The Palacio do Grilo is a kingdom dedicated to dreams. Conceived in the eighteenth century by Don Pedro, the first Duke of Lafões (1718-1761), it offers a territory for the imagination in the heart of Lisbon. A few meters from the Tagus, it is a coating or a new dimension. Behind its walls and in its gardens through its «strange and surprising
rooms» which seem to be the stages of a fantastic, if not initiatory, journey. A journey where everything surprises, animates, reflects…
The mind is attuned to the senses and science to pleasure. The Palacio do Grilo asserts a philosophy. A knowledge of time and place, of instant and space, of pleasure and exile. An art of living in a different way. A difference. A style. Almost a dissent…
(…) when he designed the Palacio do Grilo, around 1750, Don Pedro de Bragança was one of the first representatives of the State. Minister of Justice and illegitimate grandson of King Pedro II, first Duke of Lafões, he was a rival of the already very influential and ambitious Marquis de Pombal. However, the fate of what was to become his «inner kingdom» and the «palace of his dreams» was played on the roll of the dice in a game of love in which the particular and the general story merge.
Don Pedro was in fact to marry the woman who was to be the «Queen of the United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil and the Algarve, on either side of the sea in Africa, Duchess of Guinea and the conquest, navigation and trade of Ethiopia, Arabia, Persia and India by the grace of God»: Mary I.
Because of his illegitimate descendancy, he had to give up his hand to the future king Pedro IV.
On the evening of their union, in this Palacio do Grilo, where today his «dream of stone and stones given as an offering to dreams» is reborn, instead of honouring the passage of the nuptial carriage by illuminating his residence, Don Pedro had all the candles extinguished. What did he discover that night? What decision did he make?
Was he already in the habit of placing a small cage containing a cricket next to him? Hadn’t he already written, in the Diary of an imaginary construction, «that there is no better invitation to dream than the song of this insect, vibration of the heart, eroticism of the soul and violin of the spirit»?
From that day on, Don Pedro dedicated his talent to his dreamlike kingdom. Even the reconstruction of Lisbon after the earthquake (1755), for which he was responsible, did not seem to obsess him so much.
He drew his own plans. Took the first letter of his title to give the main building the shape of an L, and hired the most prominent artists of the time to create «a place that is also a place of no place and that can allow the soul to take off in the flight that suits it so well».
This dreamlike kingdom was somehow liberated from the world by the disappointment of an impossible union. An inaccessible throne. A contradictory ambition.
For the lord Don Pedro de Bragança, Duke of Lafões, called «do Grilo» because he collected these little stinging insects and had fun multiplying them in his gardens. It will therefore be another throne for another kingdom. His premature death, at the age of 49, did not allow the “peculiar builder «, « the dreamer of stones «and « the room traveller who had become a master in the art of sleeping « to see his project come true. Three centuries later, a handful of European intellectuals, architects and artists, have reconstructed the initial terms of the project.
… as the historian José Sarmento de Matos has stated: «The Palacio do Grilo is practically the only example of a private palace that has come down to us in its original state». This «original state» was still an intention, worksite, an incompletion, but it shows a sense of comfort that has no equivalentat that time.
Most of the seigneurial residences of that time, especially when they are at the forefront, such as the Palacio, had first and foremost a role of political representation.
The stones were in a way assembled for the others. «At the Grilo, I want all the rooms, in their decoration as well as in their function, to be assembled for us. To languish and dream better than anywhere else on earth». And, indeed, the Palacio do Grilo never strays from an intimate scale, a warm atmosphere. Don Pedro had retired from the games of the world. And the mansion he dreamed of, was indeed destined for him. His friends. His loves. And his dreams.