Figure

About this object

Narrative

Field collected in Portugal from a craft shop in Lisbon.
The maker of this piece is the son of Domingos Goncalves Lima (known as Misterio because, as a child, he was very frail, and his neighbours gave him this name, which he and his sons use to sign their pottery). Their father Misterio, was one of the most renowned ceramic artists in Portugal and was born in San Martinho de Galegos, Minho Province, in 1921. He learnt how to model figures from his grandmother, as his mother, a single parent, left home to work in Spain. He began by making whistles which he sold in the Thursday market at Barcelos. With so many people making these simple toys, pieces were never signed. At that time most figurative pottery was made by women, but Misterio passed the art to two of his sons.He married Virginia in 1944 and, adding factory produced figures to those he made himself, he sold the material in the markets Coimbra, Figueira da Fox, Torres Novas, Setubal, Montijo and Porto. The couple had twelve sons which put an end to his life as an itinerant salesman. By the end of the 1960s, with the 'discovery' and better appreciation of Portuguese folk art, artists were given the freedom to develop personal styles. Misterio's wife painted his pieces up to his death in 1995, and now continues to paint the work of Francisco and Manuel.

Iconographic meaning

This style of figures is inspired by the many clay toys that were commonly made in this area of Portugal, but the specific imagery is also influenced by the religious faith of the artist's great-grandmother's house. Nevertheless, the artist's father interpreted his figures using a unique style, which among other characteristics includes very large noses and eyes; he made devils as well as saints and images of Christ. Some of his figures and tableaus, which his sons continue to produce, are the product of his satirical humour born of the everyday events taking place in the world around him.

Physical description

Ceramic figure of a female devil with exaggerated facial features of black bulging eyes, large protruding nose, teeth and ears. In the arms of the figure is a suckling baby devil. Both figures have black horns, tail and feet along with gold spotted detailing and gold bracelets on each wrist. The side is incised with ‘Misterio F.M.'