Exhibition Zaffre Blue Tin-Glazed Earthenware From the Miragaia Factory

13 de March, 2024

On 22 March, at 6pm, the Soares dos Reis National Museum will open the temporary exhibition “Zaffre Blue Tin-Glazed Earthenware From the Miragaia Factory”, with the presence of the Board of Directors of Museums and Monuments of Portugal, EPE.


The exhibition will be open until 23 June 2024, with the patronage support of AOF-Augusto Oliveira Ferreira and Lusitânia Seguros, as well as the support of Círculo Dr. José de Figueiredo – Amigos do Museu Nacional Soares dos Reis.


Curated by José da Costa Reis, this exhibition covers the theme of ‘zaffre blue’ earthenware, so called because of the shade of colour of its glaze, produced at the Miragaia Factory in Porto and dating from 1775 to 1822.

The museological organisation of the exhibition promotes the relationship between this collection and other decorative arts collections at the Soares dos Reis National Museum, which precede the modern concept of design, valuing their contextualisation and interpretation with approaches to history and European plastic arts, namely Painting, Drawing and Engraving.


The exhibition and its guide are intended to increase the visibility and knowledge of the ceramics collection at the Soares dos Reis National Museum, one of the most important ceramics collections held by a Portuguese national museum, establishing the relationship between the influences of English culture on the production of the Miragaia Factory.


António Ponte, Director of the Soares dos Reis National Museum, points out that this exhibition allows “the establishment of a dialogue, both programmatic and museographic, between the zaffre earthenware and other objects from the Soares dos Reis National Museum’s collection, reflecting the idea of transversality in the Portuguese decorative and plastic arts of this period”, which is the result of “a will to think of the collections beyond their borders and in accordance with the aspirations and needs of the contemporary visitor”.


The Museum’s ceramics collection currently includes around 4,000 pieces of different types: tiles, designer ceramics, Portuguese and Spanish earthenware (16th to 20th centuries), Chinese and Japanese porcelain (16th to 20th centuries), European porcelain (19th and 20th centuries) and Dutch earthenware from Delft (17th and 18th centuries).


A brief history of the Miragaia Factory in Porto


In the context of the reforms of Portuguese industry promoted by the minister Marquis of Pombal, the Miragaia Factory was founded in Miragaia (Porto) in 1775 by João Rocha (1720-1799), a Minho merchant who had become rich in Brazil. His nephew João Bento da Rocha was a founding partner.


The aim of the entrepreneurs was to manufacture the objects as they were produced in foreign countries, especially China and Europe.


In 1814, after the losses suffered during the French Invasions, the Miragaia Factory was the largest ceramics factory in Porto, with 27 workers, among whom there were numerous family ties, facilitating the transmission of technical and artistic knowledge.


At the end of the 1820s, under the competition of years of imported pottery from England, Miragaia Factory began to produce objects similar in shape and/or decoration to the English ones, some of which are shown in the exhibition Zaffre Blue Tin-Glazed Earthenware From the Miragaia Factory. In the 1850s, after financial problems, the factory closed down, completing around 80 years of activity, remaining to this day a symbol of the quality of the earthenware produced in Porto and Gaia.


The Soares dos Reis National Museum preserves a collection of around 180 pieces from the Miragaia Factory, the result of various incorporations.