Portuguese art collector and banker Ricardo do Espírito Santo bought Palácio Azurara as a private resident for himself, restoring it as an 18th century aristocratic home and decorating it with items from his private collection. In 1953, he created the foundation Fundação Ricardo do Espirito Santo Silva (FRESS) which today promotes Portuguese decorative arts and related crafts. The foundation's Museum of Portuguese Decorative Arts houses Ricardo do Espírito Santo’s extensive artistic collection, with pieces dating from the 15th to 19th centuries.
The collection takes visitors on a journey through furniture, textiles, silverware, porcelain, Portuguese faience and tiles, as well as paintings, drawings and sculptures. The museum also houses 18 workshops where master craftspeople use traditional skills and pass on their expertise to future generations. Visitors can even try their hand at some of the crafts themselves, such as paper marbling, tile painting and gilding.