Castro Maya Museums
The Face of Mestre Valentim
Raymundo Ottoni de Castro Maya (1894-1968) was, among many other things, an avid art collector. Chácara do Céu was his home and he left it—along with his collection—to the public.
At the top of the stairs, on the top floor, you will see two very large paintings by Joáo Francisco Muzzi (174?-1802). Both paintings were done in 1789. The one on the left depicts the fire that destroyed Our Lady of Childbirth Shelter on August 23, 1789. The one on the right shows the reconstruction of the refuge, which began two days after the fire and was concluded on December 8, 1789.
The painting on the right is the only known depiction of Mestre Valentim! Given that Muzzi was his contemporary, and that the painting was done in the same year as the event it depicts, I think we can assume that the portrayals of the artisans and the court officials are reasonably accurate. Notice the skin tones of the artisans to Valentim's left compared to the skin tones of the court officials to his right. "Pardos", mixed-race, lighter-skinned Black men were fully present among the highly-skilled workers who built colonial Rio de Janeiro.
It's also quite interesting to consider Mestre Valentim himself being painted as a distinctly dark-skinned Black man. Given that we don't really know who his father was, it does raise questions about his claim to a paternal Portuguese noble lineage. Did Valentim lie his way into the elite class of colonial Rio de Janeiro? Why were they so inclined to believe his story? And why has history kept that lie alive for 250 years?
**NOTE: If you go to the museum, don't be annoyed with the security. They follow everyone very closely because it's a "home" museum with lots of furniture pieces and they have to make sure that nobody touches anything.
Interview with Nireu Cavalcanti (pt. 8 of 8)
At the time, there was a law forbidding the construction of sculptures or any form of civil (not religious) art in public spaces. What Was the strategy found to build the Public Promenade park?
The Viceroy had three challenges for the construction: financing, labor, and the prohibition of civil art in public places.
To address the issue of financing, he established that the punishment of the enslaved could not be done by the owners themselves, but by soldiers in the prison dungeon (now the National History Museum). The rate charged for each whipping was later used in the construction of the park. Each tree, each little plant in the park represents a drop of blood of an enslaved person punished in the dungeon.
Prisoners and loaned escravos de ganho were used as labor in the construction of the park.
As the work did not need money from the metropolis, the Viceroy was able to meet the standards on the grounds the he was not using public funds, which allowed Valentim to produce the first sculptures located in a public space.