Photos donated by Brazil’s emperor on show

29 de outubro de 2017

São Paulo – Photographs of Egypt from the collection of Brazilian emperor Dom Pedro II will be on show starting Wednesday (1st) at Espaço Eliseu Visconti, in Rio de Janeiro’s National Library, in an exhibit also including pictures of the city of Pompeii. The fotos, formerly owned by the monarch, are now part of the library’s collection. 

“Dom Pedro was passionate about Egypt,” the exhibit’s curator Joaquim Marçal told ANBA. The show’s entitled “A trip to the Ancient world – Egypt and Pompeii – in photographs from the D. Thereza Christina Maria Collection,” which the emperor donated to the Brazilian State. The pieces used to belong in the emperor’s library, and the collection was christened after his wife, the empress Thereza Christina, at Dom Pedro’s request.

Marçal explains that he has been working on retrieving the 35,000 photos for decades now. The collection also includes books, maps, drawings and documents, to a total of 100,000 items. The exhibition will feature 130 items, including 73 photos, 20 photo engravings. 16 engravings, 4 maps and 17 books.

The photos were not taken by Dom Pedro II; he either got them as gifts or purchased them during trips to other countries. Marçal explains that the emperor wasn’t a photographer, even though he was the first Brazilian-born person to take photos as an experiment, using the daguerreotype. “He would buy and be given photos madly,” says Marçal. The curator explains that Dom Pedro II had the biggest photo collection of any 19th century emperor.

The monarch travelled to Egypt twice, and he kept diaries of his impressions and events he witnessed. According to Marçal, the photos of Egypt featured in the show portray landmarks including the pyramids, the Colossi of Memnon, the Sphynx and temples. Most of them show heritage unearthed through excavations.

Twenty photo engravings of Egypt taken from the book Voyage dans la Haute-Égypte, by France’s Auguste Mariette-Bey, are also in the show. Mariette-Bey was one of the funders of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. He helped organize the country’s historical collection in the late 19th century. Since photographs at that time were quite unstable and would fade quick, he made copper plates out of them and etched them, thereby creating the book a copy of which Dom Pedro II used to own.

The emperor also travelled to Pompeii, encouraged by empress Thereza Christina, who was born in that area. They visited places like the crater of Mount Vesuvius, which erupted in 79 AD, which left the city buried until its rediscovery in the 18th century. Pompeii is the subject of the second part of the show. Also featured are excerpts from the emperor’s diaries.

Marçal claims the exhibition is a chance for people to see the National Library collection. The show will premiere on October 30th. It will be open to the public from November 1st to the end of January. See details below.

Exhibition fact sheet

Exhibition ““A trip to the Ancient world – Egypt and Pompeii – in photographs from the D. Thereza Christina Maria Collection”
Biblioteca Nacional - Espaço Eliseu Visconti
Dates – novembro 1st, 2017 to January 30, 2018
Monday to Friday, 10am to 4:30 pm; Saturday, 10am to 2:30 pm
Rua México, no number – Rio de Janeiro – RJ
Free admission

*Translated by Gabriel Pomerancblum