Lot 13
  • 13

Giuseppe Leone (Joseph León) Righini (ca. 1820-1884)

150,000 - 200,000 USD
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  • Giuseppe Leone (Joseph León) Righini
  • A Panoramic View of the Bay of Belém do Pará, Brazil
  • signed and dated 1870 lower left
  • oil on canvas
  • 21 1/2 by 64 3/4 in.
  • 55 by 164.4 cm


Fernand Boutet, Nantes, France
Private Collection, France


This painting is unlined and seems to be still stretched on its original stretcher. It was probably never lined and the condition is a fine reflection of its history so far. The painting was probably cleaned fairly recently and certainly varnished recently. This varnish is quite bright and shiny, which draws attention to the raised cracking throughout the picture. The paint layer is not unstable, but the cracking is quite visible. A softer varnish would discourage the texture of the cracking. Lining would eliminate it completely. This picture relies greatly on the detail of its topography; for that reason, a lining should be considered. Under ultraviolet light, no retouches are apparent. There is very slight thinness in the shadowed part of the water in the foreground, and perhaps in the grey color in the sky. The work is slightly warping as it is currently in the frame. Nonetheless, the condition is very impressive. (This condition report has been provided courtesy of Simon Parkes Art Conservation, Inc.)
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

In 1879, Giuseppe Leone Righini painted the skyline and activity of the port of the Bay of Belém do Pará, the largest city at the mouth of the Amazon river, at the height of the rubber boom in the late nineteenth century. It is hard to imagine now the incredible wealth the rubber boom brought to this northern part of Brazil. The rubber boom could be compared to the gold rush in the western United States, although the Amazonian phenomenon lasted many decades longer. At the time, rubber was a  precious commodity only found in the wilds of the Amazonian jungle and exported all over the world. This rubber boom brought the best architects and luxury merchants from around the globe to satisfy this new wealth. Many have heard of Manaos, the large city upriver on the Amazon, with its magnificent belle époque opera house in the middle of the jungle portrayed in Werner Herzog's movie Fitzcarraldo. Belém, situated on the Bay of Guajara at the confluence of the Pará and Guama rivers also had such wealth, as one can see by the fine buildings lining the bay. In the center of the composition, are the double white towers of the cathedral which still stands today. This incredibly detailed view of the bay shows typical Amazonian water crafts, a few steam paddle boats, a French sailing ship awaiting loading and perhaps to the right a couple of American schooners.

Although not much is known about the artist, he has left tantalizing rare topographical paintings and drawings of northern  Brazil. Born in Turin, Giuseppe Leone Righini, (also known as Joseph León), left from Genoa to Brazil in approximately 1855 as the scenery painter in the Jose Ramonde Opera Company. Righini became enamored of Brazil, settling there and producing panoramic views of the Amazon and its cities- Sao Luis do Maranhao, Salvador and Belém as well as portraying the rubber harvesters who were the basis of the area's riches. In 1867 Righini published a set of twelve engravings of Belém, which would his final resting place. His work was brought to prominence during the exhibition dedicated to the traveler painters of Brazil, "O Olhar Distante (the Distant Eye) " held in 2000 to celebrate the 500 anniversary of the discovery of Brazil.