International Exposition of Paris 1867

Agriculture, Industry and Fine Arts

April 1, 1867 - November 3, 1867

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Portugal at the Exhibition Expo Paris 1867

The Exhibition, from whatever point of view we study it, always offers fruitful lessons and interesting aspects. If it shows us the high degree of material prosperity attained by peoples born yesterday, it also reminds us of exceptional periods in the history of certain peoples who have only recently entered the path of progress. Some countries bring to the Exhibition the spectacle of a marvellous present; others arrive with the promises of the future guaranteed by the memories of a glorious past.

The Portuguese commission, inspired by the initiative of its president, Count d'Avila, has shown good taste in evoking such memories, and in drawing the elements of the decoration from the imperishable monuments which cover Portugal and which almost all date from the same period. In the gallery of work, in the midst of all these admirable but unpoetic machines, of these iron and steel colossi which roar and shout, but say nothing to the soul, rises an elegant edifice reminiscent of the architecture of the monastery of Belem, built to perpetuate the memory of Gama's expedition, as, later on, the Escurial was built to fulfil a vow made at the battle of St. Lawrence. Its elegant serrations, its exquisitely delicate festoons, all the enchantments of the excavated and pierced stone, produce an unexpected and charming effect. The façade of the Portuguese section offers a reproduction of the same architecture. It is a good fortune for the elite of the civilised world gathered in Paris to be able to study from its purest types this singular architecture, an assembly of various styles, a fusion of several different schools. The flamboyant Gothic style blends with Renaissance art, and the influence of the Moorish style is also recognisable. The Gothic ogive and the Roman semicircular arch, the openwork trefoils and the arabesque embroidery, the niches of saints half-topped by pinnacles, the openwork roses, we find everything in these monuments whose whole may lack a little harmony and unity, but whose details shine with such finesse and grace. It is a debauchery of stone, an architectural firework. The eye is dazzled and one does not want to take account of one's impressions, for fear of spoiling one's admiration by analysing them.

It is a happy idea that presided over the conception of the gallery of the history of work; and if the organisers of this exhibition in the French section have succeeded in bringing together priceless riches, it must be acknowledged that foreign nations have sent objects of great interest; but none of them has a collection of archaeological wonders similar to that of Portugal. In the middle of the room stands the showcase containing the objects sent by the king. It is here that one can admire the famous monstrance melted, it is said, with the first gold ingot that Vasco de Gama brought back from his expedition. Mr Octave Lacroix spoke about it here.

The same showcase contains a gilded silver fruit bowl representing the triumph of Alexander, a gold cross dating from 1206, and a sixteenth-century chalice. All of these objects are decorated with exquisite relief carvings and, remarkably, they seem to have come from the hands of the goldsmith, so great was the purity of the metal used.

Two lateral display cabinets have been fitted with the religious objects kept in the treasuries of the main cathedrals of the kingdom, particularly those of Lisbon and Evora. They include an embroidered velvet sheet which, according to tradition, belonged to the Order of Aviz, chasubles decorated with embroidery of unprecedented richness and perfection, two beautiful silver trays with exquisite figures, to the king, and another pair of silver platters, to the Baron of Pombeiro.

The walls are covered with excellent photographic prints of the main buildings of the kingdom. Here is Guimarães, the first capital of the Portuguese monarchy, where Alfonso Henriquez was crowned after his victory in Ourique over five Moorish kings in 1009; Coimbra, the old university town, the queen of the Mondego, surrounded by vineyards and olive groves, and dominating the fertile plains through which the river quickly carries to the ocean the limpid waves of the Fountain of the Loves, so sweetly sung by the Camoens and whose purity was never disturbed except one day by the blood of the unfortunate Ines de Castro; Here is Thomar, the ancient residence of the Templars; the convent of Batailla, famous for its magnificent fifteenth-century stained-glass windows; and finally the tower of Belem, which stands on the left bank of the Tagus.

No less remarkable are the photographic reproductions of the carriages belonging to the Royal Household; these carriages, which date from the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, are used only in very exceptional circumstances; they are covered with gilded wood carvings and paintings executed by the first Portuguese artists.

If one were to listen only to one's admiration, one would be carried far beyond the limits of the conscientious but rapid study of this section. So let us leave the gallery of works of art and enter the rooms reserved for the products of industry.

Portuguese industry did not really take off until the reign of Don Pedro II, the third sovereign of the Braganza dynasty. Thanks to the enlightened protection of the minister Ericeira, workers were called from England to use the raw materials supplied by the kingdom; thus were founded the cloth factories of Covilhâo and Portalègre, which prospered rapidly and were already in a position to satisfy the consumption of the metropolis and the colonies, when the fatal Treaty of Methwen was signed, which, permitting the importation of English cloth, dealt a mortal blow to the nascent industry and made Portugal a farm of England. In vain did the Marquis of Pombal try to revive the national industry by securing for it the monopoly of the colonies, the French invasion re-established England's influence more firmly than ever.

For only about thirty years, Portugal, penetrated by the necessity of re-establishing manufacturing industry and of giving the kingdom the means of satisfying its own consumption, has made serious efforts in this direction which have produced undeniable results. Industrial exhibitions were organised: the first was held in Lisbon in 1849, a second in Oporto in 1857; at the same time, Portugal took part in the Universal Exhibitions of London and Paris, and in 1865 organised the one in Oporto, which was very successful and in which all countries were represented. This year, Portugal sent us a large number of exhibitors in almost all classes. The number of awards they received was 262.

There is little to say about Groups II and III; in the liberal arts material, the typographical proofs are particularly noteworthy, as well as the specimens of stucco and wood ornamentation exhibited by the commercial association of Porto.

The luxury furniture is gathered in a room that serves as a meeting place for the members of the Portuguese Commission. The cupboards and tables on display are excellent works of cabinetry and can stand comparison with similar products from other countries. The glassware is meticulous and the crystals are generally elegantly shaped. As for the earthenware and pottery of Coimbra, they have retained the stamp of originality to which they owe their ancient reputation.

More interesting for the special man is the study of the products of the manufacturing industry. When one enters the clothing gallery, one's eyes are first drawn to the showcases containing the beautiful samples of silk exhibited by the Orphanage of the Baron of Nova-Cintra and by Messrs Silva and Alvès of Porto, and by the Count of Samorâens. It is easy to understand, from the quality of the products and the number of exhibitors in class 31, that silk manufacture has always been especially favoured by the Portuguese Government. In the middle of the last century, the Marquis of Pombal had a model spinning mill established at Chacim, near Bragança, at the expense of the State, which he placed under the direction of skilled masters called from Italy. Although the Chacim establishment was soon abandoned after the fall of Pombal, like so many other creations of that minister, the silk industry remained the best protected and most widespread in the kingdom. Today the factories of Porto and Lisbon employ five hundred looms, which use not only all the silk produced in the country, but also that of foreign origin.

The fabrics of carded wool are no less worthy of attention. If the sheets seen at the Exhibition do not shine with fineness and velvetiness, on the other hand, they leave nothing to be desired in terms of quality and solidity. The woollens, knitwear and hosiery produced in Lisbon and Porto should not be forgotten either.

If the vigorous impulse given in recent years to the mechanical spinning and weaving of cotton has not yet produced all the desirable results, it cannot be denied, from an examination of the products exhibited by Portugal, that the cotton industry in that kingdom is destined for a brilliant future. Lisbon and Porto cotton fabrics are only used by the people, because of their strength and cheapness.

Here is jewellery, one of the oldest industries in the kingdom. Portuguese women are no less daughters of Eve than those of other countries; they work only to be able to convert their savings into jewels, and on feast days it is not uncommon to see both peasant and bourgeois women carrying as much as ten and twelve pounds of gold in jewellery. One of the most charming industries of this kind is that of filigree, of which Oporto is the centre and which seems to be of Moorish origin.

Mr. Leite, jeweller in Lisbon, exhibited the complete collection of Portuguese decorations. Few countries have as many existing orders of chivalry as Portugal.

A low display case contains a collection of small statuettes, very remarkable in their execution, and representing the types and costumes of the different provinces of Portugal. The men are, in general, of small stature, well built, strong, agile; their complexion has those swarthy tones so beautiful in the Arabs. The women, without having the piquant and voluptuous stamp of the Andalusian, are graceful and well made; their beautiful lustrous black hair is raised on the top of the head and the brightness of their eyes is tempered only by the dignity of their posture, serious but without stiffness. Their whole person presents a happy combination of Christian, Jewish and Arab types. Their costume, simple as it is, is worn with grace and ease: an Indian or cloth skirt, generally dark, coloured in some provinces, a small bodice stapled in front, so as to show the shirt, the neck uncovered and adorned with necklaces of large blown gold pearls, such as the peasant women of the Roman countryside wear; a broad-brimmed hat and leather-covered clogs; such is the clothing of peasant women throughout the whole kingdom. The men's garments are unremarkable.

It is high time to reconsider a prejudice which was not without foundation thirty years ago, but which is no longer so justified today. It has been said, and is still being repeated, that the suppliers of London and Paris alone possess the art of dressing with comfort and elegance. It is undeniable that today good tailoring traditions are no longer restricted to the Boulevard des Italiens and Regent Street; if you want to be convinced of this, it will suffice to cast your eyes on the shop window of Mr. Christian Keil, tailor to His Majesty King Don Pedro, to look at the boots, men's and women's shoes exhibited by Mrs. Widow Stellpflug, as well as at the military headgear coming out of the workshops of the house of Bello, of Lisbon.

In a second article, we will talk about the real wealth of Portugal: the products of its soil.

The wealth of Portugal consists in the productions of the soil and in the mineral resources that the country contains, resources that have been little exploited up to now, it is true, because of the difficulty of the communication routes and the scarcity of capital, but with regard to which the examination of the samples on display allows us to foresee a brilliant future.

See this magnificent block of copper iron pyrite from the Santo Domingo mine; do not these copper pyrites, these samples of iron, armour and galena prove that, in terms of mineral wealth, Portugal has nothing to envy other countries?

Portugal also contains several coal mines; those of Buarcos, near Figueira, exploited since the fourteenth century, and of San Pedro da Cova, whose discovery dates only from 1802, offer the best report. The establishment of the railway between Lisbon and the Spanish frontier has made it possible to exploit several mineral fuel deposits which it had not previously been possible to exploit.

In the engine house are exhibited columns, slabs, and a tub of marble, which deserve attention; these marbles are not less remarkable for the fineness of the grain than for the great variety of colours; those of Cintra are blue, those of the neighbourhood of Mafra red and yellow. The mountain of Serpa, in the Alemtejo, is entirely formed of an admirable white marble; it is in the quarries of Estremoz that one finds the black, green and white marble which supplied the beautiful columns of the Escurial. Everywhere the deposits are flush with the ground and very easy to extract. All that is missing is roads, so that Portugal has nothing to envy Italy in this respect.

Let us not pass without glancing at these millstones; extracted from the quarries of Figueira, Coimbra and Leiria, they are sent to Porto for export; some, made of very fine granite, are used to crush corn; the others, made of limestone, are used to crush wheat, rye and other grains.

These samples of salt come from the salt marshes or marinhas established all along the coast of the Ocean, as well as at the mouths and on the banks of the Sado, Tagus, Mondeigo, Douro and other tributaries of the Atlantic. The salts of Setubal are precious for the salting of the fisheries; those of Lisbon, lighter and smaller, are almost entirely taken up by the English, while those of the Algarves, less appreciated, are reserved for the consumption of the kingdom.

But the main element of Portugal's wealth is, without question, the fertility of the soil, and, without mentioning the colonial products contained in the annex of the Park, we are not afraid to say that one could not find in the whole Palace a collection comparable to that which Portugal possesses. The soil in this kingdom must be endowed with an admirable power of vegetation to produce such products with the cultivation methods used. The people of the countryside, poor, ignorant and obstinate, hold on to their age-old routine. The hoe and a primitive plough are more or less the only farming tools they know. Ploughing is done with bulls or oxen harnessed in pairs; natural fertilisers are still almost exclusively used, although a company has been formed for the preparation and propagation of artificial fertilisers. As for modern inventions, irrigation and drainage, the very name is completely unknown to the peasant of this region.

In Portugal, wheat, rye, barley, oats and corn are grown, as well as the main pulses, potatoes, rice and fruit. The largest quantity of wheat is produced by the province of Alemtejo in Estramadura. The provinces of Traz-os-Montes, Beira and Minho harvest the most rye. Oats are almost exclusively grown in Estramadura and Alemtejo and are used to feed cows in the stables. But of all the species of grain, the one that plays the greatest role in the country's diet is maize, which is successful in all the lands. Reduced to flour, it forms the main food of the lower classes; or it is fed to horses and mules.

Finally, its stalks and leaves are excellent fodder for cows, and its straw is used to make paper, mattresses, braids, mats and hats.

In Portugal, the maize harvest is a real popular festival. After mowing the corn, it is piled up in a field near the farm; friends and relatives are invited for the evening, and it would be an insult to miss the invitation. When the whole company is assembled, the women sit on the ground in a line and are busy separating the corn from the straw, which they throw into baskets; these baskets are carried into the yard by the men. This work is enlivened by violins and guitars, and in the province of Minho, by improvised songs of surprising verve and gaiety. There is no shortage of events at these parties; the peasant who is lucky enough to find an ear of red corn has the right to kiss whichever of the women present he chooses; the wine flows all the time at his discretion, and the evening ends with dances that often last until the morning.

Vegetables are the object of productive cultivation throughout the Tagus valley, which provides great facilities for irrigation and outlet; peas, beans, especially, of which the Exhibition shows us more than a hundred kinds, in a word, all the dried vegetables, are cultivated in preference by the Portuguese peasant, for whom they constitute the principal food.

The potato has become naturalized in all parts of the kingdom. The cultivation of rice, which is to be found on every table, which is prepared in a thousand different ways, and without which a dinner would never be more than a meal, the cultivation of rice, we may say, has taken on a certain extension in Estramadura, in the drowned lands on the banks of the Tagus, and in the province of Beira. In recent years, it has been happily propagated in the Algarve, thanks to the intelligent initiative of the Marquis of Loulé, who has converted part of the vast lands he owns there into rice fields.

Oranges, lemons and citrons are common in Portugal; the best tangerines or Moroccan oranges are found in Setubal, imported from the vicinity of Tangier by the Portuguese when they dominated this part of Africa; they have a great analogy with mandarins in shape and taste. Finally, let us mention the olives which the country produces in great quantities.

Now that I have paid my tribute of praise to this beautiful collection of products, that I have noted all the interest that it presents for special men, and established that it was the object of a special report on the part of the jury, I can confess that, in spite of its merit, it offers infinitely less attraction for the mass of visitors than the collection of wines placed opposite, and that in this situation, which had to have competition as a forced consequence, the jars did not precisely have the advantage over the bottles. But also, what seductions these long rows of tapering, pot-bellied, powdery bottles, covered with labels whose names alone are full of tantalising promises, hold for the wine lover! It is only regrettable that one must confine oneself to the sight and that it is not possible to become more familiar with this type of product, for which tasting is the indispensable complement to a conscientious examination. Well, however imperfect this study may be, I advise visitors not to neglect it. It reveals the existence of a multitude of perfectly unknown wines, very - estimable nevertheless and which play a great part in the domestic consumption of the country. When one speaks to a foreigner about the wine production of Portugal, he immediately thinks of Port, and I am convinced that very few cellars in France, England, and Belgium contain carcavellos, colares or lavradio.

Almost all parts of the Portuguese continent produce different wines of good quality. This branch of agricultural wealth seems capable of even greater extension. It would be enough to plant a large number of hillsides, which have been entirely neglected up to now, to transform them into excellent vineyards.

The vine is generally cultivated on slopes facing south, so that it receives the sun's rays; land placed in the vicinity of watercourses and even the sea is preferable, as the humid heat is considered very conducive to the vine.

Planting is done in February. The vines do not begin to produce until the fourth year, and their production is complete by the fifth. The harvest takes place in September and is always the occasion for celebrations and festivities. To make wine, the grapes are crushed by trampling them; the use of presses is still not widespread.

The region which produces the wines known under the general name of port, because it is there that they are delivered for export, extends, about fifteen leagues from this city, on both banks of the Douro, in the provinces of Traz-os-Montes and Beira. Among these wines, the lightest come from vines originating in Burgundy, the others are similar to our Hermitage wines, although they are stronger, more full of colour and heavily laced with alcohol. Moreover, the shades of Douro wine are very varied and include all the hues from white to dark black.

Most of the Port wine is sent to Great Britain; the rest goes to the English colonies, to the United States, which consumes the second quality, very dark and slightly sweet wine, to Brazil and to the countries of northern Europe, for which the old, pure, transparent and light wine is reserved as far as its nature allows.

The wine intended for domestic consumption is generally one or two years old, pasty and thick, but pleasant, except in the central provinces, where it is imported, on the backs of mules, in wineskins which give it a detestable tar taste. For distillation, we use the wines that cannot be used advantageously for any other purpose.

It remains to speak of other Portuguese wines. In Minho, we must mention the vineyard products of the Lima and Monçâo rivers, whose once flourishing trade has long since lost its importance. In the province of Baira, the wine is very similar to Burgundy and can be kept for a long time when prepared with brandy. Estramadura produces, besides sparkling wines reminiscent of champagne, dry and sweet wines, the most esteemed of which are those of Carcavellos, Lavradio and Colarès, the white bucellas and tojal, the muscatel of Setubal, the vintages of the vicinity of Cintra, Charucca, Torrès-Vedras, Thomar and Santarem, and finally, the wine of the Termo or suburb of Lisbon. The wines of the Algarve are similar to the wines of the southern coasts of Spain, mainly Malaga and Alicante. Almost unknown beyond the limits of this province, they are reserved for making brandy. Finally, we shall only mention the numerous counterfeits of Madeira wine, which are successfully made in the various provinces of the kingdom.

I have completed the review of the Portuguese Exhibition, and I do not hesitate to communicate to my readers the result of my impressions. There is no doubt that Portugal is moving towards a better destiny, as demonstrated by a writer, Mr. Terceïra de Vasconcellos, whose work, written in French, is full of new insights and lofty views. Progress in this kingdom must no longer be regarded as a utopia, and by manifesting itself in facts, it has entered the realm of reality. The impulse is given; the movement will not be stopped if the government and the public spirit agree to direct it with intelligence. Once it has decided to take advantage of the resources at its disposal, to wrest from foreign greed the riches which nature has so absolutely bestowed upon it, Portugal holds its future in its hands.

©L'Exposition Universelle de 1867 Illustrée