By Chesney Hearst, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – On September 9th, the vice mayor of Rio de Janeiro, Adilson Pires and Paris’s deputy mayor for sports and tourism, Jean-François Martins officially inaugurated a monument in Praça XV to the first photograph taken in South America.
The image is of Paço Imperial and is a daguerreotype that was captured in January of 1840, by Louis Comte, a chaplain of the French training ship L’Oriental. The French frigate is said to have been harbored in Rio de Janeiro as part of the Naval School Expedition.
In addition to the Paço Imperial, a building located in the Praça XV and originally built in the 18th century as governor’s residence that would later serve as the royal residence of King John VI of Portugal, Comte also captured images of the Chafariz do Mestre Valentim, and of the Mercado da Candelária (Candelária Church).
All three sites are located in the city’s Centro (Central) region and are historic. “These are considered the first three photographs taken in South America,” said the curator of the monument, Milton Guran.
The city of Paris offered the monument to the city of Rio de Janeiro in celebration of the 200th anniversary of the arrival of the French Artistic Mission to Brazil. Vice mayor Adilson Pires, emphasizing the influence of the French motto of “Liberté, Equalité, Fraternité” (Liberty, Equality, Fraternity) in Brazil said; “I would say they are values that do not have an ideological nature, but are themselves human.”
Adding, “And France is the country that inspires mankind with these important values. Therefore, to receive this gift from France is very important as Paris and Rio de Janeiro are cities that use fine art as a tool to construct cultural and historical identity. ”