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Renaissance Art in Portugal: The Gothic-Manueline

Updated on December 22, 2016

Art in Portugal: The Gothic-Manueline and the Renaissance new trends

In Portugal, the Renaissance developed in close connection with the overseas Portuguese enterprise.
Renaissance art arrives late in Portugal, mainly through decorative elements associated with the late Gothic structures that in Portugal developed its own ornamental characteristics, referred to as Manueline or Gothic-Manueline.

The architecture of the Gothic-Manueline integrates the typical way of construction of the Gothic trend, but in the decorative field, the representation of nature is expressed by realistic ornaments where the vegan decorations are often exuberant, as shown in the Manueline major works: the window of the Chapter Room of the Convent of Christ (c. 1510 ), in Tomar, Jeronimos Monastery, in Lisbon (with particular emphasis on the magnificent church portal), the cloister arcade of D. Manuel in the Batalha Monastery or the Tower of Belem.

The exotic representation of animals, plants and strange beings, regarded by some experts as the specificity of the Portuguese Manueline, appear sporadically.
The main significance is the search for different and new motives in the nationalist claim to distinguish itself from foreign models, showing elements that were part of everyday life of travel and civilizational encounters around the Portuguese Empire.
Moreover the fact that the Gothic Manueline developed under the tutelage of the crown, explains the use of decorative elements associated with the exaltation of divine right monarchy, as the armillary sphere, or the deep mystical sense emanating from the sacred images, particularly the Virgin, converted by King Manuel I in a sort of royal symbol.

The Renaissance art entered the country with ornamental shapes associated with the last phase of Gothic architecture as decorative arabesques, grotesques or medallions.

A peculiarity is that they were introduced by foreign artists, Galician, Biscainhos, French and, later, Italians or Portuguese educated abroad, like Francis Holland (1517-84), artist, historian and art critic, who played an important role in disseminating new ideas.

The ornamental motifs that characterize this trend are very rich and, contrary to commonly said, they are not characterized only by maritime symbols, inspired by the Age of Discovery, but by a set of symbols of different order in which sea elements are included. The idea that the ornaments were connected to the sea is due to Edgar Quinet, in 1857, and became a commonplace.

The Manueline keeps the structure of buildings free of unnecessary ornamentation. The exterior or interior walls are usually bare, focusing on the decoration of certain structural components such as windows, doorways , triumphal arches, ceilings, domes , pillars and columns, arches, ribs (warheads, lierne and terceletes), friezes , cornices , parapets (as in Jeronimos) buttresses and also tombs, fountains and cruises.

Highlights go to the Church of Nossa Senhora da Conceição (1547), in Tomar, by João de Castilho (1490-1151), and the palace of Quinta da Bacalhoa (c.1540) in Azeitão, attributed to Diego de Torralva, who also created the main cloister of the Convent of Christ, in Tomar.

Although it is primarily ornamental, the Manueline is also characterized by certain technical formulas of height, such as ribbed corbel vaults.

The Portuguese Renaissance sculpture art focused mainly on altarpieces (ornamented structures of stone or wood, rising on the back of the altar, which usually contains a religious painting) and images of saints and tombs where it can be seen two of its key characteristics: proportion and realism.
Among the most important authors are two great foreign artists who left a vast and valuable work: Nicholas Chanterenne (1517-1551), who worked in Jeronimos, at the Monastery of Santa Cruz in Coimbra, at the Church of S. Marcos in Tentúgal, at the chapel of Pena in Sintra, and John of Rouen (between 1528 and 1580), author of numerous works, such as the Cloister of the Monastery of Santa Cruz in Coimbra and the altar reredos of the church of Our Lady of Mercy in Varziela.

The Renaissance influence, in painting, was felt mainly through the Flemish school, thanks to works imported from Flanders and the presence of painters from this region of Europe. This influence is revealed in the conception of space, in the employment of Renaissance architectural ornamentation in furniture or other objects and through the realism of representation of the human figure and nature.


One of the most important works is the Saint Vincent Polyptych (altarpiece consisting of several panels) attributed to Nuno Gonçalves. This is an emblematic work of Portuguese painting, being a great "picture" of Quattrocento society, that mark a break with the rigid schedules and reveal a Gothic plastic sensibility precursory of Renaissance art. Around the idealized figure of S.Vicente, we can see fishermen, monks, knights, royals, probably the King D. Afonso V himself and other society characters portrayed with realism.
Jorge Alfonso (c.1475-1540), who distinguished himself in London during the reigns of King Manuel I and John III, was one of the artists who gathered the Flemish influence, which has also been felt in other parts of the country, particularly in Viseu, a city that was connected to Vasco Fernandes, better known as Grão Vasco (1480-1543). His work, though influenced by Flemish painting, show an expressive force and originality in the represented figures.

Jeronimos Monastery

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Belem tower

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The Convent of the Order of Christ in Tomar

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Batalha Monastery

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Monastery of Batalha, Portugal - Flamboyant Gothic architecture, intermingled with Manueline style
Monastery of Batalha, Portugal - Flamboyant Gothic architecture, intermingled with Manueline style
Monastery of Batalha, Portugal - Flamboyant Gothic architecture, intermingled with Manueline style

Other Manueline Monuments in Portugal

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The Church of St. John the Baptist,the main church of Vila do CondeChurch of Goleg, Portugal (XVI century)Church of S. Joo Baptista, TomarSanta Cruz Monastery in CoimbraSanta Cruz Monastery in CoimbraSanta Cruz Monastery in CoimbraThe cathedral of Funchal in the Madeira IslandThe Church of St. Sebastian in the city of Ponta Delgada on the island of Sao Miguel in the AzoresMain door of the Church of St. Sebastian in the city of Ponta Delgada on the island of Sao Miguel in the Azoresside door of the ChBatalha Monasteryurch of St. Sebastian in the city of Ponta Delgada on the island of Sao Miguel in the Azoresside door of the Church of St. Sebastian in the city of Ponta Delgada on the island of Sao Miguel in the AzoresBatalha MonasteryBatalha MonasteryBatalha Monastery
The Church of St. John the Baptist,the main church of Vila do Conde
The Church of St. John the Baptist,the main church of Vila do Conde
Church of Goleg, Portugal (XVI century)
Church of Goleg, Portugal (XVI century)
Church of S. Joo Baptista, Tomar
Church of S. Joo Baptista, Tomar
Santa Cruz Monastery in Coimbra
Santa Cruz Monastery in Coimbra
Santa Cruz Monastery in Coimbra
Santa Cruz Monastery in Coimbra
Santa Cruz Monastery in Coimbra
Santa Cruz Monastery in Coimbra
The cathedral of Funchal in the Madeira Island
The cathedral of Funchal in the Madeira Island
The Church of St. Sebastian in the city of Ponta Delgada on the island of Sao Miguel in the Azores
The Church of St. Sebastian in the city of Ponta Delgada on the island of Sao Miguel in the Azores
Main door of the Church of St. Sebastian in the city of Ponta Delgada on the island of Sao Miguel in the Azores
Main door of the Church of St. Sebastian in the city of Ponta Delgada on the island of Sao Miguel in the Azores
side door of the ChBatalha Monasteryurch of St. Sebastian in the city of Ponta Delgada on the island of Sao Miguel in the Azores
side door of the ChBatalha Monasteryurch of St. Sebastian in the city of Ponta Delgada on the island of Sao Miguel in the Azores
side door of the Church of St. Sebastian in the city of Ponta Delgada on the island of Sao Miguel in the Azores
side door of the Church of St. Sebastian in the city of Ponta Delgada on the island of Sao Miguel in the Azores
Batalha Monastery
Batalha Monastery
Batalha Monastery
Batalha Monastery
Batalha Monastery
Batalha Monastery

Manueline Monuments out of Portugal

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Manueline Cistern of the fortress of El Jadida in MoroccoManueline Cistern of the fortress of El Jadida in MoroccoSafi in MoroccoMain church, Texcoco, MexicoChurch of Our Lady of Help BahiaRosario Church in Goa, India
Manueline Cistern of the fortress of El Jadida in Morocco
Manueline Cistern of the fortress of El Jadida in Morocco
Manueline Cistern of the fortress of El Jadida in Morocco
Manueline Cistern of the fortress of El Jadida in Morocco
Safi in Morocco
Safi in Morocco
Main church, Texcoco, Mexico
Main church, Texcoco, Mexico
Church of Our Lady of Help Bahia
Church of Our Lady of Help Bahia
Rosario Church in Goa, India
Rosario Church in Goa, India

Neo-Manueline

The Neo-Manueline was a current revival within the Portuguese architecture and decorative arts between the mid-nineteenth century and early twentieth century.

The Neo-Manueline began with the construction of the Pena Palace in Sintra, by the king-consort D. Fernando de Saxe-Coburgo, between 1839 and 1849. After it, more buildings in this style were constructed not only in Portugal but in other countries, like Brazil, Russia and in the Portuguese colonies, as Mozambique.

Neo-Manueline Buildings

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Pena Palace, SintraSintra Town HallSoure Town HallSoure Town HallSoure Town HallEntrance to the Archaeological Museum in Lisbon, PortugalBuaco Hotel-PalaceBuaco Hotel-PalaceRossio Train stationRossio Train stationRegaleira Palace, SintraLibrary-Museum Condes de Castro Guimares in CascaisNatural History Museum, Maputo, Mozambique Portuguese Reading,Salvador,Bahia, Brazil neo-manuelinePortuguese Reading,Salvador,Bahia, Brazil neo-manuelineThe Royal Portuguese Reading in the city center of Rio de Janeiro , Brazil neo-manuelineThe palace of Arsenic Morozov, Moscow, Russia
Pena Palace, Sintra
Pena Palace, Sintra
Sintra Town Hall
Sintra Town Hall
Soure Town Hall
Soure Town Hall
Soure Town Hall
Soure Town Hall
Soure Town Hall
Soure Town Hall
Entrance to the Archaeological Museum in Lisbon, Portugal
Entrance to the Archaeological Museum in Lisbon, Portugal
Buaco Hotel-Palace
Buaco Hotel-Palace
Buaco Hotel-Palace
Buaco Hotel-Palace
Rossio Train station
Rossio Train station
Rossio Train station
Rossio Train station
Regaleira Palace, Sintra
Regaleira Palace, Sintra
Library-Museum Condes de Castro Guimares in Cascais
Library-Museum Condes de Castro Guimares in Cascais
Natural History Museum, Maputo, Mozambique
Natural History Museum, Maputo, Mozambique
Portuguese Reading,Salvador,Bahia, Brazil neo-manueline
Portuguese Reading,Salvador,Bahia, Brazil neo-manueline
Portuguese Reading,Salvador,Bahia, Brazil neo-manueline
Portuguese Reading,Salvador,Bahia, Brazil neo-manueline
The Royal Portuguese Reading in the city center of Rio de Janeiro , Brazil neo-manueline
The Royal Portuguese Reading in the city center of Rio de Janeiro , Brazil neo-manueline
The palace of Arsenic Morozov, Moscow, Russia
The palace of Arsenic Morozov, Moscow, Russia

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