Carnival, Brazil,1816-1831

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This record was last updated on 27 Jan 2011

Image Reference

Jean Baptiste Debret, Voyage Pittoresque et Historique au Bresil (Paris,1834-39), vol. 2, plate 33 (top). Fascimile edition published in Rio de Janeiro and New York, 1965. (Copy in Special Collections, University of Virginia Library)

Caption, "scene de carnaval" [carnival scene], featuring masked dancer and onlookers in urban setting. The boy in the lower right hand corner is shown spraying some substance at a well-dressed person and appears to be enacting a special ritual in carnival known as "entrudo." According to Mary Karasch, "What made the entrudo attractive to some slaves, especially the young, and to free women was that this was the only time of the year in which they were permitted to attack or trick their parents, relatives, spouses, or friends. It was a socially sanctioned method of releasing tensions and aggressions without challenging the social structures in the city. During the entrudo slaves armed themselves with tin syringes filled with water with which they squirted other slaves, especially girls and women. Others gathered on the beaches or around fountains and dunked each other in the water . . Those armed with wax fruits pelted their friends and enemies with perfumed or dirty water" (Mary C. Karasch, Slave Life in Rio de Janeiro, 1808-1850 [Princeton, 1987], p.250. Thanks to James Sweet for his assistance). The engravings in Debret's book were taken from drawings he made during his residence in Brazil from 1816 to 1831. For watercolors by Debret of scenes in Brazil, some of which were incorporated into his Voyage Pittoresque, see Jean Baptiste Debret, Viagem Pitoresca e Historica ao Brasil (Editora Itatiaia Limitada, Editora da Universidade de Sao Paulo, 1989; a reprint of the 1954 Paris edition, edited by R. De Castro Maya).