This beautiful painting is the most distinctive of those belonging to the museum’s Silva Porto collection. There are various reasons for this: it was painted in Italy at the end of the period that he spent studying abroad on a State scholarship; it records an urban environment, which is a rare occurrence in the painter’s work as a whole; above all, it displays a successfully achieved compositional option in the recording of a group of houses that occupy almost the whole of the space of the small support.
Like so many other painters, of various nationalities, who, since the middle of the century, had sought inspiration for their painting on the island of Capri, Silva Porto was sensitive to the beauty of the island’s architecture, made of simple forms that tended to be geometrical in shape, offering their bright reflections to the light. In this case, he chooses a bold game of colours, giving the whites an appearance of mother-of-pearl in order to create a greater harmony with the rose-coloured elevations of the houses and the brown hues of the shutters and doors. The painting thus becomes a patch of imprecise forms with a highly expressive palette of colours. The tower rising up in the background affirms the monumentality of the place, which, without it, would be diminished, since it evokes a sense of History and the presence of the sacred. The human detail – the figure of a woman seen from behind carrying a pitcher of water on her head – enlivens the place with the suggestion of its inhabitability. Yet, it is the beauty of the architecture that dominates the composition, resulting in patches of colour that take the form of strictly defined shapes that fit together with one another. The figure of the sky, echoing the luminous clarity of the Mediterranean, successfully frames the painting and reinforces its sense of verticality, expanding and, at the same time, circumscribing, its breathing space.
Just a few years later, the young Henrique Pousão was to paint identical motifs on the same island, with a remarkable freedom and quality, which also help us to realise the value and importance of this work by Silva Porto. Both of them were among the most modern Portuguese artists of their time, freeing themselves from naturalist formulas and, just like Cézanne, understanding the coloured shapes not as diffuse patches, but as affirmations of volume.

Raquel Henriques da Silva


  • Title: On the Island of Capri
  • Creator: Silva Porto
  • Date Created: 1877
  • Physical Location: Grâo Vasco Nacional Museum, Viseu, Portugal
  • Physical Dimensions: 16.5 cm x 10 cm
  • Provenance: Legacy of Manuel Emídio da Silva
  • Type: Painting
  • Rights: © DGPC/ADF/Photographer:José Pessoa, 1993
  • Medium: Oil on wood

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