Napoleon, reigning over France invaded Portugal, obliging the Royal Family and its Court to fly the country. The only colony which could absorb and protect them was Brazil. March 1808 the heir-apparent and regent Dom João and with him some 15.000 members of or, in one way or an other, related to the Court stepped ashore in Rio de Janeiro, after having made a first stop in Salvador de Bahia, leaving in the direction of Rio on 26 of Febr. 1808.
When the inhabitants of Rio were startled with the information that the Royal squadron has been spotted, they started to fill the quays and nearby streets and indeed the following day the ships could be seen near the Pão de Açucar (Sugar Bread).
With the whisper that the following day (March 8, 1808) the Royal Family would disembark the streets were filling with music and dancing people and nobody was considering going to bed. Nine days of festivities began with the arrival of prince-royal and regent Dom João and his mother Queen Dona Maria I.
Completely different and in all stealthiness after 80 years of ruling the Royal Family and its Court was shipped out of Brazil back to Portugal, when a military coup put an end to the Empire of Dom Pedro II and started the beginning of, what was then called: the Republic of the United States of Brazil. But about the transformation into a Republic another time.
The large group of courtiers had an impressive impact on the daily life of Rio de Janeiro, where before their arrival the streets had been occupied by the colonists, their descendants (mostly Coloureds), their slaves and the natives. After Napoleon was defeated and expelled from France the diplomatic ties with France were restored, resulting in a Royal invitation to a group of French artists. Under the name “French Artist Mission” they arrived in Brazil in 1816. The painter Jean Baptiste Debret was part of that group, having been the official painter of the milestones in Napoleon’s life, he was appointed to decorate the event of the crowning of Don João to Emperor Dom Pedro I.
But more importantly Debret is recognised as the most trustworthy chronicler and painter of the period of the Brazilian Empire recording daily life factually. It is not surprising that on the occasion of the commemoration of the arrival of the Royal Family 200 years ago, an exposition in the Casa França-Brasil in Rio de Janeiro has been organised.
The exposition contains 511 of Debret’s paintings, being 306 aquarelles and 151 litho graphics from his famous book: "Viagem pitoresca e histórica ao Brasil", published in 1834.
To give an impression of the daily life in Rio during the reign of Dom Pedro I, I illustrate this post with some reproductions of the paintings which are at display in the mentioned exposition.
More images on the website of O Globo