Small and colourful, painted in the bow and the stern with traditional bright coloured drawings which represent historical facts or popular devotion, moliceiros sail through the “Ria”, showing the other side of the city of Aveiro.
Moliceiros, the Portuguese gondolas
The moliceiros which we now see crossing the “Ria” were not always tourist boats. During the 19th century, they were used in seaweed harvesting. This seaweed consists of sludge accumulated in the bottom of the “Ria” which, after being laid down in threshing floors to dry, was used as a fertilizer in the sandy soils which belonged to farmers in the area. But as seaweed was progressively replaced by chemical fertilizers, this activity declined throughout the 20th century.
A few decades ago, the old Aveiro “Ria” shipyards were reactivated in order to revive the moliceiros as well as the old manual manufacturing techniques used to build these boats which then began to be used as tourist boats. Small and colourful, painted in the bow and the stern with traditional bright coloured drawings which represent historical facts or popular devotion, moliceiros sail through the “Ria”, showing the other side of the city of Aveiro.
The Moliceiro panels
Next to the fishermen’s quarter you’ll find beautiful panels of the typical “moliceiros” that cross the calm waters of the “ria”. The painting motifs of these panels are so interesting that they arouse the curiosity of researchers, as well as the interest of tourists.
These admirable paintings, outlined in black, are a true form of popular wisdom. The monumental part of the boat is the bow and that’s where the visual language is the richest. In the centre of the panel there is almost always a monarch or an equestrian figure surrounded by flowers. In the central part of the boat there is always an inscription related, or not, to the drawn motif or the boat’s builder name, place and date of construction. In the stern the available space is more limited but the attention to detail is still great with suggestive depictions of popular devotion, military, girls and heartthrobs and regional jobs.
The panels motifs are very diverse with religious and historical depictions, as well as work and daily life subjects. Many Moliceiros have paintings of erotic nature. These absolutely stunning drawings outline the boat owner’s personal preferences and skills, sometimes with a clear understanding of specific techniques, other times the creations are poetic, where the lack of formal knowledge is supplanted by an emotional strength and profound emotional force and sincerity, resulting in naif but still very beautiful paintings.
A masterpiece by all means!