The Independence of Brazil on canvas: Creating an Image

Museu Paulista

Analyzing the creation process of the Independence or Death painting, by Pedro Américo de Figueiredo e Melo

The Independence of Brazil on canvas: Creating an Image
The Museu do Ipiranga invites you to think about the most famous painting of its collection: "Independência ou Morte!" (Independence or Death), by Pedro Américo de Figueiredo e Mello.This painting was commissioned to decorate the Hall of Honor at the Ipiranga Monument, an architectural monument built to remember the Brazil Proclamation of Independence.  In 1895, the Monument was destined to receive the collections of the State Museum of Natural History and, since then, the Monument is best known as Museu do Ipiranga. The painting was made in Florence, Italy, and Pedro Américo finished it in 1888.

It represents the moment when prince regent Dom Pedro, after receiving a letter demanding his return to Portugal, proclaims the Independence of Brazil, on September 7, 1822.

The letter, sent by the Portuguese parliament, also informed that Brazil would return to be a colony submitted to the government of that country.

This painting is an idealized vision of this moment. The artist was inspired by European paintings. Would you like to know a bit more about how he conceived the painting?

Copy or Inspiration?

All paintings are result of a very complex creation process. In this case, Pedro Américo took many decisions about how he should represent this episode of the Brazilian past (Independence or Death).

He created an evocative image of the past episode inspired by European paintings that represented historical battle scenes.

One of these paintings was the Battle of Friedland, painted by French artist Ernest Meissonier between 1861 and 1875.

Pedro Américo did not copy the painting of Meissonier, but he took it as theme and formal reference, a quite common practice among academic painters in the 19th century.

Sketching the painting
Pedro Américo made many previous sketches of human figures and animals before making the final painting. These sketches allow us to understand how he conceived the human figures physiognomies and bodies.

When we look at an image, we must always remember that it is the result of a human framing. The case of "Independence or Death!" painting is no different. Over time, different representations and re-readings on the episode have been created, which carry interpretations of their authors and the contexts in which they were elaborated. Therefore, instead of judging, we invite you to investigate and observe them in detail to understand how they were made and even how they are used today.

Credits: Story

Paulo César Garcez Marins

Revisão, tradução e adaptação de textos
Solange Ferraz de Lima
Isabela Ribeiro de Arruda

Claudio Rother
Rodrigo Irponi

Credits: All media
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