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National Museum of Fine Arts

National Museum of Fine Arts (53)

The National Museum of Fine Arts in Rio de Janeiro is one of the most important museums in Brazil. In fact, having been the country's capital for so many years, has turned the city of Rio de Janeiro into Brazil's cultural and artistic birthplace, which today hosts great works to stop by, especially one we are going to tell you about later.

In the early nineteenth century, the then Prince Regent John VI was the one who laid the foundations of the first collection, thanks to the large number of works of art he brought with him when he arrived in Brazil, along with the rest of the Portuguese court. He founded the Royal School of Sciences, Arts and Crafts, which, with the arrival of the republic, was renamed as National School of Fine Arts.

In the early twentieth century, during the urban reform carried out on the streets of Rio, erection of the new headquarters of the National School of Fine Arts was started. Inspired by the impressive Louvre Museum in Paris, the Spanish architect, Adolfo Morales de los Rios, reflected on the building the ideal of French aesthetics, and, though the initial project was modified several times by other architects, the final design is a balanced mix of what is considered as neoclassicism as well as French and Italian renaissance.

Of the main façade, apart from the pediment, the colonnades and the terracotta reliefs evoking ancient civilisations, we would highlight the medallions painted by Henrique Bernardelli, showing a group of Brazilian and French artists. 

The rear façade is strictly neoclassical and, just like the main façade, it is decorated with reliefs. The building's side façades, however, are characterised by an Italian renaissance style, are decorated with mosaics including figures of relevant thinkers and artists of antiquity, such as Vasari, Vitruvius and Leonardo da Vinci.

Its impressive exterior, together with the exquisitely decorated interior with flamboyant yet elegant nuances, such as the use of marble, French ceramics, glass and mosaics, contributed to the building being declared the city's national heritage in 1973.

Located where the National School of Fine Arts was formerly located, the museum consists of more than 6500 square metres of exhibition area, with eighteen thousand works of art, among which you will find sculptures, engravings and paintings both linked to Brazilian art and international art. Most of the collections of the National Museum of Fine Arts are made up of European art, especially French, Italian, Portuguese, German and Spanish. The oldest painting you can find dates from the thirteenth century, but the vast majority of art works revolve around the nineteenth century. 

We highlight the museum's top floor, where you can find the huge gallery of nineteenth-century Brazilian Art, which exhibits paintings and sculptures by national and foreign artists. Among the most important works are the paintings by Victor Meireles, "The First Mass in Brazil", which was the first work by a Brazilian artist to be exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1861, and "The Battle of Guararapes", representing the fight against the Dutch in Pernambuco.

And, at last, we reveal the work you absolutely have to see. In the gallery itself, you can admire the largest canvas that has ever been painted in the history of Brazilian art, entitled "The Battle of Avaí" by Pedro Américo, which represents a dramatic episode of the war against Paraguay. Incidentally, the painter portrayed himself in the foreground dressed as a soldier, with the number 33 on his cap.

The last wing of the gallery exhibits works of the so-called "Indianismo", a branch of the Romantic movement, whose works were inspired by epics, in this case based on indigenous topics. For instance, the extraordinary painting "Iracema" by José María de Medeiros.

The museum is imbued by art inside and outside.

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