"A trip to the ancient world" displays rare photographs

11/01/2017 to 01/30/2018
Opening days and time: 
Tuesday through Friday - from 10:00AM to 4:30PM
Saturday - from 10:00AM to 2:30PM
D. Pedro II, emperor of Brazil from 1840 to 1889, was a lover of photography - he is even considered the first Brazilian photographer. He left behind a collection of 23,000 pieces - an integral part of his private library - most of which was donated to Biblioteca Nacional after the proclamation of the Republic in 1889. Part of the collection of photographs is in exhibition for the first time in Biblioteca Nacional, starting on October 30th. The name of the exhibition is "A trip to the ancient world - Egypt and Pompeii - in the photographs of the D. Thereza Christina Maria Collection".


Imagem da exposição Uma viagem ao mundo antigo, na Biblioteca Nacional.
Imagem da exposição Uma viagem ao mundo antigo, na Biblioteca Nacional.

The portion of the donation that belongs to Biblioteca Nacional consists of approximately 100K items among books, serials, maps, scores, drawings, prints, photographs and other printed and manuscript documents. At his request, it was denominated Collection D. Thereza Christina Maria, in honor of the empress.

D. Pedro II formed the collection mainly by hiring the work of professionals - some even winning the title "Photographo da Casa Imperial" - and the acquisition of foreign photographs, mainly during the overseas trips of the imperial couple. The result is the largest and most comprehensive collection of nineteenth-century Brazilian and foreign photographic documents in a public institution in Brazil.

It is composed of images referring to Brazil and the world of the nineteenth century, which portrays the reality of those times and reflects both the personality and interests of the emperor.

The international recognition of the cultural value of this collection was obtained through its registration under the International Registry of the Memory of the World of UNESCO in 2003, thus becoming the first Brazilian document set to integrate this program of UNESCO.

The Biblioteca Nacional exhibit, with 119 images, curated by Joaquim Marçal, will bring to the public photographic originals that have been stored, without any manipulation or exposure to light, for approximately one entire century.

Divided into two modules, it evokes antiquity from the ruins of ancient Egypt and Pompeii, and simultaneously some important aspects of the history of the images and their reproducibility - with emphasis on photography, while taking into account the processes that preceded and coexisted with it. The idea is to show the various techniques of reproduction experienced in the nineteenth century.

Excerpts from journals and images of the Emperor's travels to Egypt and Pompeii reveal his fascination with the Middle East and photography.

Among the highlights of the exhibition are works by Egyptologist Auguste Mariette-Bey, founder of the Cairo Museum – with whom D. Pedro II established a relationships – and of English photographer and documentarist, pioneer in the edition of photographic books, Francis Frith.

Also noteworthy are the set of photos of Pompeii by Italian photographer Michele Amodio and the wonderful works of the English architect Owen Jones in the book The grammar of ornament, a compendium of the visual languages adopted in the ornaments of different cultures from Ancient Egypt.

Curator Joaquim Marçal says he has looked with great joy at the opportunity to perform at the exhibition, which is absolutely unique. Journey to the ancient world is a valuable opportunity to see one of the many segments of foreign photography from the D. Thereza Christina Maria Collection. Those ruins [of the photos] conclude seven thousand years of history and no one remains indifferent to these images.

Soon, Biblioteca Nacional will be launching a catalog of the exhibition, including reproduction of all works, complete references, a text by the curator and another from the art historian Maria Eduarda Marques, Coordinator of Cooperation and Dissemination of the National Library Foundation.

According to President Helena Severo, the exhibition, which reopens Eliseu Visconti after restoration of the façades of the National Library building, offers unique opportunity for visitors, who can profit from the rare and precious documents made available, side by side with testimonies of remarkable moments in the history of mankind.

The exhibition


The first module of the exhibition is about Egypt, where people established on the bank of the Nile River around 5000 BC developed the first known civilization of mankind. There are 20 photo-engraving boards from the album Trip to Upper Egypt, by Mariette-Bey. Although the images are stamped with the use of paints, the result is impressive and beautiful, being very close to a photographic original.

Also in this module is the second edition of Itinéraire de la Haute-Égypte, by Mariette, written in 1869 on the occasion of the inauguration parties of the Suez Canal.


On his third and last trip abroad, D. Pedro II met the empress's wish and went to Pompeii, theme of the second part of the exhibition.

D. Thereza Christina had always demonstrated a special interest in the subject - and even interceded to send to Brazil several pieces recovered from the excavations. At that time, the emperor climbed the Vesuvius crater and the couple toured the streets of Pompeii - to this day, one of the most visited archaeological sites on the planet.

Technical information


  • Joaquim Marçal Ferreira de Andrade

Curator's Assistant

  • Késiah Pinheiro Viana

General Coordination

  • Suely Dias

Museography and Design

  • Marcela Perroni | Ventura Design


  • Marcio Burity


  • Renato Moulin
  • Rodrigo Ramalho
  • Luiz Louzada


  • Milton Giglio


  • Ian Cantarino | Metara


  • Aline Canejo


  • Ricardo Silveira


  • ABMP Promoções e Eventos
D. Pedro II e D. Thereza Christina nas pirâmides de Gizé
Colosso de Memnom, em Thebes
D. Pedro II e D. Teresa Cristina Maria e comitiva em visita às ruínas de Pompeia - 1888.
Michele Amodio - Pompeia - Basilica e Forum - 1814.
1856 - Lotus e Papirus, tipo de ornamento egípcio. Do livro "A gramática de Ornamentos", de Owen Jones.
1856 - Lotus e Papirus, tipo de ornamento egípcio. Do livro "A gramática de Ornamentos", de Owen Jones.