Characterised by its wide diversity of origins, just like any other category, its importance derives from the further range of subcategories that it covers, since there are examples of religious vestments, coverlets and carpets. As far as the excellent set of tapestries originating from Tournai is concerned, this is dealt with in its own separate chapter.
The collection of religious vestments includes pieces from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, with attention being drawn in particular to the Sino-Portuguese chasuble. The other chasubles, one from the 16th and two from the 18th century, reveal the evolution of this particular liturgical vestment: the 16th-century chasuble has a rounded bottom, showing the evolution from the Gothic style, which was traditionally pointed; the 18th-century chasubles are characterised by their cello shape, which they were to retain into the 20th century. As far as the dalmatics are concerned, these reveal the particular taste of the 17th century, when this piece took on a more complex and therefore more baroque appearance. We must also mention the gremial, a highly artistic piece in which the sophisticated embroidery work contributed to the great pomp and circumstance that were such an important part of religious ceremonies in the 17th century.
The coverlets belong to the somewhat extensive group that we may designate as textiles of intimacy. As Victor Jabouille concluded, “from the very outset, the coverlet has a triple function: domestic, aesthetic and symbolic. Depending on the richness, degree of perfection and quality of its components, it also expresses material wealth and luxury” (JABOUILLE, 1985). The coverlet has an essentially private use, being reserved for an intimate area, for it is used to cover a bed, which is already an object that is fraught with symbolism. These textile pieces are no more than membranes that divide the world of the unconscious, sleep and dream from the clarity of reality. At the same time, the coverlet physically protects intimacy, guarding against impurities and stains. A third aspect is related to the evident care and attention that is given to the question of aesthetics, enriching and underlining the importance of the bed in the decorative context of the bedroom. The coverlet exhibited at the Museu do Caramulo is Indo-Portuguese, made of carmine silk embroidered with gold paper thread. Placed in a medallion in the centre is a double-headed eagle, which may be interpreted, albeit with some reservations, as the monogram of the Augustinian friars. Clearly in response to a certain horror vacui, which was a typical characteristic of this type of piece, the coverlet displays an enormous decorative profusion. All the available area is occupied by a complex pattern of intertwined plants, framed in a division that is normally found on these coverlets: between the field and the border. The Indo-Portuguese goderim is an extraordinary example of this art.
Included in a series of pieces that we might well refer to as comfort textiles, the carpets are designed according to taste and acquired with the aim of making the place that we might, quite properly, label as being our very own more habitable. The 17th-century Arraiolos carpet (cat. 320), has an embroidery that is characteristic of the early period, since the outlines of the patterns are made in stem stitches, whilst the field is filled with traditional Arraiolos stitches. The field is decorated with a brown background, which might have been red, whilst the outlines of the patterns are embroidered in stem stitches in greenish and ivory tones. Due to the state of the piece, it is very difficult to define the colours that characterise it: there are greyish (which might have been blue), pinkish and reddish tones, together with some yellowish and other greenish tones. The piece also has one particular curiosity: the presence of eight deer embroidered amidst the various decorative motifs. The border has a bluish background and is decorated with vegetal motifs. The patterns are also outlined in brownish stem stitches and in the shading one notices bluish, greenish and brownish tones, which quite possibly were once of a different colour.