A blog about architectural tiles, terra cotta and other ceramic surfaces, architectural glass and ornamentation in and around New York.

Sunday, December 1, 2013


A few years ago we traveled to Barcelona and Granada with a 36 hour stopover in Madrid. Although we only stayed a short while in Madrid, it was enough to whet my appetite for more. We stayed in a small hotel in the El Centro district, and we walked the blocks surrounding our hotel--narrow, twisting streets with many buildings that had tiled facades. Many were restaurants and bars, but there were farmacias and ceramicas, stores that sold ceramics and ceramic street signs. In addition, I later discovered--too late to see them myself--there were old ceramic signs that advertised other types of shops that had gone out of business.

The area in which many of the facades described below can be found. (From maps.google.com)
Our first stop was at Antigua Casa Talavera, which “has wares that include a sampling of regional styles from every major area of Spain, including Talavera, Toledo, Manises, Valencia, Puente del Arzobispo, Alcora, Granada, and Seville. ...Inside one of the showrooms is an interesting selection of tiles, painted with reproductions of scenes from bullfights, dances, and folklore. A series of tiles also depicts famous paintings in the Prado. [The shop has been at] its present location since 1904… .” (https://plus.google.com/105732015656859889347/about?gl=us&hl=en)

Antigua Casa Talavera, 2 Calle Isabel la Católica, a 100+ year old, family-owned, ceramics and tiles store. These tiles were made by the ceramic artist Emilio Niveiro, a Talavera de la Reina ceramics artist and contemporary of Juan Ruiz de Luna, who helped resurrect Spain’s Talavera pottery industry. (Photos courtesy of Michael Padwee, unless otherwise noted)

The storefront. (Courtesy of Carlos Viñas)
About two blocks from our hotel was the Farmacia Leon, which has been in existence since at least the 1600s. “The first references to the pharmacy on Calle Leon appear in literature in 1625. The year 1700 was the date that the chemist Pedro Serrano, dressed in the habit of San Francisco, was buried in the Church of San Sebastian. ...Among its owners were Germán Ortega, driver of national pharmaceutical [figure], Rufino Escribano, who chaired the Pharmaceutical Union and Leonardo G. Colomer.” (The above is a Google translation of: http://www.panoramio.com/photo/54333659) The “ceramics which adorn its exterior are an exact copy of those which it displayed in the 17th century.” (http://www.esmadrid.com/en/portal.do?IDR=379&TR=C

Farmacía Leon

Tabernas y Tablaos

In Madrid the taverns and Flamenco tablaos had some of the most interesting tile work. The Malaspina Taberna, 9 Calle de Cadiz, for instance, had an unusual tile map for a facade. This restaurant was named for “Alessandro Malaspina (November 5, 1754 – April 9, 1810)...an Italian nobleman who spent most of his life as a Spanish naval officer and explorer. Under a Spanish royal commission, he undertook a voyage around the world from 1786 to 1788, then, from 1789 to 1794, a scientific expedition (the Malaspina Expedition) throughout the Pacific Ocean, exploring and mapping much of the west coast of the Americas from Cape Horn to the Gulf of Alaska, crossing to Guam and the Philippines, and stopping in New Zealand, Australia, and Tonga.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alessandro_Malaspina) “[This] great under-appreciated explorer of the Pacific Northwest...rivaled Captains Bodega y Quadra, Cook and Vancouver as one of the most remarkable men to visit the Pacific Northwest in the late 18th century. [...Partially, as a result of political opposition,] Malaspina’s magnificent journal was suppressed throughout his lifetime. A subsidiary portion [of the journal was published] in 1802 but all mention of Malaspina was expunged. The complete text of his five-year report [1789-94] wasn’t published in Spanish until 1885.” (http://www.abcbookworld.com/view_author.php?id=4299)

Tiles made by Adolfo Montes.
The tile mural on the facade of Malaspina was created by Adolfo Montes (b.1960), who “studied at the School of Ceramics in Madrid between 1977-1983, earning the title of Expert in Ceramics. He expanded his training with classes in drawing, painting and printmaking at the Circulo de Bellas Artes in Madrid with painters like Marcoida, Andres Barajas and Alonso Piñuela, and in modeling and sculpture with Manuel Alvarez. His first works were etchings or drypoint, but later he saw in ceramic tile an opportunity for artistic expression and a way of making a living. ...Many shops in Madrid have tile signs by Adolfo Montes…--Tabernas Malaspina, Alhambra, Fatigas del Querer, Fragua de Vulcano, Bodegas Melibe, Casa Ciri, Venta El Buscón,...and El Granaíno.” (A Google translation from http://www.retabloceramico.net/bio_montesalvaredoadolfo.htm) 

España Cañí is a restaurant at 14 Plaza del Ángel. When I was there, it did not look open, however, it is currently listed as a Madrid nightlife hotspot.

"Cante Hondo" tile panel based on a painting by Julio Romero de Torres. According to Carlos Viñas the panel was made in 1945 by the Cordovan ceramic painter José Soto.
España Cañí, which translates as “Gypsy Spain,” is known as a flamenco venue. This is one of two tabernas with paintings by Julio Romero de Torres represented in tile. Julio Romero de Torres began this painting, "Cante Hondo", in 1922 and completed it by 1924. "This composition contains notes of popular Andalusian poetry... . Around the central figure of a woman--a figure of doom--circle the passions of man: love, jealousy and death. The central figure gives a touch of eroticism, illustrating something between the sacred and profane. The guitar serves as the axis of symmetry, while she rises on a silver pedestal... . At her feet is a jealous lover who has stabbed and killed the woman he loves. To the right are two lovers kissing. Behind the central figure a woman lies in a coffin with her children mourning on each side of her, and her greyhound Pacheco howls in pain. This last scene may herald the death of the artist. Each scene is independent of the others, like an alterpiece, but they all work in harmony. In the background is an imaginary landscape known in Andalusian lore... ." (A google translation of; http://madridafondo.blogspot.com/2013/06/el-cante-hondo-de-la-plaza-del-angel.html) 

“…[the] heartland of Madrileño azulejos (glazed ceramics) is the area around the Plaza Mayor and Plaza Santa Ana. In Plaza Santa Ana, the Taberna Villa Rosa’s Andalusian landscapes have a fresh, pastoral feel… . This bar was opened by two bullfighters in 1914, and its mudéjar influenced (Moorish style) interior is worth a visit. (http://suite101.com/article/the-tiles-of-madrid-a32188

Villa-Rosa, front facade. (Photo courtesy of Richard Giulielli)

“This sanctuary of Madrid flamenco first opened as a [flamenco] ‘tablao’ in the spring of 1911; at that time the greats of the flamenco scene met at Villa Rosa. Famous locals and foreigners came to Villa Rosa and enjoyed beautiful and endless nights…, people like Lola Flores, Imperio Argentina, Miguel de Molina, Juanito Valderrama y Dominguín, or foreigners treated as if they were locals, like Ava Gardner or Hemingway. ...Even the Monarchy was aware of Villa Rosa’s [night time] prestige, and the place was regularly visited by King Alfonso XIII, accompanied by [the] greatest business men and artists, like Pablo Febrero (Lizard) or Jesús Rodríguez Cerezal (The Immortal). After surviving the Spanish Civil War and its aftermath, Villa Rosa…closed down during the sixties.” (http://www.villa-rosa.es/English/inicio.php) “It later reopened as a discotheque and had a re-birth during Madrid’s and Spain’s “La Movida” years. It was closed once again and remained that way (except for special events) until 2011 when it re-opened as a flamenco tablao. As a discotheque in the ’80s, the same wall paintings, beautiful ceiling and Arabic arches were present.” (http://madridman.com/blog-madrid/2012/07/madrid-flamenco-tablao-villa-rosa/) 

Interior view of tiled walls. (http://www.acces-a-la-danse.com/?_escaped_fragment_=villa-rosa,-madrid-2013/zoom/c1q5q/image1bme

Dancers at Villa-Rosa. (Photo courtesy of Carlos Viñas)

“[On] the outside there are numerous ceramic tiles which line the facade with typical scenes from Madrid, Córdoba, Seville and Granada. Inside the venue has coffered ceilings and decorative arches, reminiscent of the architecture in the Alhambra and Albaicín quarter of Granada.” (http://www.flamencotickets.com/tablao-villa-rosa-madrid

“The extraordinary tiled facade[...was] the 1928 work of Alfonso Romero, who was responsible for the tile work in Madrid’s Plaza de Toros… .” (Anthony Ham, Madrid City Guide, 6th Edition, Lonely Planet, 2010, p. 188)


Columbus Monument


Jardines de Murillo, Sevilla


Putti, Madrid

Neptune's Fountain, Madrid

 Parque del Buen Retiro, Madrid


“Alfonso Romero was born in 1882 in Mesa Montellano, Sevilla, and learned the art of pottery 
in the Triana district of this city at the hand of his master Antonio Romero [Pelayo]. In 1906 he moved to Madrid. He first worked in the factory of Enrique Guijo Carabanchel, whom he had met in Seville, and in 1915 moved into his famous shop on Main Street. ...Along with Guijo he created works that decorated the walls of Los Gabrieles in Calle Echegaray, a flamenco tavern closed since 2004. ...He also created the beautiful tile work of the monumental Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas. Other works by this artist are in the Bodegas Rosell, 14 General Lacy, and at number 36 of the same street, Bodega Los Romero, and The Ardosa, at 70 Santa Engracia. ...In 1929, the opening year of the Alhambra [Tavern at 9 Victoria Street, which Romero also decorated], the artist opened his own workshop, [...and] included its street address of Rollo, ...9 [Madrid on his panels]. Alfonso Romero died in 1941 in Madrid.” (A Google translation of Mercedes Gomez, “Alfonso Romero, painter, ceramist”, Arte de Madrid blog; http://artedemadrid.wordpress.com/2009/05/31/alfonso-romero-pintor-ceramista/)

(Photo courtesy of Mercedes Gomez, Arte de Madrid blog; http://artedemadrid.wordpress.com/2009/05/31/alfonso-romero-pintor-ceramista/)

"Bar Museo Los Gabrieles[, 17 Calle de Echegaray] is one of the most historic bars in Madrid, which dates back to 1890, the walls are entirely covered in the most beautiful tiles and tiled pictures. Bar staff at Bar Museo Los Gabrieles will tell you that there is an entire history behind each glazed tile and that Spain's finest flamenco dancers have performed before them." (http://www.hg2madrid.com/bars/bar/---bar-museo-los-gabrieles---madrid-spain) "Steeped in the history of Spain, Los Gabrieles had its heyday in the first half of the last century, when it was frequented by the richest Spanish aristocrats and even, it is claimed, by King Alfonso XIII. The famous bullfighter, Manuel Rodríguez Sánchez, also known as Manolete, once kept a private "office" there in which to entertain his female guests. ...The tiled walls of Los Gabrieles, mostly colourful scenes advertising sherries or wines, were put up early in the last century by companies which paid for the honour. Some are adaptations of Velásquez and Goya paintings and one depicts a scene from Don Quixote. Most are humorous or risqué for the time, featuring busty peasant women and androgynous-looking nymphs. One shows Zeus, disguised as a swan, in a passionate embrace with a naked Leda. In the bar's basement are a series of long-closed and dilapidated "cave" rooms, each decorated with painted tiles. One room is shaped like a bullring, where naked matadors are said to have had mock fights with prostitutes." (Giles Tremlett, "Developer calls time on Madrid bar at heart of city's historic nightlife", The Guardian, March 3, 2004; http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2004/mar/04/spain.gilestremlett)

Interior tiles at Los Gabrieles created by Alfonso Romero and Enrique Guijo. (Photo courtesy of Alberto Rojo)

Los Gabrieles was a rendezvous for Dr. José Rizal and other Filipino propagandists and nationalists. Two murals made of ceramic tiles were displayed and were described by Rizal in a letter to his sisters. It had a group of skeletons forming a band, the “Balandristas,” playing guitar and other musical instruments. At the opposite end was a mural with a country scene, showing girls at a picnic in the meadow, a setting associated with the period of the Spanish painter Goya. It was during these times the Filipino students met in this bar that they formed their stand on various issues affecting the Philippines. (http://www.philembassymadrid.com/rizals-madrid)

Plaza de Toros de las Ventas

“The Plaza de Toros de las Ventas or Las Ventas Bullring is a massive, red brick Mudéjar style building located in Madrid’s Salamanca district… . The Las Ventas Bullring was completed in 1929 by architect Jose Espeliu and inaugurated in 1931, with a match between a matador named Aguililla and a bull named Hortelano to the tunes of España Cañi, traditional Spanish Gypsy music. The Mudéjar style building, decorated with colorful ceramic tiles, is 60 meters in diameter and seats nearly 25,000 people in its massive arena.” (http://www.gothereguide.com/las+ventas+bullring+madrid-place/) 

The Las Ventas Bullring is shown at the right of the entrance to El Burladero taberna and tablao. El Burladero, 19 Calle de Echegaray, is a tavern that celebrates bullfighting with its tiled facade of two major bullrings and a gallery of bullfighters pictured inside.

Above the entrance are Moorish arches and two more tile murals from c.1913 attributed to the ceramic artist Alfonso Romero.

The Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas del Espiritu Santo “embodies a true architectural marvel beautifully decorated with horseshoe archways and ceramic tiles depicting the coats of arms of all Spanish provinces.” (http://spainattractions.es/plaza-de-toros-de-las-ventas/) It has elements of mudejar architectural revival. “The 'mudejares' were the Muslims who remained in Spain after it was re-conquered and became a Christian country. Many were hugely skilled in architectural techniques, and the term 'mudejar' refers to buildings in that style, most prevalent during the 12th-16th centuries (1100s to 1500s). Mudejar buildings have brick as their main material and have a geometric character, with ornamental brickwork and/or tilework, carved wood and carved plaster.” (http://www.virtualtourist.com/travel/Europe/Spain/Comunidad_de_Madrid/Madrid-262020/Off_the_Beaten_Path-Madrid-Architecture-BR-1.html)  

The Plaza de Toros, Madrid. (Photographer: Håkan Svensson (Xauxa); http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:LasVentas_view01.jpg)

“Just off the Plaza Mayor, in the Plaza de la Puerta Cerrada, 7, you will find El Madroño a great little bar which serves fantastic tapas. The entrance to the bar has tiles on the wall which depicts Velázquez’s painting Los Borrachos (the drunkards) - inside the bar you will find many such tiled paintings; one of the most interesting shows how the Madrid coat of arms has changed over the centuries and is located directly behind the bar.” (http://www.madaboutmadrid.com/guide/2005/09/el_madroo_tapas.html) These tiles were painted by the artist Julian Santacruz.

Los Borrachos. (Photo courtesy of Carlos Viñas, http://www.flickr.com/photos/madridlaciudad/sets/72157619011768573/with/8662118619/

(Photo courtesy of Carlos Viñas)

Tiled facade. (Photo courtesy of F. Campayo on Panoramio; http://www.panoramio.com/photo/65551281

Las Fatigas del Querer, 17 Calle de la Cruz, is a tapas bar and traditional Spanish restaurant in the Centro section of Madrid. (http://www.spottedbylocals.com/madrid/las-fatigas-del-querer/) 

When I visited in 2006, significant portions of the tiles were missing.

Tiles created by Adolfo Montes  (b. 1960).

“This tavern, founded in the [1920s] of last century, was closed a few years until it reopened in 2006, maintaining the decoration it had in the beginning. The name “Fatigas de Querer” has to do with a bulería* chorus, "Give me a little water" sung by Camarón [a Flamenco singer] in collaboration with Paco de Lucia [a Spanish guitarist and composer]. The decor is based on handmade Andalusian tiles, the walls are a tribute to [the painter] Julio Romero de Torres. The carved wooden bar and a marble table in shades of green, stands out from the rest of the furniture. The interior is full of female images by the artist Julio Romero de Torres… .” (A Google translation of the website, http://josesanpepe.blogspot.com/2012_09_01_archive.html) 

*[“Bulería...is a fast flamenco rhythm in 12 beats. ...When sung, the bulería has three or four octosyllabic lines.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buler%C3%ADas)]

Two other taverns with tile facades made by Adolfo Montes are La Fragua de Vulcano, 9 Alvarez Gato, (Forge of Vulcan--named after the 1630 Velasquez painting) and Venta El Buscón, 5 Victoria Street.

(Photos courtesy of Alejandro Blanco)

Inside Venta El Buscón can be found “...paintings of Don Francisco de Quevedo...and handmade tiles from the Mensaque* factory.” (A Google translation of the website, http://josesanpepe.blogspot.com/2012_09_01_archive.html) *[“Mensaque Rodriguez y Cia. was started in the mid-nineteenth century and maintains the cultural background of the heritage of the Arabs, creators of the tile with geometric motifs.” (http://www.azulejosmensaque.com/index.php)]

The Cruz Blanca restaurant pictured below looked closed when I took the photos, and there seem to be many Cruz Blanca restaurants throughout Madrid--possibly a chain?

Tiles made by Alfredo Ruiz de Luna.

Alfredo Ruiz de Luna, a ceramic artist and grandson of Juan Ruiz de Luna, who helped resurrect the Talavera pottery industry, was 64 years old at the time of his death in May 2013. His works included hundreds of ceramic street name plaques for the City of Madrid, particularly for its historic center; the tiling he did for bars and taverns in the center of Madrid and other Spanish cities; and some of the tile work in the bullring of Las Ventas. (A Google translation from: http://www.abc.es/toledo/20130509/abcp-fallece-ceramista-talaverano-alfredo-20130509.html) 

Cerveceria Cruz Blanca on Olavide Plaza. (Photo courtesy of Mariano Roa)

El Rincon de la Cruz Blanca restaurant pictured below was across the street from our hotel and had interior tile murals in the basement dining area depicting beer-making. This may have been one of the chain of Cruz Blanca restaurants, but I am not certain of this.

Many of the signs advertising beer were the same from taberna to taberna.

Viva Madrid taberna, 7 Calle Manuel Fernandez Gonzalez, was "founded in 1856 as a tavern and now converted into a cocktail bar. It still retains a facade of ceramics with advertising in bright colors. The front bears yellowish tiles and the name of the establishment, an announcement of wine and liquors and a picture of the Cibeles fountain. The interior retains some of original elements like hand painted Mensaque factory tiles [of Brassai paintings], a coffered ceiling with Harpies and a pewter bar." (A Google translation of http://www.esmadrid.com/es/cargarAplicacionNoche.do?identificador=263)

(Photo courtesy of Joe Lomas)

La Cibeles fountain on the facade of Viva Madrid taberna, and the real fountain below.
(Photo courtesy of Alberto Rojo)

One tiled facade, most of which no longer exists, was the Vaqueria del Carmen at 1 Phillipines Avenue. Now, only the painted tile signage made by the factory of Juan Ruiz de Luna remains over the doorway to an apartment building constructed on the site. In the 1920s, however, this sign and other tiles announced the presence of a dairy and milk cows. In the 1970s an ordinance was passed stating that dairies and cattle could no longer remain within the city limits--a law to partially prevent animal abuse.

(Photos of the Vaqueria del Carmen tiles courtesy of Alejandro Blanco)

Juan Ruiz de Luna Rojas (1863-1942) was a painter and photographer. In 1907 he became interested in reproducing the old Talavera pottery along with Enrique Guijo, Plato Páramo, and Juan Ramon Ginestal. In 1908 they opened Our Lady of Prado Factory (la Fábrica de Nuestra Señora del Prado de Ruiz de Luna) in Talavera and began to produce pottery and tiles. In 1915 Juan Ruiz de Luna took over the factory from Enrique Guijo, and soon after the painter Francisco Arroyo became the company’s artistic director. Juan Ruiz de Luna died in 1942, but the factory continued until 1961. (http://www.retabloceramico.net/bio_ruizdelunarojasjuan.htm)

Some ceramic advertising signs that I did not see, myself, but which show the different uses of tiles in advertising, are the egg store, barbershop and dental hygiene signs.

Tiles made by Enrique Guijo in Calle San Francisco Ferrer. These and others are currently being used to advertise a bar. (Photo courtesy of Carlos Viñas)

(Photo courtesy of Joe Lomas)

Sign in the Calle Ave Maria. (Photo courtesy of Carlos Viñas)

"The Great Hairdresser" (Photo courtesy of Joe Lomas)

Limieza de Boca/Dental hygiene sign on the Farmacía Juanse on the Calle de San Andrés. (Photo courtesy of Joe Loma)

Farmacia y Laboratorio Juanse, at the corner of Calle de San Vicente Ferrer and San Andrés. (Photo courtesy of Joe Lomas)

"The Pharmacy dates from 1892, a time in which occurred the transformation of the old drugstores, where all drugs were processed as master formulas, and a time of modernization which led to the preparation of "specific" or "medicinal" drugs. The big pharmaceutical companies began marketing drugs that have survived to this day, but many pharmacies continued to make their own special formulas, which were advertised in varied ways. One way used were commercial advertisements inserted in newspapers and magazines, but the most striking and colorful were the tile panels on the facade of the establishments. Pharmacy Juanse made tiled facade advertising in the 1920s. Today, there is a progressive deterioration of tiles. These panels were hidden for many years under a layer of plaster because in the 1940s wall advertising was subject to a tax. The owner of the pharmacy decided to cover them until they came to see the light in the seventies." The tiles were created/painted by Enrique Guijo and Marcelino Domingo in 1924 by the cuerda seca process. (A Google translation of http://www.retabloceramico.net/4796.htm)

If you can't travel to Madrid and explore the streets yourselves, you should at least look at the websites below. There are so many more tiled buildings than are mentioned above. They really should be seen by all.

I would like to thank Alejandro Blanco, F. Campayo, Mercedes Gómez, Richard Giulielli, Joe Lomas, Mariano RoaAlberto Rojo and Carlos Viñas for permission to use their photos. If you wish to see more photos of Madrid architecture and tiled facades, or read more about Madrid, please visit their websites.

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