By Georgia Grimond, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Hidden behind high walls and a canopy of lush trees is a remarkable large pink mansion in Rio, which since the 1960s has been home to Jorge and Odaléa Brando Barbosa. Now the house is set to be open to the public as Odaléa, at age 86, has bequeathed it and its contents to the Museum of Sacred Art in São Paulo upon her death.
The house sits among 12,000 meters of green space, has a swimming pool and pavilion, as well as its own small chapel. It is situated on Lopes Quintas street, a chic and much coveted address in the sought-after neighborhood of Jardim Botânico. Though the site is thought to be large enough for eight modern buildings, it will not be developed.
Instead Odaléa has ensured the future of her home by giving it to the São Paulo institute on the condition that it is preserved as is. Her wish is to honor the memory and legacy of her husband of 57 years who died thirteen years ago and who devoted his life to the mansion. In the future it will be known as the Institute of Jorge Brando Barbosa.
“Why do I need so much wealth?” Odaléa told O Globo. “I thought it best that all this [was made public property], so people could have access to all these works of art and all that my husband built. He chose and designed everything. There was never an architect or decorator here.”
Jorge built up an extensive collection of antiques and artifacts that are housed inside the mansion. He designed the interior himself and spent many years gathering objects from convents, farms and churches in Brazil. Close to four thousand pieces are currently being catalogued. Mirza Pellicciotta, a historian at the Museum of Sacred Art of São Paulo says the collection is “invaluable”.
The house is described as an eclectic palace with baroque elements. One of the many highlights is a marble bath which was used by the wife of Dom Pedro II, who was emperor of Brazil from 1831 to 1889. “It is in my suite,” explains Odaléa. “It is a block of marble with two lion heads. She was allergic and had to take sulphur baths.”
The Brando Barbosas were also well known for hosting celebrities, royalty and politicians at the mansion and the walls are lined with photos of guests. When opened the institute will not only showcase the couple’s art collection but will provide a look at life in Rio from the Fifties to Seventies. It will also realize a long-held dream of Jorge’s and have a school for restoring art for disadvantaged children from communities in Zone Sul (South Zone).
In order to buy the mansion, which is now thought to be worth R$70 million (US$18 million in today’s currency exchange rate), Jorge sold a property in Ipanema and a farm in Três Rios and paid what would now be US$2 million. Over the years he bought up the surrounding properties to encompass the entire block. In 1998 it was listed by Instituto Estadual do Patrimônico Cultural (Inepac) which means that no changes can be made to it and no further building can be done on the land.