Ines de Castro by Franciso Vieira should be acquired by the Museu d’Arte Antiga in Lisbon

Francisco Vieira Portuense (1765-1805)
Ines de Castro, Surrounded
by her Two Children, Pleads with the
King of Portugal Alfonso IV to Spare
her caused

Oil on canvas - 196 x 150 cm
In process of
acquisition by the
MNAA of Lisbon
Photo : Pierre Bergé & Associés

30/8/08 — Announced acquisition — Lisbon, Museu Nacional d’Arte Antiga — The presence at auction in Paris on 25 June 2008 (Pierre Bergé & Associés) of a canvas by the Portuguese painter Francisco Vieira Portuense representing Ines de Castro, Surrounded by her two Children, Pleads with the King of Portugal Alfonso IV to Spare her caused quite a stir in Portugal, setting off a campaign asking the government to do everything in its power so that this work, considered of national interest, might enter the Lisbon Museum (a large number of articles appeared in the national press).

In the collection where it was held previously, the canvas was ascribed to Giuseppe Cades. The honor of correctly identifying the attribution to Francisco Vieira Portuense falls entirely on Maria Teresa Caracciolo who graciously wrote the catalogue entry for the auction and then pointed out the work to Portuguese museums providing them with the chance of returning the work to its country of origin. This work of reattribution was unfortunately not mentioned in the sale catalogue [1].
The work is important not only because the artist, along with Domingos Sequeira, was the most acclaimed painter in Portugal at the end of the 18th century, but also because this is probably the canvas which the royal family took with them when they fled to Brazil ahead of the Napoleonic invasion in 1807.
It was part of a project including ten paintings, prepared by an equal number of painted studies [2], meant to illustrate the national epic poem Os Lusiadas by Luis Vaz de Camões. Produced in 1798 in a very precocious troubadour style, the work is already infused with the Romantic spirit.

An agreement, signed by the Portuguese government and an industrialist (who wishes to remain anonymous), stipulated that the latter would buy the painting (it was sold for 275,720€ including charges) and that within one year the work could be turned over to the museum for the same price.
This type of financial arrangement is particularly astute. While proving that Portuguese museums dispose of low acquisition budgets (the price of the painting is after all not so high), more importantly it could set an example for other countries if a museum does not have the necessary funds at once. In France, it seems that this was the case for the Le Nain painting, Saint Peter’s Denial (see news item of 17/8/08) acquired by AXA.

The Vieira painting will be presented at the museum in a few weeks during a scholarly exhibition where it will be juxtaposed with both painted and drawn preliminary studies. We will inform our readers of the exact dates as soon as they are made available [3].

Version française

Didier Rykner, samedi 30 août 2008


[1] Maria Teresa Caracciolo will present it in her study in progress on the illustrated editions and translations of the Lusiades by Luis de Camoens in Italy, England and France in the second half of the 18th century.

[2] These are in a private collection.

[3] Thanks to Raul Cristovao Sampaio Lopes for having told us about this information

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