The Carlos Reis Municipal Museum (in Portuguese, Museu Municipal Carlos Reis) was founded in 1933, in the city of Torres Novas. And nine years later, it received the name of Carlos Reis, one of the most important naturalist painters of his generation. The local artist painted both portraits of the royalty and nobility of the time and everyday scenes of the Portuguese people. Besides, he became known for his friendship with King Carlos I, his main patron!
What’s most impressive about the Carlos Reis Municipal Museum is the diversity of the permanent collections. There’s a historic and ethnographic nucleus of Torres Novas, a biographical exhibition about Carlos Reis (with works by himself and other painters), dozens of prehistoric and Roman archaeological artifacts (some of them found in the Roman Ruins of Villa Cardillio), and a collection of sacred art from various temples in the region!
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- Brief History of the Carlos Reis Municipal Museum
- What to See at the Carlos Reis Municipal Museum
- Practical Guide to the Carlos Reis Municipal Museum
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Brief History of the Carlos Reis Municipal Museum
Carlos António Rodrigues dos Reis was born in the city of Torres Novas, on February 21st, 1863. He started out as an employee of a tobacconist in Lisbon, but from an early age, he showed a talent for drawing and painting. And in 1879, he joined the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, also located in the Portuguese capital.
Three years later, Carlos Reis was fortunate enough to meet the then Prince Carlos through a relative. The two quickly became friends after realizing that they not only shared a first name and year of birth but also a passion for painting.
The future king of Portugal financed the artist’s studies in Lisbon and later in Paris. After that, Carlos Reis created the Ar Livre Group, taught at the Lisbon School of Fine Arts, became a member of the National Society of Fine Arts, and was elected the first director of the National Museum of Contemporary Art.
Never forgetting his birthplace, the naturalist painter founded the Torres Novas Municipal Museum with Gustavo Pinto Lopes – his longtime friend and the museum’s first curator. After his death, the City Council of Torres Novas decided to honor his fellow countryman and gave the name of Carlos Reis to the city museum.
What to See at the Carlos Reis Municipal Museum
As I mentioned in the introduction, the main collection of the Carlos Reis Municipal Museum consists of four permanent exhibitions (or long-term exhibitions):
- “TVRRES” – the ethnographic nucleus of the history of Torres Novas (on the entrance floor)
- “A Cor e a Luz da Alma Portuguesa” (or “The Color and Light of the Portuguese Soul”, in English) – the biographical exhibition about Carlos Reis, with works by himself and other painters (on the entrance floor)
- “O Canto de Avita” (or “Avita’s Corner”, in English) – the archaeological nucleus, with dozens of prehistoric and Roman artifacts, some of them found in the Roman Ruins of Villa Cardillio (on the upper floor)
- “Imagens do Homem, Idades de Deus” (or “Images of Man, Ages of God”, in English) – the collection of sacred art from various temples in the region (on the lower floor)
City Councilor Costume
The “City Councilor Costume” (in Portuguese, “Traje do Vereador” is one of the many pieces in the “TVRRES” (or “TURRES”) exhibition, the permanent nucleus of the history of Torres Novas as a city and municipality, in the Carlos Reis Municipal Museum.
Dating from the first half of the 19th century, more precisely from the reign of João VI (1816-1826), this garment comprises a fabric cape, a silk sash, a felt, leather, and silk hat, and a wooden stick.
The “TVRRES” exhibition is organized in chronological order, covering a period from the 4th century AD until the beginning of the 20th century. The objects on display at the Carlos Reis Municipal Museum include Visigoth and Arab artifacts, agricultural work tools, and elements characteristic of local folklore.
The “Mandolin” (in Portuguese, “Bandolim”) is one of the pieces that are part of the “Festa e Diversão” section, in the “TVRRES” exhibition of the Carlos Reis Municipal Museum. By the way, the chapters I had the opportunity to photograph are called (in chronological order):
- “Antes de Portugal” (“Before Portugal”)
- “A Fundação do Concelho” (“The Foundation of the Municipality”)
- “Crescimento” (“Growth”)
- “Tempos Modernos” (“Modern Times”)
- “Um Rio na Paisagem” (“A River in the Landscape”)
- “A Terra” (“The Land”)
- “Os Operários” (“The Workers”)
- “Festa e Diversão” (“Party and Fun”)
- “Tradições da Fé” (“Traditions of Faith”)
- “A Etnografia” (“The Etnography”)
The “Mandolin” was a musical instrument widely used by the Portuguese bourgeoisie in the 19th century, before being adopted by popular culture. This model was built in 1907 by the renowned Casa Vinaccia of Naples (in Italy) and is made of wood, mother of pearl, paper, bone, tortoiseshell, silver, and metal!
Painting Cabinet of King Carlos I
This “Painting Cabinet of King Carlos I” (in Portuguese, “Móvel de Pintura do Rei D. Carlos I”) was offered to Carlos Reis by Queen Amélia, after the Regicide of 1908 (which took the life of the monarch and his firstborn and heir apparent, Prince Luís Filipe).
Made in wood and metal, the “Painting Cabinet of King Carlos I” is one of the most valuable pieces of the Carlos Reis Municipal Museum, either because it belonged to the penultimate king of Portugal, or because it symbolizes the friendship between Carlos Reis and Carlos I.
Inside, there are still dozens of painting materials, including brushes and paints. And inside the lid, you can see a photograph of Carlos Reis working, with this “Painting Cabinet of King Carlos I” next to it!
“Fall”, by Carlos Reis
Carlos Reis’ painting can be divided into three major genres: landscape, portrait, and customs. And “Fall” (in Portuguese, “Outono”) is one of the best representations of landscapes by Carlos Reis, on display at the Carlos Reis Municipal Museum. I mean, look at the way the artist reproduced the light and color!
Carlos Reis created this painting in oil on canvas in 1915, at a time when the first modernist artistic movements – such as expressionism and futurism – were already manifesting in Portugal. Even so, and despite their differences, the painter worked and hung out with all kinds of artists!
“Cheers to the Bride and Groom”, by Carlos Reis
“Cheers to the Bride and Groom” (in Portuguese, “Saúde aos Noivos”) is an oil painting on canvas from 1930, which well portrays one of the most iconic moments of Portuguese weddings: the toast to the bride and groom. Carlos Reis immortalized on canvas several episodes of day-to-day rural life, from work in the crop fields to religious ceremonies.
At the Carlos Reis Municipal Museum, you can admire other examples of scenes from the daily life of the Portuguese people, such as “No Caminho da Fonte” / “On the Fountain’s Path” (1887), “A Procissão (Estudo)” / “The Procession (Study)” (first half of the 20th century), “O Primeiro Filho” / “The First Child” (undated), “Talha Vidrada” / “Glazed Talha” (1926) and “Asas” / “Wings” (1933).
“Portrait of My Father”, by João Reis
“Portrait of My Father” (in Portuguese, “Retrato de Meu Pai”) is an oil painting on canvas, painted by João Reis in 1937. Besides being the son of Carlos Reis, João Reis was his student at the Lisbon School of Fine Arts and a member of the Ar Livre Group, the predecessor of the Silva Porto Group.
Carlos Reis founded this group with some disciples and art companions, including António Saúde, Falcão Trigoso, Frederico Aires and João Reis.
Interestingly, these four artists offered works to the Carlos Reis Municipal Museum, when it was conceived in 1933: “A Lezíria de Frielas” / “The Lezíria of Frielas”, by António Saúde; “Margens do Almonda” / “Banks of the Almonda”, by Falcão Trigoso; “Antes da Chuva” / “Before the Rain”, by Frederico Aires; and “Ponte do Lamego” / “Lamego Bridge”, by João Reis!
Statue of Eros
This sculpture of the Greek god of love and eroticism is one of the most relevant pieces of the archaeological nucleus “Avita’s Corner” and the Carlos Reis Municipal Museum.
The “Statue of Eros” (in Portuguese, “Estátua de Eros”) was one of the dozens of artifacts found in the Roman Ruins of Villa Cardillio. Among others, archaeologists have discovered ceramics, glass, bronzes, irons, coins, and jewelry!
As far as is known, this small white marble figure dates back to the 1st century AD. That is, it predates Cardillio and Avita – who lived in the Villa Cardillio in the 4th century AD.
The exhibition “Avita’s Corner” is also divided into chronological sections: Paleolithic, Neolithic, Chalcolithic, and Romanization.
“Saint Michael in the Celestial Court”, by Domingos Vieira Serrão
“Saint Michael in the Celestial Court” or “Saint Michael Weighing the Souls” (in Portuguese, “São Miguel na Corte Celeste” or “São Miguel Pesando as Almas”) is an oil painting on wood by Domingos Vieira Serrão.
This Portuguese mannerist painter was in the service of King Philip II of Portugal (and III of Spain) from 1619 until his death in 1632, having collaborated on numerous frescoes in the Convent of Christ.
The work “Saint Michael in the Celestial Court” was acquired by the Municipality of Torres Novas in 1996, at the auction of the estate of Quinta da Torre de Santo António (or Quinta do Marquês).
With almost 2 meters high and more than 1 meter wide, it’s considered one of the most imposing pieces of sacred art in the Carlos Reis Municipal Museum!
Practical Guide to the Carlos Reis Municipal Museum
1. Take Note of All Practical Information
The Carlos Reis Municipal Museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday, with two different schedules: from 9 am to 12:30 pm and from 2 pm to 5:30 pm (from Tuesday to Friday) or from 2 pm to 6 pm (on Saturdays and Sundays). And in addition to Mondays, the museum is closed on holidays.
Admission to the Carlos Reis Municipal Museum is free for everyone!
2. Check the Available Temporary Exhibitions
Like any other museum, the Carlos Reis Municipal Museum hosts all kinds of temporary exhibitions (or short-term exhibitions). For example, I had the opportunity to see the exhibition “Cabrita – Alguns Bronzes E Também Faianças” (or “Cabrita – Some Bronzes And Also Faience”, in English) by Pedro Cabrita Reis, one of the most renowned Portuguese plastic artists!
3. Visit Other Points of Interest in Torres Novas
Torres Novas is a perfect destination to discover on a day trip from Lisbon or on a road trip through the Médio Tejo sub-region (or the Santarém district). But what few travelers and tourists know is that Torres Novas has points of interest to discover both in the historic center and outside the city!
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