A toalha que a partir de agora estampa as mesas da esplanada d'A Brasileira do Chiado. Foto: Líbia Florentino.

A new chapter of the A Brasileira do Chiado café and its art gallery in the city is being told – this time, not only in the paintings on the walls, but on the tables: the new tablecloths bring the traces of Chiado life in Nuno Saraiva’s illustrations.

The new tablecloths are a tribute by A Brasileira do Chiado to the Lisboans and tourists from all over the world that parade by its tables, esplanades and sidewalk in this more than a century of the most iconic café in Lisbon.

The towels will be officially launched at an event with the author on February 8 at 6:30pm. 

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The initiative puts the Lisbon café on the select list of historical establishments that have decided to pay tribute to their regulars, such as the Café de Flore in Paris, a meeting point for the names that marked the arts and world thought in the twentieth century eternalized in the series Les Parisettes, signed by the cartoonist Jean-Jacques Sempé, himself included in the list of artists who have left their mark on history – recently deceased.

The colorful illustration in A Brasileira do Chiado, printed on a paper towel 60 centimeters in diameter, portrays famous people and also anonymous ones who helped assemble the mosaic of those who frequent one of Lisbon’s must-see spots.

There are Amália Rodrigues, Júlio Pomar, Almada Negreiros, Beatriz Costa, Almeida Garrett – who, although he died before the café existed, lends his name to the street where it is located – and, of course, the poet Fernando Pessoa, looking at his own statue, accompanied by the reflection of three of his most famous heteronyms, reflected in a window. 

If you want to see more details, go to Brasileira for a coffee.

The illustration also “portrays” other not so famous, but no less well known characters, such as tuk tuk drivers, couriers and their infernal motorcycles, street musicians, and, of course, tourists.

Even Nuno himself can be seen among the myriad of faces – in the best Hitchcock style in his films – accompanied by his daughters and stepdaughters, his companion, and a cell phone, where he records the intense parade through the real catwalk that is Chiado.

The illustration required several trips to Chiado by Nuno in order to capture the true spirit of the place from a unique perspective. Photo: Libia Florentino

The communication director of A Brasileira do Chiado, Sónia Felgueiras, says that the illustration synthesizes the café’s willingness to welcome not only Lisboners, but all the people of the world. “The towel pays homage not only to historical characters that somehow have a connection to Lisbon and to A Brasileira, but also to those of the present. It is a way of saying that there is a little bit of them in A Brasileira,” she explains.

Available since January 22 on the café’s terrace tables, the towels have already won the taste of clients, both Lisboners and tourists.

“Many like them so much that they have asked for a towel to take as a souvenir,” says Sónia. “Foreigners are curious to know if the characters are real and the employees indicate the most famous figures among the illustration faces,” she adds.

A unique perspective of Chiado

Nuno Saraiva tells that the invitation to produce the illustration was made as early as 2021, but that the successive confinements resulting from the pandemic ended up delaying the completion of the work. 

“From the beginning, I already had the model drawn in my head, but for me it didn’t make sense to express the cafe with the people wearing masks or with the esplanades closed. I had to wait for normality to compose a scenario that was more faithful to the history of the Brasileira,” he explains.

The cell phone, by the way, played a fundamental role in the construction of the illustration. It was with it in hand recording the café and the surrounding environment from several angles that Nuno composed what he calls the “false perspective” – and unique – that frames the final scenario printed on the towel.

“For three months, I photographed the place from different points of view and at different times, in order to better capture the light and the people circulating around the Brasileira,” says Nuno, who even climbed to the top floor of the building in front of the café to get a view from above.

The towel was an idea inspired by Café de Flore. Photo: Líbia Florentino

The Lisbon illustrator who collaborates with Mensagem since the first minute is the illustrator of the city he loves. Starting in 2014, Nuno Saraiva gave face to the “figures” of Lisbon that make the Festas Populares and is still responsible for making trophies to the winners of the marches. 

Nuno Saraiva’s traces can also be “read” in Mensagem’s comic strip, under the conducting baton of journalist Ferreira Fernandes – which will soon give rise to a book. From now on, also, in the tables of the most emblematic café in Lisbon.

On the 8th, come and talk to Nuno at the Brasileira.

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