Although this sample is entirely random, it is certainly the result of the scarce appearances of old glassware on the antiques market in the mid-20th century. This phenomenon is related to the fact that the industry connected with this particular form of art arrived late in Portugal and did not enjoy particularly favourable conditions for its development. Thus, although glass factories have existed in Portugal since the 15th century, most notably the one in Coina, it was only with the industrial reforms introduced by the Marquês de Pombal, and later with the opening of the Vista Alegre factory, that this product began to become widespread in the country. For this reason, in pre-Pombaline Portugal, it was easier to find glassware of Spanish, French, German, Venetian, Dutch and even Bohemian origin, coming from manufacturing centres where the industries produced better quality glass in greater quantities and therefore on a more competitive basis than in Portugal.
In Spain, it was in the region of Catalonia, particularly in the cities of Barcelona and Mataró, that glassmakers managed to achieve a reputation for high quality that was comparable to that of their counterparts on the island of Murano in Venice. In the 15th century, the glassmakers of Barcelona were already grouped together in a guild, and some of their members had seats on the municipal councils. Vested with such power, glassmakers succeeded in organising a fair in the first few days of each year, at which they could promote their most distinguished products amongst the general public.
The Catalonian production can be divided into two large groups, based on their decorative techniques: enamelled glassware (15th to early 18th century) and glassware à la façon de Venise (17th-18th century) (REY DE VIÑAS, 2002, pp. 66-67).
The Museu do Caramulo only has examples from this latter group, which is quite natural given that Catalonian enamelled glassware is very rare nowadays. Whilst in this group of pieces, one can note a confluence of styles between Venetian and Syrian models, in the second group the marks of the Murano style can be clearly seen to enjoy a close relationship with local habits and customs. With the collection of glassware at the Museu do Caramulo, one can almost follow the development of the different types of decorations that were most commonly used in Catalonia à la façon de Venise: diamond-point engraving, filigree or milky white threads embedded in the glass, as in a Bottle (cat. 351) and a Holy Water Font (cat. 359) at this museum, crackled as in the Fruit-bowl (cat. 354) and, finally hot-worked glass made with the use of tongs, as in two Jugs (cat. 358 and cat. 356). Glassware was also produced in Catalonia for everyday use, the so-called “blowpipe glass” that was sold all over the world (REY DE VIÑAS, 2002, p. 70). This kind of glassware also seems to have reached Portugal, and, at Caramulo, there are two pharmacist’s jars (cat. 352 and cat. 353) that bear witness to this type of production.
Throughout the 18th century, Catalonian production was in a state of decline and glass was beginning to lose some of its qualities, as could be seen by the increased number of bubbles, the increased weight of the pieces and the ungainliness of their forms. It was necessary to wait for the Spanish royal initiative launched by the government of Filipe V, when a large factory was founded in the suburbs of Madrid, the Real Fábrica de Cristales de La Granja de San Ildefonso (REY DE VIÑAS, 1998 and RUIZ ALCON, 1985). The Museu do Caramulo has an elegant compotier (cat. 360), with a fire-gilded decoration from the classicist period (1787-1810), and a platter with a pair of beakers (cat. 362 and cat. 363) already from the final or historicist period (1883 – early 20th century) (REY DE VIÑAS, 1998) of this factory, when a polychrome decoration of brightly-coloured festoons began to impose itself. It is also possible to associate with this group a tankard decorated with the figure of a horseman (cat. 361), from the production of La Granja in the late 18th century.
In Portugal, in 1719, seventeen years before the foundation of the factory of La Granja, Dom João V established the Real Fábrica de Coina. Although there is documentary knowledge and some archaeological evidence demonstrating that there had been several glass manufacturing centres in Portugal (Lisbon, Palmela, Santarém, Coina, Alcochete, Asseiceira and Côvo in Oliveira de Azeméis) from the 15th century onwards, it was only as a result of this royal incentive that we can begin to talk about a genuine national glass production. Even so, production seems to have been relatively modest and not of a particularly impressive quality, ending up not being able to meet the needs of national consumption (BARROS, 1989, pp. 40-42 and MENDES, 2002, pp. 37-46). Originating from this factory is most probably a beaker (cat. 367) with a polychrome decoration extolling the royal figure that founded and protected the factory, Dom João V, perhaps painted on the occasion of the royal visit of Mariana of Austria to the factory in 1727 (BARROS, 1989, p. 45, CUSTÓDIO and CALDAS, 1990, pp. 231-234 and MENDES, 2002, pp. 55-59; CUSTÓDIO, 2002, pp. 155-201).
The same extolling of royal figures can be seen on other pieces of glassware in the Caramulo collection: a beaker (cat. 368) produced at the factory, already after the move, in 1748, from Coina to Marinha Grande, acclaims Dom José (CUSTÓDIO, 2002, pp. 229-267); two other beakers (cat. 370 and cat. 371), with the effigies of Dona Maria II and Dom Pedro, Duke of Bragança, are from the most productive period and the time when the highest quality glassware was made, between 1837 and 1846, at the “Porcelain, Glass and Chemical Process Factory of Vista Alegre”, which had been founded in 1824 by José Ferreira Pinto Basto (BARROS, 1989, pp. 42 and 46-47 and MENDES, 2002, pp. 74-76).
The glassware collection at the Museu do Caramulo also has another two glass objects: a compotier with a dish of French origin (cat. 365) and a German flask (cat. 355), which share the common feature of polychromy (DRAHOTOVÁ, 1987).
As far as another technical universe is concerned, namely that of enamel ware, the Museu do Caramulo has three interesting pieces. An enamelled bowl (cat. 350) with a black base and white gores, decorated with gold stars and presumably originating from Venice, may have been made in the late 15th century. We have more references, however, for the study of two oval plaques, housed inside in a case, which have enamel representations of St. Ursula and St. Augustine (cat. 357). They are monogrammed by Pierre Nouailher, the dates of whose activity are known. In fact, this enameller from Limoges worked from 1686 to 1717. Pierre Nouailher was born into a family of enamellers, but he was undoubtedly the one who was to become most famous. Although he belonged to the generation that was to put an end to the enamelling workshops at Limoges, whilst he himself never ventured into the production of great compositions, his works nonetheless illustrate the great correctness of his designs, using a lustreless glazed paste (TEXIER, 1843, p. 311).