Lapidary collection covers an extensive period ranging from prehistory, with an example of rock art (Stone with Inscriptions, 2nd half of the III millennium - end of the II millennium BC) to the 19th century. It brings together pieces of architectural, funerary, heraldic and epigraphic sculpture (portals, capitals, coats of arms, funerary stelae, sarcophagi, milestones and inscriptions).

This collection stands out due the type of pieces, their material (stone, mainly granite) and dimensions. The main part of the collection belongs to that of the Museu Municipal do Porto, which was deposited at the Soares dos Reis National Museum in 1938. It includes objects mostly from the North and Centre of the country and reflects a time when stone features were collected in museums, having been abandoned after archaeological excavations, or the demolition of buildings or walls. In the the Rainha D. Amélia Velodrome Garden, architectural and decorative features, as well as coats of arms, from houses, fountains, city gates, walls, convents and chapels demolished in Porto between the late 19th and early 20th century are on display. The current S. Bento railway station, in Praça Almeida Garrett, occupies the site of the former S. Bento de Avé-Maria Convent. In the Largo da Sé, until the early 20th century, there was a wall separating the Episcopal Palace and the cathedral. Nearby, in Largo 1.º de Dezembro, it is still possible to visit the church of the now extinct Convent of Santa Clara, but the remaining buildings belonging to the convent were completely altered by the institutions that were installed there. In Rua das Flores, which was once Rua de Santa Catarina das Flores, it is still possible to see the razor wheel on some façades, a symbol that D. Pedro da Costa (Bishop of Porto) included in the coat of arms.


The groups of religious and civil furniture together form a temporal arc which extends from the 16th to the 20th century. The collection includes examples illustrating artistic cycles that have made Portuguese furniture famous. It also includes pieces of European and oriental origin.

Among Portuguese furniture, the ‘national’ style stands out, a period of artistic individualisation between 1675 and 1725; as well as the Baroque examples from the second half of the 18th century, using materials and techniques that also particularise it. From the passage of the 18th to the 19th century, the neoclassical period, a set of pieces created for the reception spaces of the old palace is preserved, which allow for a rare reading of furniture and architecture, painting and decorative stuccoes.

The pieces of European origin are part of artistic movements indicative of significant tastes and influences for the Portuguese examples.

The set of oriental pieces, an artistic legacy of Portuguese Expansion and its colonial empire, provides the reading of a crossroads of cultures through luxurious objects made in a plurality of rare and exotic materials.

Goldwork and Jewellery

The Goldwork and Jewellery sections were set up in 1932 with the incorporation of a group of objects from the Episcopal Palace collection, in Porto. The collection has grown with the incorporation of pieces from extinct convents, collections from royal palaces, donations and one-off acquisitions.

The Porto City Council collections deposited in the Soares dos Reis National Museum in 1937 significantly enhanced the Jewellery section; enriching it with a varied set of jewels belonging to the collection of the former Municipal Museum.


The Soares dos Reis National Museum painting collection dates back to 1833, with the creation of the first public art museum established in Portugal, the Museu Portuense. Today, the collection has about 2500 objects and covers a period ranging from the 16th to the 20th century. The collection’s most emblematic group is dedicated to Romantic, Naturalist and Realist painters (19th and 20th centuries) and includes names such as Silva Porto, Marques de Oliveira, Artur Loureiro, Sousa Pinto, Henrique Pousão, Aurélia de Souza and António Carneiro.

One of the reasons for the creation of the Museu Portuense was the need to collect works from abandoned convents and churches. In 1836, with the creation of the Lisbon and Porto Academies of Fine Arts, the Academia Portuense was installed in the building where the Museum's collection was housed: the Convent of Santo António da Cidade (the current Municipal Public Library of Porto). This situation lasted for almost a century, during which time the museum served the Academy and some works by teachers and students were added to the collection. This was according to what was established in the respective statutes: exams for academic posts, scholarship holders and also gifts from various sources. This historical contingency gave the collection a distinctive mark: the predominance of works by Portuguese artists, mainly from Porto, from the 19th and 20th centuries. The donations and legacies to the Museum and the acquisition policies defined since then have contributed to the expansion of the collection in this same direction. Between 1932 and 1950, under the direction of Vasco Valente, the collection entered a new phase marked by the sharing of collections with the Porto School of Fine Arts and the integration of the collections of the Museu Municipal do Porto on a deposit basis in 1937. The merging of the collections gave greater diversity and quality to the collection, broadening its geographical and chronological representativeness. The main core of the Porto Municipal Museum's painting collection was formed with the acquisition, in 1850, by the Porto City Council, of João Allen's collection (1781-1848). This consisted of 599 paintings by national and foreign artists, from the 16th to the early years of the 19th century. The municipal collection also includes 113 works bequeathed by Júlio Osório in 1911 and 21 works by Silva Porto donated by Honório de Lima in 1941. Between 1950 and 1960, under the direction of the sculptor and professor, Salvador Barata Feyo, the Soares dos Reis National Museum began updating its collection, changing the paradigm of the institution's acquisition policy by investing in works by contemporary artists. This new direction was resumed in 1975 with the installation at the Soares dos Reis National Museum of the Contemporary Art Centre, which would become the Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art. During the six years in which the Centre's pioneering activity took place, nearly a hundred works representing the multiple artistic experiments then taking place, such as neo-figuration, neo-abstractionism and pop art, entered the Museum's collection. Over the last two decades, the Museum has continued to acquire works on an occasional basis with the aim of strengthening its permanent exhibition and also to absorb a large number of donations. It is these actions that have enriched the collection with a remarkable representation of 20th century painting, which combines the final productions of the previous century's movements and the avant-garde works of Portuguese Modernism, as well as the multiple artistic experiments from the 1960s to the 1980s. It features artists such as Eduardo Viana, Amadeo de Souza-Cardoso, Armando de Basto, Dordio Gomes, José Tagarro, Diogo de Macedo, Júlio Resende, Ângelo de Sousa and Álvaro Lapa among many others.


The Soares dos Reis National Museum’s Textile collection essentially covers the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries and may be grouped into three sections: historical, religious and civil.

The historical sections is made up of pieces that have a significance in terms of Porto’s history. The religious section has the most items, consisting of vestments worn by the celebrant at mass and pieces with which churches were adorned. The civil section includes male and female garments, as well as bedspreads and tapestries.

The collection was initially formed from the items confiscated from churches and convents, during the Civil War and the Siege of Porto (1832-1833) when Pedro IV decided to create a museum in the city to store and display this heritage.

Later, with the Republic and the nationalisation of church property, more pieces belonging to the Bishopric of Porto were included.
Later, as a deposit, a diversified set of textiles from the Porto Municipal Museum, which closed in 1937, were added to the collection.

In 1940, the Soares dos Reis National Museum received a large selection of bobbin lace, representing the country's main producing centres, and collected by Joaquim de Vasconcelos at the end of the 19th century.

In recent years, it has grown through some acquisitions by the State, but mainly through private donations.


The Soares dos Reis National Museum’s glass collection has an important set of pieces from the first national manufactures established under royal incentive, the Real Fábrica de Vidros de Coina founded in 1719 by João V. It was later transferred to Marinha Grande, where José I gave a charter to a new factory in 1769, the Real Fábrica de Vidros da Marinha Grande.

The collection contains a nucleus of the early production, the crystalline glasses, prestigious pieces intended for royal and noble usage, along with other pieces produced with imported techniques, such as enamel painting, lapidary and wheel engraving. The characteristic shapes of the 18th century are the large glasses, modern high-stemmed goblets, double glass cruets and prismatic flasks, among others. As regards foreign glassware, there is a series of transparent and opaline glasses painted in enamel illustrating a type of production that expanded in Europe from 1700 onwards. There are also pieces from the Real Fábrica de Vidros de La Granja de San Ildefonso, 1727, in Segovia, established a few years after the Portuguese factory in Coina.

The growth of the collection was directed towards nationally produced glassware, extending the chronological scope to the 19th century.