Detalhe de Caboclos ou índios civilizados, Jean-Baptiste Debret (1835). Foto: Edouard Fraipont


Step by step

Module 1 - Unknown Brazil

The mistrustful Portuguese colonizers were loathe to give too much away to the outside world about the territory of Brazil. An example of the gradual dissemination is the Mapa do Almirante, ("Admiral's Chart") published in 1522, in which German cartographer Waldsemüller outlined part of the coastline of the country he called Terra Nova. Without landmarks for the interior, he peopled it with cannibal Indians. Coins glint between the Indian and maps in this room: like one that was minted in 1695 but never became legal tender, named Terra de Santa Cruz.



Module 2 - Dutch Brazil

Maurice of Nassau and his entourage left a legacy of landscape engravings and paintings by European-trained artists like Frans Post (1612-1680) to the colony. There are over 150 landscapes by this artist, including Povoado numa Planície Arborizada ["Settlement in a woody plain"], a masterpiece of the Brasiliana Itaú Colection. The Dutch influence also encompassed visual records of Brazil's fauna and flora, and written documents. One example is História Natural do Brasil (Historia Brasilis), printed in 1648.



Module 3 - Secret Brazil

It was Brazil's gold and diamonds that aroused the colonizers' greed. There in Minas Gerais, simultaneously with the gold cycle, a rebellion (the "Inconfidência Mineira"), romantic poetry, and one of Brazil's most iconic artists, Antonio Francisco Lisboa (1730-1814), Aleijadinho, all flourished. He made the polychromatic cedarwood image called Nossa Senhora das Dores [Our Lady of the Pains].The gold found by the prospectors needed to be cast into ingots for sale; it was subject to the famous "quinto" or one-fifth tax. Some rare bars of gold from that time belong to the collection.



Module 4 - Brazil of the Naturalists

Brazil's native Indians sparked great curiosity in the Old World and featured prominently in the albums created by the peripatetic naturalist artists.  Viagem ao Brasil, (Journey to Brazil), by Johann Baptiste von Spix (1781 - 1826) and Carl Friedrich Philipp von Martius (1794 - 1868), published in Munich in 1823, contains the richest illustrations of the time, hand-coloured lithographic plates of the Indians Iuri, Miranha e Muxuruna. Another sample of the records of nineteenth-century European artists and scientists who studied Brazil is the set of 30 plates of birds, based on the drawings of J. T. Descourtilz (1796 – 1855), in his work Ornithologie Bresilienne ou Histoire des Oiseaux du Bresil, published in London, 1852 to 1856.



Module 5 - Metropolitan Brazil

Rio de Janeiro (the second capital of Brazil—Salvador having been the first) was the focal point of the wandering artists and with its rich iconography of vegetation, sea and topography was extensively portrayed. Highlights include the panorama published around 1840 in Switzerland by Johann Jacob Steinmann (1800 – 1844), based on a drawing by Frédéric Salathé (1793 – 1860). The "Carioca" landscape and customs predominate in the brushstrokes of German painter J. M. Rugendas (1802 – 1858), in engravings lithographed in Paris in 1835, based on sketches from the previous decade. French artist J. B. Debret (1768 – 1848) published his Voyage Pittoresque et Historique au Brésil (Paris, 1835), one of the best-known sets of pre-photographic images of the Empire.


Module 6 - Brazil of the Provinces

Commissioned by Emperor Dom Pedro I, the Panorama da Cidade de São Paulo, by French artist Armand Julien Pallière (1784 – 1862), is deemed the most important pre-photographic piece of "Paulistano" iconography. After the Republic was proclaimed, this oil painting on canvas was sold and disappeared into oblivion for 110 years, only being rediscovered in 2001, when it was purchased for the Brasiliana Itaú Collection. Another piece that lay forgotten in private collections is the Vista Panorâmica da Baía de Belém do Pará, ["Panorama of the Bay of Belém do pará"] painted in 1870 by Joseph Léon Righini (1820 – 1884), and a fundamental work of Amazon iconography.



Module 7 - Imperial Brazil

J. B. Debret (1768-1848), a painter at Court, witnessed and recorded the wedding ceremony of Dom Pedro I to his second wife, Dona Amélia. He intended to produce a large canvas based on the work displayed in this collection. But because the Emperor abdicated in 1831, he never produced the larger work. Among coins of the period, the gold Peça da Coroação ["Coronation Piece"], minted in 1822, the year of Brazil's Independence to celebrate the Emperor's coronation, is acknowledged to be Brazil's most valuable coin. It was part of a set of 64 that never went into circulation, vetoed by the Regent. It carries the naked bust of Dom Pedro I in effigy, with a crown of laurels on his head in the fashion of the Roman emperors.



Module 8 - Brazil of the Slaves

A grim, yet inescapable chapter of Brazil's history, slavery was portrayed by a series of roving artists. Henry Chamberlain (Britain, 1796-1844), visited Rio de Janeiro in 1817. In London five years later he released the first collection of engravings focusing on the slave labor  that the ruling caste of Rio insisted on exploiting. Works by J. M. Rugendas (1802-1858) and J. B. Debret (1768-1848) also depict scenes of slavery in a range of rural and urban contexts that are equally degrading.



Module 9 - Brazil of the Brazilians

Brazil arrives in the twentieth century. As the Republic took root, Brazil's culture rediscovered itself—either by interrogating its traditions and absorbing foreign elements, as did the modernist Oswald de Andrade (1890-1954) in his collection of poems entitled Pau Brasil, [Brazilwood Tree] published 1925, or by composing visual narratives focusing on urban "types" and on politics, which cartoonist J. Carlos (1884-1950) did with a combination of good humour and critical acumen. In this period many Brazilian artists struck up partnerships with artists abroad. In 1903 Henrique Alvim Correa (1876-1910) brought out a series of illustrations for H. G. Wells's War of the Worlds (Wells: 1866-1946). Having been approved by the author, the images were included in a deluxe edition of the sci-fi classic in 1906.