Slave Market, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 1819-1820

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Image Reference

Henry Chamberlain, Views and costumes of the city and neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, from drawings taken by Lieutenant Chamberlain, Royal Artillery, during the years 1819 and 1820, with descriptive explanations (London, 1822). The illustration shown here is taken from the Brazilian (Portuguese) edition, Vistas e costumes de cidade e arredores do Rio de Janeiro em 1819-1820 (Livaria Kosmos, Rio de Janeiro, 1943), p. 161 (plate 11 in the 1822 London edition). (Copy in University of Florida Library, Gainesville)

Titled, "The Slave Market." The author reports that in the northwest part of Rio, a street called "Vallongo, or Long Valley, is where slaves are sold. "The lower parts of the houses are allotted for these unhappy beings, who sit huddled together in rows, one behind the other, waiting to be purchased. A keeper constantly walks about to keep order amongst them . . . . In the evenings they are allowed to sit at the door and in front of the house for the benefit of the air. Those that are indisposed are taken out to walk . . . . When a person is desirous of making a purchase, he visits the different depots, going from one house to another, until he sees such as please him, who, upon being called out, undergo the operations of being felt and handled in various parts of the body and limbs, precisely after the manner of cattle in a market. They are made to walk, to run, to stretch their arms and legs . . . and to show their tongue and teeth; which latter are considered as the surest marks whereby to discover their age and judge of their health." The illustration (left) shows a white man examining the teeth of a female slave, while the dealer is proclaiming "her perfections. The woman looking on is the purchaser's servant maid, who is most frequently consulted on such occasions" (pp. 228-229). For other representations of this same slave market, see images GRA1 and H015 on this website. The foreground figures in Chamberlain's book were copied from two separate water-colors drawn earlier by Joaquim Candido Guillobel. Born in Portugual in 1787, Guillobel came to Brazil in 1808, and from 1812 started "drawing and painting small pictures on cards of everyday scenes in Rio de Janeiro." For biographical details on Guillobel, who died in 1859, and reproductions of about 60 of his original drawings in color (including the ones shown here), see Joaquim Candido Guillobel, Usos e Costumes do Rio de Janeiro nas figurinhas de Guillobel [1978]. The text of this volume is given in both Portuguese and English; the author of the biographical notes who is, presumably the compiler of the volume, is not given in the Library of Congress copy that was consulted. (See this website, "Chamberlain" for related drawings.)