Glass-painting and gilding in Coimbra

Nearly at the end of the pedestrianised Rua Ferreira Borges in Coimbra, Portugal, is what appears to be a fairly ordinary chemist’s shop, the Farmacia Nazareth. While there are lovely vertical gilded glass lettering panels each side of the door, they don’t prepare you for what’s inside.  The shop still has all its 19th-century fittings, a painted ceiling and is a treasure chest of glass-painting and gilding. Although they weren’t quite sure when all this work was done, the extremely friendly and helpful staff reckoned the pharmacy dated from 1829, and thought most of the interior glass-work was from then. There is a spectacular piece of original glass painting in a door panel to the back of the shop, behind the counter. It shows a fantasy pharmacy interior, the goddess Hygeia and a welter of marbling. While perhaps not the most beautiful in terms of overall design, the technical skill on display here is superb, showing a vast range of marbling techniques all done in reverse on a small scale. The chunky gilded slab-serif lettering outside is nicely three-dimensional looking, and along with the decorative panels, seem to be later than the interior and perhaps moved in a refit of the front at some stage.