The poetic ethnography of Correia Dias: a tour of indigenous traditions from Dias’ mythical pool

Amanda Reis Tavares Pereira

PEREIRA, Amanda Reis Tavares. The poetic ethnography of Correia Dias: a tour of indigenous traditions from Dias’ mythical pool. 19&20, Rio de Janeiro, v. X, n. 1, jan./jun. 2015. [Português]

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And to arouse their interest in our women warriors, Orellana had been informed that they possessed great treasures, starting with the five sumptuous Temples of the Sun that enriched their lands. On the other hand, long before the first brigs went down the Amazon River and were shot with arrows by the presumed female warriors, Americo Vespucci and Columbus had already heard of the tribe of the Amazons in other parts of America, which showed that the same legend filled the imagination of many. But let us move on to another very interesting point that is closely related to the tradition of the Amazons: the muiraquitãs...

Amazônia misteriosa, Gastão Cruls

1.      In 1930, the Portuguese artist Fernando Correia Dias (1882-1935), cartoonist, ceramist, graphic artist and designer, who had been living in Brazil since 1914, designed, at the request of the Brazilian businessman Guilherme Guinle (1882-1960), a pool, a fountain and two benches for the magnate’s property in Gávea, Rio de Janeiro [Figure 1].

2.      The small pool intercepts the course of a stream on the edge of the forest that surrounds the property. A large rock was incorporated into the project and placed near the waterfall. Around the rock there were plants in vases with Marajoara motifs also seen on the wall tiles. On the right side, the water runs its course through a small staircase. In the pool, just over a meter deep, we can see aquatic plants known as water lilies. The project was meant to be a garden with a pond for these plants.[1] On the other two sides one can also see small stairs giving access to the water. On the left side, the only one with no stairs, one can clearly see a sort of fountain through which the water passes. At the top of the fountain there is a large muiraquitã. The privileged position of this element within the project (the highest point of the fountain) shows its relevance and what it can evoke: the legendary Yaci Uarua, or moon mirror, the indigenous name of the lake associated to one of the most recurrent mythical narratives of the Amazonian imaginary, the legend of the Amazon warrior women and their muiraquitãs.

3.      Long before occupying this privileged position in the project of Correia Dias, the amulet and the narratives surrounding it had already traveled the world in the texts and stories of European travelers, feeding the imagination of both explorers and those who would never venture into the region.

4.      It is said that, in the 16th century (1541-42), the first expedition was carried out along the Amazon River, from Ecuador to the Atlantic Ocean, and its captain was the Spaniard Francisco de Orellana (1490-1550). The chronicler of this expedition, Fray Gaspar de Carvajal (1504-1584), records in his text the group’s confrontation with the indian warriors, who supposedly lived without the company of men near the estuary of the JamundáRiver:

5.                                    We were looking for a pleasant place to rest and celebrate the feast in honour of blessed St. John the Baptist, precursor of Christ, and God wanted us to see, after a river bend, many big riverside villages. Suddenly, we arrived in the good land of the Amazons.

6.                                     [...] The battle lasted for more than an hour, for the indians would not lose heart; on the contrary, they seemed to redouble their efforts despite seeing many of their own die. They just jumped over the corpses, retreated and resumed the attack.

7.                                    I want you to know the reason why the indians defended themselves this way. They are subjects of the Amazon warrior women. Knowing that we were coming, they asked for help and ten or twelve women came. We saw them, leading the indians as captains, and fighting so bravely that the indians did not dare to cross their path, and if any of them tried to flee from us, they were clubbed to death. That is why the indians defended themselves so intensively.

8.                                    These women are very white and tall, with very long hair, braided and wrapped around the head. They are strongly built and walk around naked, covering only their genitals, and with their bows and arrows in their hands, fighting like they were worth ten indians. In fact, one of these women shot one of the brigs with a one-inch arrow, the others, a little less. Our brigs looked like porcupines.[2]

9.      In the preceding pages to the passage transcribed above, the friar mentioned the existence of the Amazons and mentioned the precautions suggested by some indians if the Spanish group intended to enter their land. This is the first written record that would mention the actual existence of those women, who would never be seen again.

10.    According to the Tupi tradition, they were the Icamiabas, indian warriors who formed a tribe without any males near the estuary of the Jamundáriver. The resemblance to narratives from classical antiquity would consolidate, for the Europeans, the existence of those women, who, according to the Tupi legend, were responsible for the production of small amulets, taken from the bottom of the magical lake called Yaci Uarua.

11.    In the 18th century, records of the expedition of the French naturalist Charles-Marie de la Condamine[3] (17701-1774) along the same river indicated the presence of small green stones with zoomorphic shapes on the neck of the indians. According to the explorer, they were known as “The Amazon stones”. Thus, it dates from that century the record of the association between the legendary tribe and the muiraquitãs: green batrachian-shaped artifacts made of stone, with double lateral holes not visible from the front,[4] which, according to the legend, were made by the indian warriors.

12.    The manufacturing of these artifacts, linked to the tradition of the Tapajó, Santarém and Conduri tribes, required time, specific skills, special tools and accurate techniques, since jade is a difficult material to be worked due to its hardness, which suggests that the people who crafted the pieces mastered complex techniques.

13.    The muiraquitãs were found even in Central America, and many of them were taken to Europe and given as gifts as amulets, as symbols of good luck. Today, the few known pieces are in museums. The accounts by La Condamine, dating from the 18th century, mentioned the healing properties of these pieces, which were well-known by the indians. References to these artifacts, its legends and the Amazon warrior women circulated in the Old World, through the records and stories of explorers.

14.    In Correia Dias’project, the muiraquitã was resized to about 50cm and carved in stone. From the neck of indians to a stream in Rio de Janeiro, it was incorporated as an ornament, and there is no doubt about the symbolic centrality of its role, since it is facing the pool and it is above the waterfall, suggesting a position of relevance. Seven vases with plants are spread around the pool to complete the decoration.

15.    Before this indigenous-inspired project, the Portuguese artist had already made many works based on the Marajoara tradition.[5] In 1928, the National Ceramics Company already produced tiles he designed by stylizing patterns created by that culture. In his studio in Botafogo, he produced ceramic pots inspired by the same tradition, as well as lamps, carpets, bronze plates, iron objects, leather safes.[6] From his early years in Brazil, the elements of the national culture would be a constant in his work.

16.    In fact, even in Portugal, his interest in popular cultural manifestations was part of his artistic repertoire. In the review by Virgílio Ferreira published in the Portuguese newspaper A Águia,[7] on the occasion of his friend’s farewell exhibition, it is possible to foresee that Correia Dias would be an artist involved in regional issues. In drawing the attention of the readers to Correia Dias’ understanding of the poetic and artistic aspect of Portuguese regionalisms, Virgílio aligns poetic with ethnographic aspects in Correia Dias’ work, highlighting what he considers to be a benefit for the ethnographer-designer[8]. This association strikes one as curious, since the value of Correia Dias’ work was more related to a subjective skill than properly to a “method” for ethnographic accounts, which would be expected from this discipline. The advantage of the Portuguese ethnography would be precisely a differentiated view, more sensitive to regional artistic elements. We might suppose that what catches Virgílio’s attention and makes him understand the work of Correia Dias as an association between poetry and ethnography was Dias’ interest in stilyzing the references to what he understood as national culture. The poetic dimension was, therefore, subject to a re-reading of these elements.

17.    In Brazil, the stilyzation of elements of the Marajoara tradition will mark its pioneering spirit towards a new mode of appropriation of nativism, as pointed out by Paulo Herkenhoff:  along with Theodoro Braga (1872-1953) and Manoel Pastana (1888-1984), Correia Dias “developed the idea of decorative art with nativist elements. He would become a major champion of the idea of an industrial design -in the graphic and decorative arts -based on the nationalist heritage of the Marajoara ceramic.”[9] O nacionalismo na arte, an article by the Espírito Santo-born artist Vieira da Cunha dedicated to the graphic arts and considered a pioneering record of that nationalist intent, was written in the period in which he shared the Botafogo studio with Dias Correia.

18.    Therefore, when carrying out the project for Guilherme Guinle, the Portuguese artist is already well-known for his work using different techniques such as drawing, ceramics, graphic arts, as well as ornaments for the so-called neo-Marajoara or “Marajoara déco” architecture. His interest in national art would also bring him in touch with stylized elements of the Brazilian fauna and flora,[10] in addition to elements of African tradition. Thus, his career would pass through all these references, and he would find in the expansion of “art déco”, in the 1930s and 1940s, the recognition of an already dense work in the field of revisiting these traditions.

19.    The ceramic vases with Marajoara motifs that can be seen in some photos of his work were also common in his studio.[11] Probably the vases with plants that decorate the initial project were produced under the same artistic concerns as those we observe in the ceramic objects in the photographs. In the project, they seem to be resistant enough to be exposed not only as a decorative object, but also as good containers for plants. Therefore, they don’t seem to be small. In pictures of his studio, one can see vases that are possibly similar to the ones in the original project, which cannot be confirmed since the original ones are no longer at the pool.

20.    Paul Hekhenhoff mentions not only the importance of Correia Dias as a pioneer in the incorporation of nativism, but also the conservative character of this appropriation:

21.                                  that remains faithful to the forms and materials of the vases, to the permanence of the graphic identity of the symbol, to the graphic contrasts with accentuation of archaic trends. [...] In the work of Correia Dias, the small pieces seem to show greater experimental freedom of form and decoration, less dependent upon the original ornamental motifs.[12]

22.    We cannot state that the project confirms this interpretation of the relationship between creative freedom and the vase size, but we suggest that what the critic notices about the way appropriation occurs could also be related to the link between ethnography and poetry, as suggested by Virgílio Ferreira. Perhaps moving away from the graphic identity of Marajoara standards could compromise the relationship or identification of his work with that culture, which would compromise the suggested ethnographic character.

23.    Herkenhoff compares Correia Dias’ approach to the one taken by Theodoro Braga, another pioneer in the dissemination of this stylization. Braga’s stylization was freer than his friend’s. However, whereas Herkenhoff establishes this contrast, he also identifies in Braga’s style a difference between his Marajoara stylization and the academicism of his painting, as exemplified by the work Muiraquitã [Figure 2],[13] dated 1920.

24.    Braga’s painting serves for a reflection on the revision of the appropriation of indigenous tradition proposed in the early decades of the 20th century, which demands another dialogue with this tradition -one that is distinct from the recurring one in the 19th century, when the indian represented according to the European academic tradition could be understood as a mythical element, founder of a new nation freed from the Portuguese dominion. Theodor Braga’s O muiraquitã, although contextually inserted in the discussions concerning the modernization of this appropriation, still shows characteristics of a representation mode from the 19th century, as one can see in the bodies of the indian women.

25.    Therefore, it is interesting to notice that this artist represents a time of transition that happened in the first decades of the 20th century, since he adopts a modern stand in his decorative art projects, while revealing an European tradition in the approach to nativist themes in his paintings.

26.    The 20th century revisited this relationship by proposing another interchange. During this period, there was an aesthetic revision of national themes and of the way of spreading and maintaining this nationalism, so that the European filter would be abandoned on behalf of the appreciation of indigenous art as artistic creation, in opposition to the previous representation of the indian figure.[14] Eliseu Visconti (1866-1944), Theodoro Braga and Manoel Pastana, together with Correia Dias, would be fundamental activists for the dissemination of this aesthetic, which would find in an industrialized society the essential tools to spread this new national iconography.[15]

27.    Therefore, the project herein analyzed is part of this new appropriation and is created at a time when the work of these pioneers starts to gain followers, which resulted in the strengthening of “art déco”andMarajoara déco”. Here, one no longer sees a gaze concerned with the European representation of the indigenous man, but a stylized appropriation of elements of his material culture, such as vases and motifs in tiles, as well as his mythological symbols, such as the muiraquitã.

28.    There are many versions of the legends associated to the muiraquitã. They had been circulating through America and Europe since the 16th century. Usually linked to the Tapajó tradition, which associates the muiraquitãs to the Amazon warrior women, a recurring story says that they were manufactured by these very women. At full moon nights, the warrior women would receive the visit of indians from a chosen tribe, with whom they would spend the night. That same night (or at midnight, in some versions of the legend), they would plunge into a magical lake  around which their male indian warriors stood, and would take some soft clay from the bottom that would turn into muiraquitãs, amulets they would give to the indians. They would hang them around the indians’ necks as talismans that would help in hunting, bring good luck and happiness, and work as a symbol of the fertility of their special encounter. In another version of the legend, at the bottom of lake lived the muiraquitãs’ mother, who used to give the amulet to the women by occasion of a similar event: receiving the indians. Some versions also say that the Icamiabas (the Amazons) poured scented water from vases to purify the lake before reaching down for the amulets. In Correia Dias’ project there are also vases around the pool -though diverted from the functions of carrying water or groceries, and set as decoration.

29.    It is interesting to remember that, in the Amazon region, the mythical figures associated with water, such as the “Iara mermaid”and the “mother of water”, are recurrent. The figures of Yemanjá and Oxum were also incorporated to the national imaginary, endorsing water as a mythical space.[16]

30.    In the context of an industrial society of the early 20th century, when the concept of modernity foresees this re-reading, it is interesting to point out that the appropriation of this tradition is submitted to a Western project of modernity. All the rhetorics about a new conception of the indian still lies under the same hierarchy. It uses stylized indigenous elements, but not their material culture itself, since the function of the incorporated elements is different from the ones in the Marajoara culture, in which iconography has specific symbolism.[17] and vases are manufactured to store food or serve as funerary urns.[18] This new perspective does not propose a dialogue with the indigenous tradition through questioning or appreciating its culture, but rather stylizing its figures and shapes.

31.    The iconography of the pool tiles illustrates the interest in stylizing: it prioritized the aesthetic effect of the geometrization of the visual elements. We can identify the dialogue it established, especially in the anthropomorphic figures on the sides of the pool. The design of the tiles suggests a human face, for there are elements similar to eyes, nose and mouth. In the Marajoara tradition, the anthropomorphization in ceramics was recurrent, and so was the representation of the eyes and nose in the shape of a “Y”or “T”.[19] The latter would be closer to the image of the tiles of this pool, and there are also two squares representing the eyes. On the two tiles which represent the mouth there seems to be a suggestion of teeth at the bottom part. All tiles are monochromatic and its designs are made in relief, like the geometric outline. Serving as a support for the plants, the top tiles compose a purely geometric pattern. Near the muiraquitã amulet, a row of tiles with a different geometric motif surrounds the waterfall. These tiles that surround the muiraquitã and the ones at the top seem to show stylizations that are even further from their original referents.

32.    It is curious that, despite their apparent dialogue with the Marajoara culture, the tiles do not belong to it; they are associated to a vast Portuguese tradition. Therefore, in this work, Correia Dias combines the nativist nationalism with a long Portuguese tradition by incorporating the tile as the primordial material of the project.

33.    Contextually, the decade that separates Theodoro Braga’s “Europeanized” muiraquitã from Correia Dias’ “modern” one is marked by the expansion of industry, the press, and photography, as well as the consolidation of ethnography, facilitating the circulation and reception of images of the Amazon region, which, since the 16th century, had been seen through mythical lenses, like in the narrative of Friar Gaspar de Carvajal. In the pool, the evocation of this legend is suggested not only by the muiraquitã - much larger than real ones - but also by the water lilies and the vases, adorning a neo-Marajoara architectural project installed in a waterfall - a recurrent symbolic space in the mythical imagination of Brazil. It represents the evocation of a narrative that is linked less to an experience of that culture than to an allegory about it.[20]

34.    It is essential to remember that the during the period that separates the works by the artist from Pará (1920) from the ones by the Portuguese artist (1930), the appropriation of indigenous traditions remained and it was gradually “digested”, as anthropophagy might suggest, into a solid dialogue with different discussions about Modernity.

35.    In the early 1920s, Vicente do Rego Monteiro (1899-1970), an artist from Recife whose work was exhibited in the Brazilian Modern Art Week of 1922, was very important in establishing a new form of appropriation of indigenous traditions. In 1920, he exhibited indigenous-inspired watercolors in São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Recife. Although the dialogue with this tradition is present in almost all of his work, it is worth highlighting the importance of Lendas, crenças e talismãs dos índios do Amazonas and Algumas vistas de Paris, illustrated by the artist and published in France in 1923 and 1925, respectively.

36.    In 1925, the writer from Rio de Janeiro, Gastão Cruls (1888-1959), published Amazônia misteriosa, a novel about explorers who get lost in the jungle and find the legendary tribe of Icamiabas. To compose his narrative, Gaston Cruls used historical narratives about the Amazons as reference. Without knowing the region, he wrote the novel based on extensive studies about the experiences of expeditions carried out in the area.

37.    In the same decade, the Brazilian Modern Art Week of 1922 took place, supporting the revisiting of the national historical past. The literary works Macunaíma (1928) by the São Paulo-born artist Mário de Andrade (1893-1945) and Cobra Norato (1931) by the gaucho artist Raul Bopp (1898-1984) were fundamental to the movement. Based on Amazonian legends, they were written after their authors visited the region.[21] In Macunaíma: o herói sem nenhum caráter, the main character loses his muiraquitã, an event that sets the narrative in motion.

38.    Much has been discussed about the existence of the tribe of women warriors and their muiraquitãs in the Brazilian Historical and Geographical Institute (IHGB), founded in 1838. In the 1840s, the then director of Institute, Manoel de Araújo Porto Alegre, wrote a play entitled A estátua amazônica: uma comédia arqueológica[22] (The Amazon statue: an archaeological comedy), illustrating the tension between the scientific and fictional narratives about the region and the persistence of this kind of narrative in the Brazilian imaginary. The inspiration for the play would have been the case of the French explorer Francis de Laporte (1810-1880), known as Comte de Castelnau, who found

39.                                  a stone statue in the region of Barra do Rio Negro (now the city of Manaus), which was sent to France and exhibited in the Louvre Museum together with other objects collected. Although very rare (no more than 50 pieces are known currently), other idols and little stone figures were found in the Amazon region, especially dating from 1870 on. Nowadays they are considered pieces of the pre-Cabral (the so-called culture of Santarém) era, representing human and animal images. But at the time of Castelnau they were seen as clear evidence of the civilization of the Amazons! The explorer was sure that the artifacts did not belong to primitive societies. To explain their origin, he used the seductive myth of the female warriors in an interview to the Paris newspaper L'Illustration.[23]

40.    Considered a huge fallacy by Porto Alegre, the exhibition inspired him to create a caricature of Castelnau, the French explorer Count Sarcophagin, whose name is a metonym for the fanciful imagination of explorers, who interpret their findings in an extravagant way[24]. The explorer, also present in the narrative of Gaston Cruls, becomes a fictional character, being incorporated into the Amazonian imaginary.

41.    Since the first European accounts, however, the jungle has evoked a fanciful, mysterious, unknown and wonderful imaginary, an inexhaustible source for the expectations not only of scientists and explorers, but also of artists. Thus, in order to understand the region, perhaps it would be more instigating to resort to these texts than to maps or scientific records, since the Amazonian region could be interpreted through the lens of the historical projection of these Western narratives.

42.    To all of the previously mentioned events from the 1930s, one must add the debate on the applied arts and the art déco, which gains momentum and gets disseminated. Also from the 1930s, the book Introdução àarqueologia brasileira: etnografia e história[25] (Introduction to Brazilian Archeology: Ethnography and History, 1934) by Angyone Costa, boosts this debate in Brazil. Between Theodoro Braga’s painting and the literary work of Angyone, discussions about the place of ethnography in the human sciences are intensified, and, consequently, the potential unfolding interests about alterity are relocated, which will lead inevitably to a new projection and appropriation of the indigenous tradition.[26]

43.    It is intriguing, then, the tension between the scientific and the fictional discourses which have formed the imaginary of the region since the 16th century, but, above all, since the late 19th and early 20th centuries -a period of consolidation not only for ethnography as a discipline, but also for the historical and aesthetic revisions already mentioned, concerning that industrial context.

44.    It is therefore possible to consider Correia Dias’project as a plunge into this imaginary, appropriated by a foreigner who developed in Brazil a considerable and still not well-known work on the indigenous tradition, which was the result of his interest in nativism and his contact with  Theodoro Braga’s work. The project for Guilherme Guinle’s residence is one more chapter of this appropriation, which interacts with the elements chosen for it. When the work of Correia Dias proposes an architectural-landscape interference in the course of a waterfall, it also interferes in the experience of that space[27], incorporating narratives and symbols -associated with healing, protection and prosperity, for instance -seen through the lens of a so-called modern project of appropriation of the indigenous traditions.


ACUÑA, Cristobal de; CARVAJAL, Gaspar de; ROJAS, Alonso de. Descobrimentos do Rio das Amazonas. Available at: <>. S.d. Accessed on 01/08/2014.

ANDRADE, Mário de. Macunaíma, o herói sem nenhum caráter. Edição crítica de Telê Ancona Porto Lopes. Rio de Janeiro: Livros Técnicos e Científicos; São Paulo: Secretaria da Cultura, Ciência e Tecnologia, 1978.

BARATA, Frederico O muiraquitã e as contas do Tapajó. Revista do Museu Paulista, São Paulo, n. 08, 1954. p.229-232.

BUENO, Patrícia. O nacionalismo na arte decorativa brasileira - de Eliseu Visconti a Theodoro Braga. Available at: <>. Accessed on 01/08/2014.

CÂNDIDO, Antônio. Literatura de dois gumes. In: A Educação pela noite e outros ensaios. São Paulo: Ed. Ática, 1989.

COSTA, Marcondes Lima da; SILVA, Ana Cristina Resque Lopes da; ANGELICA, Rômulo Simões. Muyrakytã ou muiraquitã: um talismã arqueológico de jade prodecente da amazônia: uma revisão histórica e considerações antropogeologicas. Disponível em  Acesso em 21/09/2013.

CRULS, Gastão. A amazônia misteriosa. São Paulo: Saraiva, 1957 (Coleção Saraiva 115).

DUQUE ESTRADA, Gonzaga. Eliseu Visconti. Revista Kosmos, Rio de Janeiro, ano 2, julho 1901.

GODOY, Patrícia Bueno.  O Nacionalismo na Arte Decorativa Brasileira - de Eliseu Visconti a Theodoro Braga. Available at: <>. Accessed on 15/10/2013

GONÇALVES, José Reginaldo Santos (Org.). James Clifford. A experiência etnográfica: antropologia e literatura no século XX. 2.ed. Rio de Janeiro: Ed. UFRJ, 2002.

HERKENHOFF, Paulo. Design e selva: o caminho da modernidade brasileira. The jornal of Decorative and Propaganda Arts 1875-1945, n.21, 1995.

JORGE, Marcelo Gonczarowska. As pinturas indianistas de Rodolfo Amoedo. 19&20, Rio de Janeiro, v. V, n. 2, abr. 2010. Available at: <>. Accessed on 21/10/2013.

KERN, Daniela. The Amazonian Idol: the naissance of a national symbol in the Empire of Brazil (1848-1885). Available at: <>. Accessed on 12/02/2015.

LANGER, Jonni. As amazonas: história e cultura material no Brasil oitocentista. Available at: <>. Accessed on 07/02/2015

MALTA, Marize. Percursos na construção de novas iconografias brasileiras: do selvagem romântico às grafias marajoaras art déco. Available at: <>. Accessed on 30/10/2013

NETO, João Augusto da Silva.; FIGUEIREDO, Aldrin Moura de. Uma imagem, duas narrativas: as representações de uma lenda amazônica em Manoel Santiago. 19&20, Rio de Janeiro, v. VII, n. 1, jan./mar. 2012. Available at: <>. Accessed on 21/08/2013.

PASCOAL, Paola. Theodoro Braga e as proposições para uma arte brasileira. 19&20, Rio de Janeiro, v. VIII, n. 1, jan./jun. 2013. Available at: <>. Accessed on 09/09/2013

PAHL SHAAN, Denise. A linguagem iconográfica da cerâmica marajoara. Dissertação de mestrado. PUC Rio Grande do Sul, Porto Alegre, 1996.

PAHL SHAAN, Denise. Cultura marajoara. Rio de Janeiro: Senac Nacional, 2009.

PRICE, Sally. Arte primitiva em centros civilizados. Rio de Janeiro: Ed. UFRJ, 2000.

SCHAMA, Simon. Paisagem e memória. São Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 1996.

English translation by Ricky Toledano e Liane Sarmento


[1] HERKENHOFF, Paulo. Design e selva: o caminho da modernidade brasileira. The jornal of Decorative and Propaganda Arts 1875-1945, n.21, 1995.

[2] ACUÑA, Cristobal de; CARVAJAL, Gaspar de; ROJAS, Alonso de. Descobrimentos do Rio das Amazonas. Availabe at: <>. S.d. Accessed on August 1st, 2014.

[3] The work of the French researcher la Condamine in the Amazon River basin, presented in 1745 at the Paris Academy of Sciences (Relation abrégée d’un voyage fait dans l’intérieur de l’Amérique Méridionale) encouraged the European interest in the region.

[4] BARATA, Frederico O muiraquitã e as contas do Tapajó. Revista do Museu Paulista, São Paulo, n. 08, 1954. p.229-232.

[5] Marajoara refers to the indigenous people who inhabited the island of Marajó, in the Brazilian state of Pará. According to the researcher Denise Pahl Shaan (1996) "Marajoara art is the art developed in the Marajo Island since 400 AD which came to light through findings of ceramist activity that was established in the region around 100 or 200 years before the arrival of Europeans on the continent, according to dates now widely accepted. This archaeological material has peculiar characteristics that, on the one hand, attract the curiosity of the researcher, but on the other hand bring about many uncertainties and impose difficulties on the execution of scientific research work. It is a precious material in quantitative and qualitative terms, with many pieces that stand out for their technical refinement, with harmonic and unique shapes and designs, undoubtedly representing one of the finest colored ceramic of the recent prehistory of the Americas. By contrast, there is no ethnography of the society that produced and used it for about nine hundred years. There are many questions about the origin of these people and the reason for their disappearance, as well as about how they lived and how they adapted themselves to the complicated physical and geographical conditions of the Marajó Island."

[6] HERKENHOFF, op. cit.

[7] Virgílio Ferreira (1888-1944) was curator of the Portuguese Ethnological Museum (1912) and the National Museum of Ancient Art (1915). He taught Aesthetics and Art History at the University of Coimbra (as of 1921) and Archeology (as of 1923), and directed the Machado de Castro Museum in Coimbra, from November 24, 1929 to 1944, when he died.

[8] In March 1914, the Portuguese magazine A Águia published an article about the exhibition of cartoons that Fernando Correia Dias had done at Salão da Ilustração Portuguesa. Besides commenting the exhibit, the article, written by his friend Virgílio Correia, was also a kind of a farewell, since the exhibited works would cross the Atlantic Ocean along with the artist who thought Brazil was a fertile ground for research. At the end of the article, Virgílio says goodbye, clarifying that "Correia Dias is going to Brazil to exhibit his work, try to apply his designer skills. May fortune not let him forget that above all, the Portuguese Ethnography expects his collaboration as an illustrator, because there is no one else that understands and feels so deeply all the loving, poetic and artistic qualities of Portugal’s regionalisms."

[9] HERKENHOFF, op. cit, p. 119.

[10] Correia Dias had access to the studies of Theodoro Braga in A planta brasileira (copiada do natural) aplicada à ornamentação”, which features stylizations of Brazilian fauna and flora in addition to indigenous ceramics, especially Marajoara.

[11] Unfortunately, most of the ceramic pieces produced by Correia Dias have been lost. Most of his pieces are only known through photos. His collection is preserved by his family, in Rio de Janeiro, and is not available for consultation. The first husband of the Brazilian poet Cecilia Meireles (1901-1964), Correia Dias had three daughters with her in Brazil.

[12] HERKENHOFF, op. cit., p. 120.

[13] When he made this work, the artist Theodoro Braga was already committed to spreading modern Brazilian iconography, the result of his research about the national fauna and flora, as well as of studies on the Marajoara ceramics. Like Correia Dias, he worked with different artistic media. Like many other artists from the 19th and 20th centuries, he was a "multifaceted" professional." He graduated as a lawyer in 1893 from the Law School of Recife, the same city where he started his artistic training around 1892 with Jerônimo José Telles Júnior, a landscaping master in Pernambuco, who, according to the historian Edilson da Silveira Coelho, was responsible for the construction of his artistic personality. Already in Rio de Janeiro in 1894, Theodoro Braga studied painting at the National School of Fine Arts with Belmiro de Almeida, Daniel Bérard and Zeferino da Costa, receiving the top grade when he graduated in 1898. In 1899, he received the Travel to Europe Award and went to Paris, where he studied at the Julian Academy with Jean-Paul Laurens, master of French historical painting. In his stay in Paris, Theodoro Braga kept in touch with the French decorative art, and could visit several other European countries, studying and gathering information and improving techniques. Back to Belém, his homeland, in 1905, he could develop a painting alluding to the foundation of the city, commissioned by that municipality, strengthening his links with historical painting. There, he produced A planta brasileira (copiada do natural) aplicada à ornamentação - a visual repertoire written by hand whose introduction was signed by Manoel Campello - in which the artist uses the flora and fauna and decorative patterns taken from pottery produced by indigenous cultures, especially the Marajoara, easily identifiable due to its geometric and labyrinthic motifs." PASCOAL, Paola. Theodoro Braga e as proposições para uma arte brasileira. 19&20, Rio de Janeiro, v. VIII, n. 1, jan./jun. 2013. Available at: <>. Accessed on September 9th, 2013.

[14] MALTA, Marize. Percursos na construção de novas iconografias brasileiras: do selvagem romântico às grafias marajoaras art déco. Available at: <>. Accessed on October 30th, 2013.

[15] The techniques used by both of them were relevant precisely because they enabled the development of large-scale production of objects that iconographically propagated an updated national aesthetic concept. Having been a student of Eugène Grasset (1845-1917) in Paris, Eliseu Visconti returned to Brazil interested in applying, without much success, his studies of the method he had learned in France of ornamental composition based on the stylization of native flora and fauna. In 1901, he held an exhibition at the National School of Fine Arts featuring more than seventy works of decorative art applied to industry. The critic Gonzaga Duque deplored the fact that the Brazilian industry rejected Eliseu Visconti's project, criticizing the fact that they "preferred the servility of bad models from abroad."

[16] The mythical connotations about water are also present in the legend of the victoria amazonica water lily. It is attributed to the Tupi-Guarani people, the legend of Naia, an indian who wanted to be taken by the moon. According to the legend, the moon goddess that always lurked behind the mountain used to kidnap women of great beauty to turn them into stars. Naia's dream was to be taken by the goddess, although she was warned that once she had been taken, she would not be able to return to Earth. Indifferent to the warning, she unsuccessfully tried to reach the moon on moonlit nights. One night, very tired, Naia stopped to drink water from a lake. Due to her exhaustion, she fell in the water and died. The goddess, feeling sorry for the young woman who had made such an effort, decided to turn her into a star different from every other star, turning her, then, into a water lily, an aquatic plant that only blooms at night. Like the legend of Naia, the mythologizing of the Amazon region and the tribe of women it was named after helped spread the imaginary shared by many explorers about the place.

[17] PAHL SHAAN, Denise. A linguagem iconográfica da cerâmica marajoara. Dissertação de mestrado. PUC Rio Grande do Sul, Porto Alegre, 1996.

[18] Patrícia Godoy mentions that the stylization of Marajoara models requires geometric studies, which can change the patterns. She also says that artists not always know the original motifs. This leads us to ratify that it is the aesthetic interest that will be privileged by that nationalist intention. Available at: <>. Accessed on October 15th, 2013.

[19] PAHL SHAAN. Cultura marajoara. Rio de Janeiro: Senac Nacional, 2009.

[20] We think of the ethnographic allegory proposal by James Clifford (2002): "The allegory (from Greek allos, ‘other’, and agoreuein, ‘talk’) usually denotes a practice in which a narrative continually refers to another pattern of ideas or events. It is a representation that interprets itself […]Any story tends to generate another story in the mind of the reader (listener), to repeat or displace some other previous story. The understanding of ethnography as an allegory implies the acceptance that the Other cannot be represented, given the complexity of the experience" (p. 65). “Allegory urges us to say, as far as any cultural description is concerned, not ‘this represents - or symbolizes - that’, but ‘this is a story (which carries a moral) about that’”(p. 66).

[21] In O turista aprendiz (1927), Mário de Andrade publishes the photos taken by himself along his journey.

[22] To access the full text, see: <>.  Accessed on September 23th, 2013.

[23] LANGER, Jhonni, available at  <>. Consult: LANGER, Jonni: As amazonas: história e cultura material no Brasil oitocentista. Available at: <>. Accessed on February 2nd, 2015.

[24] In Como era ardiloso o meu francês: Charles-Marie de La Condamine e a Amazônia das Luzes, Neil Safier analyses the records and lectures of La Condamine on the Amazon region upon his return to France, demonstrating the political interests behind the words, as well as the discursive strategies and copies he made use of for composing his texts, apparently a personal and original narrative about of the region. Available at: <>. Acessed on 02.12.2015. KERN, Daniela. The Amazonian Idol: the naissance of a national symbol in the Empire of Brazil (1848-1885). Disponível em: <>. Accessed on February 12th, 2015.

[25] To access the full text, see: <>. Accessed on February 2nd, 2015.

[26] Although it is not our focus, this work flirts with the discussions on the appropriation of the so-called primitive art by the major Western centers. Concerning this issue, we highlight the contribution of the anthropologist Sally Price (2000, p. 56): "Surely, an issue that will arise frequently in this book is to what extent we can see all kinds of art dealing with the same 'core issues' and to what extent the artistic production of different people reflects the particular way in which each one sees the world and his place in it." In this work, the author questions the relevance of the application of Western concepts and art methods to cultures that do not share this framework. Since the questioning about the so-called connoisseurs of art (critics, especially) to the formation of large collections of primitive art, the book addresses the doubts about permanence of these centers as legitimizing places for the artistic value of primitive art, showing the persistence of hierarchy between the "primitive" and "civilized" and how it still occurs. The insistence on anonymity of primitive artists would be an example. It is interesting for us to reflect on how the historical context fosters this hierarchy.

[27] Regarding the experience of such interference, remember Paisagem e memória, by Simon Schama (1996): "If a child’s view of nature can generate memories, myths and complex meanings, the frame with which our adult eyes contemplate the landscapes should be much more elaborate. For though we are accustomed to situate nature and human perception in two different fields, in fact they are inseparable. Before being a relief for the senses, the landscape is the mind’s construct. They consist of both layers of memories and rock strata (p. 17). "Understanding the ghostly outline of an ancient landscape, under the superficial layer of the contemporary, is equivalent to intensely notice the permanence of the essential myths" (p. 27).