A passionate collector

It all began in the 1970s, with the purchase of just a few tiles from various flea markets. Today, the collection boasts over 9,000 tiles.

An Italian in Belgium

It all happened by chance. Italian Roberto Pozzo’s arrival in Belgium was completely fortuitous, but he has lived and worked in Belgium for 33 years. After graduating in sociology in Leuven, he remained in Belgium to contribute to a social project for young Italians in Brussels. Roberto had always been an enthusiastic collector in his free time and on Sundays he was a familiar face to stallholders at the Brussels flea market. At first he was mostly on the lookout for measuring instruments: tape measures, watches, weighing scales and similar objects, but his collecting habits were soon to change.

An eye for beauty

Roberto Pozzo remembers, “I met a stall-holder from Tournai in the Place du Jeu de Balles and every week he always had the most beautiful tiles for sale. The tiles came from Belgian houses, but while sometimes their provenance was Belgian, there were also German, French or Dutch tiles. It was the Art Nouveau style tiles that particularly attracted me and within a few years, I had boxes full of them. I decided to do more research and build a collection. At the beginning, I didn’t know much about tiles and so I chose them mainly for their aesthetic appeal. Then I discovered Mario Baeck’s book and, although it was written in Dutch, I found the names of the tile factories in Belgium. Later, I met Mario and we became good friends.”

© Roberto Pozzo

© Roberto Pozzo

Mario Baeck’s expertise

Mario Baeck is the specialist for Belgian ceramic tiles. He chose this subject for his doctoral thesis at the University of Ghent and he created the inventory of the Pozzo Collection. He says of Roberto Pozzo, “Roberto is a born collector. There are collectors who set out to build an exhaustive collection or who, for instance, aim to collect everything produced by a particular factory. Roberto, on the other hand, is much more attracted by the beauty and craftsmanship of tiles. He is as deeply interested in techniques, in how they were made as in the use for which the tiles were destined.

Roberto Pozzo explains, “When I met Mario, I had already assembled a large collection of tiles. I had lots of different models and a stack of photos of the fronts and backs of tiles in my collection. I had the material, but Mario had the knowledge. It was written in the stars that we would meet one day! The things that interested me about these tiles were not just their aesthetics and the techniques used, but also the people who made them and the circumstances in which they were produced. I loved the combination of motifs and really elegant colours used in production processes that had been industrialised so early. It’s for the same reasons that I love lace. I have huge admiration for artisans’ know-how, for beauty and perfection.”