Mark of the Week: Bordallo Pinheiro
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If you were to come across a ceramic bowl that looks like it’s made of cabbage leaves and it features this mark, you’d have a genuine piece of Bordallo Pinheiro.
Bordallo Pinheiro was founded in Caldas da Raina, Portugal in 1884 by Raphael Bordallo Pinheiro, an artist who was renowned throughout his native Portugal for his satirical caricatures and comical artworks. He was the original creator of the much-loved “Zé Povinho,” a character who symbolizes the Portuguese peasant and his attitude to authority. This character would also feature in his ceramic work in the form of humorous figurines.
The pottery factory where Raphael Bordallo Pinheiro and his brother Feliciano began their venture into ceramics was originally known as “Fábrica de Faianças das Caldas da Rainha.” Pinheiro was appointed as the Artistic Director of the factory and he quickly made it a famous name in Portugal and beyond, winning both silver and gold medals at the Universal Exposition in Paris as well as several other awards and medals both in Europe and in the USA. After the artist’s death in 1905, the factory closed, only to be reopened by his son Manuel Gustavo Bordallo Pinheiro who renamed the factory “Bordallo Pinheiro Faiances.” Production continues to this day on the outskirts of the town, while the former factory houses a museum and factory shop.
Bordallo Pinheiro created tableware and servingware as well as decorative vases, sculptures (mainly animals), decorative panels and wall-art, perfume bottles and tiles. Many of these items are sculpted into the form of plants, vegetables, fruits and animals before being glazed in vibrant, glossy tin glazes, in the majolica style. The designs are frequently whimsical, created with fun in mind, but there are also many items which utilize a much simpler design ethos, showcasing instead the richness of the glaze and high-quality finish.
The most successful ceramics to be produced by the Bordallo Pinheiro factory include his highly recognizable cabbage-themed tableware. This set sold last year for $375
The most successful ceramics to be produced by the Bordallo Pinheiro factory include his highly recognizable cabbage-themed tableware. This range of heavily glazed ceramic tableware and serving dishes has been designed to look like fresh cabbage heads; a reminder of Bordallo Pinheiro’s championing of all things “peasant.”
Other items from the Bordallo Pinheiro factory which have gained widespread attention include the decorative swallow (known as “andorinha”), a ceramic bird that is typically used to adorn the inside and outside of homes and buildings throughout Portugal, and his decorative ceramic sardines which are now a staple of the factory that produced a range of different styles and collectible designs. Artists and designers are regularly invited to submit their own sardine designs.
Decorative ceramics like this sardine are now a staple of the factory that produced a range of different styles and collectible designs. This one, with the original box, brought $50 through eBay in 2015.
Bordallo Pinheiro tiles, known as azelejos, are another common production. Designed to be used for both indoor and outdoor decoration, azelejos are produced in a range of different decorative designs, from the elegant Art Nouveau to the bold Modernist style, with a heavy influence of Moorish and Arab design along the way.
The aim of the factory has always been that of Raphael Bordallo Pinheiro: to create ceramics that are both practical and decorative. Bordallo Pinheiro was extremely prolific and created many sculptural and decorative pieces from which numerous molds were carefully created. Many of these molds are still used by the factory, allowing original Bordallo Pinheiro designs to be recreated posthumously.
The factory continued production after Manuel Gustave Bordallo Pinheiro passed away in 1920, having been taken over by a group of local people. In 2008, the company experienced significant financial difficulties but it was prevented from going into administration when it was bought by the Visabeira Group, a large conglomerate which has protected the factory and enabled production to continue, increasing awareness of the brand and transforming the factory’s quirky pieces from nostalgic favorites into desirable iconic designs.
Bordallo Pinheiro tiles, known as azelejos, are another common production. Designed to be used for both indoor and outdoor decoration, azelejos are produced in a range of different decorative designs, from the elegant Art Nouveau to the bold Modernist style, with a heavy influence of Moorish and Arab design along the way. This tile, featuring two butterflies, sold for $111 back in 2007.
What to Look For
Bordallo Pinheiro ceramics are very easy to identify thanks to the unique maker’s mark that is found on the base of each piece. This mark is either incised or stamped and is made up of a frog motif inside a double-banded circular frame which contains the words BORDALLO PINHEIRO in uppercase block lettering followed by either the date the factory was founded, “Est. 1884,” or the pottery location, CALHAS DE RAINHAS or PORTUGAL. The phrase ‘MADE IN PORTUGAL’ may also be stamped on the bottom of the piece. The back-stamp ranges in size depending on the size of the item.
It is believed that all Bordallo Pinheiro pieces are marked with the factory name, even early items. Due to the widespread production of tin-glazed ceramics in a similar style to the Bordallo Pinheiro range, it is very difficult to trace an unmarked item back to the Bordallo Pinheiro factory.
Counterfeit items are rare, but not unknown. Identifying a genuine piece of Bordallo Pinheiro comes down to quality. The items are known for being finished to a very high standard. Items that have any flaws or faults are marked with a line through the frog motif on the bottom; if you come across a piece of substandard pottery marked with the Bordallo Pinheiro back-stamp and it does not have a line across the frog motif, then you may be dealing with a counterfeit item. Genuine pieces are known for the intricacy of their design and their thick, glossy glaze. Sculpted pieces in the form of fruit and vegetables are given a 3D effect using a range of different tones as opposed to flat, solid colors.
The Bordallo Pinheiro mark, a frog within a circle, has not altered much throughout the factory’s production history, but there are a few variations you should be aware of:
- Early pieces were given an incised mark rather than a painted or inked stamp. This incised mark will have some relief to it and the glaze is likely to have caught in the indentations, highlighting the shape.
- While incised marks continued to be used periodically (especially on larger or rare pieces), a painted or inked stamp in black was later used.
- Items may also feature the words “Made in Portugal” and/or a mold number but these are not found on every item.
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