The history and art of Spanish ceramic tiles

Spanish tiles have gained a worldwide reputation for some of the most brilliant and colourful combinations. The origins of Spanish tiles go back thousands of years…

During Medieval times and before the Muslim invasion in the year 711, ceramics were extensively produced in Southern and Coastal Eastern Spain, including tiles for design and manufacture, practical pieces, mosaic art pieces, roof tiles, fountains, and so on.

Beautiful pieces of artisan tiles were made for churches and palaces throughout Spain, an art that took Spanish culture and decor to another level. It later developed and spread throughout Spanish homes to floors, kitchens, bathrooms and most of all, indoor patios.

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This was before the defeat of the Spanish Armada in the 16th Century (1588), when Spain was a place rich in natural resources, including ceramics.

The decline of the Spanish empire had the country in deep economical and political distress. The influence of the neighboring countries of the Atlantic increased in the Mediterranean and the expulsion of the Moors had catastrophic effects on the economy and culture of Spanish tiles. Spanish ceramics’ downfall continued into the 17th century. Nevertheless, it is noted that some of the highest quality and artistic tile art was made during this time.

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Glazed tiles are enamelled with metallic and glass oxides that help protect tile surfaces, making them durable but also glossy and shiny in design. The Spanish term for these types of tin-glazed ceramic tiles is “Mayólica”, distinguished by a milky-white glaze. These types of tiles, a contribution from the Moors Islamic culture, became known as “Talavera”, after the Spanish ceramic centre of Talavera de la Reina in Castilla de la Mancha (northern Spain).

Well-known 18th century Talavera-tile painters and artists are José Mansilla el Pino and Clemente Collazos. José Mansilla developed a very beautiful altarpiece with the representation of the Virgin and Child Crowned for the College of the Augustinian Mothers Talavera (image below, on the left).

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Spanish ceramic began exportation from cities such as Sevilla and Cádiz in Andalucía, southern Spain. Rich in islamic and arabic heritage, tiles and pottery were exported throughout the Mediterranean, Europe and then the world. One of the supreme recipients of this tradition was Mexico, centering in the colonial capital of Puebla.

Spanish-tiles

Sevilla’s distrcit ‘Triana’ was once home to famous tile workshops and potteries, of which many are not open/in function in present day. Any tiles you see Sevilla’s churches, bars, private houses and patios, hotels and the famous square Plaza de España, will have been made in Triana.

Spanish-tiles-plaza-de-españa

Sevilla, capital of Andalucía and tapas boasts of a great flamenco scene and nightlife as well as some tile and ceramic shops and soon to open museums, where you will find more about Andalusian tile history.

Nowadays, Spanish tiles vary from modern to traditional. From colorful and patterned, to wood-like designs. Spanish tiles, the traditional and original kind, may be quite expensive but are extremely high-quality and durable.

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Plaza de España, Sevilla


Quien se fué a Sevilla, perdió su silla
, translates to ‘who went to Sevilla, lost his seat’ This saying or proverb is used in many situations to mean the loss of privileges or possessions that had by simply abandoned temporarily if any.

What we wanted to say with this is that if you are looking for a holiday escape, be sure to book in time or some-one else will. Sevilla is a great place with lots of culture history and Spanish tiles to admire.

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