XNUMXth century Flemish painting is an 'extraordinary film' in the Museum of Faro

Museum Director and President of the Chamber of Faro they hope that the relationship with Novo Banco Cultura will "not end" in this protocol

“This is an extraordinary film that is here”, says, excited Ana Paula Rebelo Correia, pointing to the “Torre de Babel”, the small Flemish painting from the 19th century, by an unknown author, which since this Tuesday, XNUMXth of February , now appears in the Municipal Museum of Faro.

Because, in the painting, an oil on wood, measuring only 40 by 57,5 centimeters, the Tower of Babel is represented, unfinished, rising in a spiral to the sky, but around it there is «a whole universe of activities» , which swarm. There are so many details, «like in a movie», showing what life was like and what was thought in that XNUMXth century Flemish, that Ana Paula Rebelo Correia, a specialist in art history, explains that the ideal would be to see this painting « with a magnifying glass».

It is a "religious piece, but with a foot in the profane", which fits perfectly into the Museum of Faro and in his «extraordinary» painting collection. «I am delighted that the work has come to the Museum of Faro», «it's in the right place, I have no doubts», guaranteed the specialist.

Rogério Bacalhau, president of the Chamber of Faro, who considered that the painting, which was part of the Novo Banco collection and will now be permanently exhibited in the Algarve capital, «arrives at a very happy moment for our museum», which has become one of the most visited in the region.

António Ramalho, CEO of Novo Banco, pointed out, for his part, that "this is the 15th museum" with which the banking institution has established a partnership to distribute works that were previously scattered throughout the bank's administration and dining rooms. Now, following a project by Novo Banco and the Portuguese State, this collection is expected to be distributed to national museums and to museum spaces belonging to other authorities.

What matters, emphasized António Ramalho, «is not the ownership of the work, but its sharing». The Novo Banco Cultura project is "concerned with decentralization", "involving "municipalities and museums" throughout the country.

Regarding the theme of Flemish painting, the Tower of Babel, António Ramalho underlined the «multiculturality of Faro», which has become a «centre of international activity».

The theme of multiculturalism was also highlighted by Marco Lopes, director of the Municipal Museum of Faro, noting that the city, since its origins, and its location by the sea and the diversity of people who have passed through (and continue to pass through it, thanks to the airport and tourism), has always been «a sort of Tower of Babel ».

Marco Lopes also said that the «sharing idealized by Novo Banco is more than democratization of culture, it is an act of citizenship». For this reason, he hoped that this Tower of Babel would be the “symbol of a unique language of sharing culture and defending heritage”.

The Flemish painting, which enriches the Museum's collection, which had nothing of its origin, «also serves one of the city's objectives», which is the candidacy for European Capital of Culture.

The Museum director also expressed a wish: «that this relationship [between the Novo Banco Cultura and the Chamber of Faro] is not exhausted in this work of art” and can “be extended”.

A wish shared by President Rogério Bacalhau, who hoped that "the partnership established with Novo Banco may be extended to other fields."

At the beginning of the session, the regional director of Culture of the Algarve, who until taking office last December was a professor at the University of Algarve, recalled that she has «brought all my students to visit this room» of the Museum, which will now «stay greatly enriched by this picture'. «The whole city will win, because this new project will certainly bring people to Faro», he added.

Recalling her specialization in classical studies, Adriana Freire Nogueira also said that this Babel refers to the «Indo-European», «that language that is thought to be at the base of all European languages».

At the end of the session, after signing the partnership protocol between the local authority and the banking institution, Ana Paula Rebelo Correia, a specialist and researcher in art history, spoke a little about small Flemish paintings and the Novo Banco Cultura project.

He recalled that the work now featured in the Museum of Faro, as well as many others, was part of the «collection that belonged to BES, but which was not constituted as a collection», but was spread «in the dining and administration rooms» of the former bank. "Many of these works were out of the public eye for years, never having been on display."

These were, he stressed, "works whose history, identity and memory were to be discovered". In total, with regard to painting, there are 98 pieces, of which 94 are paintings and four Portolan maps, from the XNUMXth to the beginning of the XNUMXst century. It is, therefore, «an eclectic collection, because it has a little of everything».

The Novo Banco Cultura project, he stressed, gave this collection "an identity" and "recovered the memory and history of each piece", ending up being a collection that "allows to retrace great moments in the history of Europe".

Ana Paula Rebelo Correia confessed to an attentive audience that she liked “very much” of Flemish painting, adding that this work, in particular, “deserved special study”, which underwent detailed analysis at the José de Figueiredo Institute.

The researcher also praised the "lynx eye" of the director of the Museum of Faro, when choosing the place, in the old painting room, to exhibit this «Tower of Babel», which is «a tiny painting», as were the works of the painters of Flanders of the XNUMXth century, who used wood instead of the canvas preferred by the Italians.

"This painting is done on a single board," he explained. And in it, the author tried "to put the maximum number of universes, tried to put the world in a tiny thing". “If I gave each one a magnifying glass, you would see that this work is like a movie, everything is here!”.

Ana Paula Rebelo Correia added that the Tower of Babel, which is a biblical theme of the Old Testament, only "appears late in Christian iconography", because it appears above all during the Reformation and Counter Reformation, in the struggles between Catholics and Protestants. It symbolizes, among other things, «the idea of ​​human ambition», explained that specialist in art history.

In the small painting, which is not even 40 by 60 centimeters, this mythical Tower of Babel is represented, «with a circular plan and complex architecture».

But around there are elements of classical architecture that the Flemish painters had gone to drink in Rome, there is the recreation of a shipyard that would certainly be the same as the great cathedrals, masons working a block of stone, hundreds of people who take care of the most varied daily tasks, dromedaries, donkeys and mules transporting materials to the construction of the tower, sailing boats at sea, working watermills.

It is, more than an evocation of the construction of this mythical Tower of Babel, the painting is a portrait of the life and thought of the time and region in which the work was painted. A real «film»…or a gigantic comic board.

As the art historian concluded: “I only hope that this work will evoke many moments of contemplation”.


What is the Novo Banco Cultura project

The protocol between the municipality of Faro and Novo Banco was created within the scope of the partnership announced in 2018 between the State and this banking institution, which will allow, until the first half of this year, to hand over a total of 37 works to 20 museums in 14 regions of the country.

This initiative is part of Novo Banco's strategy – acquired by the North American Lone Star fund – to establish partnerships with public and private entities, such as museums and universities, for the deposit of its cultural and artistic heritage.

Novo Banco's cultural and artistic heritage includes the Painting Collection, with around a hundred paintings from the XNUMXth to the XNUMXth century, the Pina Martins Humanistic Studies Library, which is in the custody of the Faculty of Arts of the University of Lisbon, the Collection of Numismatics and the Photography Collection, already qualified by the president of Novo Banco as «the jewel in the crown».

The Algarve thus follows Castelo Branco, Guarda, Guimarães, Setúbal, Caldas da Rainha, Figueiró dos Vinhos, Lisbon, Viseu, Torres Novas, Óbidos, Madeira and Azores, which previously also received works from the bank's collections for permanent exhibition in local museums.

At the end of January, two XNUMXth century portolan maps by José Fernandes Portugal, and two paintings by José Júlio de Souza Pinto for the Angra do Heroísmo Museum were ceded to the Museu Carlos Machado, in Ponta Delgada .

After the transfer of a XNUMXth century Flemish painting to the Municipal Museum of Faro, and on April 27, an XNUMXth century French painting is expected to be transferred to the future Museum of Peniche.

By the end of the first semester, a XNUMXth century Flemish painting will go to the Frei Manuel do Cenáculo National Museum, in Évora, XNUMXth century Portuguese paintings will go to the Rainha D. Leonor Regional Museum, in Beja, XNUMXth century Portuguese paintings for the Municipal Museum of Crato and an XNUMXth century European painting for the Museum of Lamego.

For António Ramalho, CEO of Novo Banco, the aim is that «the works remain in Portugal, but are shared and open to the general public».


Photos: Elisabete Rodrigues | Sul Informação