There was a time when the works created by the artists of the interior of São Paulo were seen as of little value, mere cheap ornaments for those who could not acquire more refined pieces. Although existing as an Association since the beginning of the 20th century (one of the oldest in Brazil), the Figureiras de Taubaté only gained respect from the academic circles after the important folklorist Rossini Tavares de Lima came to know them in the 1940s. Influenced by the reformulation of the notion of national popular culture created by Mário de Andrade, Tavares de Lima started to encourage the idea of the importance of their craft as an art form representative of the culture of the state of São Paulo.
Initially, artisans from Taubaté created small sculptures in clay representing the Divine, saints, cribs and other religious themes, as was the case of the work made by Maria Conceição Frutuoso, an artisan who became famous for restoring an image of the Immaculate saint belonging to the local church, and very influential in the region. Over time, some artisans began to diversify their production, creating other folk symbols typical of the Paraíba Valley, such as oxen, sheep, birds and foxes. From this work with other “figures” was born the name for which the association is now known (figureira is a person who makes figures).
In the same way that jongo is the most representative musical form of São Paulo, the pieces created by the Figureiras de Taubaté represent today some iconic examples of the crafts associated to that state. The blue peacock, the most emblematic figure among those produced in Taubaté, is nowadays considered the symbol of São Paulo’s craftsmanship.