New World Portraits

Jacqueline Medeiros [1]

MEDEIROS, Jacqueline. New World Portraits. 19&20, Rio de Janeiro, v. X, n. 1, jan./jun. 2015. [Português]

 *     *     *

1.      The Portuguese Court commissioned the painting La mascarade nuptiale [Figure 1] in 1788 from the Portuguese artist José Conrado Roza, official painter of the Empire, so he would portray curiosities of the New World.2 The author is the son and disciple of Domingo da Roza, whom he succeeded in the position of court painter and illustrator of the royal princes, and especially the princesses; in the second half of the century, he worked in the court of King Pedro III and Queen Maria, as it seems, to decorate the Robillon Pavilion of the Queluz National Palace, Portugal.

2.      Roza’s painting allegorically portrays a strange wedding procession made up of eight dwarves grouped in pyramid shape. Seven of the dwarves are black slaves and one of them, named Siriaco, has vitiligo[2], which has made most of his skin turn white. He is the only one without a noble garment, as if his whitish skin were a piece of clothing or were shown exactly to expose his abnormal condition. These dwarves came from various places of the Portuguese colonies and were identified by short and almost imperceptible biographies written on their clothes. These biographies bring us closer to the life history of these people who had been affected by such physical anomalies. This practice can be seen in the paintings of the so-called "picturesque travels", a genre that mixed explanatory texts with colorful illustrations and references to places in order to expand the repertoire of the readers. The researcher Marisa Flórido Cesar[3] assures us that making the image of minorities visible is to bring them into existence. An expression that comes from Roman law: the "right of image”, guaranteed a place and a voice to minorities. Was that Roza’s intention when he wrote inscriptions [Figure 2] about the characters’ lives on their garments? If we consider the victims of the Holocaust, who were reduced to a numerical code tattooed on their skin, the answer may be yes. Instead of making its characters lose their human dignity, José Conrado Roza’s painting brings these individuals to the level of humanity, giving them noble clothes and shoes, and showing the public the conditions that made them stand there, like a cry for help, a denouncement. It gave visibility to those with no image, those who were rarely portrayed as human beings, as Velasquez did [Figure 3]. Since European monarchs had the habit of being surrounded by these people, whom they called “aberrations”, they were a frequent presence at parties and in paintings commissioned by the court.

3.      The two characters representing the bride and the groom were from Angola, the two musicians, from Mozambique, and the other four ones were from Brazil (from Pernambuco, Rio de Janeiro, Bahia and Pará).[4] The black dwarf D. Rosa, the bride, would always accompany the Queen and receive constant donations of clothing, shoes and food from the palace, so she seems to have been the Queen’s favorite, according to reports found in documents of the New World Museum. Following this line of thought, there is the hypothesis that the painting was commissioned because the Queen might have wanted want to keep a memento from D. Rosa, since the dwarves were short-lived. D. Rosa would actually pass away just a few years later.

4.      There are several questionable aspects in this work, starting with the title in French, which may have been assigned by the antiquarian who sold the painting to the New World Museum in 1984. It is known that the records of this period were marked by imagination combined with large doses of curiosity and all types of utopia, not to mention that many of them did not make any reference to the presence of the author witnessing the scene, which suggests that José Conrado Roza may have never set foot on the lands of the New World. There is no information about where the painting had been before its acquisition by the museum or about possible visits of the artist to the Portuguese colonies. Studies by the New World Museum, however, indicate the existence of at least one copy of the painting, acquired by Charles Besteigui in 1939 [Figure 4]. This copy has roughly the same size as the original, but it presents slight variations - the bride's dress is white, there is no stone with the signature of the artist and, most importantly, the dove holds a sheet of paper with inscriptions. It was sold under the title of O retrato dos anões da rainha D. Maria de Portugal (Portrait of Queen Maria of Portugal’s dwarves), according to information from the New World Museum.

5.      Although it was painted in the 18th century, after a period in which artists had mastered the techniques of visual representation of space, the painting shows a flat representation in the foreground and a landscape in perspective in the background. Foreground and background are not integrated, as it would be expected of a work of that time, whose fundamental norms determined the combination of forms in the planes and a commitment to representing articulated planes. The spatial depth of the background develops abruptly and all the main elements of the picture are in foreground, as if they were on the edge of a precipice. The idea of depth is devalued and made insignificant, due to the overload in the foreground of elements dissociated from the landscape in the background. The author makes the figures of the dwarves crystallize in an almost perfect row, side by side, in the foreground, parallel to the frame of the painting, showing the observer a solid configuration formed by these elements, like a wall, imposing a field of vision that discourages the viewer from making constant incursions to the background.

6.      Even with the rich garments that could give them a certain human nobility, the figures look more like dolls than humans: their eyes are fixed and they all look the same, the white of their eyes highlighted, contrasting with their black skin. In this sense, they leave the category of humanity, coming closer to items collected in a cabinet of curiosities, so common at that time.

7.      The use of various types of clothing that correspond to various Portuguese colonies makes it clear that there was a willingness to represent the New World. For example, the dwarf to the right of Siriaco has a piece of fabric tied to his waist, a feature of African clothing; the indian is wearing feathers and a headdress and is carrying an arrow. On the other hand, wearing shoes was not common for these characters, neither in their place of origin nor in the court. Wearing shoes was a sign of superiority and, thus, it was forbidden for black people. In this painting, however, almost all of them are wearing shoes, which shows their ascension inside the social pyramid of the court. The indian and Siriaco are the exceptions, which may possibly be an allusion to the two lesser known species of "aberrations": the black person with skin anomalies, which was under investigation by scientific studies of the time; and the savage indian who cannot be tamed, not even at a wedding ceremony.

8.      Undoubtedly, the painting portrays a wedding: the dove and the cupid (the indian) are symbols that point to that. D. Roza is about to be pierced by the arrow that the indian Marcellino[5] is preparing to shoot. But if, on the one hand, the scene may be portraying a wedding, on the other hand, it may be that everyone is celebrating Siriaco’s arrival, perching to be able to see him. One will never know that for sure. One of the most remarkable characters of the La mascarade nuptiale painting is undoubtedly Siriaco, due to his power to fascinate and disturb everyone, even today. Siriaco had already been represented by the painter Manuel Joaquim da Rocha [Figure 5], just like in La mascarade nuptiale:

9.                                    In December 1786, 48,000 réis were paid to Manuel Joaquim da Rocha, another painter of the court, for his portrait "Preto Malhado" or "Negro-pie" or "Siriaco", as he is called. A little later, two other portraits, this time costing 86.400 réis, were again painted by the same artist.[6]

10.    A copy of this portrait is kept at the Museum of the School of Medicine of Paris, and another one is found at the Ethnography Museum of Madrid. Both are dated 1786. The third, also dated 1786 (or 1787, depending on the source), was kept at the painting gallery of the Palácio Nacional da Ajuda in Lisboa, until it disappeared in a fire in 1974. These copies, done on the occasion of Siriaco’s arrival in Portugal, attest to the interest aroused by this phenomenon.

11.    The issue of skin malpigmentation was intriguing in the 18th century and gave way to many interpretations in the research of biologists and naturalists, as well as to the racial theories that accompanied them – which might explain why two of the copies were found in museums of Medicine and Ethnography. Could this also be the reason why Roza gave Siriaco a highlighted position in his painting?

12.    There were several and controversial interpretations at the time for this disease and for the fascination it aroused in Europe, with frequent exhibitions on the subject, such as the image of a youth with vitiligo shown at London’s Bartholomew Fair of 1795, published by Alex Hogg in October 1803. Another case in point was the indians Kali'na Galibis from the French Guyana, who were exhibited at the Porte Maillot Zoo in 1892 [Figure 6].

13.    In these cases, the individuals were treated like monsters, and their abject bodies demarcate the limits of humanity, either in the radical form of the cannibal or in the attenuated form of the savage. Thus, the primordial question the European collective imaginary asks itself concerning these beings that inhabited the New World is what defines the very category of humanity. Are they savages or humans? Do their bodies have a soul or not?

14.    The answers to these questions establish a double connection of identification and differentiation present in the catalogs of ethnic races of Central America, in the tradition of having taste for and nurturing "aberrations", in scientific studies, in the cabinets of curiosities, and in the very pictorial representation of these incomprehensible beings that pervade the analysis of the portraits of the New World. There are several possible interpretation paths for La mascarade nuptiale by the painter José Conrado Roza.

The tradition of caste paintings

15.    King Carlos III of Spain was very curious about the development of miscegenation and its results, considering them a curiosity of the Americas, the so-called New Spain[7]. In the 18th century, they were portrayed in caste paintings - more specifically in colonial Mexico - a pictorial style that showed the different types of humans that resulted from the mix of white, indian and black people in the recently-formed colonial society that categorized the diversity and hybrids through a complex system of castes. According to Lilian Moritz[8], in the Iberian world, to think of castes was to define lineage or race, with the concept of ”caste” itself deriving from the Latin term castus, which literally means "to maintain pure". In the social or caste stratification established in Spanish America, three social values or elements were combined to form the distinct marks of each caste, according to Santelli: [9] the racial element, the economic element, and the cultural element. 

16.    A series of names was assigned to the distinct racial combinations that appeared in the Spanish colonies: mestizo (Spanish and indian), mulato (Spanish and black) and zambo or zambaigo (black and indian). For the colonial elite, this classification system was a way of imposing order to a society that was becoming more and more unclassifiable, but it also represented a search for an identity that was difficult to define. This need for order and control of the society was also present in the studies of anomalies in European naturalist medicine.

17.    Therefore, the production of caste paintings sought to describe the advance of miscegenation and the everyday life in Ibero-America. Most of these paintings were part of a series of 16 to 20 scenes, each representing a man and a woman from several ethnic groups with the descendent that resulted from the mix between them. Each individual is identified by a descriptive legend.

18.    As we see it, the main theme of these works is the concept of hierarchy as an indispensable element to guarantee the subsistence of any imperial system. As example is the paintings of Joaquin Magón, which represent the occupations performed by the protagonists portrayed: there is a clear hierarchy, where the best occupations are taken by Spaniards or descendants that are more Spanish than mixed, and the occupations of less importance are taken by those with black or mestizo blood. Thus, the caste paintings represented the interests of the Spanish elite, which, according to García Saíz[10], were mainly motivated by the exoticism typically attributed to the American mestizos from Mexico. 

19.    In colonial Spain, the concept of race took long to come up and had the objective of maintaining biological control. As noted by Lilian Moritz, in the 19th century, historical and social differences started being normalized so people would believe that the society was nothing but a faithful mirror of biology and that even the predominance of whites could be explained in a laboratorial way. Perhaps this is what is demonstrated by the little known French painter named Masurier, who, in a caste painting called Madelene de la Martinique [Figure 7], dated 1782, depicted an Ibero-American descedent child with vitiligo who is very similar to Roza’s Siriaco. Today, the work can be found in the Museum of Natural History in Paris. Analyzing from the point of view of the Mexican castes, it can be said that the black woman looks at her son affected by vitiligo as if the disease had been the result of an accident of miscegenation, also related to the fruits that mother and children are holding. The ethnic origin of the father is unknown, for he is not depicted in the scene, unlike traditional caste paintings. This may bring the painting closer to the scientific studies exhibited in the cabinets of curiosities, allowing us to think of it as the record of a natural deformity, in line with what the Count of Buffon[11] would defend, which will be described in the next section.

Tradition in the scientific studies of medicine

20.    The 18th century was a period of great diffusion of natural history, in part due to the fomentation of travels for exploring the new territories colonized or to be colonized.  Thus, a great number of natural history and herbarium cabinets were created, owned not only by kings and princes, but also by wealthy citizens whose greatest ambition was to publish a catalog with their collections. ”Of all of those booms of new information, nothing compares to the great popularity gained by the work Histoire Naturelle, by Count of Buffon, with his Theory of Degeneration of Animal Species in America." [12]

21.    According to Antonello Gerbi, [13] the Count of Buffon[14] was proud of his findings, and among them was the greatest of all: the animal species of the Old World and the Americas, or the New World, are different and, in some aspects, inferior or impaired. This is the Theory of Degeneration, in which, in 1761, in volume IX of Histoire Naturelle [Figure 8] the Count of Buffon concludes that "thanks to a process of degeneration, the species of the Old World turned into that which is found in the New World". The success of Histoire Naturelle was immense. The two first print runs sold out in two weeks, and then it was translated into English, French and German. Other important biologists were contemporaries of Buffon: Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778), Denis Diderot (1713-1784), Condillac (1715-1780), Helvetius (1715- 1771) and Condorcet (1743- 1794).

22.    For some time, the observations based on this criterion of superiority and inferiority remained episodic, as more information, accounts and descriptions of the New World reached Europe and spread on the New Continent as unanimous. In this scenario, there is a multiplication of images of black children with malpigmentation caused by vitiligo. According to Michael Hagner[15], naturalists and physicians argued that children were chosen to be represented in order to "free these people from the superstitions and the prejudice that surrounded them.” These superstitions about who those monsters were and what they were for varied a lot in all layers of society, even among naturalists. The malpigmentation intrigued and gave rise to different interpretations and research, but it was always accompanied by the elaboration of racial theories.

Tradition of having a taste for and nuturing “aberrations”

23.    Formed by a collective imaginary whose genealogy dates back to the Middle Ages and its many supernatural beings, the interest aroused by the dwarves of the court can be compared to the feelings of strangeness surrounding the European fascination by the "Other", from the most distant to the most strangely familiar.

24.    In ancient times, any human deformation was considered an omen of bad luck or a sign of evil, a punishment inflicted by the gods. The society avoided deformed people and their families were ashamed of having been cursed by the birth of such a being. The black dwarves belong to this context. They were abducted by settlers and sent to Portugal for the entertainment of the court, where, in most cases, they would be ridiculed and humiliated for the fun and laughter of the nobles, which, according to George Bataille[16], was something diabolical. Michael Hagner[17] considers that, in Europe, the "aberrations" were much desired objects, especially in 1780, not only because they were considered extraordinary objects but also for a matter of prestige and power, since it was the court which determined who could have them at their disposal.

25.    With the publication of naturalist scientific studies in the late 18th century, however, these "monsters" appeared as beautiful objects, supported by the discourse that "every deformation followed some natural regularity, being thus more disconnected from the punishment by the gods." [18] To show this new form of beauty, these figures were shown in scenarios and adorned with jewelry - necklaces, earrings and rings - to be exhibited in the cabinets of curiosities as a vehicle for the aesthetic sensibility of anatomists. "The scientific use and public display of these anomalies in wax gave rise to different cultural values and practices and changed the public opinion about those creatures." [19] In this sense, even though we are induced to assume that the main theme of the painting La mascarade nuptiale is a wedding, it might as well be the malpigmented black man in the lower right-hand corner; maybe La Mascarade nuptiale was commissioned due to this interest in the extraordinary and this taste for human aberrations.

The tradition of the cabinets of curiosities and naturalism

26.    The cabinets of natural studies are similar to a book, a conference or an anatomic exhibition. It may be said that they comprise a form of representation by which nature can be created, exhibited and explained as a scientific phenomenon. The cabinets classify its items under generic categories that separate objects taken from nature, craftwork and antiques. According to the researcher Vera Beatriz Siqueira, [20] although incipient, this intention to classify aims at the creation of safe maps and routes for the exploratory travels of collectors:

27.                                  This is what ultimately gives meaning to the travels themselves, making the possession of objects the final objective of such scientific explorations of other cultures. Thus, the traveler traces the path which connects distant continents and unknown lands to their cabinet, promoting the integration of the most varied roles assumed by the traveler: the scientist, the chronicler, the historian, the collector.

28.    Just like in other Courts, in the Court of Portugal it was in fashion to be surrounded by young dwarf slaves, and one objective of that may have been to emphasize one’s whiteness. The rich and the powerful included them in their ”collection of curiosities", comprised of objects, animals and even humans with physical peculiarities, including dwarves and all kinds of physically bizarre individuals. One of the most famous cabinets of curiosities of the 18th century was Linck’s, in Leipzig, Germany, founded in 1761 and figuring the private collection of Heinrinch Linck, who had great prestige among scholars. The collection was made up of plants, minerals and fossils, organized and cataloged.

29.    The role played by monsters in the collection of the cabinets was different from the role they played for naturalist physicians who were interested in the taxonomy of deformations. In the cabinets of curiosities, the "aberrations" were displayed together with various valuables and, although the owners were interested in their classification, the pleasant aspect of admiring that which is rare and extraordinary indeed played a role. Such choice, however, was not unanimously accepted. According to Michel Hadner[21], Michael Bernharnd Valentin[22] criticized the arbitrary display of these beings in the cabinets of curiosities, because, for him, the cabinets had the objective of emphasizing that which is normal and aesthetically beautiful, and so their inclusion constituted a huge gap between proportional beings and deformed ones.

30.    It is difficult to find a link between these conflicting interests, once these anomalies were also present in museums, books and bestiaries, not only as scientific drawings whose objective was to support the classification of races, or as items of a collection – but also in person, displayed, bought and sold as objects. So were constituted their ambiguous and repressive representations: on the boundaries of the collective imaginary between the good and the evil, the beautiful and the abominable, the fair and the immoral, the pathological and the normal - concepts that change over time and leave a centuries-long trail of stigmatized and even openly repressed conducts, showing how the "Other" became an object of representation, demonstration, exhibition, that reaches the 20th century through the post-colonial discourse.

A post-colonial attitude

31.    The New World Museum of La Rochelle[23], located on the Atlantic Coast of France, added the painting A marcha nupcial (1788) to its collection in 1984, after acquiring it from an antiquarian in Paris. The role of the museum is to show the relationship between France and the Americas based on the works in its collection, since the city of La Rochelle had maintained intense commercial relations with the New World. For the museum, the painting is a "delightful and sharp commentary on the Europe/Africa/America triangle, and the relations imposed by the colonial adventures throughout the 18th century, the time of its heyday".[24]

32.    The collection of the museum comprises paintings, etchings, furniture and decorative objects that evidentiate the slave trade, through which the city of La Rochelle, as many others, accumulated considerable wealth. The museum is dedicated to the French conquests in the New World, Canada and the United States, displayed in five sections: one on the brief attempt of the French to conquest Brazil and South America; one on the relations between France and Canada; the third on France and the Caribbean colonies; the fourth on the life of slaves in the New World with a series of works that represent it allegorically; and the last section on the North American indians and the laws of the Wild West. With this collection, the New World Museum seeks to give an overview of these places.

33.    The creation of the New World Museum in 1982 and the formation of its collection were certainly related to the new government policies of the then-president François Mitterrand (1916-1996) and the Minister of Culture Jack Lang. The election of the president of France in 1981 was the main factor for the change in art-related policies, especially regarding that of the so-called Third World countries and ex-colonies, which had been previously called the New World. There was a decentralization of the arts with the creation of Le Centre National des Arts Plastiques in 1982. The center assigned regional funds for the acquisition and distribution of works of art throughout France: within four years, nothing less than 6000 works of art had been acquired with these funds.

34.    In 1982, the Minister of Culture, Jack Lang, stated that his ministry had the goal of "contributing to the spread of French culture and art in a free dialogue among world cultures". Thus, the Ministry of Culture created the Association Dialogue entre les Cultures (Adec) [25] in 1982 to facilitate and encourage the cultural and intellectual exchange between countries of the Third World and France, which gave rise to the d'Angoulême Jazz Festival, the dialogue between France and Québec and between France and Japan, and to projects of cultural exchange between different countries and France, such as India's Year in France, the Brazil-France year, France-Denmark, Morocco in Grenoble, etc. Thus, the French government promotes the dialogue with cultures of the Third World with a comprehensive articulation.

35.    The Brazilian critic Roberto Pontual (1939-1994) lived in Paris during this period as a correspondent for Jornal do Brasil and published several articles giving an overview of the expansion of the role of the Ministry of Culture:

36.                                  In the new policy, four areas were prioritized: promoting creation, in all its forms; the struggle for decentralization in order to counterbalance the hegemony of Paris; the encouragement of dialogue between creators and the public, using all possible media resources; and the vigorous support for training, dissemination and research, to multiply the number of employees currently available.[26] 

37.    Brazil was also part of the new projects of the French Ministry of Culture described by Pontual. Since early 1984, several mass media channels divulged information, debates, voices and images of Brazil: a series of articles in Le Monde on the Brazilian Northeast, dealing with the drought and the lyricism of the region; the economist Celso Furtado made many analyses of the Northeast on French television; ten artists from Pernambuco presented a panorama of Brazil in the Espaço Latino-Americano; a dance performance called A missa para um tempo futuro (A mass for a future time) by Maurice Béjart, with the collaboration of D. Helder Câmara; the film Fala, Mangueira won an award in the category Three Worlds at the 6th Festival of the Cinema of the Real (Cinéma du Réel) in the Centre Georges Pompidou; two hours per week for music and reports about Brazil on FM 103.1. The Musée d'Ethnographie de Genève (fall 1985-winter 1986) and the Musée national d'histoire naturelle de Paris (mid 1986) mounted the exhibition L'art de la Plume: Brésil.

38.    Today, we can say that the French government and, consequently, the Museum of La Rochelle had a post-colonial attitude. It was as a result of such discourse that the painting A marcha nupcial came twice to Brazil: first to participate in the inaugural exhibition of Brazil's iconography in France in the 17th and 18th centuries at the Fundação França-Brasil on March 29,1990, curated by Pierre Beaudet. There are virtually no records about this visit of the work to Brazil. There is no catalog of the exhibition at the National Library Foundation, or at Casa França-Brasil, and in the two major newspapers of the city of Rio de Janeiro there is only a brief reference to the exhibition, without any critical analysis or mentioning the work in question.

39.    The return of the work to Brazil occurred in the 2000s, amid the debates about the country’s place in a globalized world. The work participated in the exhibition to celebrate the 500 years since the discovery of Brazil, being a part of the ”Negro de corpo e alma” (Black in body and soul) segment. In the catalog of the exhibition, one of the curators, Emanuel Araújo[27], stressed that the objective of this segment was to reflect systematically on how the presence of black people was absorbed in the Brazilian society and how it deeply permeated Brazil’s national identity:

40.                                  It seeks to identify the forms of the country’s collective imaginary that constructed the figure of the black individual as the Other. An imaginary that, before being Brazilian, is essentially European and is shaped from an exoticized perspective. An openly pejorative perspective that fetishizes the image of black people.

41.    Similarly, when it comes to the depiction of the Other, the exhibition of the collection of the Musée du Quai Branly[28], in Paris, in 2012, approached the “savage” one more time relating them to the idea of strangeness: "not only savage, but, instead of noble savages, abnormal ones, deformed to us and an object of curiosity", stated Le Monde, which generated comments on its website such as the following:

42.                                  The exhibition does not spare us: posters, films, playing cards, advertisements, scientists, paintings, etchings, sculptures and photographs. The method was a success, involving both learning and the memory: we are still stupefied and nauseated by what the West did to these people, but at the same time, touched by so many anonymous, forgotten faces.[29]

43.    Taking this path of criticizing Eurocentrism, the art from peripheral countries is taken as the central theme of major exhibitions in the world's major economic centers and in the poetics of contemporary artists from these places. This is also what we can contemplate in the work of the South African artist Pieter Hugo, especially in his in photo series of South African albinos, Looking aside (2006) and There is a place in Hell for me and my friends, 2011. The set of large format pictures with a frontal shot in which the photographed subjects take an imposing and defiant pose, could make up a gallery of peculiar human types like those of the naturalists and the cabinets of curiosities. In Looking aside, the artist directs his photographic lens and, therefore, the viewer's gaze, to people whose appearance makes one look away. In these works, however, people are forced to face the subjects frontally, to confront their prejudice and the way they act when standing before people who are somehow different from the majority, just like in the painting La Mascarde Nuptiale.

44.    In the series There is a place in Hell for me and my friends [Figure 9], Hugo portrays his foreign friends who consider South Africa their home. Through a digital process that converts color images into black and white, Hugo intensely emphasizes the melanin pigmentation (freckles) on their white skin marked by the harmful effect of the intense African sun. It is a contradiction that determines the canons of beauty in popular culture and exposes the racial contradictions based on skin colors. For the artist, his interest is "to show the gap between the ideal society and the reality of life here and now, exactly the place where these narratives collide." [30]

45.    In Brazil, the artist Adriana Varejão has established a more direct relationship with Siriaco in 2009, with the work Mãe d’água (Mother water) [Figure 10]. The work is a huge dish, viewed from the front and from behind. Adriana found inspiration and references for her paintings in the Baroque style, ranging from colonial iconography to images produced by European travelers, from aquatic themes to maps. According to Adriano Pedrosa, Adriana's work is related to miscegenation and to racial and ethnic intermixing; however, a resistance to Eurocentrism can be detected. Lilia Moritz Schwarcz[31], in turn, posits the idea that Adriana denounces the whitening of the population as a form of salvation, for ”in a society whose social differences are understood based on the color of people’s skins, nothing would be better than changing it for the better: becoming white!".

46.    Mãe d'água, with a 1,50m diameter, painted on concave surfaces, follows the story of the great navigations and the open wound of black slavery that bequeathed Brazilians with ethnic and social intolerance. In this work, a black Yemanjá is amidst a sea of fertilization, like Japanese "ama divers", among her faithful followers - fish and crustaceans - and the black Siriaco inspired by paintings by Joaquim Leonardo da Rocha (1786) and La Mascarade Nuptiale by José Conrado Roza, uniting Brazil and Africa.

47.    La Mascarade Nuptiale refers to a universe in black and white, of that which is savage and exotic, which after the 1930’s started taking a strong turn in the discourse on the national identity of peripheral countries. Before, it appeared just as historical circumstances linked to the 18th-century European tradition of having a taste for and nurturing "aberrations", of cataloging ethnic groups of different races, of scientific studies, of the cabinets of curiosities and of the pictorial representation of these incomprehensible beings. Today, however, it appears a mark of hierarchy, of processes of exclusion and of Eurocentrism. Maybe this is the reason why today, exposing nude slaves or human "aberrations" is nothing pleasant. In the context of the 18th and the 19th centuries, however, they were exotic figures, trophies or scientific objects.


ARAUJO, Emanoel Alves de. In Catálogo Mostra do Redescobrimento: Negro de corpo. Fundação Bienal de São Paulo. Editora Fundação Bienal de São Paulo, 2000.

BHABHA, Homi K. Arte e Iminência. In Catálogo 30a Bienal de São Paulo. A Iminência das Poéticas. São Paulo: Fundação Bienal de São Paulo. 2012.

BATAILLE, Georges. Las lágrimas de Eros. Madri. 2010.

CAMPOS, Rafael Dias da Silva. O Conde de Buffon e a Teoria da Degenerescência do Novo Mundo do século XVIII. Anais do X Encontro de História do Mato Grosso do Sul e Simpósio Internacional de História da Universidade Federal do Mato Grosso do Sul, 2010.

CESAR, Marisa Flórido. s, o outro, o distante na arte contemporânea brasileira. Rio de Janeiro: Editora Circuito, 2014.

GERBI, Antonello. O Novo Mundo: História de uma polêmica (1750-1900). Translation: Bernardo Joffily. São Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 1996.

GERBI, Antonello. La Naturaleza de las Indias Nuevas, de Cristóbal Colón a Gonzalo Fernádez de Oviedo. xico: Fondo De Cultura Económica, 1992.

HAGNER, Michael. Catálogo da exposição Monstruos y seres imaginarios. Madrid. 2000.

MARTINIERE, Guy. Les relations culturalles internationales de la France: le rôle de la culture dans les relations franco-indiennes. Available at:écembre-2012_version-finale2.pdf. Accessed on July 20th, 2013.

MAYR, E. O desenvolvimento do pensamento biológico: diversidade, evolução e herança. Translation: Ivo Martinazzo. Brasília: Universidade de Brasília, 1998.

PONTUAL, Roberto. Brasileirinho: a união de brasileiros na França. Jornal do Brasil, Caderno B, January 10th, 1984.

_____. Nordeste para francês ver. Jornal do Brasil, Caderno B, February 7th, 1984.

_____. rjart e Dom Hélder, Jornal do Brasil, Caderno B, March 14th, 1984.

_____. Um festival com olhos no real. Jornal do Brasil, Caderno B, March 28th, 1984.

_____. Um diálogo cultural da França com a América Latina. Jornal do Brasil, Caderno B, December 31th, 1984.

_____. Marrocos mostra sua arte aos franceses. Jornal do Brasil, Caderno B, June 4th, 1985.

_____. Retratos do Brasil antigo. Jornal do Brasil, Caderno B, June 25th, 1985.

_____. Corrida para a arte. Jornal do Brasil, Caderno B, December 4th, 1985.

_____. A África por dentro. Jornal do Brasil, Caderno B, April 1st, 1986.

_____. O sabor do que está longe. Jornal do Brasil, Caderno B, May 13th,1986.

_____. Trivial europeu. Jornal do Brasil, Caderno B, August 12th, 1986.

SANTELLI , Ricardo Leme. Castas Ilustradas: Representação de Mestiços no México do Século XVIII. Anais do XXVI Simpósio Nacional de História - ANPUH, São Paulo, julho 2011.

SCHWARCZ, Lilia Moritz; VAREJÃO, Adriana. rola imperfeita: a história e as histórias na obra de Adriana Varejão. Rio de Janeiro: Combogó, 2014.

SIQUEIRA, Vera Beatriz. O espelho da biblioteca: tempo e narrativa na coleção Castro Maya. Palídromo, n.3, Teoria e história da arte. 2010, pp. 55-79.

TERRAC, Jean-Claude. L' association "dialogues entre les cultures". Bibliothèques et création, les échanges culturels carrefour, Bulletin d'informations de l'ABF, n.°132, 1986, pp. 36-37.

English translation by Ricky Toledano e Liane Sarmento


[1] Professor the Post-graduate Progam in Art of the Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro.

[2] Vitiligo is a cutaneous disease causing pigment loss in certain areas of the skin, resulting in irregular white spots that have the same texture of normal skin. 

[3] CESAR, Marisa Flórido. Nós, o outro, o distante na arte contemporânea brasileira. Rio de Janeiro: Editora Circuito, 2014.

[4] According to the inscriptions on the garments of the characters in the painting.

[5] Inscription on the headdress: Marcelino de Tapuia, native of Mairu (?), had been sent by Govenor of Pará, Martinho de Souza e Albuquerque; he was 26 years old.

[6] Site:, Accessed on June 17th, 2013.

[7] New colonies of Central Spanish America.

[8] SCHWARCZ, Lilia Moritz; VAREJÃO, Adriana. Pérola imperfeita: a história e as histórias na obra de Adriana Varejão. Rio de Janeiro: Combogó, 2014.

[9] SANTELLI , Ricardo Leme. Castas Ilustradas: Representação de Mestiços no México do Século XVIII. Anais do XXVI Simpósio Nacional de HistóriaANPUH, São Paulo, julho 2011, p. 6.

[10] Ibidem, p.7.

[11] Important French biologist, Georges Louis de Luclerc.

[12] CAMPOS, Rafael Dias da Silva. O Conde de Buffon e a Teoria da Degenerescência do Novo Mundo do século XVIII. Anais do X Encontro de História do Mato Grosso do Sul e Simpósio Internacional de História da Universidade Federal do Mato Grosso do Sul, 2010.

[13] GERBI, Antonello. O Novo Mundo: História de uma polêmica (1750-1900). Tradução: Bernardo Joffily. São Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 1996.

[14] Philosopher and great French naturalist/biologist, author of one of the oldest reports of general history, biology and geology that was not based on the Bible. His work represented a considerable advancement in the classification of living beings. In 1740, he began a detailed work on the classification of vegetable and animal species. For this work, a natural classification method was used, based on the principles of continuity and affinity among species. He published the first of 44 volumes of Histoire naturelle, générale et particulière (1749), which anticipated the evolutionary ideas that would be defended by Lamarck and Darwin. In this work, he stated the first naturalist version of the history of the Earth, including a complete description of mineralogy, botany and zoology (CAMPOS, 2010).

[15] HAGNER, Michael. Catálogo da exposição Monstruos y seres imaginarios. Madrid. 2000.

[16] BATAILLE, Georges. Las lágrimas de Eros. Madrid. 2010, p. 86.

[17] Utilidad cientifica y exhibición de monstruosidades en la época de la Ilustración no catálogo da exposição realizada pela Biblioteca Nacional da Espanha em 2000, Monstros y Seres Imaginarios en la Bilioteca Nacional, sobre monstros e anomalias nos livros do século XV ao XVIII.

[18] HAGNER, op. cit., p. 124.

[19] Ibidem, p. 125.

[20] SIQUEIRA, Vera Beatriz. O espelho da biblioteca: tempo e narrativa na coleção Castro Maya. Palídromo, n.3, Teoria e história da arte. 2010, p. 55.

[21] HaGner, op. cit.

[22] He had an important menagerie of curiosities in Berlin and was the author of the Museorum Museum, the first study of collection in Europe. In 1720, he published the work on the comparative anatomy of vertebrates.

[23] The Musée du Nouveau Monde’s collections tell the story of Frances relations with the Americas as conducted from La Rochelle, one of the main ports of New World trade and migration. Paintings, engravings, old maps, sculptures, furniture and decorative art objects conjure up images of Canada, the West Indies, and Brazil as well, with records of the transatlantic slave trade. A section is also devoted to the indigenous peoples of North America and the Far West. Accessed on June 17th, 2013.

[24] Site: Accessed on June 25th, 2013.

[25] TERRAC, Jean-Claude. L' association "dialogues entre les cultures". Bibliothèques et création, les échanges culturels carrefour, Bulletin d'informations de l'ABF, n.°132, 1986, pp.36-37.

[26] PONTUAL, Roberto. Corrida para a arte. Jornal do Brasil, Caderno B, December 4th,1985.

[27] ARAUJO, Emanoel Alves de. In: Catálogo Mostra do Redescobrimento: Negro de corpo. Fundação Bienal de São Paulo. Editora Fundação Bienal de São Paulo, 2000, p 48.

[28] Musée des arts et civilisations d'Afrique, d'Asie, d'Océanie et des Amériques, The ambitious project of  Jacques Chirac by Jean Nouvel, was opened on June 20th, 2006. The Museums collection is comprised of the former ethnology collections of the Musée de l'Homme and the Musée national des Arts Africains et Océaniens. The works are divided into four continental areas (Africa, Asia, Oceania and Americas).

[29] Cecile, | May 22nd, 2012. Website: Accessed on August 10th, 2013.

[30] Website:, Accessed on June 23rd, 2013.

[31] SCHWARCZ, op. cit., p. 277.