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Moritz Rugendas
Picturesque Travels in Brazil

We owe Bavarian artist Moritz Rugendas the first published description and depiction of a capoeira game, with the term capoeira denoting an amusement, not a more or less criminal activity.
The French writer Ferdinand Denis cites Rugendas with praise in his widely distributed Le Brésil, 1839, which makes Rugendas'Picturesque Travels in Brazil a probable source of all the french authors who mentionned capoeira in the 19th. century.

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REVISED 22 JAN 2005

Pl.4.18   Pl.1.27
Plates
engish traduction of the text
Original german text
French text (translated by Golbery) of 1827-1835 edition.

Moritz Rugendas

Johann Moritz (Maurice, Maurício, Jõao Maurício) Rugendas, son of a family of painters, drawers and engravers residing in Augsburg, Bavaria, was born in 1802. He got his first teachings in art from his father, an artist and print maker who was also director of the local art school. At age 12 young Moritz was sent to Munchen at Albrecht Adam's. There he also studied under Lorenzo Quaglio (II). Augsburg and Munchen institutions keep drawings and lithographs from this ealy period.

In 1821, he contracted as an artist to the Langsdorff expedition in Brazil. They landed in Rio de Janeiro in March 1822. The political events that were to lead to Brazilian independance delayed the departure for the great journey that Langsdorff had planned, and young Rugendas left the group, pursuing his own ends. However, when in May 1824 the expedition got under way to Minas Gerais, he joined them, but from 1st november, after a quarrel with Langsdorff, Rugendas travelled on his own. Little research has inquired into his itinerary in Brazil out of the Langsdorff group. He did not write a diary and his remaining letters are few.

According to our own research in French archives, Rugendas enventually came into Rio by land on March 29, 1825, after five months of independant travel. He sailed to Bahia on June 4, and stayed around there from June 15 to August 3. He then embarked to Europa.

Malerische Reise in Brazilien

In 1827 Godefroy Engelmann, an Alsace-born (German and French speaking) lithographic printer, and leader of the application of the technique to art prints, began publishing in Paris the hundred drawings collection that Rugendas composed from his travel's work, under the title Picturesque Travel in Brazil.

There were to be twenty deliveries of five in-folio lithographic plates (54x34 cm), with a four to six page text in German or its translation in French (by Golbery) under the title Voyage Pittoresque au Brésil. Publication, unfortunately, was belated by economic and political crisis and before the last plates were delivered in 1835, Rugendas had embarked in 1831 for his great travel in Spanish America.

The text was translated in Portuguese by Sergio Milliet and published in Brazil, with smaller reproductions of the prints, in 1940, and has been reissued several times since.

An amount of illustrated books were published about Brazil in the 19th century. The uncommon graphical quality of Rugendas' must be stressed, as well as the originality of his point of view, in the text as well as in the plates. Few people at the time found in the common people, and less in the Negroes, a more interesting subject than the high society, tropical nature or savage Indians.

Two plates interest most the students of the history of capoeira.

Plate 4.18, issued with the text above in april 1835, presents explicitly "JOGAR CAPOEIRA ou la danse de la guerre"; the first division, "Landscapes", has another interesting drawing also in a late delivery (19th, oct. 1835). Plate 27 "San-Salvador" shows the city from the penisula of Itapagipe, somewhere between the church of Boa Viagem and the fort of Monte Serrat. On the first plane, four Negroes in a group of nine are presented in atitudes that remind us of present day capoeira.

Rugendas gave us the first published description of capoeira as a game, an amusement, not as a more or less criminal activity. Earle's Negroes fighting - Brazils, though clearly related to the matter, does not use the term capoeira and was not published at the time.


pl. 4.18

Pl.4.18
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JOGAR CAPOEIRA ou Danse de la guerre

Dess. d'ap. nat. par Rugendas -- Lithographie de Villeneuve, fig. par Wattier.
16ème livraison (avril 1835)


pl. 1.27

pl.1.27
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SAN-SALVADOR

Dess. d'ap. nat. par Rugendas -- Lithographie de Sabatier, fig. par Wattier.
19ème livraison (octobre 1835)

Negro Dances

A few lines of the text of the fourth delivery of the fourth division, "Sitten und Gebräuche der Neger" (Uses and customs of the Negroes) relate directly to capoeira:

(our translation, page 25)

The more usual dance of the Negroes is the Batuca, and soon as a couple of them congregate, rises the rhythmic group handclapping, with which they so to speak call each other and encourage to dance.

The Batuca dance is leaded by a figure and consists principally of certain, may be exceedingly expressive, movements of the body, mainly the hips, that the dancer accompanies with clicking of tongue, snapping of fingers, and a monotonous song


[p. 26]

which refrain is repeated by the others, standing in circle about the leader.

What is called Landu is another common Negro dance, that is usual too amongst the Portuguese; it is danced with the accompaniment of the mandolin by one or two couples; may be one would recognise it, much perfected, in the Spanish Fandango or Bolero.

The Negroes dance often all night long without break, so they choose for this the night before a Sunday or another holiday.

Another kind of war dance deserves mention.

Two parties, armed with stakes, stand one in front of the other, and the art consists in avoiding the pushes of one's opponent.

Much more violent is another war game of the Negroes, Jogar capoeira, which consists in trying to knock one another down with headbutts in the chest, which one dodges which skilful side jumps and parrying. While they are throwing themselves against one another, more or less like rams, sometime heads run terribly into each other.

Thus not infrequently the prank turns real fight and a bloody head or blade put an end to the game.

german flag Original german text
mail symbol 1827-1835 edition French text..


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