Loulé’s claim on Carnival at Galeria Côrte-Real

Selected by Galeria Côrte-Real in Paderne, Karen Stamper’s collage image captures the spirit of Loulé’s Mardi Gras. For more than a century the city has acquired a reputation for holding the Algarve’s most lively and entertaining carnival processions.

It is ironic then that this reputation should come about due to a group of local business people who decided to curb the over-exuberance of some of Loulé’s townsfolk.

At the start of the 20th century carnival had turned into an uncouth event with groups of boisterous young men running around the town, showing off and causing general mayhem.

Falling the day before the beginning of Lent – when traditionally 40 days of fasting begins and cupboards are emptied of flour and eggs – in Loulé throwing food around frequently turned into a riot. Mud and other more offensive substances were used as missiles and the day could become entirely out of hand.

Following the example that had been set in Lisbon, in 1906 Loulé café owner Ventura Barbosa headed a committee determined to take control of carnival.

Far from being ‘spoil sports’, the committee encouraged the younger generation to be creative by sponsoring a pageant of horse-drawn floats.

Many of the carts were decorated with real flowers, most especially seasonal sprays of almond blossom and sweet smelling herbs. Praises were heaped upon the best displays. Commercial enterprises used the floats to advertise their businesses, including Snr. Barbosa, the prime mover of the pageant and owner of Loulé’s popular Café Borbosinho.

As years went by and tradespeople vied to present the best displays, rivalry became commonplace, notably between several of Loulé’s skilled shoemakers. Known eventually as the ‘Batalha de Flores,’ real blooms were replaced with paper flowers and horse-drawn vehicles made way for automobiles.

The informal element of competition enhanced Loulé’s reputation for making spectacular floats accompanied by processions of musicians and dancers. Nowadays the streets are dressed well in advance of carnival which has become a family event enjoyed by numerous spectators.

Catching this spirited occasion with collage techniques and confident brushstrokes, Karen’s picture is a riot of vibrant colours. An artist by profession and a traveler by choice, Karen’s work – featured at London’s Bankside Gallery by the Royal Watercolour Society – can be seen exclusively in Portugal at Galeria Côrte-Real in the countryside near Paderne.

Visit Côrte-Real’s Pop-Up Gallery located above the estate agents Fine & Country, in Rua do Barranco, Carvoeiro.

The main gallery ‘Galeria Côrte-Real’ is signposted from Boliqueime, Ferreiras and Paderne. It is open Thursday to Sunday, from 11am until 5pm.

912 737 762 | www.corterealarte.com

Photo: ‘Carnival’ by Karen Stamper on display at Galeria Côrte-Real