"Family Scene of Adolfo Augusto Pinto", 1891, by Almeida Jr. Photo: Disclosure

Anyone who has visited the Pinacoteca de São Paulo has seen one of the paintings by Almeida Jr. belonging to the collection: Adolfo Augusto Pinto's family scene, oil on canvas, 1891. It depicts a couple and five children in a room: two little ones take care of a baby[1]; a little boy examines a photo album; the woman teaches a girl some sewing secret while the man reads the front page of an engineering journal with a dog lying next to her.

The atmosphere surrounding that meeting could not be more indicative of the couple’s intentions: the musical instruments, the paintings on the wall, the rug, the blanket, the photographs and the album reveal an interior where the owners aspire to gravitate towards a “civilized” well-being. ”, European. The tropical nature, the only sign of the composition’s “Brazilianness”, is represented by the strong sunlight outside (attenuated when it enters the environment), and by the indices of its domestication: the flower bed flanking the wall that limits the property, the painting of landscape over the piano, the vases that decorate the room.

Doctor Adolfo Augusto Pinto – portrayed there –, then recognized as an important engineer in the city of São Paulo, cannot have his biography summarized only in this activity. Born in Itu, former medical student in Salvador, trained as an engineer in Rio de Janeiro and later working on some of the main infrastructure projects that supported the rapid growth of the city and the State of São Paulo, Adolfo A. Pinto was more than a successful engineer. He also acted as a kind of ideologue, an “organic intellectual” of the enlightened bourgeoisie of the State, having as one of his missions to place São Paulo as the undisputed center of the country, not only on an economic level, but also culturally and symbolically.

Catholic and certain of his convictions about the past, the present and the future of both the State and the capital of São Paulo, the engineer, in 1929, published a libretto to sensitize people from São Paulo to contribute to the completion of the construction of the new Cathedral of São Paulo. Cathedral, begun in 1913. In it, the engineer assumed himself as a spokesperson for those who believed that the city was the seat of a true Christian civilization in South America and the future Cathedral, its maximum monument:

[…] the city of São Paulo, in short, which is thus covering itself with all the gala that progress and opulence are capable of glazing a great modern metropolis, cannot remain indefinitely crowned with its greatest monument, an unmistakable witness. of the spiritual nobility of its civilization, of the work that can most dignify the old soul of São Paulo, worth a perennial Te Deum of thanksgiving to the supreme divine omnipotence for the extraordinary gifts that this blessed corner of Brazil has accumulated […][2]

Monument of the civilization of São Paulo, in the crypt of the future Cathedral, and next to the mortal remains of the local bishops, those of Tibiriçá and Regent Feijó would be placed:

[…] If tomorrow the mausoleums of Tibiriçá and Feijó are erected there, it could well be said that the historic soul of São Paulo will live in its Cathedral. Tibiriçá represents not only the decisive factor in the foundation of the city, but also the first great ascendant of the Piratininganos, the heroic troop of the famous discovering flags.
And when the colonial period came to an end and the era of Independence began […], was it not perhaps the noble figure of Feijó, one of those who most shone in the political scene in Brazil?[3]

The São Paulo bourgeoisie at that time did not play games: it was unthinkable “only” to create infrastructure for the city and the State to establish themselves as the maximum points of national capitalism. It was necessary to create a narrative that justified the hegemony of São Paulo at the time, emphasizing the supposed precession of its inhabitants in the past in the construction of Brazil – always under the aegis of Catholicism.

If Feijó, a paulistano, should be venerated for having fought for the integrity of Brazil between the first and second reigns, Tibiriçá – an indigenous “Paulista” – was the initiator, the “great ascendant” of the pioneers of São Paulo, those who expanded the Brazilian territory that Feijó kept centralized within the crisis of the XNUMXth century.


Adolfo A. Pinto's struggle for monuments that would express his group's vision of the history of São Paulo, constituted from the convergence between the Catholic religion and the "heroic troop of the famous discovering flags", was not restricted to the battle for the conclusion of the New Cathedral. Before, in 1910, a member of the Commission that would choose Amadeu Zani's project for the Monument to the Foundation of São Paulo (opened in 1925, in the Pátio do Colégio), there is a clear interest in bringing together the figures of Anchieta, Tibiriçá and Nóbrega, that is: representatives of the Catholic Church and, again, the “great ascendant” of the pioneers.[4].

The engineer would also play a vital role in the competition for the Independence Monument, located in front of the Paulista Museum. In his memoirs, he informs that, as rapporteur of the Commission in charge of the projects, he issued an opinion on them, voting in favor of the winning project, by the Italian sculptor Ettore Ximenez. Pinto emphasizes that he proposed modifications to Ximenez's design, accepted by the sculptor:

This modification consisted of replacing two groups of allegorical figures, which decorated the right and left sides of the central body of the monument […], by two groups of historical figures precursors of Independence, one of them representing the revolutionaries of Pernambuco, and the other the Minas inconfidentes. .[5]

Eager for the monuments of São Paulo to be subjected to the events they celebrated, Adolfo Pinto, in this episode, understood that it was essential to engrave in stone and bronze the “process” of the country’s independence, leaving out decorative allegories in favor of the episodes from Pernambuco and Minas that would culminate, it is of course, in the independence that took place in São Paulo (and not anywhere else in the country).

This observance of historical facts also seems to have motivated the Commission responsible for the aforementioned tender for the Monument to the Foundation of São Paulo, to reject the project presented by the Brazilian sculptor Correa Lima, downgrading it to the second:

Correa Lima […] competed in the contest with an excellent project. The composition is happy and all the figures are modeled with improved craftsmanship […]. To complete this project, the illustrious artist only needed to emphasize his historical individuation. This is because, leaving aside the figure of the Bandeirante, which by the way does not belong to the period in question, there is no characteristic feature there, no episode of the historical event that the monument is intended to commemorate – the foundation of São Paulo is evoked.[6]

The notion that the monument to the foundation of the city should be a “document” of that fact (an impossible mission, as we know) would lead Adolfo Pinto to downgrade Correa Lima’s position in the contest, disapproving him, even for having included in his project the figure of the pioneer, who did not belong “at the time in question”.

Such censorship of Correa Lima's project did not mean that Pinto did not recognize the importance of the bandeirante to the heroic narrative that he helped to build about the city of São Paulo. In his speech at the opening of the First Brazilian Exhibition of Fine Arts in São Paulo, in 1911, the engineer, after lamenting the lack of public monuments in the urban fabric of the city, highlighted only the project of the Monument to the Foundation of São Paulo – “a worthy work of art in homage to the worthy and unforgettable memory of Anchieta, Nóbrega, Tibiriçá…”[7] – he thus manifests himself about the need for a monument that honors the figure of the pioneer:

After the foundation of São Paulo, it can be said that the incomparable bandeirante epic filled most of the colonial period. Trophies of the extraordinary campaign are the effective discovery of Brazil, the exploration of the territory in all its continental vastness, from the sea coast to the Andean slopes of the Amazon, and, finally, the formation of the first interior centers of life and work – all at the expense of the most daring hurdles of stoic bravery, undertaken and carried out by a pack of heroes, the mamelucos of Piratininga!
We all live to extol the legendary sprints of these intrepid “emerald hunters”, Argonauts of the new world; the people of São Paulo boast of the deepest and most valiant of their ethnic roots; however, where does the public monument stand, where the work of art destined, as the seal of History, to solemnly authenticate, perpetuating in the memory of the centuries, the venerable tradition of those sublime deeds?[8]


As we know, now in 2020 the centenary of the first model of the Monument to the Flags, by Victor Brecheret, commissioned to the artist by the then young intellectuals of São Paulo Oswald de Andrade, Monteiro Lobato and Menotti Del Picchia, a project that would only be executed from 1936 onwards, being inaugurated in 1953[9].

“Monument to the Flags”, by Victor Brecheret. Photo: Disclosure

The modernist historiographical tradition reports that the commission would have emerged as a reaction of these intellectuals to the daring of the Portuguese colony of São Paulo, which proposed to offer the city a monument in honor of the pioneers, irrevocably linking the history of those supposed heroes to Portugal.[10]. Therefore, in the way it was and is narrated, the need to erect a monument that praised the “bandeirante past” of São Paulo would have emerged as a modernist reaction to the empafia of the Portuguese living in the city.

When constructing such a version, however, this historiography left out another project for a monument to the flags, commissioned by the State to the Italian sculptor residing in São Paulo, Nicola Rollo, still in 1920, which was supposed to be located in front of the Museu Paulista, between the building of the institution and the Independence Monument.

In turn, opposite this one, it was the idea of ​​Afonso de E. Taunay, director of the Museu Paulista, to have a monument erected in honor of the proclamation of the Republic, giving that avenue the role of symbolizing the “fact” that, from São Paulo, the Paulistas would have left to conquer Brazilian territory, its independence and subsequent Republic.[11] As can be seen, this project had the same ideological substrate as the demands of Adolfo Augusto Pinto.

Adding these issues together, it can be concluded that the demand for a monument that praised the history of São Paulo's flags did not really begin with the clash between the Portuguese colony of São Paulo and the modernists, full of nationalist gas, on the eve of the centenary celebrations. of the country's independence, in 1922. It comes from before: it goes through Rollo's project and goes back to at least 1911, when Adolfo A. Pinto, as spokesperson for the well-positioned and economically well-situated paulistas, calls for the need to erect a monument in the city to praise the pioneers.

What are the reasons that would have led modernist historiography to erase or, at least, put in the background both Rollo's project and the previous demands, commented here? At first I would say that, faced with the reality of Monument to the Flags, by Victor Brecheret, in Ibirapuera Park, Marta Rossetti and other researchers were careful to seek only the history of the work of this sculptor, without worrying about other possible evidence of demands and projects previous or contemporary to that of the sculptor[12].

On the other hand, it should not be forgotten that, if there is the myth of the São Paulo pioneer, the “historical” researchers, those committed to the first accounts of São Paulo’s modernism, were responsible for creating another myth: precisely that of the intellectuals and artists committed to that movement, seen as intrepid young people who started a revolution from scratch, in a São Paulo devoid of a pre-existing cultural and artistic debate. A narrative that leaves aside a fundamental point, that is, the one that demonstrates that the modernists, by origin or by adhesion, supported the economic and cultural elite that ruled the city in the early XNUMXth century.


The attempts to honor the pioneers formed, in fact, a demand that united modernists and pastistas from São Paulo, leading to the erection of the Monument to the Flags, from 1936, at another moment in the history of São Paulo and the country. Its inauguration in 1953 – starting the commemorations of the IV Centenary of the Foundation of São Paulo, which would take place the following year –, in turn, led it to become one of the great symbols of the city and the State, celebrated both by the modern and old-fashioned elites, as well as by various artists, and by a large part of the population.

In 2016, however, the artist Jaime Lauriano presented the work Monument to the Flags, a miniature of Brecheret's monument placed on a brick. The miniature, cast in brass and ammunition cartridges used by the Military Police and the Armed Forces (data that are explicit in its identification form), confer and reinforce an evident aspect to the work: that brick surmounted by the replica of the Monument, deposited on the floor of the exhibition room, acts as a weapon of attack, the possible response of members of marginalized communities to police brutality.

Monument to the Flags, 2016, Jaime Lauriano. Photo: Filipe Berndt/ Publicity

Without wanting to limit the allusive power of Lauriano's work to a single meaning, it seems clear to me that, if for many, the Monument to the Flags, by Brecheret, meant the maximum homage of the Paulistas to their ancestors, Monument to the Flags, by Jaime, emerges as an index of a change in perception about what may have been the bandeirista experience among us, from the view of segments hitherto marginalized of the local population, who perceive the Monument there in Ibirapuera Park as the symbol of the genocide committed centuries ago by elite sectors against indigenous and black populations.

If, for Adolfo A. Pinto, a monument to the pioneers would be a tribute to that “pugil of heroes”, for Jaime Lauriano, his Monument to the Flags is:

[…] a weapon to shoot at the police who, along with the big farmers, are the new pioneers, in my view, of course […]. For me, the Monumento das Bandeiras, by Brecheret, is a totem of barbarism. A monument to the violence that has been ripping apart terra brasilis since its invention. For me, he is a phallic idol that reminds us all the time, or reminds us, that the construction of Brazil is a construction of white males, who arrived to rape those who opposed their desire drive [...].[13]


With its first model completing one hundred years, now in 2020, the Monument to the Flags, by Brecheret, remains the result in granite of an old demand by part of the population of São Paulo to honor their ancestors turned mythical. At the same time, and for many, he is the symbol of the barbarism that founded the Brazilian State.

How would Dr. Augusto A. Pinto faced with this divergence? Would he calmly continue reading his specialized newspaper, satisfied with his certainties, while, with his wife and children, he repeated the stereotypes of a bourgeois, white and happy family? And how are we, its posterity, in this future of the city of Augusto A. Pinto? Will we remain self-absorbed and oblivious to the demands that come from the streets?


[1] – There is speculation about the representation of this baby, the fifth child of the couple Generosa and Adolfo Augusto Pinto, and baptized with the same name as his father. On screen, his dark skin raised some hypotheses: would he be the illegitimate son of Adolfo Augusto, would he be an adopted child? The young researcher Natália Cristina de A. Gomes, in her work Adolfo Augusto Pinto's family scene: a study on the collective portrait of Almeida Jr. (TCC, Unifesp, 2016) draws attention to the fact that the baby's dark skin may have been caused by some process of deterioration of the painting itself (observed in other segments of the same), a more plausible hypothesis, since, in no other document consulted established the Afro-Brazilian origin of Adolfo Augusto Pinto Filho.

[2] – PINTO, Adolfo A. The Cathedral of Sao Paulo. 1929. São Paulo: Improvements of São Paulo. sd page

[3] – Ditto.

[4] – On the subject, consult the report of the Commission constituted for the Monument, for which Adolfo A. Pinto was the rapporteur (the following were also members of the Commission: Claudio Rossi and Ricardo Severo): “Monument commemorating the foundation of São Paulo”. In: PINTO, Adolfo A. in the gap. Sao Paulo: Off. Typ. Cardozo Filho & C., 1911, p. 294.

[5] – PINTO, Adolfo Augusto. My life (memories of an engineer from São Paulo). Preface and Notes: Hélio Damante. São Paulo: State Council of Culture, 1970, p. 129.

[6] – “Monument commemorating the foundation of São Paulo”. In: PINTO, Adolfo A. in the gap. Sao Paulo: Off. Typ. Cardozo Filho & C., 1911, p. 303.

[7] – “Artistic Culture”. In: PINTO, Adolfo A. in the gap. Sao Paulo: Off. Typ. Cardozo Filho & C., 1911, p. 318.

[8] – Ditto.

[9] – On the subject, read, among others: BATISTA, Marta R. Brecheret flags. History of a Monument (1920-1953). São Paulo: Department of Historical Heritage, 1985.

[10] – Ditto.

[11] – On Nicola Rollo, see: KUNIGK, Maria Cecilia M. Nicola Rollo (1889-1970). A sculptor in Brazilian modernity. Sao Paulo. Masters dissertation. ECA USP, 2001. About the Independence Monument: MONTEIRO, Michelli Cristine S. São Paulo in the dispute for the past: the Monument to Independence by Ettore Ximenes. Sao Paulo. Doctoral thesis. FAU USP, 2017.

[12] – It is worth mentioning that the researcher Aracy Amaral, in her book Plastic Arts in the Week of 22 (2nd. São Paulo: Edusp/Perspectiva, 1972, p. 65 et seq.), quotes the project of the Monument to the Flags, by Nicola Rollo.

[13] – Testimony from the artist to the author, on March 28, 2017. Published in: “Walking around São Paulo makes São Paulo also walk in us” in CHIARELLI, Tadeu (cur.). Metropolis: Paulista experience. Catalog of the homonymous exhibition. São Paulo: Pinacoteca de São Paulo, 2017, page 26.

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