The clay work has been an essential activity to explain the neighborhood from its origins. Apart from the beautiful founding legends, from a historical point of view we know that Triana dates back to Islamic times, around the 11th or 12th centuries. It began to grow strongly as a result of the construction of the Puente de Barcas and the Castillo de San Jorge and, practically since its inception, we have evidence of the presence of pottery kilns in the neighborhood.
In the early days of the Muslim Isbiliya, they settled mainly in the so-called “Barrio de los Alfareros”, which would be located approximately in the area of Puerta Jerez and south of the Avenida de la Constitución. When the rulers of the city began to increase their palatial residences in the Alcázar, they forced the transfer of these activities to more remote areas. You have to think that pottery was a rather polluting activity at the time, since it was necessary to operate ovens at high temperatures that generated a lot of smoke.
So around this time the potters began to settle strongly in Triana, where in addition to more space, they had great availability of their raw material, a high quality clay offered by the Guadalquivir in several of its points. With it, all kinds of containers have always been made and soon it was also the raw material for the production of ceramic tiles, which began to be produced in the neighborhood already in Islamic times and which experienced a huge boom, especially from the 15th century.
Francisco Niculoso Pisano, an artist of Italian origin living in the neighborhood, played a fundamental role in its impulse, who introduced the technique to paint on ceramic pieces before firing them, in a similar way to doing on any other flat surface. In this way, it was possible to overcome the previous formal limitations and introduce a much wider iconographic repertoire, with the representation of much more naturalistic scenes and decorative motifs. In fact, among his work we find some of the first samples of Renaissance art in Seville, as we see in the magnificent ceramic altarpiece of the Visitation that he made for the small personal chapel of Isabel la Católica in the Alcázar.
The production of ceramic tiles would be a constant in the neighborhood and their production would be successively adapted to styles such as Mudejar, Renaissance or Baroque. On many occasions it would be linked to the realization of the so-called ceramic altarpieces, which are located with a devotional sense in public spaces, constituting very characteristic elements of the city streets since the seventeenth century.
In Triana we have a beautiful and interesting example in the church of Nuestra Señora de la O. Specifically, in its bell tower we find a magnificent ceramic altarpiece of 150 pieces, dated around 1760. It represents Our Father Jesús Nazareno, head of the Brotherhood of the O, although it does not reproduce the specific image of the owner, a work by Pedro Roldán, but rather a generic representation of the invocation, framed in a wild landscape. Under it, you can read Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; rather cry for yourselves and for your children, alluding to the phrase pronounced by Jesus and recorded in the Gospel of Luke (Lk. 23, 28).
In addition to the artistic importance of the altarpiece, it also has the relevance of being one of the oldest preserved in the city and the first that represents a holder of a brotherhood of Holy Week, thus inaugurating a tradition that would have great significance in the city. especially from the beginning of the 20th century.
Precisely since the end of the 19th century and in the first decades of the 20th, a period of true splendor of Triana ceramics took place, linked above all to the spread of regionalist architecture. This current, which we could include within historicism, defended the use of formal and stylistic resources that were considered typical of the Sevillian and Andalusian tradition, so that elements considered of popular roots were mixed with others that had clear reminiscences, Mudejar, Renaissance or baroque.
Regionalism would experience a definitive impulse as a result of the decision to hold the 1929 Ibero-American Exposition in Seville. Not only the facilities intended to house it, but many of the new works undertaken to improve the city were made in this style. This circumstance led to the Triana workshops operating at full capacity, so many of the large headquarters of ceramic firms that have survived to this day correspond to this period of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, such as Mensaque in San Jacinto, Santa Ana in San Jorge or Montalván on Calle Alfarería.
This last example constitutes one of the most beautiful in the neighborhood. The headquarters of the workshop is preserved, which was one of the most intense between 1910 and 1930. Today it houses a hotel, but you can still admire the magnificent set of ceramic commercial signs that decorated it. Attached to it and on the corner with Covadonga street, is the so-called Casa Montalván, drawn up by the architect Juan Talavera y Heredia around 1927. It is one of the most prominent architects of the time, who left with this work a precious jewel of regionalism in Triana.
The purpose of the building was to serve as an exhibition stand for the ceramic works that were carried out in the attached workshop. That is to say, both on its façade and in its main rooms, it is decorated with a magnificent set of tiles that allowed the owners to show potential clients the quality of the work that came out of the workshop. In addition, the chronological proximity between the elaboration of the house and the Iberoamerica Exhibition seems to have influenced the architect to some extent, since the house seems to show a certain colonial air in its traces, as we see in the balcony that extends throughout along the façade and on the wooden overhang that covers it.
Unfortunately, at present there is not a single active ceramic workshop in Triana. However, examples like this help us to recall to what extent this activity has been decisive for the neighborhood, endowing it with some of its most outstanding architectural jewels.