Chácara do Céu Museum, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

The Museum of Chácara do Céu is a museum of art located in the neighborhood of Santa Teresa, in the city of Rio de Janeiro, in Brazil. It integrates, along with the Weir Museum, the Castro Maya Museums.

The headquarters of the museum is one of the former residences of the businessman, known since 1876 as Chácara do Céu, in the neighborhood of Santa Teresa. Castro Maya inherited the house in 1936. The building was demolished in 1954 and in its place the architect Wladimir Alves de Souza designed a residence with modernist characteristics integrated with the beautiful gardens that allow a magnificent view of the city of Rio de Janeiro and Guanabara Bay. Today, in addition to long-term and temporary exhibitions, the museum maintains two rooms originally furnished and acclimated, in order to preserve the character of the place’s residence.

The Chácara do Céu Museum displays art collections from different periods, and from different origins, rare books, furniture and decorative arts, distributed in a house with three floors. The house in Santa Teresa, known since 1876 as Chácara do Céu, was inherited by Castro Maya in 1936.

It was demolished in 1954 and in its place the architect Wladimir Alves de Souza designed a residence with modern features integrated into the gardens that allow a magnificent view of the city of Rio de Janeiro and Guanabara Bay. Today, in addition to the long-term and temporary exhibitions, the museum maintains two rooms originally furnished and decorated, in order to preserve the character of the place’s residence.

The museum originates from the private collection of businessman and patron Raymundo Ottoni de Castro Maya (1894 – 1968), partly inherited from his father, partly acquired by himself. Raymundo Castro Maya organized, in 1963, a foundation to manage his assets. The Chácara do Céu museum was created in 1972. In 1983, the foundation was extinguished and the estate, reorganized under the name Castro Maya Museums, was absorbed by the National Historical and Artistic Heritage Institute.

The museum is in line with the work philosophy established by its founder, publicizing its collection in curated exhibitions, continuing projects such as the Amigos da Gravura, special editions of graphic arts works, and making cultural exchanges between different institutions, such as the Collectors Meeting project, which exposes private collections rarely accessible to the public.

In addition to these eminently artistic projects, there are others of an editorial and biographical character, preserving the memory of Castro Maya, who was also a bibliophile.. The museography used respects some environments in the way they were used when the house was a residence.

Raymundo Ottoni de Castro Maya (Paris, 1894 – Rio de Janeiro, 1968) was a Brazilian businessman, active in industrial activities (manufacture of vegetable oils for domestic and industrial use) and in commercial activities (wholesale of fabrics), which stood out above all as a great art collector, forming a large collection, which would later become the object of the Castro Maya Foundation, which keeps them on permanent display in the Chácara do Céu Museum, and the Açude Museum, both open to the public in their then residences, in Santa Teresaand Alto da Boa Vista, respectively, in the city of Rio de Janeiro.

It was his activity as a collector and man of the arts, which allowed Brazil to collect a rare collection of works of high artistic representation.

Among numerous initiatives in the cultural field, Castro Maya: created the Society of Hundred Bibliophiles of Brazil, in 1943, filling an existing cultural gap, by promoting the edition of 23 books; created the Society of Friends of Gravure, in 1952, contributing to spread the taste for engraving, as an artistic expression; he was one of the founders of the Museum of Modern Art in Rio de Janeiro, in 1948, of which he was its first president; coordinated the organizing committee of the IV Centenary of the City of Rio de Janeiro in 1964 / 1965; he performed important functions in the National Historical and Artistic Heritage Chamber of the Federal Council of Culture, to which he was appointed in 1967; edited books by Debret (Picturesque and Historical Trip to Brazil, 1954) and Gilberto Ferrez (The Very Loyal and Heroic City of São Sebastião do Rio de Janeiro, 1965); published his book, about the Tijuca Forest, in 1967.

And finally, he created his greatest legacy to the people of Rio de Janeiro: the Raymundo Ottoni de Castro Maya Foundation, registered in 1963, which opened 22 thousand pieces acquired and collected throughout his life to the public, and finally exhibited at the Museu do Açude in 1964 and at the Museu da Chácara do Céu in 1972, the latter already after his death.

The Castro Maya collection has an eclectic profile based on multiple interests. The approximately 17,000 items cover the plastic arts as well as applied arts, decorative arts, and book collections. The plastic arts total about 3,500 pieces, divided into the collections of oriental art, Braziliana, modern Brazilian art, Brazilian folk art, and European art from the 19th and 20th centuries, as well as a few examples of classical pieces and works from the 17th and 18th centuries.

The fashion for collecting associated with the 19th century inspired the accumulation of the first items in the Castro Maya collection. Objects of the decorative arts, mainly oriental, acquired in France or in trips to the East predominated in this period.

The preoccupation of Brazilian modernism with a project of national identity that encompassed the issues of art, history, and heritage, which was exemplified in the dichotomy of tradition and modernity, aroused the interest of the Brazilian elite in collecting images and records of the nation’s past. It led to a great interest in the collection of Braziliana. Naturally it became a mission for the Castro Maya collection to collect Braziliana, reassembling its past and its individuality.

The museum’s collection is divided into sectors:

European art, with paintings, drawings and prints by European masters of the size of Matisse, Modigliani, Degas, Seurat and Miró;
Brazilian Art, focused on modern Brazilian production, with names like Guignard, Di Cavalcanti, Iberê Camargo, Antonio Bandeira, Eliseu Visconti and Portinari;
Brasiliana Collection, with old maps, paintings and other illustrations of the landscape and human types in 19th century Brazil, many made by traveling artists like Rugendas, Chamberlain and Taunay, highlighting more than 500 originals by Jean-Baptiste Debret, acquired in Paris.
The Castro Maya Library has about eight thousand volumes among art books, Brazilian and European literature, as well as some important publications by the first travelers of the 19th century: Maria Graham, Maximilian von Wied-Neuwied, Henry Chamberlain, William Gore Ouseley and Victor Frond.


Chandelier (1751 – 1800)
by Unknown
The piece originally belonged to a Baroque church in Minas Gerais and was acquired by Castro Maya in Congonhas in the first half of the 20th century.

Brazilian Landscape (ca. 1637 – 1669)
by Frans Post
Confirming his interest in building a collection with great emphasis on works of art related to the history of the country, Castro Maya acquired this canvas in 1950. It is part of a set of works produced by the Flemish artist Franz Post, who was a member of the delegation of Maurice of Nassau who arrived in the country in 1637. They are the first images of the lands of the New World painted by Europeans from direct observation.

In this picture, the painter portrays a sugar plantation in the Northeast in full flow of sugar cane processing and sugar production, as well as the tropical vegetation that so enchanted the European gaze.

Coffee (ca. 1818)
by Jean Baptiste Debret
Castro Maya’s collection of Braziliana was considered the most important private collection in Brazil in the 1950s, a highlight being more than 500 original works by Jean-Baptiste Debret.

Burning of Judas (1823)
by Jean Baptiste Debret
During the 19th century, it was foreign artists who recorded images of Brazil. Romantic Europe harbored a great interest in distant territories laden with exoticism and eagerly sought knowledge of environments and societies so different from their own.

Tattooed black woman selling cashew fruits (1827)
by Jean Baptiste Debret
The portrait of Brazil composed by Debret between 1816–31 remained abroad for about a century until Castro Maya repatriated these works from France in the early 1940s.

View of Gloria Hill, Beach and Church (ca. 1817)
by Nicolas Antoine Taunay
Two oil paintings by Nicolas Antoine Taunay, one of the main painters participating in the French Artistic Mission which arrived in Brazil in 1816, were acquired by Castro Maya’s father in Parisian auctions in 1892. Later, Castro Maya doubled this number with the purchase of paintings belonging to Djalma da Fonseca Hermes. In 1953, the works were shown in the II Biennial of São Paulo in a room dedicated to the Brazilian Landscape until 1900, to which the Castro Maya collection contributed 11 works.

The Farm at Saint-Simeon (1856)
by Eugène Boudin
The work was acquired by Castro Maya in 1923 at an exhibition of French art in Rio de Janeiro and marks the beginning of his activity as an art collector. At this moment, in his first acquisition, Castro Maya shows an affinity with the selection parameters that guided the formation of his father’s collection. He tended towards the paintings of contemporary artists, displayed in the rooms and with a predominantly realistic theme, albeit slightly idealized, but which ensured a pattern of narrative and readability without incurring the aesthetic rupture articulated by Impressionism.

The Cliffs at Etretat (1869)
by Gustave Courbet
The profile of the Castro Maya collection derives, to a large extent, from the aspiration to create a panorama of the evolution of modern artistic movements, with an international horizon, from Constantin Guys to abstraction, through Impressionism, Cubism, and other schools. Meanwhile, the son of a collector, Raymundo, inherited his father’s vocation as well as a series of paintings of French landscapes from the mid 19th century. The most significant works by prominent members of the Barbizon school, such as Theodore Rousseau, and Félix Ziem, or the Courbet Realist School, had been sold at Paris auctions or art galleries between 1890–1920.

Portrait of Woman (1918)
by Jean Metzinger
In the 1940s, the painting belonged to the Marques Rebello collection and as such featured in the exhibition Contemporary European Painting organized by Castro Maya to inaugurate the activities of the Museum of Modern Art of Rio de Janeiro, of which he was founder and president until 1952. In 1961, Castro Maya had the opportunity to add it to his collection through a purchase made at the Barcinsky art gallery in Rio de Janeiro. Participating in the early stages of Cubism, Metzinger wrote the Du Cubisme treatise in 1912, in collaboration with Albert Gleizes, which proposed a theoretical basis for the movement.

Marine (1896)
by João Batista Castagneto
One of the Brazilian artists associated with academy painting who are included in the Castro Maya collection, it can be said that all are painters who presented formal and thematic innovations in relation to the canonical standards of the time.

The Castagneto canvas, by its aesthetic treatment, directly recalls a transition painting to modern art, more concerned with the issues of coloring, luminosity, and the artist’s personal expression.

Baby Stroller (ca. 1911 – 1916)
by Eliseu d’Angelo Visconti
Visconti was traditionally “read” at the time as a national impressionist and therefore a direct predecessor of modernism.

The Grooms (1937)
by Guignard
The painting, which previously belonged to the Correa de Araújo collection, exemplifies, to a certain extent, some of the ideas postulated by Brazilian modernism, and its ambitious project to represent national life and to affirm the specific traits of our culture.

It has a more modern, formal language which presents the elements that construct a portrait of nationality, with emphasis on popular culture in the figure of the couple from the lowest strata of society and in the room decorated with bright colors, the Brazilian flag and symbols of popular religion.

Boy with Spinning Top (1947)
by Candido Portinari
Castro Maya was a patron and friend of Brazilian artists of his time, especially Candido Portinari, with whom he developed many projects from the 1940s until the artist’s death. This relationship of twenty years resulted in the accumulation of 168 original works, including paintings, drawings, engravings, and illustrations of books, making this one of the greatest public collections of the painter’s work.

PRA 8 Radio Station (ca. 1950)
by Mestre Vitalino
From 1950, pieces from northeastern ceramists and paintings by popular and emerging artists become part of the Castro Maya collection, the first acquisition being a batch of Vitalino figures. Castro Maya marked his participation in the process of recognition and acclaim that popular or regional art would receive from the intellectual elites.

The Big City (1957)
by Antônio Bandeira
In the 1950s, the Castro Maya collection began to rely on non-figurative works. They are all aligned with the informal currents of abstraction, characterized by the expression of the artist’s subjectivity and generally by lyricism or emotion, as opposed to constructive aspects, in which works are distinguished by geometric forms.


Entrance hall
Reception, shop and part of the Brazilian art collection.

Second floor
Designed for European art, part of the collection of oriental art, pieces of furniture, decorative pieces, rare books and temporary exhibitions. On this floor are the two original environments of the old residence: the Library and the Dining Room. In the first, there is the bibliographic collection of rare works, which can be consulted by appointment. There are also copies of the European modern art collection. The Dining Room, on the other hand, displays objects from different times and origins and alludes to the character of Castro Maya’s host. The Winter Garden is the main temporary exhibition room at the Chácara do Céu Museum.

Third floor
In the hall are exhibited canvases from the Brasiliana collection alongside the set of Brazilian furniture pieces. The former guest room hosts the other part of the Brazilian art collection, including a selection of the popular art collection.

The former personal premises of Castro Maya are the other temporary exhibition rooms, which mainly receive the works of the artists from the Os Amigos da Gravura project (dressing and sleeping rooms) and are mainly intended for works of art on paper, with emphasis on the display showing selections of watercolors by Jean-Baptiste Debret and the series of drawings “Don Quixote”, by Candido Portinari.

The Chácara do Céu Museum, because it was built to be a residence, has numerous deficiencies in relation to the specific needs inherent in the activities of a museum. As a result, there are physical spaces with a high occupancy rate, with prejudice to security, handling and conservation of collections and service to the public. In view of this reality, it is necessary to build an annex that, in addition to fulfilling the objectives mentioned above, will also provide a new and more comfortable access to the Museum, allowing the entry of visitors using public transportation, through an inclined plane that will take up to the pilotis level, the main access to the house, without having to travel a long way on a slope currently required by pedestrians to access the Chácara do Céu Museum.

The first stage of the work, which started in 2009, with support from the BNDES and resources from the Federal Culture Incentive Law, was sufficient for foundations and tossed curtains. The second stage, which started in July 2014, with funds from PETROBRAS, was completed in April 2015. and included the concrete structure and superstructure. The third stage consisted of the structure / substation and bed of the inclined plane, with resources from the National Culture Fund – FNC. After the end of the fourth stage of the work, in progress, we will finally have a new pedestrian access to the Chácara do Céu Museum, with the inauguration of the inclined plane, thanks to the contribution of IBRAM / MinC.