quarta-feira, 25 de novembro de 2009

St Anthony With The Child

Saint Anthony of Padua (Lisbon) with the Child
By Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, 1665

One of my favourite paintings of one of my favourite saints. In this masterpiece of the Baroque, St Anthony looks like a modern guy, and the sweetness and tenderness in it is clearly visible.

domingo, 22 de novembro de 2009


"Don't run, lest they think we are trying to flee!" - Maria I, when boarding to Brasil, during the Napoleonic Invasions.

domingo, 15 de novembro de 2009

Did You Know...

... That the Spartans once boycotted the Olympic Games because it was against the rules to bite or rip out eyes.

sexta-feira, 13 de novembro de 2009

The Forefathers of Catherine of Braganza

I am honoured to introduce a lovely lady, who will become a regular around here, Catherine of Braganza, Queen of England, Scotland and Ireland. Regarding her name, she was born Catarina de Bragança and that is how she is known in Portugal. Unlike other members of the Portuguese Royalty, of which I'll be using the portuguese versions, with Catherine I'll be using the Anglicanised version.

Now, everyone's heard of the saying 'the apple doesn't fall far from the tree'. In Catherine's case, there where a lot a trees of where she could have fallen from.

Let's start from dad's side.

D. João IV, was a shy, reserved man who prefered to hide in his gigantic library and play his harpsichord, and leave the paperwork to his wife. He was known both as the Musician-King and Restorer (I'm keeping quiet about the Restoration. All doubts will be cleared on December 1st). It's also believed that he was the original writer of Adeste Fideles. He was originaly a Duke of Bragança, the most powerful peer in Portugal.

The Braganças have a slightly sketchy history. His grandmother Catarina de Guimarães, was Duchess of Bragança by marriage, was a very ambitious woman and famous schemer. One of the Dukes of Bragança murdered his wife and suspected lover in a fit of jelousy. The 1st Duke was a natural son of John I, conceived aginst his father's celibacy vows as Master of Avis. This one was also extremely ambitious, and as some historians claim, the grandson of a converted jew.

John I was a bastard son of Pedro I and Teresa Lourenço, a Spanish noblewoman. Pedro was also the lover of Inês de Castro, whose ill-fated love story puts Romeo and Juliet in a corner.

Through John, she was a descendant of Afonso Henriques, 1st King of Portugal and historical bad-boy. Through him, from Henri of Burgundy who was a great-great-grandson of Hugh Capet.

She descended from Philippa of Plantagenet, wife of John I. Through her from John of Gaunt, Edward III of England, Philippa of Hainault, who herself descended from Stephen of Blois, William the Conqueror and Elizabeth of Cumens, thus also from Western Asians.

From her father's side, from the Isabel of Castille and twice from Ferdinand of Aragon. She also descened from Nuno Álvares Pereira, Constable of Portugal and recently canonised by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI.

Through her mother, Luiza de Guzman, from the Dukes of Medina Sidonia, Grandes of Spain, and of the infamous Rodrigo Borgia, Pope Alexandre VI and of St. Fransisco Borgia.

What I consider ironic, is that it was Maria of Modena who was accused of being a Pope's illegitimate daughter, when truly, it was Catherine who had a Pope as an ancestor.

sábado, 7 de novembro de 2009

Review: Bocage (TV)

Staring: Miguel Guilherme, Carla Bolito, Fernando Luís, Henrique Viana, Margarida Marinho and João Saboga.
Rating: 4 stars
Review: Sometimes, along comes a truly wonderful production that doesn’t get the deserved recognition, either because of language or country of origin.
I’ve always been a fan of RTP’s historical mini-series, and Bocage is without a doubt one of the best, up to par with Ferreirinha, which is, in my humble opinion, the crown jewel of RTP’s productions.
But enough. This is Bocage, so let’s talk about Bocage. To those who don’t know, Manuel Maria Barbosa du Bocage was a notorious portuguese poet of the late XVIII century, who’s famous for his rather anatomical anecdotes.
Migue Guilherme plays the charming scoundrel that he was down to a tee, including providing an extrodinary likeness to the famed poet.
Amongst the flawless performances, there are some who deserve special mention.
The late Henrique Viana gives a stelar performance as the practical villan Pina Manique, but it’s Bruno Bravo that gives the most powerful one. He starts as the “recruit”, Bocage’s good friend that spirals down a path of madness, so that when we last see him, he’s became a ruthless captain covered in the blood of Napoleon’s partisans, that slit the throat of his former friend’s most constant lover, the illiterate prostitute Nise, played wonderfully by Carla Bolito.
I could go on and on about the acting but I won’t.
The story’s gritty, crude, full of dark, twisted humour. And it’s perfect, specially Marilia’s innocent platonic love for the womanising Bocage, that brings a freshness to the story or the truly heart-breaking scene where his sister visits a dying Bocage in prison.
Even so, that were some things that I didn’t like, mainly the humorous aproach to Queen Mary I’s insanity played here by the great Maria Emília Correia. That disturbed me, because the writers could have used the situation a little better, since it was a truly tragic story, in which her screams are described as echoing through the palace, coming from the deepest pits of Hell. The music score wasn't that great either. A lot of dramatic scenes looked cherry beacuse of it.
But still, these peeves were rare, even though the whigs look like they were borrowed from Amadeus, the costumes were truly wonderful, especially for a production that doesn't have nearly the budget of a BBC drama, and the Countess Oyenhausen (herself a great poetess) wears some of the most visually stunning costumes. Again, the problem were the whigs.

segunda-feira, 2 de novembro de 2009

The Lisbon Earthquake of 1755

The 1st of November always leaves me depressed. Why, you my ask. Well because on this day, way back in 1755, practically all of Lisbon was destroyed, by a huge earthquake. And I'm not talking about some shaky ground, I'm talking about full blown "destroyer of Atlantis" quake completed with a tsunami and fires. It even changed the coast line.

It's thought that in Lisbon's population of 200,000 people, 30,000 to 40,000 people were killed. From a "Rape of Europa" point of view, the destruction was brutal as well. The ruling dinasty was the Bragança dinasty, known for being very artistic folks, and some of the most fabulous pieces of art in Europe, which inclueded Titian, Ruebens and Corregio, belonged to them. One of the greatest libraries in Europe, joy and pride of the first Bragança ruler, D. João IV, was destroyed, along with 85% of the palaces in the capital.

The coast line advanced and today, the tower of Bethlem stands on the bank of the river while prior to 1755, it stood in the middle of it.

But all was not doom and gloom, particularly for an emerging polititian, Sebastião de Carvalho e Melo, the future and infamous Marquis of Pombal. It gave him the oportunity to show what he was made of, and show he did. The minister did not wait any time, and soon after the smoke had cleared, already the troops were marching into Lisbon. He had called the army to protect what was left of the city form thieves and looters, and to stop able bodied men from fleeing the city. After all, he needed all the work force he could get his hands on. But even that did not quiet the nerves, and soon the ruins of Lisbon were gruesomely decorated with the hanging corpses of the looters. Legend has it that when he arrived in Lisbon after the earthquake and was asked what could they do, he answered "Tend to the living, bury the dead."

Nerves of steel, that man.

It also gave him the opportunity to transform the ancient city, that had survived the Fenicians, the Romans, the Moors and the Spanish, into the Enlightened City, with, much to the consternation of his fellow country-men, very wide streets.

Clairvoidence perhaps, because without it, it would be impossible to drive Downtown.

The earthquake also shook the minds of Europe. Catholics said it was the Portugueses punishment for their sins and for traiding with the heretics (the English), while the Protestants said it was for their punishment for the submission to Rome. Huge mess, I know, but more interestingly, it was also the first time that the other nations pulled that stick out of their arses and contributed to help the people left destitute by the desaster.

Early solidarity, perhaps, but the ones who profited the most were the wanted criminals and the con artistist.

domingo, 1 de novembro de 2009


"If you want a queen, you have to pay for her" - D. Maria Pia, Queen of Portugal