When I travel, I love to collect art, books on art & history but most of all, jewelry. Not only is jewelry a lasting reminder of the experience, it is a form of wearable art.
As an artist, I pride myself on being completely immersed in the creative process. Especially when I shoot on film and print my own images in the darkroom, I’m literally imbuing my work with the fibers of my being each time I move the print in the developer tray, burn and dodge it under the enlarger, and so on.
For this reason, I always search out jewelry which is handcrafted by local artisans in the places that I visit. In many cases, these artisans are carrying on traditions which have been passed down to them for centuries.
That is certainly the case when it comes to the earrings depicted in the photograph above. I purchased these lovely intricately designed silver filigree earrings during my stay in Lisbon, Portugal. This particular type of filigree, known as ‘filigrana’, has been perfected by Portuguese artisans primarily in the northern region of the country. I’m so proud to wear something which has been so lovingly and meticulously created by another pair of human hands.
If you’re interested in seeing for yourself how filigrana is produced, watch the short video below:
Toda a amargura retardada da minha vida despe, aos meus olhos sem sensação, o traje de alegria natural de que usa nos acasos prolongados de todos os dias. Verifico que, tantas vezes alegre, tantas vezes contente, estou sempre triste. E o que em mim verifica isto está por trás de mim, como que se debruça sobre o meu encostado à janela, e, por sobre os meus ombros, ou até a minha cabeça, fita, com olhos mais íntimos que os meus, a chuva lenta, um pouco ondulada já, que filigrana de movimento o ar pardo e mau.
The denomination of “regional” clothing is based in the notion of diversity according to social and geographic conditions, and other elements such as materials and practices, in way it contributes the comprehension of these specific types of clothing.
They are officiating clothes, linked to specific days or events and intractably connected to the idea of celebration. They bear a symbolism that walks hand-in-hand with religious practices, reflecting the culture of said region in a combination of elements that become easily distinguished between regions.
These costumes present themselves as a mythos, or a profound mythology, with its relation to a praxis connected to Catholicism. But they bear roots from the immense diversity of Portuguese history, from Muslim art forms that survived, and strived, through centuries, to ancient beliefs or superstitions, rooted in ancient pre-roman cultures, still alive today in many villages. They can be divided (1) in two great zones based on its polychromatic characteristics: as we get closer to the sea, women «enhance its polychromatic characteristics and complicate their clothing», as opposed to serranas, women from the ridges of the interior, that bear a more monochromatic way of dressing. This is evidenced through the wearing of the scarf, connected to the role of women in society: in serrana societies, of the interior, or the hillside of the country, women cover their forehead, whereas the coastline and south regions, where the sea is in direct relation toin the way of living, the forehead is released, evidencing more liberties of the role of women in its society.
Traditional costumes from Serra da Estrela, a type of serrana.
Costumes for romaria, male and female, from Póvoa de Vazim, a fishing town.
Five great elements can be pointed in Portuguese costuming overall (2):
1. The representation of affection, often a symbol crafted in some decorative element of the costume or adornment to be worn with the costume itself3. This affection doesn’t limit to representations of love, but also of grief in a much demarcated tradition of mourning, rooted in catholic liturgy (4).
A lovers’ handkerchief, or lenço dos namorados.
2) The proliferation of the usage of gold. Two elements play a part here, the first considering the financial security gold represented for lower-class people, since it could be pawned in a more desperate situation. It also secured the gold-bearer, usually the women being the most ostentatious ones, as the matron of the household, in a competitive spirit between neighbors. The usage of gold is so popular and traditional it maintains today, despite social class. The second element is of an intricate catholic inheritance, which we can trace back to the baroque era: the need to “distort” the body, which is to eliminate the sensual curves of the female body. As in the Iberian fashion of the 17th century women (5) found heavy gold and jewel decoration to cover parts of the body usually defined as sensual, such as the chest, this tradition passed on to popular costuming. A fine example of this gold usage is the minhota costume, where a certain “iconography” reads in a certain symbolism that traces back to the rocaille, particularly to queen D. Maria I, whose promise of raising a basilica if she bore a baron to the kingdom, resulted in Basílica da Estrela, a church to Sagrado Coração de Jesus, the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a symbol today popularized in minhota golden earrings with an asymmetrical heart. Many of these golden adornments can be traced back to interpretations or direct importations of jewelry wore by queens for different periods.
Example of heart-shaped arrecadas. Arrecadas are known of a few dominant shapes, mainly in gold (silver became popular only later, in a touristic fashion), of which the most beautiful in craft and better known are the Brincos à Rainha, the queen-style earrings.
3) Preference for linen and wool. Both materials are a strong symbol of a working class people, who both seek the best materials to guard them from the cold and find more accessible. Although silk was popular to a degree, it prevailed in nobility and aristocracy.
Two examples of a minhota costume: on the left, a bride and groom; on the right, a lavadeira (washerwoman). Notice the heavy gold wore by the bride on her chest.
4) The afore mentioned chromatic division between coastline and interior. While the colorful costuming of coastline societies reflected the festive spirit, the darker colors of the men and women living in the ridges translated the hardship of the work and lifestyle, as well the colder and aggravated climate.
A nazarene widdow costume, with the embuçada, the mourning veil.
5) Religiousness in costume ornamentation. Conceived mostly in accordance to the liturgical calendar, in a society where there is a saint for every day of the week and where birth, baptism, marriage and death were the most important moments of someone’s life, competition was vivid in festive costumes. During romaria (6), one dressed themselves to be seen.
The study of these costuming have only recently been more focused on from a scientific and anthropologic perspective. Through the eye romanticism, from Almeida Garret’s Viagens na Minha Terra (7) to the first naturalist and realist painter’s perspective, these costumes appear as a nationalistic embodiment of a people that withdraws its original intentions and usages from their context and gives them new ones. With the New Estate and the dictatorship, they were held as the prime example of the true Portuguese soul. But despite their interpretations, with new eyes on their study, they are cherished in their uniqueness and beauty, within the context of their creation, which translates the diversity of a festive spirit that is very different from region to region.
(1) According to Luís Chaves. (2) As proposed by Madalena Brás Teixeira. (3) As an example, in Minho exists a great tradition of adding hearts to one’s costume, particularly of bride and groom, of which the better known are the heart-shaped arrecadas, or heavy golden earrings made of filigrana, as well as the lenços de namorados, or “lovers’ handkerchiefs”, a white handkerchief with love declarations written in colorful embroidery (notable for being written with spelling mistakes, since they were made by illiterate people). Some of these elements even represent a sexualized tone, such algibeira de minhota, the “minhota pocket”. (4) As the costumes typical from Nazaré are an example of. These mourning practices, taken with extreme seriousness, were common in fishing communities, where often the man of the household would travel for months for fishing and their house depended on such. As a demonstration of perpetual grief, the embuçadas appear in this region, a covering of the face up until the eyes, of evident Islamic influence. (5) An example of such is the portrait of Queen Catherine of Braganza’s mother, queen Luíza de Gusmán. It was predominant in both Spain and Portugal. (6) Romaria is a devotional procession to a church or parish. Time, however, gave the word a connotation of “religious festivity”. (7) Published in 1846, the book travels along the deep Portuguese regions such as Santarém, exploring with a romanticized eye the peoples and their costumes in a realist tone, as, similarly, Eça de Queiroz will later do.
Tenho sempre uma viagem bailando nos olhos. Nasci embriagada de universos. Os cartões-postais estrangulam os horizontes do meu desejo. Meu corpo é cheio de espaços vazios que precisam ser preenchido com lugares. De modo que, todas as noites, descalça, vou e volto a um país desconhecido a um lugar que eu não habito, mas que me habita por dentro. Vou salvando versos que libertam minhas algemas de alforria e tropeçando em estrofes no meio das ruas. Não meço distâncias, atravesso as linhas limites com a satisfação de estar longe da casa onde nasci. Há tantos lugares no mundo onde eu gostaria de viver… Mas não é simples conciliar desejo e realidade, a maioria mora em lugares para os quais foram predestinados e não exatamente por escolhas. Comigo foi assim, de modo que me acostumei a seguir nascendo em inúmeros lugares desconhecidos. Parteira de mim mesma, arrasto-me como uma sentença até ao ostracismo estrangeiro, de onde espio a vida acontecer. Nomeio-me em filigrana a cada sitio. Batizo-me debaixo de distintos céus. A mãe natureza é a mesma em qualquer parte do mundo. Boceja a solidão com sua belíssima boca, engolindo o caos de cada dia.
Diners ate with two-tined forks and drank wine from crystal glasses
made in Murano, a Venetian region known for glass making. In Paolo
Veronese’s painting The Wedding Feast at Cana, a man holding a tazza,
or shallow glass, is about to sip his wine. Wine-pairing first took
place in the 16th century, making Veronese’s festive revelers especially
in the painting, a woman in a blue dress daintily holds a toothpick to
her mouth. A toothpick was a personal item customarily contained in a
jewel-encrusted golden case and worn on a chain as a necklace. Hygiene
De um pequeno degrau dourado -, entre os cordões
de seda, os cinzentos véus de gaze, os veludos verdes
e os discos de cristal que enegrecem como bronze
ao sol -, vejo a digital abrir-se sobre um tapete de filigranas
de prata, de olhos e de cabeleiras.
La cultura local siempre es un antecedente a tener en cuenta a la hora de desarrollar un proyecto. Para este edificio, la elaboración de revestimientos y pieles pasa por integrar una colección de filigranas y colores que se toman el conjunto y transforman lo que sería un bloque opaco y convencional en una linterna que se lleva las miradas de día y noche.