By Leo Byrne, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The body of Chilean artist and painter Jorge Selarón was found yesterday morning on the Lapa steps, or Escadaria Selarón, the landmark and work of art that he created. The cause of his death is currently unknown. The chief of Rio’s homicide department (DH), William Pena said that it was unclear whether or not it was suicide and that nothing had so far been ruled out.

Lapa Artist Jorge Selarón, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil News
Mr. Selarón worked on the famous staircase for twenty years and in doing so created one of Rio’s most distinctive landmarks, photo by Candy Pilar Godoy.

The 65 year-old artist was found with burn marks on his body, which has now been moved to the Instituto Médico-Legal (IML). Paint thinner and other painting materials were also found nearby.

Four people who knew Mr. Selarón were taken for to the DH police headquarters for questioning. Among them was Paulo Sérgio Rabello, one of the artist’s former collaborators who Selarón had reported to the police for threatening behavior last November.

Selarón went to the police after Rabello knocked over his easel and threw his paintings to the ground. The artist also claimed that Rabello had threatened to stab him on two occasions in an attempt to force to him relinquish proceeds from his paintings.

Residents of the area were greatly saddened at the news, but remarked that the painter had not been himself since the threats started. Numerous members of the community noticed that Selarón had been depressed and reclusive in recent months.

Such behavior was noted as being uncharacteristic of the usually jovial painter, who could often be found chatting with visitors to the famous stairs connecting Lapa and Santa Teresa.

Mr Selarón’s landlady Josepina Delcorno, who had known him for 25 years, expressed disbelief at the events and said that she had found him crying two days ago.

Selarón began work on the renowned staircase in the nineties. Over the years he decorated every part of the 215 steps with colorful tiles from around the world. His work transformed the formerly unremarkable stairway into one of Rio’s most popular tourist attractions.

Read more (in Portuguese).

* The Rio Times Daily Updates feature is offered to help keep you up-to-date with important news as it happens.


  1. Very sad news. I spoke to him on a few occasions and he was always friendly and accommodating.

    Lapa won’t be the same without him. Hopefully his artwork will be preserved.

  2. How very sad. He left behind such beauty. I hope his death is fully investigated. Whether suicide or murder, the bullying and greed of the person(s) threatening Mr. Selaron have caused the world to lose a great light and artist. May his work remain preserved.

  3. I have to respect the man. He saw something mundane and common and made it into something extraordinary. I stayed in Lapa for some months this last year and I saw him around. I never had a conversation with him though. Lapa was a bit too much for me anyhow. BUT the staircase was brilliant! Maybe someone else will pick up the mantle? I hope so, because if not, I would think, over time, the stairs could find itself in disrepair. May god Bless, The Artist Jorge Selarón.


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