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Discover how Brazil looked in 1840 thanks to this historic print


The view of Salvador around 1840

A beautiful piece of panoramic artwork displaying an historic view of Salvador in Brazil’s Bahia state has sold for $8,000 on AbeBooks. This revealing print, created around 1840, shows how the city looked in the middle of the 19th century. Today, Salvador has a population of well over two million people and skyscrapers dominate its coastline, but in 1840 the landscape featured trees and green space, and was dotted with white colonial-style buildings, ranging from homes to churches.

The picture is credited to Johann (or João) Steinmann, a Swiss artist, who was hired by the Brazilian Government in 1825 to work as its official lithographer, which is a printmaker. He continued to capture dramatic views of Brazil on his own account after the conclusion of his contract with the Government. He returned to Europe in 1833 and published a book called Souvenirs de Rio de Janeiro.

The print is a hand-colored aquatint, 197 mm x 1000 mm, and a close-up of the centre section can be seen below.

Underneath the print, the main buildings portrayed are identified as Eglise de la Conception, Le Palais, Maison de L’Opera, Convent des Benedictines, Eglise St. Pierre, Convent Jerusalem, Consul de Hamburg, Eglise des Affites, Consult Anglais, Consul Francois, Jardin public, Fort Gamboa (Forte de Sao Paulo da Gamboa), and S. Victoire.

Bahia is a state located north of Rio de Janeiro. The first European to reach Salvador was Gaspar de Lemos, a Portuguese explorer, in 1501. The city was originally established as a fortress called São Salvador da Bahia de Todos os Santos (Holy Savior of the Bay of All Saints) in 1549 by Portuguese settlers.

Salvador is one of the oldest cities founded by Europeans in the Americas and it served as Brazil’s first capital, soon becoming a major commercial port.

A close-up of a section of the Salvador print

Today, the Salvador coastline looks like this (see below) with skyscrapers filling the Vitória neighborhood.

Modern Salvador seen from the sea (Photo credit: Flickr/Avinash Achar)

See the 1840 print on Flickr (good if you have a large screen).

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