Monument to Carlos Gomes

Bronze symphony at Anhangabaú

Marina Brandão.

Located next to the Municipal Theater, the monument to Carlos Gomes is a sculptural set, made up of bronze and marble pieces, which joins the steps of Praça Ramos and the Fonte dos Desejos. The work, in honor of the Campinas composer Antonio Carlos Gomes (1836-1895), was part of the profusion of works installed in the city for the celebrations of the centenary of the country’s independence. Inaugurated on October 12, 1922, the monument was partially financed by the Italian community in São Paulo, including personalities such as Francisco Matarazzo on the executive commission for its implementation. Carlos Gomes spent part of his life living in Italy and was the first Brazilian to have his works presented at the Teatro alla Scala, in Milan. This strong relationship between the composer and the country motivated the interest of the Italian community in São Paulo in honoring him.

The sculptural set was responsible for the first occurrence of ‘nomadic monuments’ in the city of São Paulo. The works Leão [Lion], Amor Materno [Maternal Love] and A Menina e o bezerro [The Girl and the Calf] , all inaugurated in 1914, were removed from the Anhangabaú region in 1922 for the installation of the monument to Carlos Gomes, according to the thesis defended by Thaís Waldman at USP in 2018. The work represents the composer seated on top of a stone plinth with the words: ‘To the great Brazilian spirit who combined his genius with italic inspiration / The Italian colony of the state of São Paulo / On the first centenary of the independence of the Brazil / September 7, 1922.’ Directly below that, the Republic is honored represented by the figure of a woman who looks forward over the words ‘Order and Progress,’ guided by four horses, in the set called Glória ao Brasil [Glory to Brazil], located on the so-called ‘Fountain of Desires.’ This was named in 1957 at a ceremony held by Mayor Adhemar de Barros, who poured water from the Trevi Fountain at the site, as described on the plaque installed on the fountain. The set also has five sculptures that represent allegories of the operas of Carlos Gomes, another two in marble that represent Music and Poetry, and two sets that symbolize the Italian Monarchy and the Brazilian Republic. Among the curiosities that surround the monument, the temporary ‘decapitation’ of the composer deserves a mention. After its inauguration, in 1922, the similarity between the features of Carlos Gomes and that of the politician José Gomes Pinheiro Machado, who was stabbed to death in 1915, became the target of comments in the local media and generated general public discomfort. This fact led the artist Luigi Brizollara (1868-1937) to redo the piece, leaving Carlos Gomes headless in Anhangabaú during the month of January 1926, while he awaited its replacement.

Luigi Brizzolara, Italian artist, was one of the European ‘traveling sculptors’ who frequently looked for sculpture contests in Latin America, which exploded in the first half of the century in cities that were modernizing themselves in the ‘European fashion.’ When he came in second place in the Monument to Independence contest, installed in Ipiranga, the artist approached Afonso Taunay and began to collaborate in the construction of a narrative about the image of the pioneers in São Paulo, materialized in the sculptures of Fernão Dias and Raposo Tavares, both installed at the Museu Paulista in 1922. In 1924, Brizzolara carved, in marble, the Anhanguera monument that currently stands in front of Trianon Park. Diverging from Brizzolara’s other tributes to the bandeirantes, the representation of an indigenous person stands out in the monument to Carlos Gomes: a people who figure among the main victims of the massacres carried out by the characters associated with the construction of São Paulo’s identity, represented by the Italian artist. With bow and arrow and feather ornaments, the allegory of the opera O Guarani by Carlos Gomes, inspired by the novel by José de Alencar, came to be called ‘Mr. Brizzolara’s Milanese Indian,’ according to Thaís Waldman. It is one of the few representations of indigenous peoples in monuments in public space in São Paulo that portrays a fictional character: the indigenous Peri, who is converted to Christianity by the father of his beloved Cecília.

Other allegories of operas by Carlos Gomes, Condor and Fosca lean back on the newel posts, a project by Ramos de Azevedo that makes up the monument set. The bronze pieces are very close to passersby, which is unusual for most monuments built at the time. According to a text from the Historical Heritage Department: ‘Whoever descends the stairs has the impression that Condor is holding out his hand, as if in greeting. After being touched so much, the bronze lost its patina and São Paulo gained a legend: on a visit to the capital of São Paulo, the traveler who touches one of Condor’s fingers will find luck.’ Also according to the same text, the wear caused by the touching of the piece can still be seen, since out of respect for this tradition, the shine was not restored during the restoration carried out by DPH in 2001. Nowadays, the invitation to interaction translates into in selfies with Condor and in photographs on social media in which visitors mimic his dramatic movement. The most daring even mount the horses of the Republic to take a picture. The monument is also used by skaters, frequent visitors to the steps of the Municipal Theater, who have appropriated the steps of the complex to practice their skateboard tricks. There are also those who collect the coins tossed into the Fountain of Desires by hopeful visitors. Among other appropriations, the set has already received buoys and life jackets (2007), hanging high heels (2016) and crochet yarn (2020) as part of artistic interventions carried out at the site.

In 2017, the monument to Carlos Gomes underwent cleaning and ‘requalification’ work, during the first year of the mandate of then Mayor João Dória (2017-2018). The inauguration event consisted of Italian flags and balloons in its colors, in honor of the participation of the Italian community in the requalification works, the same one that carried out the construction of the monument in 1922. All the existing graffiti was removed, and the fountains were restored. The Guarani’s bow, which had been stolen, received a replica and was installed. Even without the graffiti, it is still possible to see the points where there is a difference in tonality in the stones: one of the visible layers of the various appropriations that the monument has underone. Still on the overlapping of layers, it is worth noting that the Monument to Carlos Gomes remains a witness to the successive interventions in the Anhangabaú Valley, which in 2021 gained its most recent version.


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