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Moritz Rugendas' last weeks in Brazil in 1825.

We do not know much about Rugendas' movements in Brazil when he was not part of the Langsdorff expedition. We found information about his last weeks in Brazil in 1825 in french archives.

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by Pol Briand.

"Mein theurer Vater!"..., wrote Mauricio Rugendas on May 12th, 1825 from Rio de Janeiro,

"My dear father! Finally I find the occasion to give you my beloved father and friend evidence of my life and news of my now undoubtedly near return. Since March 29 I am back here after an absence of 11 months and found your dear letters of Aug., Sept. and 2 Dec. with dear inlays that I have not answered yet because I could not determine the day of departure and do not answer today again since I got too late notice of the departure of the Hamburg on whose board I will now hand over these lines.

This leaf therefore only intended to inform you that on May 30 I will put to sea with the Royal French brig Le Phaon, Com. Perceval, bound for Bahia, from where after a few days I will leave for Brest on board of the frigate la Bajonneuse where I hope to enter with God's help in August, so please send me your news to that place poste restante (...) [1]".

The young artist had travelled inland since early May 1824, first with the Langsdorff expedition, and for that time the explorer's diary gives a precise enough account of their route, then, from November 1st, by his own means, and from then on nothing was known about his travel until archival research in France over the names cited in this letter established the date and means of Rugendas' maritime journeys in the last months of his first travel to Brazil [2].

The French Maritime records show that Lieutenant de Vaisseau Ferdinand Parseval commanded the war brig Faune, stationned in Brazil from April 8th, 1824 to May 13th, 1826. This is clearly "Le Phaon" and "Perceval". The "frigate la Bajonneuse" stands for the gabare (transport) Bayonnais, which carried the naval force's provision to Brazil in 1824 and 1825 under Lieutenant de Vaisseau Mathieu Jullien [3].

On May 5th, 1825, the brig Inconstantbrought into Rio harbour a written order from Contre-Amiral Grivel to Lieutenant Parseval, moored there since April 23rd, to sail to Bahia and load his provisions from the Bayonnais, which would afterwards go back to Brest. However, before he would sail, Parseval wanted to see completed the repairs he had ordered on the brig's rigging, and this would last until the end of the month. Such was the state of things when Rugendas wrote to his father. When Faune sailed on June 4, Rugendas was certainly on board, though his name does not appear on the ship's papers; passengers carried as the commander's personal guests and at his expense were never written down. Coming into Bahia harbour on June 15, Faune did not find Bayonnais, which had sailed to Rio on May 27th, following corvette Echo, Capitaine de Vaisseau François Bourdé. This officer, acting commander of the Brazil station after Contre-Amiral Grivel's departure for naval manoeuvres, had left orders for Parseval to get back to Rio as soon as possible. Parseval however stayed until June 25th [4].

Trois-mâts en route, par Morel-Fatio On the harbour of Bahia a merchant vessel from Le Havre, Louise, under captain Jean-Baptiste de Rivry, possibly an acquaintance of Parseval's, was slowly loading sugar and leathers. This ship took Rugendas back to Europe, sailing out on August 3rd and mooring in Le Havre on September 25th. The seven passengers - four Brazilian students, one with a manservant, a French tradesman and Rugendas, who carried a French passport - were allowed to disembark three days later [5].

So Moritz Rugendas spent 48 days in Bahia on his way home. We shall now venture into hypotheses. It seems that on March 29th, as he came into Rio on his 23rd birthday, Rugendas came from inland Brazil: travellers from the maritime provinces sailed in, and the "NOTICIAS MARITIMAS" shipping section of the daily Diario Fluminense, does not mention, from March 23 to April 1st, either Rugendas or any of the ship names that we know from his drawings. Moreover, no ship arrived from any part of Brazil north of the Province of Rio de Janeiro, and only two foreigners are mentionned, a French from Montevideo and a Spaniard from Campos. Of course the shipping notices may prove inaccurate in that 1825 Easter week; Rugendas may have lied to his father; he may have travelled under a pretended name; he may have come back to Rio indirectly; but examining the implications of Rugendas' letter, we come to the same conclusion. Had he sailed in from a well known part of Brazil, such as Bahia or Pernambuco, it would have cost him only a word to mention it. Moreover, he would have been able to send mail from these cities, and even to receive some, provided he would have stayed long enough. This is why we assume that he had stayed inland from November. However, his Malerische Reise in Brazilien show he visited Pernambuco. This could have been only between march 1822 and may 1824, and without any connection with the Langsdorff expedition. This may be an element of apreciation of the Langsdorff-Rugendas litigation. To judge by the documents that have been published until now, the explorer had some reason to claim that Rugendas only reluctantly executed his contract to him, and to require more drawings. However, justice did not sustain the claims of the landowner baron and Russian representative against the young artist, so the latter's case would not have been so weak. Rugendas' defense, as we know from a letter written in Augsburg in late 1825, was that his contract had been cancelled as early as 1822: his independant travelling to Pernambuco and, why not, a first stay in Bahia, would indeed be an evidence [6].

Pol Briand, February 24th, 2002.

See Rugendas: Picturesque Travels in Brazil
Comment, questions, critic:

Notes & documents

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Sorry English-only readers, most of the notes and documents section is not translated.

Note 1:
German text of Rugendas' letter. Sources.
Note 2:
Note 3:
Documental sources about the French naval force in Brazil, 1822-1825
Note 4:
The french naval station in Brazil, 1822-1825 (in French).
About passengers aboard french Navy ships (in French).
Lt. Parseval, C.O. of Faune (in French).
Lt. Jullien, C.O. of Bayonnais (in French).
French naval operations in Brazil in 1825 (in French).
The mission of Bayonnais(in French).
Cpt. Bourdé's report (in French).
Why Parseval was delayed in Bahia (in French).
Note 5:
Louise, Le Havre, three months in Bahia in 1825 (in French).
Rôle de Bord de la Louise (in French).
The French Consul in Bahia to Min. Foreign Affairs about the state of trade in 1825.(in French).
Rugendas' French passport - A Bavarian with French documents (in French).
The Consul G.al in Rio to Min. Foreign Affairs about French passports granted to foreigners in answer to his Minister ordering him to stop giving passports and sureties to alien europeans, September 18, 1824. (in French).
An Excirp of 30 mois de ma vie (30 months in my life), by J.-B. Douville where tells of his unhappy experience with Brazilian justice
Why did Louise passengers wait three days before they were allowed to disembark?(in French).
Police watch over the Brazilian in France: the case of the Louise passengers (in French).
From 1820 to 1830, the Restauration police spied on Brazilian residents in France. The archived reports, including the Brazilian passports, retain a little information about Rugendas'fellow passengers.
Note 6:
Hypotheses: documental evidence
Diario Fluminense - NOTICIAS MARITIMAS (in Portuguese).
Rugendas' 8 december, 1825 letter (planned defense against Langdorff, in German, French, English and Portuguese).

Annexes: Short biographies (in French):

See also Rugendas: Picturesque Travels in Brazil
(Introduction in English plus 8 pages of 1825 French text, 2 pages of 1825 German text, and a bit of translation in English)

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