Party Sunday at the farm

One work, many reflections

Party Sunday at farm (1920/1929) by Hans NöbauerMuseu Histórico Nacional

Party Sunday at the farm

Johann Hans Nöbauer
Oil on canvas

Johann Hans Nöbauer was born in 1893 in Austria and graduated from the Vienna School of Fine Arts. In 1921, after an exhibition of his artistic work, he was sent by the Austrian government to investigate the fauna and flora of Brazil. 

The painter settled in Rio de Janeiro, where he died in 1971.  Besides the canvas presented, the MHN possesses other 25 paintings of colonial buildings of Minas Gerais' cities, with emphasis on Ouro Preto. 

In "Domingo de festa na fazenda" we note an inspiration in the works of German artist Johann Moritz Rugendas (1808-1852), such as the presence of the wet nurse, of black people expressing their culture and of whites and blacks sharing the same space.

Slaveholding elite

This area of the painting is the most illuminated by sun rays, reproducing a game of light and shadow, very common in historic paintings (although not the case in this one), to demarcate differentiated spaces and social hierarchies. 

Here the white elite, besides being enlightened, is close to the Casa Grande, which identifies it with the values of culture and civilization, having in its pompous clothing another element of distinction.

Party under the shade of a tree

The shadow of the tree hangs over the area occupied by the slaves, in contrast to the brighter part of the painting, demarcating a place of inferiority, which is reinforced by the proximity to nature. 

According to the canons of historical painting, the proximity to nature indicates savagery and barbarism of the people thus represented. In this case, with bare feet, in direct contact with the earth and sitting on the ground. 

The wet nurse

The black woman sitting with a white child who embraces her and receives her attention reminds us of the wet nurse, who has her right to motherhood denied.  She couldn’t be with her own children in order to serve and feed the baby of her mistress. 

Separated from their children, who were often sold or put up for adoption, their bodies were violated and exploited. Their relationship with Sinhá, although close, was one of submission.

Party Sunday at farm (1920/1929) by Hans NöbauerMuseu Histórico Nacional

Words from Lélia Gonzalez:

the so-called black mother [..] has a very important role [...]as she passes by, while breastfeeding white children and speaking her own Portuguese (with an accent [...] of  African languages), [...] this type of pronunciation, a way of being, feeling and thinking.

Party Sunday at farm (1920/1929) by Hans NöbauerMuseu Histórico Nacional

The helpless child

We see further ahead a baby far from the scene of affection and attention. Stripped of clothes and maternal care, it refers to the lack of protection and abandonment to which the children of enslaved women were relegated. 

In the same frame, we see a child sitting on the floor, hugging his own legs. Although clothed, he also looks needy of attention.

Lundu da Quinta das Flores (study)

Dance, music and resistance

In Nöbauer's painting we can observe a moment of relaxation of the blacks, some dance, others sing, play instruments, a gentleman smokes a pipe and everyone seems happy. In addition to fun, this was a manifestation of identity affirmation, culture and resistance.

Lundu da Quinta das Flores (study)

Singing, dancing and percussion are part of cultural manifestations recognized as Brazilian Cultural Heritage such as Jongo and Samba from the Recôncavo Baiano.

An old man

Next to the tree, we see a black man sitting next to a black woman in a white dress. Both are watching the dance performed by the couple occupying the center of the scene. 

He, with his white hair and a pipe in his mouth, reminds us of the figure of the “preto velho” (black old man), so worshipped in religions of African matrix, such as Umbanda.  Behind the trees, we see another child and what seems to be a couple, watching the dance. 

This framing of the painting shows different generations of enslaved people.

Freedom under surveillance - the slave catcher

A man on a horse, wearing a hat, cape, and carrying weapons, refers to the figure of “capitão do mato” (slave catcher), constant surveillance to which the slaves were subjected on the farms. 

His position, obstructing the only path leading away from the Casa Grande, reminds us that even on a feast day, freedom was guarded.

The tree

Hans Nöbauer's tree reminds us of the centrality that trees play in popular manifestations, such as sambas, in the city of Rio de Janeiro. After all, who has never heard of the tamarind tree at Cacique de Ramos?

Or the jackfruit tree at Portela, which shaded many samba circles? Not to mention the mango tree that originated Grêmio Recreativo Escola de Samba Estação Primeira de Mangueira.

Marquinhos de Oswaldo Cruz and Luiz Carlos Máximo composed the song “Verde Bandeira” about the sacred and cultural value of trees in the history of Samba. Hear this beauty in Dorina's voice!

CARVALHO, Marcus J. M. de. Liberdade: Rotinas e rupturas do escravismo no Recife, 1822-1850. Recife: Editora UFPE, 1998. p. 175-235.
GONZALEZ, Lélia. Por um feminismo afro-latino-americano. Rio de Janeiro: Zahar, 2020.
Dicionário da escravidão e liberdade: 50 textos críticos/Organização: Lilia Moritz Schwarcz e Flávio dos Santos Gomes (Orgs.) - 1ª ed. São Paulo: Companhia das Letras. 2018.

MAGALHÃES, Aline Montenegro: Pinturas de Hans Nobauer. Documentos de arquitetura colonial na coleção do Museu Histórico Nacional. In:II Encontro da Associação Nacional de Pesquisa e Pós-graduação em Arquitetura e Urbanismo arquitetura, cidade e projeto: uma construção coletiva São Paulo, 2014. Disponível em

MUAZE, Mariana de Aguiar Ferreira. Violência apaziguada: escravidão e cultivo do café nas fotografias de Marc Ferrez (1882-1885). Revista Brasileira de História. São Paulo, v.37, nº34, 2017. Disponível em:

Credits: Story

Texts: Aline Montenegro e Flávia Figueiredo

Exhibition assembly: Adriana Bandeira

Prof. Dra. Ivana Stolze Lima - Programa de Pós-Graduação em Memória e Acervos - FCRB
Prof. Gilberto Vieira - Instituto Federal de Campos (Instituto Federal de Educação, Ciência e Tecnologia - IFFluminense) 
Eduardo Seabra - technical advice

Credits: All media
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