Historical outline of the creation of utility ceramics
Coloured and glazed bricks, which were used to decorate the facades and interiors of old buildings, are considered to be the protoplasts of today’s utility ceramics. In their studies, archaeologists write about tiles from around 1300 BC. Initially, the tiles had a decorative character, with time, practical considerations forced the artists to use technologies that increased the durability of colour and material. The largest concentration of buildings decorated in this way was discovered in today’s Iran. This technique of surface decoration became popular in the whole Middle East, Sumer, Assyria, and especially in Babylon, as exemplified by the Ishtar Gate from around 575 BC, currently located in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin. Mesopotamia also produced tiles decorated with cuneiform inscriptions and figural and ornamental motifs.
Ceramic tiles were also used in ancient China. Such decorations were used to decorate the pagodas and chambers of the nobles’ buildings. In China, the glazing of tiles began and, what was new, richly coloured decoration of tiles. The Chinese tradition is all the more important as it has become an important point of reference for the Persians and Arabs, who maintain lively trade relations with China. In ancient Persia, under the rule of the Achemenids, Seleucids, Parties and Saxanites, and in the Arab caliphates and sultanates, ceramic production was constantly being improved – glazed bricks were becoming thinner and thinner. In the Islamic world tiles, based on both existing brick designs from the Middle East and Asian porcelain, began to be produced around the 9th century.
Ceramic tiles on the Iberian Peninsula
The tiles came to Spain and Portugal together with the Arabs who conquered both countries in the 7th century. The rich Islamic cladding can still be admired today in the Great Mosque Cathedral in Córdoba (mosaics), which was converted into a cathedral, and above all in the Alhambra palace complex in Grenada.
The period of the Córdoba Caliphate is considered the „golden age” of Arab Andalusia. Muslim rule lasted nearly 500 years and was ended in the 13th century, with the victory of Christian kings in 1212 at Las Navas de Tolosa.
The time of the Arab conquest left a lasting imprint on Spanish culture and art. The Muslims who arrived drew on Romanesque and Moorish art, later accepted and adopted Spanish design. This created an incredible mission of oriental colours with the colours of land and sea. The patterns on the tiles were symmetrical and reflected balance and order. The main colors decorating the tiles were blue, black, green, yellow and orange.
Tiles produced mainly in Andalusia, Aragon, Valencia and Catalonia, began to characterize more and more often patterns and motifs taken from the Christian religion. These, in turn, alternated with mythological figures, as exemplified by the sixteenth-century flush in the Quinta das Torres in Azeitão, Portugal. The craftsmen were laying mosaics on the walls in the form of human and divine figures.
If we talk about Portugal, we have to talk about the famous azulejos, that is, the facings (most often cobalt), used to decorate the walls to this day. They also derive from the ancient tradition of Moorish mosaics, but their later history is very complicated and includes Spanish, Italian and Dutch influences, and it is thanks to the latter that the dominant colour of Portuguese tiles became blue in the 17th century. From the 16th century onwards, the monumental azulejos began to decorate Portuguese interiors, courtyard walls and facades of houses and churches.
This is what has already been said before and the colours and patterns of Spanish tiles are inspired by the Orient. The colours of fire and water, green and all shades of desert are common, from light beige to dark orange. The colour highlighting the pattern and contrasting with the colours of 1000 and one night, is black highlighting the transience so important in Arabic culture.
Spanish ceramic tiles
The tile patterns are also very diverse, but they are characterized by precise geometry, well thought-out lines and conscious selection of geometric shapes.
A very popular method of surface decoration with Spanish tiles is the laying of patchworks. This gives an incredible opportunity to tell a story about the place and its purpose.
Use of Spanish tiles
Walking through the streets of Spanish cities, you can often see the tile decorations on the facade surfaces as well as inside the apartments. Spaniards are very open people, they often leave their doors open to allow air circulation and present their interiors. It is surprising that such forms of decoration are very harmonious, one gets the impression that a wall without tiles would not fit the whole interior.
Spanish mosaics often decorate the area around doors, frames, window frames. It is amazing to decorate the area around the kitchen worktop with Spanish tiles, to mark its role and significance. Often the tiles decorate the dining area in the kitchen, the kitchen itself or the pantry. The floor is made of one type of tiles, while the decoration of the walls only limits imagination and good taste.
Amazing combination in the bathroom is given by Spanish tiles in combination with ascetic, often made of non-ferrous metals, such as copper fittings. Such a composition gives a classic and very elegant face of the room.
You can not miss the interior of the living room and the area around the fireplace, workplace or leisure. Decoration of the surface with ceramic tiles gives the room character and incredible color.