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Le Portugal et l'Europe en 1829

Unknown artist (V.H.)1829/1830

Palacio Nacional de Queluz

Palacio Nacional de Queluz

Unknown artist
France, 1829-1830
Coloured engraving
36,5 x 46,5 cm
Signed and dated (caricature): “V.H. 1829”

Inscriptions:
"Le Portugal / et / L'Europe en 1829. // Du Tage à l'Eridan épouvantant les Rois / Fait crouler dans le sang les Trônes et les lois! – La fortune toujours du parti des grands crimes / Les forfaits couronnés devenus légitimes!"

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  • Título: Le Portugal et l'Europe en 1829
  • Descripción larga: While in Portugal there was already substantial knowledge about the liberal doctrine at the end of the 18th century, the movement gained particular ideological conviction and political expression in the wake of the events that determined the American Revolution and, of greater direct impact in the country, the events arising out of the French Revolution. In the spread of liberal thinking throughout Portuguese society, Masonry played an important role and fostered by the French Invasions that left behind a liberal political heritage in addition to the knock-on effects of Gaditan liberalism and its Constitution (1812) over the border in Spain. However, the Portuguese case displayed certain conjunctural peculiarities that, to a certain extent, favoured the strengthening of the liberal ranks in the second decade of the 19th century: the kingdom handed over to a Council of Regency controlled by the British; the leadership of General William Beresford invested with already unjustifiable powers and functions; the extended stay of the royal family in Brazil and the consequent inversion of the colonial pact, with the opening of Brazilian ports to international trade; the ignominious feelings of the Portuguese army towards the British officers; the commercial stagnation of Portuguese ports and the generally ruinous position faced by the country in the wake of the devastation and pillaging of the French Invasions. Through the deeds of various masons, some jurists and then some military officers, a secret group got founded in Porto – the “Sinédrio” – that rapidly evolved into a revolutionary organisation. Led by Manuel Fernandes Tomás, the Liberal Revolution proclaimed in the summer of 1820 represented a new political order with an ideology based on the right to private property but defending catholicism, the hereditary constitutional monarchy and a constitution that certifies “liberty ruled by law”. Written by the Constituent Courts, the 1822 Constitution would receive the loyalty of King João VI, in the meanwhile having returned to the kingdom from Brazil. His wife, Queen Carlota Joaquina, refused to swear the oath foreseeing a short life for the constitution, overly progressive and unrealistic, for the times. Prince Miguel ended up leading the “Vilafrancada” coup (1823) resulting in the suspension of the constitution and the dissolution of the Courts, bringing an end to the first Portuguese liberal experience, also undermined by the independence of Brazil declared by the heir to the Portuguese throne, Prince Pedro. In the country, the division between the supporters of the Ancien Régime and those defending the train of events in the early 1820s held repercussions at the heart of the royal family. Prince Miguel, with the backing of the queen, headed the Traditionalist Party and nurtured the Abrilada (1824) uprising and whilst anti-liberal in nature perhaps also against the monarchy itself. The Miguel led uprising was however suppressed and the prince deported to Vienna, the most ultra-realist court of Europe. The scene was thus set for the Civil War (1828-1834) already looming and triggered by the death of King João VI in 1826 without indicating unequivocally just who was heir to the throne. On the other side of the Atlantic, according to Pedro, the solution involved the marriage of his first born, Maria da Glória, to her uncle Miguel, and the swearing of loyalty by the latter to the Constitutional Charter (1826) – more conservative than the earlier 1822 version – written by him and granted to the kingdom, setting out the imperative conditions for his abdication of the Portuguese crown. While Miguel first accepted the proposal and swearing loyalty, in as early as the spring-summer of 1828, the courts met in the former manner and acclaimed Miguel as absolutist king. Pedro was thereby forced to return to Europe and directly take command of the liberal offensive, which, following a long and violent conflict, managed to bring an end to the despotic regime of Miguel. This, thus, represents the political context prevailing at the time of this engraving with its title inscribed in its upper section – “Le Portugal et l'Europe en 1829” – elucidating the subject approached in a satirical way. The work recalls the times in which King Miguel reinstates the absolutist order in Portugal and represses any liberal uprising or conspiracy with particular terror and persecution. The composition, organised across two horizontal plans, is defined by the H-shaped scaffolding structure. In the upper section are the national figures, apparently a bare-headed Queen Carlota Joaquina and her absolutist son torturing two male figures, in the case of Miguel the victim might be his brother Pedro. At his side, two clerics are pulling a rope around the neck of a man on his knees, possibly symbolising a young liberal flagellated by the accomplices of the old regime, contrary to the obstinate enemies of the kingdom. On the lower level, there are diverse international reactions to the Portuguese situation. In the centre, justice is being trampled under the feet of a man – whose features recall Napoleon Bonaparte – who holds up a mask bearing the inscription “Constitution”. This is turned towards an official whose trousers bear two inscriptions – “Dona Maria II / Marie Louise Impératrice” –, referring to the future queen of Portugal and the second wife of Napoleon (sister of Leopoldina, wife of Pedro and mother of Maria da Glória), with everything (physiognomy, uniform, wig and inscriptions) suggesting this portrays Emperor Francis I of Austria, father-in-law of Napoleon and Pedro. On the left, there is a group composed of a general (physically similar to the portrait of the King of France, Charles X, by Horace Vernet) and French officials – distracted by two Algerian men (in the following year, 1830, Algeria would be taken from the Ottoman Empire by the French Expeditionary Force) – holding a piece of string attached to the crown of Miguel, and seemingly about to pull it. Effectively, should the date be 1829, while the majority of foreign countries had already recognised the Portuguese crown under the rule of Miguel, the main powers – France, Britain and Austria – refused to do so. Furthermore, in the lower left corner, a woman in a blue dress sits on the floor with her head in her hands and visibly sad, with a small castle on her head – probably an allegory of liberal Paris (or France) subjugated to the absolutist values of Charles X, who also in 1830 was to abdicate in the wake of the “Révolution de Juillet”. At the extreme opposite side, the scene is completed by a group of three men: in the centre, a crowned male figure (perhaps King George IV of Britain who welcomed Maria da Glória to his country) looks away from the episode of torture; to his left, a British officer applauds (the party loyal to Miguel, the Duke of Wellington?); and on the extreme right, also applauding, another crowned figure and possibly Ferdinand VII of Bourbon – the Spanish monarch responsible for the restoration of absolutism and revoking the Cadiz Constitution, considered internationally as a puppet of Pope Leon XII –, bearing a cone with serpents overlaying the royal crown in a probable allusion to the events triggered by the birth of Isabel II in 1830 and resulting in the Spanish civil war and Miguel's support for the cause of Prince Carlos Isidro against the designs of his brother Ferdinand VII and his daughter. However, while the engraving represents a caricature of the various positionings taken across Europe in 1829 as regards the ideological-political duality and the intense struggle then ongoing in Portuguese society, just a couple of years later, and as from 1831 in particular, the Miguel cause clearly began losing the international support it had initially proven able to garner and in large part due to the incompetence and hesitations on behalf of ministers and diplomats and, in the Spanish case, more specifically for the support given to the absolutist faction headed by Charles against the moderate wing headed by Isabella II. Signed with the initials of the author and dated to 1829, even while the drawing corresponds to that date, the engraving itself was only produced in 1830. This stems from two of the verses by the French writer Alphonse de Lamartine, placed below the image, belong to the work “Harmonies poétiques et religieuses” itself only published in 1830. The other two verses come from the 1820 “Méditations poétiques et religieuses”, whose lyricism proved of great inspiration to young French romantics. Another feasible scenario involves the artist-caricaturist (Victor Hugo?) belonging to the private circle of Lamartine and thereby providing access prior to publication of the poem itself written around 1826-27. In any case, Lamartine was one of the most expressive figures of French romanticism, a man of politics who in 1830 took part in the “Révolution de Juillet”; a period when the independent press experienced a wave of great expansion in France, with a heavy reliance on recourse to caricatures as a political and propaganda weapon and resulting in the imprisonment of some artists such as Honoré Daumier in 1832. A decade before the official presentation of the daguerreotype to the world at the Paris Academy of Science (1839), this coloured engraving, far from any intent of faithfully depicting reality, proves an interpretation of a political reality and a freedom of opinion and artistic expression that would only later be attained in Portugal.
  • Creador: Unknown artist (V.H.)
  • Fecha: 1829-1830
  • Fecha de creación: 1829/1830
  • Rights Information: Tânia Saraiva
  • Image Rights: © PSML | Foto: Paulo Cintra & Laura Castro Caldas, 2014

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