The Works of Mestre Valentim Tour

The Master in the Garden

Meet Rio de Janeiro's 18th century master through his works hidden in the city.

In 2015, José do Nascimento Junior, Carmen Machado, Luisa Maria Rocha, and Julia Guttler came together to launch "The Master in the Garden", a project for the restoration and memory preservation of Mestre Valentim and his works.

The project was sponsored by the City of Rio de Janeiro, the City Secretary of Culture, and Hope Services.

The tour presented here was curated and mapped by the project (located in the Botanical Gardens) based on their 2015 publication, O MESTRE NO JARDIM: Ateliê de Restauração de Obras do Mestre Valentim.

The story of Brazil's greatest baroque artist is typically told as follows. Valentim da Fonseca e Silva was born in 1745 in the state of Minas Gerais to a Portuguese diamond contractor and an enslaved Afro-Brazilian mother. His father, recognizing that he would not be properly educated in Brazil, took the boy back to Portugual when he was 3 years old. Valentim returned to Rio de Janeiro 25 years later to become one of the most important urban planners, sculptors, carvers and architects to shape the colonial period of the city.

However, Nireu Cavalcanti*—one of Rio de Janeiro's most notable scholars of the colonial period—has a quite different interpretation of the narrative. As you click through the tour, you will find an 8 part interview with the scholar Cavalcanti, followed by my own thoughts on each of the remaining pages.

*Nireu Cavalcanti (1944-) is an architect, writer, professor and artist. He holds a Ph.D. in Social History from UFRJ, and is a leading authority on the history of Rio de Janeiro, as well as the author of the book O Rio de Janeiro Setecentista (Eighteenth Century Rio de Janeiro), among other important publications about the city.