We may bemoan the modern celebrity with their selfies and the autobiographical instagram, but the habit of portraying your life through images you have approved has been around for centuries. One of the finest examples I have ever come across are the 18th/19th century autobiographical tiles of the milliner António Joaquim Carneiro. Not only do they offer a glimpse of 18th/19th century family life, each panel is a work of art and an insight into Portuguese cultural history.

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Young Antonio Joaquim Carneiro tending cattle in the field and taking his brother home

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Antonio in the pasture looking after his merchant grandfather’s cattle

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Antonio travelling with a mule driver to his uncle’s home to learn his trade

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Antonio learning his trade with his uncle Antonio Frire Carmeiro

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Antonio at his shop with his mother, two sisters and two brothers

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Antonio with his wife and five step-children taking care of his shop and business

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Antonio in his carriage going to his estate where he has his factory and business

António commissioned the seven panels (and I think the frieze as well) for his manor house on his estate in Póvoa de Santo Adrião, a small village on the northern outskirts of Lisboa. It was here he also built his hat factory. close-up-of-friezeI don’t know what happened to the factory or the manor house after his death but the panels, created between 1790 and 1800, can be found in the Museu Nacional do Azulejo which is where I saw them earlier this year. They are according to the records an accurate portrayal of his rise from shepherd to successful businessman, not forgetting his fortuitous marriage to a wealthy widow. His life will always be remembered in the way he wanted it portrayed, and we benefit from a work of art. Much better than instagram!