Hi, fellows! I write today about the works of art put in the winter garden of the building located at 375, Presidente Antonio Carlos Avenue, in Downtown Rio – headquarters of the Rio de Janeiro Ministry of Finances. But before I start – first things first – a quick historic introduction is necessary.

By the decree number 24.504, from June 29th, 1934, Brazilian President Getulio Vargas authorized the accomplishment of an architectural contest to choose the design of the new Ministry of Finances headquarters, to be built replacing the old one, in Passos Avenue – the very same building that once was the Fine Arts Imperial Academy (AIBA), designed by French architect Grandjean de Montigny and addressed here in the blog in this post.

The contest winner – among 28 participants – was the design of architects Enéas Silva and Wladimir Alves de Souza, a building “with modern lines, of rational forms, prevailing on the façade the brise soleil”.[1]

Result announced and awarded the winners, the dictator changed his mind and decided not to build anything in the AIBA ground[2]. It wouldn´t make any harm, this decision, for our architectural heritage, unless for a tiny detail: the AIBA building had already been torn down! Vargas claimed, then, for a new design, now to occupy the vast grounds of the Esplanada do Castelo.[3] It was the Estado Novo period, when more than ever the saying “Manda quem pode, obedece quem tem juízo”[4]. The result was a 1939 new design, now born by the pencil of architect Luiz Eduardo Frias Pereira de Moura – a giant neogreek temple in reinforced concrete with 102 thousand square meters –, that was to meet the government´s megalomaniac pretensions.

Well, let us then approach what specifically interests us here – the works of art located at the 14th floor winter garden of the building.[5]

We shall find there two sculptures and five glass mosaics. The sculptures, made of ceramic glaze, were made by Hildegardo Leão Velloso (Palmeiras/SP, 1899 – Rio de Janeiro, 1966), famous for taking part of the notorious Semana de Arte Moderna de 1922 (1922 Modern Art Week). They represent two native Brazilian scenes: in the first one, on the right of the observer, a male native Brazilian – we call him an “índio” – faces a panther with his tacape; the left sculpture shows a female Brazilian native – we call her an “índia” – dominating a huge snake having a tapir by her side. Unfortunately we can´t see, for they are missing, the índia´s arm and the head of the snake. Some national plants frame the two compositions. At the base of the second sculpture, on the left, the author signed H. LEÃO VELLOSO / RIO 1944.

They need an urgent restoration, as so many other in the city, and can be seen below.


Leão Velloso also sculpted, for the same building, the bust of President Getúlio Vargas.

The five glass mosaics were made by the great painter, illustrator and ceramist Paulo Werneck (Rio de Janeiro, 1907 – 1987), one of the responsible for introducing the mosaic technique among us.

The artist was invited by the building´s architect, Luiz Moura, because he could draw, despite takin part of the “modern current”. The theme was free, but the site dedicated to the artist – – claims that the first suggested sketches were refused by the construction commission, for they were too “advanced” for the time. They were then substituted by new figurative drawings of the same native theme, which are there today.

Werneck claimed, in his testimony about the work, that his models in the conception of the “índio” and the “índia” were an assistant and a National Fine Arts School (Escola Nacional de Belas Artes) clerk. “The native represented a brave who at the jesuit fathers´ service defended the Missions, he was called Sepé Tiaraju. (…) One of the panels represents the Amazon, where one can see a toucan. In another, we have some wild ducks, much water, palms…”[6]

The mosaics, from 1943, constitute the artist´s second oldest creation in the technique. Only those created in 1942 for the Instituto de Resseguros no Brasil, also in Rio de Janeiro, are previous. The idea of creating them in mosaic came from the architect and friend Marcelo Roberto, who introduced Werneck to Jorge Ludolf, from Companhia Cerâmica Brasileira.

Two of them have a blue frame, also in mosaic. In one of them, in the inferior right corner, lies the artist´s signature: PW.

They are reproduced below, in all their grandiosity and beauty.

In a future post I shall write about the gigantic bas-reliefs located inside the hall, from sculptor Humberto Cozzo. Please wait. And don´t forget to read the former posts about this building, here in this same site.

See you soon!


[1] Ministério da Fazenda e outros. Edição comemorativa dos 60 Anos de Inauguração do Edifício-sede do Ministério da Fazenda no Estado do Rio de Janeiro. Brasília: ESAF, 2003.

[2] Diz a lenda que Vargas, referindo-se ao terreno resultante da derrubada do prédio da Avenida Passos, teria exclamado: – Ficou pequeno, né?

3] Esplanada do Castelo was the gigantic area resulting from the dismantle of Morro do Castelo – Castle Mountain – during the administration of Mayor Carlos Sampaio (1920-1922).

[4] This is a brazilian saying. It means something like “the power is for the powerful”.

[5] Any citizen has the right to come in and ask to see the works, but I am not saying this is going to be easy…

[6] Op. Cit.

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