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13 April 2021
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Detail of the Namban screen. Inv. 864 Mob MNSR

The furniture collection of the Museu Nacional de Soares dos Reis incorporates ecclesiastical and civil items dating mainly from the 17th and 18th centuries, or from the early 19th. It is constituted by works of national production, including isolated items of foreign origin, although there is a significant presence of luso-oriental art with nuclei originating from India and Japan.
A pulpit from the second quarter of the 16th century is the oldest object in this collection, clearly representative of the marriage between traditional elements of the late Gothic style and the first manifestations of the renaissance to be expressed in the religious furniture.
The nucleus from India testifies the singular encounter between civilizations in various types of varguenos, drawer-desks or vestment’s chests, whose forms and functions were dictated by the needs of European habits, allied with the Indian techniques and materials.
A pair of Namban screens, executed in Japan during the first years of the 17th century, polychrome painting on paper, constitute a lively report of the presence of the Portuguese in that country. Its anonymous author portrayed the arrival of Namban-jin or Barbarians from the South in a traditional composition associated with the School of Kano.
The furniture of the 17th century reveals the coexistence of various influences: Mannerist, oriental and the progressive domination of the Baroque language, registered in various chairs and side tables, and furthermore in a monumental music stand, accomplished by a Porto workshop in 1697.

The trend in taste of 18th century Baroque furniture is evident in the collection on display: console tables of gilt wood with mirrors reflect the taste for the extravagant decoration of French artistic circles. The taste for the exotic, one of the aesthetic tendencies of the rococo style, is reflected in the lacquered furniture, as in the case of the bureau bookcase. The progressive sophistication of domestic habits is expressed by objects like the cutlery case, which were placed on the side tables in the dining rooms.
The group of console tables in the Music Room, attributed to Luiz Chiari, an Italian artist who worked in Porto at the end of the 18th century, exemplifies the neoclassical interior.

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