As far as the European pieces are concerned, the highlights are the 16th-century Italian exhibits from Faenza and Castel Durante (or Venice), the 17th-century ceramics from Deruta, and the 18th-century French (Nevers) and Spanish (Alcora) pieces.

The first of these groups display sophisticated Renaissance decorations, some of which are based on engravings. One piece from Deruta exhibits decorations of chimeras and grotesques, based on the work of Raphael, which also came to the field of faience through engravings.

Through a tureen from Alcora, one of the most important centres of ceramic production in Spain in the 18th and 19th centuries, as well as the “fanfare” decoration, it is possible to appreciate the way in which the Rococo style was expressed in ceramic forms at this factory.

As far as Portuguese ceramics are concerned, an important group of 17th-century faience pieces makes it possible to show the way in which, beginning with the influence of Chinese porcelain, the Lisbon potteries succeeded in producing original works. In dishes and basins, the Chinese influence is generally confined to the rims and wells, whilst western motifs occupy the centres of the pieces. Despite presenting an unusual decoration in the well of the bowl, a basin dated 1649 makes it possible to prove that until the turn of the century Portuguese blue-painted faience did not outline the drawing in manganese. This was only to become a characteristic feature in the second half of the 17th century.

Although the Fábrica de Massarelos was already active in Porto (1763), it was the foundation, in 1767, of the Real Fábrica de Louça at Rato in Lisbon, the main manufacturing unit of the industrial changes introduced by the Marquês de Pombal, that meant that Portuguese ceramics ceased to be produced in potteries and began to enjoy a type of pre-industrial manufacture. By the end of the 18th century, there were to appear in Lisbon, but also in Porto, Gaia, Viana do Castelo and Estremoz, a whole series of factories that were fully operative until the time of the “French Invasions”, after which many of them fell into decline.

The present collection includes a magnificent dish from the Fábrica do Rato, from the period of its first master Tomás Brunetto, and pieces that are representative of the ceramic production from the north of Portugal, such as a Toby-Jug from Miragaia. A pitcher makes it possible to show the way in which the traditional forms of pots were adapted by the faience industry.

This museum’s collection of ancient ceramics also includes, in the cloister, examples of Dutch and Spanish-Arabian azulejos, amongst which attention is drawn to a rare example dating back to 1575.