The Museu de Arte do Rio – MAR, which is managed by Instituto Odeon, presents the exhibition “Leopoldina, Princess of the Independence and of the arts and sciences”. To present the life of one of the most important figures in the emancipation of Brazil in the upcoming celebration of 200 years of her arrival in Rio, on November, 5th of 1817, the exhibition gathers nearly 350 pieces – including artworks, iconography, documents, clothes and furniture, in addition to botanical, zoological and mineralogical items. The exhibition is sponsored by Petrobras, under the State Law of Incentive to Culture, co-sponsored by Itaú, and relies on the support from BNDES, Granado and Andritz Group.
For the first time an exhibition take place in the skywalk that connects Escolar do Olhar to the Exhibition Pavilion. The space is occupied with a chronological narrative of the main events in Princess Leopoldina’s life, from her birth in Austria, in 1797, until her death in 1826. The centerpiece is the collection, recently acquired by the museum, of documents related to the Congress of Vienna held in 1815 reorganizing the continental powers then fragmented by war and revolutions. Visitors are able to see why the marriage itself – a long-distance one at first, realized through powers of attorney – was a strategy widely used by the Western European country and part of the effort to realign the hegemonic European powers, reinforcing diplomatic relations between Portugal and Austria.
The Princess’ arrival opened the doors of the Americas commercially as well as socially. The exhibition uses period furniture, such as could have been used in the São Cristóvão Palace, as well as objects that were part of the wedding set such as monogrammed dinnerware that belonged to the couple to create an ambience. Visitors are in charge of putting the final touch by selecting songs from that period through interactive touch-screens. The life of D. Leopoldina in the city is also shown in letters that reveal her loneliness – amplified by the difficulties of the language and the woman’s place within a patriarchal society – her fears and strategies to cope with life in Brazil, worsened by the extreme heat and large number of insects.
The tense relations and cultural diversity witnessed by Leopoldina in her encounters with the social milieu context marked by the enslavement of black and indigenous people, an issue to which one of the sections of the exhibition is dedicated, should be noted.
Princess Leopoldina’s role in the process of gaining independence will be shown through paintings and period documents that demonstrate her impressive political skills. The exhibition is reminiscent of the Council of Ministers meeting, presided by the princess, which decided for the emancipation of Brazil and would end days later with the symbolic act by D. Pedro declaring independence on the banks of the Ipiranga River. This historic attribution to the Regent Prince, leaving out his wife’s crucial role, will be problematized in the exhibition. Finally, it casts an eye on the legacy and the way her image and trajectory added to the history of the country. Despite her premature death at the age of 29 and only nine years after her arrival in Rio, cities, train stations, and even samba schools have been named after Leopoldina.
“Leopoldina, princess of the Independence, the arts and the sciences” is organized by curators Luis Carlos Antonelli, Paulo Herkenhoff and Solange Godoy, together with assistant curator Pieter Tjabbes. The exhibition occupies the entire third floor of the institution, which is dedicated to Rio de janeiro.