Baía de Guanabara Vista da Ilha das Cobras (Guanabara Bay Seen from Snake Island)

Guanabara Bay, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Oil on canvas
Acervo do Instituto Ricardo Brennand, Recife, PE, Brazil
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Born and raised in France, Félix-Émile Taunay came to Brazil with his father, who established the first art schools there. Taunay became one of the country’s most beloved artists, and established a new tradition of landscape painting in Brazil. As director of the Academia Imperial de Belas Artes (Imperial Academy of Fine Arts), he also served as tutor to the future emperor of Brazil, Dom Pedro II. Taunay played a prominent role in Brazil’s movement to create national images and icons, and in Baía de Guanabara Vista da Ilha das Cobras he layered symbols and images to create a work that reflects the nation-building process in which he was involved. He depicted the growing and prosperous city of Rio de Janeiro as seen from Ilha das Cobras, an island fort used by the military. The fruit and trees, meanwhile, reference major Brazilian industries, including farming and logging. Together, these disparate elements—the prosperous city, the military outpost, and the sources of industry—define Brazilian identity as the new nation in the early nineteenth century.