Saturday, 3 October 2009

Saturday Photo: Joseph Branco's Azulejos on The St. Lawrence Main

Not photos this week, but my favourite azulejos from the lovely series of benches honouring Portuguese literary figures on St. Lawrence Boulevard, the traditional axis of immigrants to Montreal. As I said earlier, Joseph Branco's azulejos seemed to me to capture the particular spirit of both Portuguese cutural heros, and the many immigrants from Portugal who have enriched Montreal, particularly since the 1950s.

Gil Vicente (v.1465-v.1536) was a Portugese playwright and social critic who lived and worked in the time of the great wave of Portuguese exploration. Branco writes that he chose the grape leaf as the motif for this azulejo partly in honour of his father who immigrated from the Azores (settled by the Portuguese 50 years before Columbus "discovered" the New World) and who always had grapes growing in his garden.

Antero de Quental (1842-1892) was born on the island of São Miguel in the Azores, the island where most of the Montreal residents of Portuguese descent have roots. A poet, essayist and philosopher he was part of the Portuguese intellectual ferment of the late 19th century. A recent visit to São Miguel inspired Branco to paint clouds in movement.

Manuel Maria Barbosa du Bocage (1765-1805) was a poet and satirist descended from a well-connected family who nevertheless spent time in prison for his anti-monarchist and anti-Catholic writings.. Branco says he chose this motif to honour the Portuguese tradition of embroidery, thus also honouring the talent and industry of Portuguese women.

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