Hand-painted tiles from Portugal, called Azulejos, were first used as architectural and decorative elements during the 15th century. Today, many of the tile designs from that era are still in production; we especially like the way fabled hotelier Sean MacPherson used the tiles in his NY kitchen (shown below, courtesy of The Selby). Recreate the look with tiles from Sintra Design.
Above: Sean MacPherson's kitchen backsplash makes use of intricate Portuguese tiles; photo via The Selby.
Above: For a similar look, consider Aviz Tiles from Sintra Design (all tiles are hand painted in Portugal); $14 for a 3" x 3" tile.