Still in the first half of the 19th century, Maria dos Cacos (? – 1853) was the first in a long lineage of Caldense potters and ceramists to explore the animal figuration.Her candle holders and toothpick holders in the shape of lions, monkeys or poodles, and her tureens shaped like fishes, are some of the pieces that would be continued by the person who took over her workshop: Manuel Cipriano Gomes (1829-1905), known as “o Mafra”.

He would be the one to Mafra would gradually introduce in the production of popular nature, classical references more to the European taste of the moment, namely the themes and techniques recovered by the revivalism of the ceramic work of Bernard Palissy (1510-1590).

The technique of direct casting explored by Palissy in his approach to the theme of Nature would influence the whole of the Caldense ceramic production of the second half of the 19th century and first decades of the 20th century.

It consists in applying the plaster directly on the object, plant or dead animal ensuring an accurate and thorough reproduction.

For his favourite theme, the marsh, Palissy explored the fauna and flora of his region through direct castings of river fishes, lizards, snakes and various plants.

Close to the sea and the countryside, Manuel Mafra rapidly widens this vocabulary to all sorts of maritime elements – fishes, crustaceans, algae –and countryside elements– fruits, flowers, leaves, vegetables, reptiles and larger animals. In some cases, due to limitations imposed by scale or finish, these shapes would be modelled by sight, more or less realistically.

The use of moulds allowed an easy reproduction of these figures that were next associated in the most diverse compositions, placed on plates or dishes or adapted to the volumes of jugs, vases, gourds and other objects shaped separately.

The ceramists that came after Mafra and that took from him many of his motifs and compositions were also able to innovate or bring new influences, but in most cases gave continuity to the same techniques.

In this collection we will recover a set of vintage direct cast moulds obtained from a factory in the Caldas da Rainha region. Collected over the years and passed on from factory to factory, some of these moulds could go back to the beginning of the 20th century, or even end of 19th century. In parallel with a predictably long research for the authors and the dating of all this material, we will “re-activate” a selection of these moulds and release their figures either as single pieces or adapted to elements that will complete them.

Giving continuity to another traditional Caldense technique associated to this type of pieces, the figures will be “painted with glaze” or more accurately painted in the “inglaze” technique. When skilfully used, taking advantage of the reliefs and textures of the surfaces, this technique can give an effective illusion of reality, suggesting the effect that painters call “trompe l’oeil” (to fool the eye). It also allows to explore the transparency, the depth and the combination of hues resulting from the overlapping of glazes and the light passing through them.