Code . PTDC/EAT-HAT/098461/2008
Start . 2009
Duration . 48 months
Principal Investigator . Jessica Hallett (CHAM)
Fundação da Casa de Bragança
Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia
Main Research Unit
CHAM — Centro de Humanidades
Fundação da Casa de Bragança
An extraordinary inventory has recently come to attention in the archives of the ducal palace of the House of Bragança in Vila Viçosa. Over the course of more than 1300 pages (ca. 6,300 entries), it records in lavish detail the contents of the estate of the 5th Duke of Bragança, D. Teodósio I (ca. 1507?-1563), providing a rare and astonishingly vivid account of the material world of a quintessential Portuguese renaissance prince.
Born in the middle of the reign of King Manuel I (r. 1495-1521), to one of the most powerful families of the time, D. Teodósio was well known for his refinement, erudition, and love of the arts. The formative years of his life coincided with the rapid unfolding of the full extent of the world to European view, with the great overseas navigations, while his formal education was ministered by well-known humanist masters. This solid cultural preparation led him to embrace the values and artistic tastes of the Renaissance, and ultimately encouraged D. Teodósio to contemplate the founding of a university at Vila Viçosa, to assemble an impressive library of printed books, maps and music, to collect ancient artefacts of all types, and to seek out works of art from the most important European and Asian artistic centres of the period. The duke also instigated the renovation and extension of the palace according to the erudite Italian model, in a clear demonstration of his commitment to cutting-edge European architectural culture.
Thus, the inventory of his estate offers not only a window onto the intellectual and cultural interests and pursuits of an important 16th-century aristocrat, but also the opportunity to reconstruct this great ducal house at the precise moment in which Portugal was being transformed from a small country on the periphery of Europe to an overseas imperial power.
A first reading of its contents immediately reveals a household of magnificent wealth and opulence, with vast collections of gold, silver, jewellery, precious gems, arms and armour, clothing, textiles, carpets, books, paintings and furniture, originating from across the globe: from Spain, Italy, France, Germany, Holland, Flanders and England to Guinea, Morocco, Egypt, Turkey, Iran, India, Sri Lanka and China, and even the Caribbean and Brazil. In addition to recording the spectacular riches and international splendour of the palace’s contents, the document also lists every item of value encountered there, from the buttons on the duke’s shirts to the pots and pans in the kitchen (and the slaves who served him). Furthermore, many of the items are described in considerable detail (giving their origins, materials, colours, designs, and dimensions), allowing for direct comparisons to be made with existing objects in the collections of the House of Bragança or found elsewhere. Each item is also attributed with a commercial value, thus providing a full economic picture of the estate, and occasionally, the name is given of the individual who made, sold, presented, or subsequently purchased it, offering a social dimension. Finally, the inventory’s organization allows for a complete reconstruction of the contents of certain areas of the palace, including the church, office, library, table-service cabinet, armoury, pharmacy, kitchen and stable, making it a rich source for architectural history.
This type of complete, detailed written description, in combination with contemporary economic evaluation, makes the manuscript very exceptional among 16th-century Portuguese and even European inventories. Indeed, its very existence is extraordinary and reflects a series of unusual historical events which led to the production of a copy (dated 8 March 1665), which survived the great earthquake of 1755. The document has never been the subject of systematic analysis and remains unavailable to the vast majority of scholars, inside and outside of Portugal.
This research project aims at a comprehensive and expansive portrait of the ducal palace at Vila Viçosa and its content during D. Teodósio’s lifetime, and to bring it to national and international attention. It proposes the transcription, study and historical contextualisation of this unique inventory by an interdisciplinary team of researchers, and the publication of the complete document and associated studies. The project also involves the discussion and presentation of its results in a series of workshops and conferences held in and outside Portugal. In addition, the research will contribute to the development of a cultural programme, including an exhibition, a virtual model of the palace of Vila Viçosa, and performances of the duke’s music.
Jessica Hallett . Coordenator
Alexandra Curvelo (Nova FCSH)
Alexandra Pelúcia (CHAM)
Ana Isabel Buescu (CHAM)
Ana Lopes (CHAM)
André Teixeira (CHAM)
Angelo Cattaneo (CHAM)
Bernadette Nelson (CESEM / FCSH/NOVA)
Carla Alferes Pinto (CHAM)
Celina Bastos (MNAA)
Henrique Leitão (CIUHCT / FC/UL)
Hugo Miguel Crespo (CH / FL/UL)
Inês Cristóvão (CHAM)
Joana Bento Torres (CHAM)
João Ruas (FCB)
Leonor Freire Costa (ISEG / UL)
Madalena Esperança Pina (FCM / NOVA)
Mafalda Soares da Cunha (CIDEHUS / UÉ)
Maria Antónia Pinto de Matos (MNAz)
Maria de Jesus Monge (FCB)
Maria João Pacheco Ferreira (CHAM)
Nuno Senos (NOVA FCSH)
Nuno Vassallo e Silva (FCG)
Nuno Vila-Santa (CHAM)
Rui Dias Sena (NOVA FCSH)
Teresa Pacheco Pereira (MNAA)
Vítor Luís Gaspar Rodrigues (CH / FL/UL)