Eliseu Visconti and the Municipal Theatre

Municipal Theatre of Rio de Janeiro

In October 1905 begins the story that connects the painter Eliseu Visconti to D'Angelo with the Municipal Theater of Rio de Janeiro. Visconti was born on July 30th 1866 in Salerno, Italy. As a child he came to Brazil around 1873. He went to live in the town of Alem Paraiba in a farm owned by Luiz de Souza Breves, the Baron of Guarareman. As a young man he moved to Rio de Janeiro and in 1883 started studies of painting and design at the Arts and Crafts Lyceum. Two years later he joined the Imperial Academy of Fine Arts in Rio de Janeiro.

In 1886 Visconti received from the hands of Emperor Dom Pedro II his first award : the Silver Medal in Ornaments . In October 1905 after winning the Travel Europe Award, awarded by the National School of Fine Arts, among other contests that gave him recognition as an artist, Eliseu Visconti, received from Francisco Oliveira Passos, the engineer responsible for the construction of the Municipal Theater, the invitation to create the decorative work of the curtain, the frieze of the proscenium and the ceiling of the Room of spectacles.

Visconti writes a letter in response to the engineer expressing his deep appreciation for the invitation.

In the French capital Visconti prepared the esquisse to the curtain of the Municipal Theater, bringing it to Brazil in early 1906, at his own risk, to be approved by the Mayor.

The contract, signed in February 1906, determined the execution of the curtain, the decoration of the ceiling of the Room of Spectacles and the frieze on the proscenium. Visconti returned to France, where he lived, to perform the work commissioned by the Municipality of Rio de Janeiro.

In Paris Visconti rented the largest studio at this moment, a little bit more than four meter hight, being forced to divide the fabric of the curtain into three sections.

The works were completed in 1907. In October of that year, Visconti returned to Brazil to guide the installation of his artwork at the Municipal Theater.
The curtain was installed in April 1908, more than a year before the opening of the Theater.

The frieze above the proscenium was decorated with nude female figures, inspired by Love and Virtue.

With the reform of the Municipal Theater of 1934 the frieze was replaced by the current painting, also created by Eliseu Visconti and entitled "The Nine Muses receive the Sound Waves". The work was completed by Visconti and his team on 13th February 1936.

The placement of the ceiling panels in The Room of Spectacles was done between 27th January and 3rd February in 1908.
In total eight panels in red tones - representing the hours of the day - and in blue tones - for the night hours - skirting the huge chandelier over the audience.

In 1913 Visconti gets a new invitation from Francisco Oliveira Passos to do another work at the Municipal Theater: the painting the ceiling and the sides of the Foyer.

The decoration consists of a large central panel representing "Music" and two side smaller panels symbolizing "The Lyrical Art" and "Drama" (Poetic Inspiration). Visconti used the pointillist technique, composing a masterfully harmonious whole, with soft tones, clearly impressionistic.
The painting is considered the masterpiece of the artist and is will achieve 100 years in 2016.

In 1942, two years before he died, Eliseu Visconti gave an immense and generous act of love to the public and the City of Rio de Janeiro and to the Theatre: he donated to Rio municipality the studies he had made for the decoration of the Theater.
(Click the document to view the details)

The donation of his studies led to the creation of the Theatre Museum of Rio de Janeiro, which was settled in Salão Assyrio in 1951. A vast documentation on the Theater and its performances, as well as an impressive museum collection, are available today to researchers and to the general public in the Documentation Centre of the Municipal Theater.

In one of the correspondences of Eliseu Visconti to Francisco de Oliveira Passos, the artist reveals:
"Always [I cherished] a dream: to create a set of art in an important building."
When performing the design works at the Municipal Theater of Rio de Janeiro, Visconti fulfilled his dream and made the Theatre the institution which has the largest collection of his works.

In 2016, the 150th anniversary of the birth of Eliseu Visconti, the team of the Municipal Theater was surprised with a fortunate discovery: a screen of two meters in diameter, untitled and located on the roof of the anteroom in the Governor's Cabin.
After intensive researches in the Theater's documentation and checking the correspondence of the director of the Theater in 1933, Roberto Maia Doyle, the great discovery was confirmed: the author of the work is Eliseu D'Angelo Visconti.

Credits: Story

Documentary sources
Collection of the Documentation Centre of the Municipal Theater Foundation of Rio de Janeiro - CEDOC / FTMRJ

Curatorship and Text
Fatima Cristina Gonçalves

João Lima
Jorge Campana
Júlia Rónai

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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